Friday, 26 October 2012

The return of the Sausage Jockey

To my army of four loyal followers: I’m sorry for letting you down with my radio silence over the last few months! Thanks for sticking with me through the long, hot, lonely summer – I promise your steadfastness will be rewarded with a load of pig-related bullshit and gratuitous ‘pork-porn’ photos over the coming season....THE SAUSAGE JOCKEY IS BACK!
My excuse: Back in May, as a relative newbie to this charcuterie lark, I had been busy scheming and dreaming about upcoming projects and a pork-filled summer, only to be faced with the cold, hard (or more accurately warm, soft) reality that the ambient temperature had crept too high for my primitive outdoor air-drying method to remain safe, and I must down-tools for the ‘warmer’ months.
So it turns out the worst thing about that shitty, cold, wet summer we’ve just had is that it wasn’t nearly shitty, cold or wet enough to air-dry sausage on my balcony!
But anyway, chilly autumn is upon us and it’s time to grasp the sausage.
My latest plan comes straight out of Yorkshire: to avoid having to buy loved ones costly Christmas presents by giving them, instead, an interesting array of festive home-made charcuterie.
After much thought I’ve hit on an experimental seasonal sausage selection of:
·         Mulled wine-spiced saucisson
·         Goose salami
·         Venison chorizo
“Why are you talking about Christmas in October?” I hear you cry. Well, I want to get some test batches in before I unleash on ‘the public’. On Monday I kicked things off with the mulled wine saucisson.
The basis of my recipe was April’s wildly successful saucisson sec, but minus the prominent garlic. The starting point was 1.5kg of finest organic pork shoulder from Hennessey's butcher on Northcote Road. For the mulled wine effect I added a liberal dusting of allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg, as well as a teaspoonful of orange zest and a good glug of a jammy, full-bodied red wine (Australian Shiraz, since you didn’t ask...).
Sausage-making was challenging, to be honest, as I was unable to recruit a helper (thanks Rach!) so had to dextrously grind and curl simultaneously (apologies if I’m making anyone horny). But ultimately I got the job done and I now have eight little friends relaxing in the laund-o-meat. T-minus 2 weeks till tasting this space for the verdict...

That's an attractive piece of meat. The sausage looks good too.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The next project: Figatellu!
Spurred on by the unmitigated success of ‘project saucisson’, for my next trick I’ve decided to take the French theme provincial...
When I was on holiday in Corsica last summer we munched a lot of this smoky, porky, earthy sausage called figatellu – apparently an island speciality and something I’ve never seen anywhere else, let alone in the UK. So I’m harbouring this ambition to become the only man in Britain to be making his own figatellu (or at least to be able to delude myself that this is the case and tell this lie to my friends, who won’t care enough to go to the effort of proving otherwise).
Figatellu eating in Corsica last summer

The problem with being a trail-blazing wannabe figatellu-maker is that I’m not party to a great deal of info about this apparently rare sausage:
Firstly, and sadly, I don’t know any Corsican housewives, and not even resourceful housewife-magnet, sausage assistant and all-round ‘ideas’ man ‘Dr’ Simon Pick could think where I’d find one.
Secondly, the internet – usually reliable for turning-up at least a socially retarded blogger with strange hobbies (ahem) – has also let me down. And not just for recipes, but even for basic information (no, Wikipedia, I did not mean ‘Figarellu’ – the Venezuelan politician and engineer, or ‘Tellu Turkka’ – the Finnish fiddler and contemporary folk singer!).

