New cookbook: Make your own sausage

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"Laws are like sausages — it is better not to see them being made," according to Otto von Bismarck, a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890.

Not so, and the newly published 4th edition of "Home Sausage Making, 4th Edition: From Fresh and Cooked to Smoked, Dried, and Cured: 100 Specialty Recipes" by Charles G. Reavis and Evelyn Battaglia with Mary Reilly (Storey Publishing, 2017) sets the record straight. From the basics of making sausage at home — the equipment needed, ingredients, deciphering food labels, and food safety guidelines — the book is suitable for the first-time sausage maker, as well as those with experience who are looking for new recipes and inspiration. In addition to recipes for homemade sausage, the book offers more than 100 recipes to make using all types of sausage.

The fourth edition of the book, originally published in 1981, came about due to new ways consumers look at their food, according to Battaglia, a freelance food writer and editor, who worked for 15 years at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and was a deputy editor of Everyday Food. "We have changed the way we shop for meat and the way we think about it," she said in a phone interview. "There is also a resurgence of small-batch butchers and a resurgence of home cooks who want to know where their food comes from. Sausage in a store can be mysterious, but if it's made at home, we know the meat, spices and so on."

She said, when updating the book, she looked at the way people want to cook and wanted to empower them to have the best quality meat. "There's a joy to be had in making sausage. It's an ancient art form and has been made for centuries." She added she also incorporated updated information on food labels. "Look at the cut of the meat and the quality of meat. Look at the labels, which can be very confusing; I've tried to demystify the labels."

Since the book was first published, the types of sausages have exploded Battaglia said, and as a result, 40 of the recipes for making sausages were updated. In addition, all of the recipes using sausages were updated. "They are really delicious, really timely. If someone doesn't make their own sausages, they can still make the recipes."

Battaglia said readers can expect to have all the essential information and inspiration needed to participate in an age-old craft that results in something delicious. She hopes readers will find inspiration in the profiles of sausage makers across the United States, which offer recipes and techniques. Included in the profiles are Sutter Meats in Northampton, Mass., and Pekarski's in South Deerfield, Mass. The Meat Market, formerly in Great Barringon, Mass, was also featured, but has closed since the book's publication. "People will take away insight on purchasing meat and a greater respect for the animal it came from," she said.

Battaglia offered some tips for making sausage:

• Pay attention to the quality of the ingredients. "There are so few ingredients used in most sausages. If you don't start out with good products, you won't get good sausage."

• Keep everything clean as you go; knives, the grinder, your hands.

• Buy the meat in its wholest part. Buy a cut of meat as opposed to pre-ground.

• Use a hand grinder if possible, although the grinder attachment on a stand mixer will work also. Do not use a food processor as the meat may become too mushy. Battaglia said her partner on the book, Mary Reilly, executive chef at Westfied State University, uses a hand grinder herself when making sausage. "It gives you greater control," Battaglia said.

• Keep the meat chilled at all times. "Temperature is critical to get the farce, also known as the bind (the ground meat with the fat and seasonings). The meat should come out of the grinder in strands like spaghetti; then mix it with the seasonings with your hands. You want the integrity of the meat in the sausage."

Battaglia offered the following recipe from the book — simple enough for a beginner sausage maker to master. "If there's any sausage that's universally adored, it would have to be the classic Italian link. It's redolent with fennel seed and made in both sweet and hot varieties. Either one works well — and interchangeably — in any number of dishes, and using a variety of cooking methods (but panfrying is probably our favorite). When making hot Italian sausage, use more or less crushed red pepper to suit your heat preference (and omit entirely for sweet sausage). You can also crumble the sausage and add to tomato sauce or a ravioli filling," she said.

Hot or sweet Italian sausage

Makes 3 pounds

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds boneless lean pork butt or shoulder

1 pound pork fat

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (omit for sweet sausage)

2 garlic cloves, minced

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the meat and fat into 1-inch cubes. Freeze the cubes for about 30 minutes to firm them up before grinding.

Grind the meat and fat together through the coarse disk of a meat grinder.

In a large bowl, combine the meat mixture, salt, coriander, black pepper, crushed red pepper (if using), and garlic. Mix well, using your hands.

Shape the mixture into logs (like cookie dough); wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight. Bulk sausage can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen, tucked in a plastic storage bag, for up to 3 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

When ready to cook, slice logs into disks (about 3/4 inch thick) and pan fry or grill to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C).

And once the sausage is made, it can be used in Skillet Strata with Greens and Sausage. "Strata is the busy host's secret weapon: Make it the day before your guests arrive and then just pop it in the oven the next morning. You can also bake it straight away. Depending on what's available, kale, Swiss chard, and collards will all work well in this recipe, as would spinach. Most any fresh sausage will work here, including Italian sausage (hot or sweet), breakfast sausage, luganega, fresh chorizo, or any other options you have on hand," Battaglia said.

Skillet strata with greens and sausage

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound sausage (removed from casing)

1 large onion, chopped

1 bunch kale or other hearty greens, stems and leaves cut inch thick

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

3 cups milk

8 large eggs

2 cups grated Gruy re cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons dry mustard

8 cups cubed bread, such as brioche, challah, or rustic loaf (about pound)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large cast-iron or oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, sausage, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through and the onion is tender. Add the kale stems and leaves to the pan, and cook until wilted. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and the nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, 1 cups of the Gruy re, cup of the Parmesan, and the dry mustard.

Add the bread and the sausage mixture to the bowl and stir gently to combine.

Transfer the contents of the bowl to a 3- to 4-quart casserole. Top with the remaining cheeses and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the strata from the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Bake the strata for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until puffy and golden. When a knife is poked into the center, there should be no liquid present. Let the strata rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


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