Philosophy of Sausage Making

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

I’m so far behind in my TwoDudes emails that I don’t even know where to begin.  Luckily for you, I made sausage the other weekend, so this seems like as good a place as any to pick up the ball.

I don’t know if you’ve ever made sausage, but I hadn’t, and I assumed it was going to be ridiculously difficult.  I had always thought a fun and easy way to do it would be to buy some ground meat, mix in some spices, and make “sausage” patties.  Well, when an old cast-metal, hand-crank meat grinder showed up at our neighborhood yard sale, I knew that plan was shit.  It was time to go all in.

None of us really knew what spices make “sausage.”  We knew that sage makes good breakfast sausage and that you can’t make Italian sausage without fennel, but that’s where our recipe knowledge stopped.  We each did a small amount of research online, but in the end, we decided to just avoid a recipe and just make it up as we went.  This approach, along with morning beers, led to a very distinct lack of note taking.

The spices consisted of a small amount of dry spices along with a handful of fresh herbs from my garden.  Here’s how we collected our meat:  I went suburban and bought a 3-1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder at the grocery store.  (I looked for the best/most marbling I could see.)  Brandon had a trip coming up to see his family in the country, during which he bagged a rabbit with a .22 rifle.  John went to Lay’s meat market in the backstreets of Knoxville (aren’t the best meat stores always in a crappy building in the PJs?) and bought a 5 pound bag of “pork fat.”

We started out with around 10 pounds of flesh, bone and skin, but after we cleaned the rabbit, carved the bone out of the shoulder, and pulled the skin off the pork fat, we were down to about 7 or 8 pounds.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, we cooked the skin in a cast iron pan to render the remaining fat and make cracklins.)  As we were cleaning our respective meats, we chopped them into small pieces — around 1/2 to 1 inch cubed.  Into this, we mixed our haphazard assortments of herbs and seasonings.

The final mix went something like this. 

  • Meat and fat mix
  • Two tall stalks of rosemary
  • Two tall sprigs of oregano
  • Six sage leaves
  • A handful of thyme sprigs
  • Whole bundle of garlic, roasted
  • Powdered coriander (Maybe 2 tbs?)
  • A good coating of Kosher salt
  • Plenty of red pepper flakes
  • Lots of cayenne pepper
  • Black and white pepper
  • 6-8 ounces of Muprhy’s Irish Stout

We chopped the fresh herbs, sprinkled the dry herbs, poured in the beer, and mixed it all into the cubed meat.  Then we put the mix into the fridge while we drank more beer.  You want the fat to be cold, so that it chops easier.

Once everything was chilled, we ran it through the meat grinder on the coarsest setting.  We proceeded to case half the mix in hog intestines, but we were so unprepared for that process, and it was such a disaster that I don’t feel qualified to give any tips.  Well, maybe one tip — buy a sausage stuffer!  Faced with the prospect of stuffing more intestines, we decided to leave the other half as a loose mix which we split evenly between us.

We sampled the sausage in patty form just after grinding, and again as links at the end of the day.  Both times were fantastic, but we noticed that the heat of the peppers drastically declined the longer the sausage sat.  The most surprising thing was how sausage-like the flavor was!  It was incredible!  I’ve got about 8 ounces of loose mix in my freezer now that I’m going to use for spicy cheese dip for the CochFord Chicken Fry.

I realize that I was kinda weak on the details here, so what I’m about to give you is a brief Philosophy of Sausage Making — a term that I actually Googled beforehand, but sadly discovered does not exist.  If you ever find yourself with a meat grinder and a day to spend elbow deep in pork fat and beer, just follow these instructions.

  • Pour yourself a beer, because you’re on your way to Awesometown.
  • Whatever animal/animals you choose, make sure you have a good fat-to-meat ratio — good being at least 30% fat.
  • Remove everything Kosher before you start — because it’s about to look like a pig exploded in your kitchen.
  • Make sure the mix is chilled before grinding.
  • Add a little liquid to help the texture through the grinder.  Beer is a good option.
  • Make a small patty to sample your recipe after grinding.  Then you can make minor adjustments.
  • It doesn’t matter what spices you use, just as long as you use a ton of them.  Sausage is supposed to be flavorful, dammit!
  • If you want spicy sausage, use a lot of peppers.

There you go, dude.  Daniel’s Philosophy of Sausage Making.

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Sheila’s Amazing Beer Chili

from: Jamey W. Bennett 
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

My friend Sheila in Nashville makes what is possibly the best chili I’ve ever had. Last year, she gave me her recipe to use in a chili cook-off at church, and she has given me permission to share it with the world.

