[said in Homer Simpson voice]
|beef kielbasa in progress|
Yesterday I went to a Sausage 101 class taught by Larry Kocurek of Kocurek Family Charcuterie. Some people may judge me as plebeian for this, but I think sausage is pretty much the perfect food. It would definitely be on my last-meal-of-my-life plate. I've had designs on learning to make it myself for a long time—so when I found out about this class a few months ago, I signed up. I've been eagerly anticipating it since March, and it did not disappoint.
While making sausage is actually a pretty simple process, there is a lot to it in terms of getting the mixture right, safety and sanitation issues (ground meat has a lot more surface area for little microscopic critters to set up camp), the right technique for stuffing the casings to avoid exploding and/or greasy sausages... plus it is very much a feel thing. You can have the process explained to you or read all you want about it, but really it is a matter of doing it. Having hands-on practice with someone so experienced there to give you pointers was incredibly helpful, and Larry is a good teacher—just very straightforward and accessible (and funny). It was a great environment.
So now I've got to start shopping for a stuffer before I can really go hog-wild (stupid pun intended), but in the meantime I can share a bit of of detail about the class itself. (By the way... adolescent sausage jokes are not only acceptable, they are encouraged. I mean, come on, it's sausage. You kind of have to, and some of these photos beg for immature giggles.)
After some introduction to the equipment used and needed, sanitation, grinding and then mixing the first batch of sausage, we got a run-through about casings and then a beginning-to-end demonstration on how to properly place the casings onto the stuffer, stuff the meat into the casings, and how to twist the sausage into links.
After that we split into groups of two and took turns practicing stuffing the casings and creating links. As we went along, Larry would stop to explain how to avoid things like an exploded casing, air bubbles, and a too soft or too firm sausage.
|chicken-jalapeño sausages post-grinding through linking|
We made 3 different kinds of sausage—Hot Italian, Chicken-Jalapeño, and Beef Kielbasa—and throughout there was also plenty of instruction on how to get your meat-fat ratios right to avoid a dry or a greasy sausage as well as tips on flavoring them with spices and salt and suggestions on how to prepare and serve them.
After it was all said and done, we were treated to a buffet of their weekly charcuterie offerings and wine.
|paté, homemade pickles, fruit mostardo, lamb liver terrine, headcheese, cheek-to-cheek terrine, galantine of chicken|
|sausages: lamb merguez, currywurst, Chinese BBQ, and boudin|
|my plate of goodies|
The whole thing was really fun (and the stuffing process had an oddly calming affect... at least for me). I am excited to start making sausages at home and will probably be signing up for future classes with them... they offer a range of others like lamb or pig butchery or working with whole fish.
So, one last note on Kocurek Family Charcuterie... I've been really happy with everything I have ever purchased from them + this class, so I'm giving them a little plug here. They have a shifting menu every week, and sell their products at the Pearl Farmers' Market in San Antonio and at the Sunset Valley, Republic Square, Cedar Park, Barton Creek, and The Triangle farmers' markets in Austin. All of their meat comes from local and sustainable sources (in fact, they are beginning to raise their own ducks and pigs at an organic farm in Taylor), so you can feel good about it too while you scarf your food down.
Addendum 12/22/12: Kocurek Family Charcuterie is no longer in business. Larry has moved on to other ventures.
Related products I like and use:
Great info on techniques, tools, and ingredients and lots of good recipe ideas.
This 5 lb stuffer is sturdy and very easy to break down for cleaning.