The first image that came up when I 'google image'-searched 'figatellu'

The second image tha came up when I 'google image'-searched 'figatellu'.....that's a bit more like it

...So I’m going to have to make it up as I go along. Yes, I may die of botulism or – worse – produce a foul-tasting abomination of a sausage. But on the plus side, if it does come out well I will be able to bask in the glory not only of execution, but of creation!
Here’s what I know about figatellu:
·         It’s smoky
·         It’s garlicky
·         It contains pig’s liver
·         It’s thin (chipolata-like)
So I’m going to apply these principles to my basic saucisson sec recipe and see what happens: I’m going to go for a meat mixture of half pork shoulder (including 20% fat) and half pig’s liver, which will be stuffed into sheep casings (thin). Flavourings-wise, it’ll get a good hit of garlic and white pepper as well as a splash of red wine (I’m going on a hunch here, but it’s also there to lower the pH of the mix and discourage bacteria growth). Then the usual pile of salt, cure#2 and bacteria starter culture for the curing process. My flavouring theory is ‘keep it simple’, as the real uniqueness comes from the next stage: the smoking...
For this I’ve acquired a nifty new cold smoke generator. I’m yet to unleash it on my sausages, but from what I’ve seen it’s a really good piece of kit: it stands alone and can be placed in any makeshift smoking vessel (inkeeping with my ‘Womble’/tight Yorkshireman approach to equipment, my preference here will be a hi-tech cardboard box). I’ll be using chestnut dust....sadly not shaved from a Corsican forest, but hopefully imparting a similar flavour.

Cold smoke generating contraption

So that’s the plan. Liver-mincing and cardboard box burning update to follow...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Saucisson feedback part 2: Le petit gourmand
The second major outing for my saucisson came the following Saturday when, with a bad head, we went round to Rach’s brother , the Kent House Gardener’s  place. His 3 year old is known for, amongst other things, a varied appetite beyond his years. Indeed, his love of olives, king prawns and Parma ham have led some to label him ‘the world’s most middle-class 3 year old’ (there’s a Channel 5 documentary in there somewhere). Anyway, I thought he’d be good for a glowing review    this is how it went:

The Sausage Jockey: “Looks like you’re enjoying that! What does it taste like?”
Le petit gourmand: “Tastes liiiiiiiike...............salt.”
[Derisory laughs from Rach]
The Sausage Jockey: “Come on, what does it really taste like?”
Le petit gourmand: [Examining the painting equipment on the table in front of him] “Tastes liiiiiiiike...............paint.”
So not quite the knockout endorsement I was hoping to fill this blog entry with. However, he did go on to eat a good half a sausage over the course of the afternoon (I’m sure some toddlers’ RDA percentages were breached there.....questionable parenting – I hope Rosie’s not reading) which means that my saucisson – even if it does taste of ‘paint’ – passes the toddler test!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Saucisson feedback part 1: The dinner party

My saucisson actually took its first major outing last Friday night, fresh off the drying rack! Having tasted the sausage only hours before, some would say I put my small gathering of work friends at considerable botulism risk. Others would say I put them at risk of a flavour orgasm!! Luckily, neither actually happened....although there were a few contorted faces upon tasting – not a botulism symptom I’m aware of...
Anyway, here’s the verdict(s):
The Brixton banger backer
“[This has] opened my eyes to a whole new world of sausage – dream!”
The South-Indian savaloy salivator
"Having feasted on your greasy sausage I have no doubts that the bank manager will throw cash at your pig farm should you ever seek investment..."
The Cheshire charcuterie chewer

"After nibbling the end I couldn't help but gobble it down..."
The Milton Keynes meat man-handler 
“I love saucisson! Fatty, salty & delicious sausage. Absolute win.”

So there you have it: 4 tasted (7, actually) and zero dead or fact, an excellent night had by all - RESULT!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ohhh mamma!!
I’m not one to exaggerate (well, I am a bit), but remember Friday 4th May 2012, for it is the day that a new force arrived on the sausage scene!!
A new force in sausage...(not to be confused with a 'force-in sausage')
I came home from a week in Wales on Friday, half expecting to find ruined, rancid sausages after I’d left the poor things on my balcony at the mercy of the rubbish weather. But Mother Nature clearly loves a good sausage (wheheeey!): my little beauties had dropped the requisite 35% weight (a touch more, actually) and – what’s more – had developed some healthy white mould for that added authenticity. Without further ado, I tore into them and was immediately and magically transported to France...
She slices like a dream
This wasn’t like the Chorizos that have come before – worthy as home-made efforts, but workmanlike in their slightly crude, over-salty flavour – no, no....this was the real deal!! As authentic a saucisson sec as I have eaten in the UK....honestly! The first hit when you cut into them was of intense garlic, but this was more pronounced in the aroma than the flavour, which was of deep, lingering pork, complemented by healthy but not over-done seasoning and just a slight sour-ish acidic note....mmmmm.
Fatty and meaty - interestingly two of my school nicknames...
“Stop blowing your own sausage!!” I hear you cry!! I realise that you won’t take my word for it...not that you’d think me a liar, as such. More like a proud father doting on his ugly kids? Well I’m taking my saucisson on the road.....Impartial reviews to follow shortly....