She sent me a follow-up email about a meatless version she makes. She said she does it pretty much the same way as below, except for no meat and more beans.

Cheers,
Jamey

From: Sheila Uselton
Subject: Re: chili
To: “Jamey W. Bennett” 

Okay Jamey. Here is my attempt to remember how I make chili.

First I brown a pound or so of good quality ground beef. (ground round or sirloin, etc.) AND a pound of hot sausage like Jimmy Dean’s or whatever. While that is browning I also throw in a chopped poblano pepper (or two if they are really small.)

After the meat is brown I start adding stuff. I add my chili mix, which is usually the Wick Fowler chili kit. Just get one or two if you are making a big batch.I like chili mixes that contain masa. Then I add a large can or two of crushed tomatoes. I always get two cans in case it needs it. Then add your beans. I use black beans and light red kidney beans. I also put in a can of yellow hominy to pay homage to our love of New Mexico southwestern style cooking. I always add a bit more garlic and ground cumin too.Then take two beers out of the fridge. Pour in one beer and make sure it is not a sweet beer. Drink the other beer. At this point, just eyeball it and add whatever else you think it might need.

Now, here is the secret that I just discovered that is amazing. Buy a can of chipotle chilies (smoked jalapenos) and add those. It gives it the most amazing flavor. You will find these little devils in the Mexican food section of your store. Or go to the Mexican grocery store if it’s close by. The ones I used came in a small can with some kind of red sauce in them. Put the chilies AND the sauce in. I think they also can be found in a dried form, but I did not want to have to mess with rehydrating them due to my laziness. Keep in mind however, that this will make your chili HOT, so be discriminating as you add these. Your judges might be pansies from the East who can’t take the heat.

Call or text me if you have any questions. Hope you win!

Love,
S.

[Editor’s Note: Don’t forget the sour cream, cheese, Fritos, hot sauce, or whatever else you like with your chili.]

Whole Food Veggie Tacos FTW!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

I finally did it!  Veggie tacos made with real food!

My main qualm with vegetarian options at home is that they usually involve some sort of processed fake meat.  Not that I’m staunchly opposed to using them (my Skyline Chili knock-off and my chicken-less tacos both rely on faux-meats) but I’ve always wanted another option.  What comes next in this email is an approximation of what I did.  I didn’t do any prior research, I took no notes, and I’m writing this three weeks after the fact.  I tried to mentally tally everything, but you may still have to rely on your ninja skills of adaptation.

In all honesty, I’m not really going not on memory for all of the measurements, but rather guessing at how much I would add if I were to make this again.

Here’s a list of what made up the filling.  It’s kind of like refrigerator soup, in that I just used whatever I had on hand.  But as anyone who’s read about nutrition knows, variety is the best recipe.  The key to making this more taco-meat-esque is to chop all whole foods very small before cooking.  Obviously, you don’t need to chop the beans or corn, but you get the idea.

•    1 can of black beans (rinsed)
•    about a cup of frozen corn kernels
•    about 1/2 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
•    the tips off one head of broccoli (finely chopped)
•    One or two pablano peppers (finely chopped) — add more or different peppers if you like it hotter
•    1/2 onion (finely chopped)
•    3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    a handful of walnuts (you guessed it, finely chopped)
•    1 pack of firm tofu (it’ll break into small pieces when added and stirred) — extra firm tofu won’t break up enough and silken tofu will just dissolve
•    (I wanted to add small cubes of sautéed sweet potato, but I forgot.  I still think that would be good!)
•    1 tbs soy sauce
•    8-ish oz Guinness Draught
•    3-ish tbs tomato paste
•    2-ish tbs chili powder
•    1-1/2-ish tbs cumin
•    Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
•    A few sprigs of chopped cilantro
•    Salt and red and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic and onion for a minute in the oil of your choice.  Mix all other veggies and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Then add the liquid and spices – again, tasting as you go because I didn’t measure shit.  Simmer everything for 30 minutes, and add walnuts and cilantro in the last 5 minutes.

Fair warning, this made a ton!

Now I didn’t want to just top the tacos off with lettuce and be done with it.  I wanted to go fancy pants.

So I filled a large mixing bowl with green cabbage sliced thinly and evenly with the mandolin.  Then I threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and an half-and-half mix of plain greek yogurt and sour cream —enough to make a slaw-type consistency.  I mixed in some salt and pepper, about 3 tbs of granulated sugar, about 1 tbs red wine vinegar and the juice from 2-1/2 limes.  (I used the other half lime to keep the avocado from browning) Then I tossed it all by hand until it was even and put it in the fridge to settle for about an hour.

