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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Italian Sausage 101

There are a few things I've been wanting my Grandma to teach me. One of them is how to make her incredibly delicious homemade Italian sausage. That day came yesterday. Did I know what I was in for... yes and no. Grandma doesn't go small, ever! She had my cousin Ray take her to the store on Sunday to buy the meat.... 50 lbs of meat!!! You see, when Grandma is making sausage, everyone wants some and no one can be left out. So she called me and said we had to make it on Monday. When I arrived we started washing the things we needed to use. And soon after, my mom arrived to help too. Thank goodness!! Making sausage is a big job, especially when you are making 50 lbs! Grandma can help some, but at 99 years old, her participation is more about telling us what to do and how to do it. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean it in the nicest possibly way. Hey, she's 99! She knows what she's doing and when she tells me how I should cut it, or how I should mix it.. I listen!

We started out by trimming some of the fat off the pork shoulder that she bought. You cannot trim all the fat off, this is sausage we're talking about. Some of the really thick areas were taken off, but most was kept on.

We cut the meat into strips as opposed to chunks. Grandma said that she used to always do it in chunks but has found that the strips go into the grinder better. Makes sense to me. As we cut up five 10 lb pork shoulders, we put the strips in a very large pan where Grandma would season and marinate the meat.

Her seasoning contains salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, fennel and parsley. Oh and don't forget the bottle and a half of red wine! After all this is added, Grandma and I dug our hands in and mixed it all up. With this quantity, only the hands will do! Then we left it to marinate and enjoyed some asparagus and eggs that Grandma cooked for us.

Grandma would have liked for it to set for two hours, but mom and I both had time constraints so she only left it for one hour. So after we ate we went back down to the basement (having another kitchen in your basement is an Italian requirement) and started to weigh out and separate the meat, assigning each pile to a specific relative (that's my pile in the middle back).

While Mom and I were weighing out the meat, Grandma was opening up the casings so they would go over the funnel on the grinder. Grandma uses her Kitchen Aid mixer with the grinder attachment. She has had her Kitchen Aid for well over 50 years. Probably more like 75 years. Her grinder and funnel attachments are metal (mine, which are newer, are both plastic except for the mechanism inside and the actual grinder). Casings are, in case you didn't know, hog intestines. Grandma takes an end and blows into it to make sure there are no holes and to make it easier to get on the funnel. Then hands it to mom, who has to find the opening all over again! lol

Once the casing is on the machine, it was time to start grinding. While mom held the casing and made sure the sausage came into it tightly, I fed the meat into the grinder. Once we got into a rhythm, this process did not take nearly as long as any of us thought it would.

And the result is some of the most delicious sausage you have ever tasted! I brought my 10 pounds home last night and was putting it into separate freezer bags so I can take it out as needed. I had a small piece, about 3 inches in size so I decided I would cook it up and give it a taste. PHENOMENAL!

The moral of the story is get in that kitchen and learn your family recipes. Write them down and never lose them. They are a part of your heritage. If you don't, who will?

1 comment:

Laura said...

Wow, that really sounds wonderful, I'm definitely going to try it when I find pork butt on sale and can wrangle a friend into helping me (I've never made sausage before, but I have the attachment for my Kitchen Aid). It's so funny, I was just speaking with you last week about my Grandma's stew recipe, and you are so right about collecting and treasuring (and making!) these recipes. It's like Proust's madelines, a memory as precious as a beloved photo or handwritten note that you saved. Thanks for sharing!!! :)