Monday, 30 April 2012

One week on the drying rack and my saucisson is looking pretty good!
Sausages taking refuge from hurricane conditions
My bangers were taking a bit of a battering from the hurricane-like conditions in London on Saturday so I had to nurture them indoors for a while (which Rach didn't really enjoy....jealousy?), but other than that signs are positive. They’re dropping weight at a decent rate (a little under 20% so far), have turned a nice deep red colour and are smelling lovely and porky. Best of all, they’ve got a tiny touch of that powdery white mould I was after, so I’m hopeful it will spread over the next week and that the final product will be nice and authentic!
A bad picture of good mould
On the downside, the unseasonably bad weather has revealed unsuspected flaws in my previously effective hi-tech wash basket/pillowcase/bike rack drying frame solution. It sits on a covered balcony, so rain has never been a problem. That is until the rain started being blown horizontally into the balcony by 40mph winds! My strategic tinfoiling (below) will hopefully work in the short term, but I doubt Environmental Health would approve. Might have to shell out on something made of wood (that isn't a coathanger)...
"Is that the International Space Station? Oh, it's just a hi-tech sausage-drying vessel..."
 T-minus 1 week till sausage o’clock........hopefully the saucisson will be ready by then, too (weheeey!).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Had my first crack at a French-style saucisson sec this weekend, accompanied by my sausage right-hand man and expert handle-turner ‘Dr’ Simon Pick, as well as charcuterie newcomer and casual spectator Si ‘Boony-foony’ Boniface – a man who never shies away from a sausage.
The key ingredient – as always – was a couple of kilos of finest free range pork shoulder from the brilliant Hennesey’s butchers on Northcote road, with a bit of extra back fat thrown in there to get the right balance of fat-to-lean. Flavourings-wise, we went for simplicity: plenty of garlic, white pepper and red wine (no doubt later batches will be a bit more experimental, but I wanted a pure-pork flavour to really test the process on this first batch of saucisson). The saucisson sec recipes I looked at in coming up with mine called variously for either red wine or brandy – as much there for flavouring as to lower the pH of the mix and thereby discourage nasty bugs. In the end my decision was based on the inevitability of my drinking anything that didn’t go in the sausage, so I took pity on my liver and went with the wine, which also has the added bonus of imparting a nice rouge tinge to the sausages.

Say hello to my little friend
I have to say that sausage-making went extremely smoothly on Saturday morning. A couple of new pieces of kit (some electronic scales and a big stainless steel mixing bowl with plenty of room to spare) made things a hell of a lot easier, but the real time-saver was grinding the meat on a coarse plate as opposed to cutting it by hand. It remains to be seen whether this will adversely impact the texture of the finished product, but from the look of it the wet mixture was of a similar texture to previous hand-cut mixes, so I’m hopeful it will be just as good.
My single worry with this current batch is trying to get that authentic coating of white mould that you see in shop bought saucisson sec. I’ve tried to promote this by ‘basting’ the sausages in a bactoferm solution prior to fermentation, and hanging a shop-bought, mould-clad saucisson in the middle of my beauties. So far, though, whilst they look and smell spot on, there is a distinct lack of powdery whiteness. I live in hope.
Anyway, fermentation is now complete and the first batch of Sausage Jockey original saucisson sec is currently maturing in my state-of-the-art bespoke drying chamber. 2 long weeks and counting to the next sausagefest....
The garish lime-green netting not only keeps-out animals, but also discourages tramps by alerting their primal sense of potential toxicity