In search of the perfect sausage....
|What finer provenance than a hand filled homemade sausage.|
I've been the length and breadth of the Algarve and never spotted a decent sausage I've scoured this shop and that from top to bottom, can I find a half decent butchers link? Can I buffalo!. Simple solution, make my own I said. Buy sausage skins online and start to while away the hours of confinement and curfew. Away we go, custom made casa rosada sausages, such fun or as they say nowadays "so" fun. I surprised myself just how easy it wa,s even in the absence of a machine, but then again what finer provenance than a
land hand filled sausage. A sausage lover could not ask for anything more. One of the first convenience foods, the sausage´s very name preserves its preservative origins. It goes back to Latin salsus `preserved in salt`. The Romans introduced into northern and western Europe the cylindrical sausage of spiced minced meat stuffed into a skin of animal intestine. The gourmet Apicius (1st century AD) has a recipe in which you pound meat with a great variety of spices,`plenty of fat and pine kernels, insert into an intestine, drawn out very thinly, and hang in smoke`. This is the dry "cured" sausage as we know it, Chouriço, salame or french saucisson. The "wet"sausage however, the type that needs to be cooked, has become to some as a sentiment that is also used as a term of endearment "You silly old sausage!" Other signs of affection are picked up in colloquial synonyms like banger (probably a reference to the noise of a sausage as it fries) and "dog" referring to its application in a bun, the "Hot dog." When I buy a sausage I want a proper butcher´s sausage. Yes occasionally I have stumbled across a half decent supermarket sausage but they are very rare. A butcher in my mind stands or falls by his sausages. Plump, coarsely ground with good seasoning, a little freckled and heady with thyme and/or sage, a generous hand with the pepper, a nuance of nutmeg and maybe some mace. I want a sausage that will cook well too. Sausages like cakes and pastries lose their je ne sais quoi when mass produced, yet another argument in favour of making my own.
I have recently taken to baking my sausages in the oven as opposed to frying them.
The radiant heat cooks the sausages and crisps the skin and the steady, even heat means the sausages almost never split. You want it to have a skin that 'pops' in your mouth not the pan.If you have a well-made sausage you can also make gravy with the pan juices. And for heaven's sake, do not prick your bangers before cooking. I want my sausage to be sticky outside and juicy within. I require a tight deep brown skin and a scrumptious savoury marmite-like goo coating it. There are few things as warming as a hot sausage on a cold night. A man after my heart is Mr Matthew Fort. He is a man with a passion for sausages. In his own words..."The proper cooking of sausages is a tranquil,almost meditative business. It Involves no violence or agitation of any kind...." Therefore one must treat the cooking of ones sausages with the respect they deserve, only then will you notice the difference between good eating and quite ordinary eating.
What Makes a Good Sausage?
A good sausage should be made with at least 70 percent high-quality meat, usually beef or pork or a mixture of both. The remaining content is up to you and is generally seasoning, breadcrumbs, and fat (yes, fat). The fat you used in your filling is all important. Across my travels, I have unearthed many varieties of sausages and these are from what I have drawn reference for my own varieties.
With the possible exception of the hot dog, no sausage looms larger in my mind than does the "Italian" sausage. When you are deprived of something you tend to crave it even more. Such has been the case for me since moving to the Algarve. Over the years I’ve eaten more of this type of link than any other, including hot dogs, so I have become quite a judge of how they should taste. Virtually every Italian nonna, home sausage-maker or deli has his or her own version. This one’s mine, developed during lockdown. Generally called the "sweet" Italian sausage, it has a few commonalities no matter who makes it. For starters, “sweet” is a misnomer, although there is sugar in some but very few recipes, the term sweet is mostly to differentiate this sausage from the "hot" Italian sausage, which will have lots of red pepper in it. Fennel is another constant. If a sweet Italian link doesn’t have whole fennel seeds in it, something just doesn’t seem right to
me. Lots of green things, typically chopped parsley, is another constant. Use fresh parsley here, too.
Quantities I give are not written in stone, feel free to adjust quantities to suit your own palate
2lbs (1 kg) well marbled ground pork (ideally shoulder)
1/4 lb (250g) pork back fat or gunciale
1tbsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp Flor de sal
1.5 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 heaped tsp onion powder
1 heaped tsp chilli flakes, optional
1/2 tsp each dried thyme,rosemary,oregano,sage
1 tsp sweet paprika
large pinch of nutmeg
NOTE: Guanciale is a cut of pork taken from the cheek (guancia) of the animal. It consists of thin layers of muscle and large amounts of fat, with a different composition from the lardo (lard on the animal's back) and pancetta (fat from the pig's belly).
It has a very unique and strong flavor and a harder consistency than pancetta. When cooking, the guanciale fat melts, giving a great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces in which it is used.