The final setup went like this; tortilla, veggie filling, cheese, cilantro slaw, sliced avocado and hot sauce.  And it was phenomenal!  The mix of veggies and tofu was the perfect consistency, and the small crunch of walnuts kept the texture interesting.  The fresh slaw was a perfect compliment, and was way more interesting that lettuce and sour cream could have been by themselves.

These tacos made me realize that vegetarian eating doesn’t have to be about avoiding meat.  When done right, it’s really just a tasty way to eat your vegetables.  The variety of plant-based foods on this plate made for one of the most wholesome meals I’ve had in a long time.  And one of the tastiest.

Squash Stuffing, Roast Chicken and Chicken Soup

from Daniel Larkin 4:39 PM (16 hours ago)
to Jamey Bennett

What’s up, dude?  How’s the double shift lifestyle been treating you?  Work seems to be picking up, as long as the engineers can stay on top of the scheduling.  I’m hopeful that a five day work week is around the corner, so fingers crossed.

In food news, though, I’m officially obsessed with roasting chickens.  Being married to a vegetarian, I don’t come across too many occasions to cook a whole bird, but I got a wild urge to roast one last week and followed through.  When I get into the mood for chicken, it’s usually accompanied by a craving for stuffing.  I’ve adapted a pretty solid vegetarian stovetop stuffing recipe so Jenny can jam on it too.  We had a regular Thanksgiving.

So in order of everything, here’s a quick rundown of the stuffing.

Stuffing

For the bread, I raided the freezer and ended up with about 6 hoagie rolls (white, wheat and sesame) and two hamburger buns.  I cut them into cubes between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch, and toasted them in the oven at 250º until they were nice and dry.
Other ingredients are

  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1/2 butternut squash
  • Real maple syrup
  • Half a large yellow onion
  • One rib of celery
  • One medium carrot, or about 8 baby carrots
  • Garlic
  • Vegetable stock
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme and sage

I cut a butternut squash in half, peeled the solid top, and cut it into 1/4-inch thick slices.  (I stopped about an inch short of the stem) I brushed the slices with real maple syrup, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and then roasted them at 450º until they were cooked but still firm.  When the slices were cool enough, I cut them into 1/4-inch cubes.  Immediately after I pulled the squash from the oven, I threw a handful of chopped walnuts into the oven on a separate pan and roasted these for a few minutes.

In buttered pan, I sauteed the chopped onion, chopped celery, chopped baby carrots, and three cloves of garlic minced.  I also included about a 6-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, about five 4-inch sprigs of thyme, and three sage leaves, all chopped finely.  Oh yeah, and salt and pepper.

When all of this looked about done, I added the roasted walnuts, the par cooked squash cubes, a little more butter and a light drizzle of male syrup.  I sauteed this for another minute and pulled it off to cool.

Then in a large stock pot, I combined the dried bread cubes and vegetable mix – tossing by hand until everything was mixed.  When it was time to cook, I slowly heated the pot on the stove and gradually added vegetable stock until I found the right consistency.  The key is to go slowly, because you can alway add more liquid, but you can’t remove it without cooking the whole thing to mush.

But it’s chicken time.

I would be willing to bet that my approach to roasting a chicken is similar to yours.  Buy a good bird, and just don’t screw it up with a bunch of extras.

All I did was wash it, drizzle the skin and cavity with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed it with a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and a few sage leaves.  I also cut a lemon in half, squeezed some juice on the skin, and then stuffed the two halves in the cavity, with the larger end plugging the bird’s ass.  I roasted the chicken in a disposable aluminum pan for 105 minutes without once basting it.  It was seriously the most moist white meat I’ve ever eaten, and the hint of lemon and herbs was fantastic!

Hold on, now there’s soup!

I collected all the extra fat and liquids from the roasting pan and put them in a large metal container.  I quartered the bird and put the main carriage (skeleton) in with the juices, lemon and herbs and set this all in the fridge.  I ate on the chicken for four days, and every time I would finish a quarter, I would toss the bones and extra meat in with the carriage and juices.

A few days after finishing the chicken, I removed as much meat as I could from the carcass and bones and set it aside on a plate. I put the bones in a two quart pot topped off with water; then I began the boil.  I also included half of the lemon in the mix, but I took out a lot of the herbs.  When I had lost roughly 1/3 of the liquid to evaporation, I added about 8 oz of homebrewed ESB and kept boiling.  (I’ve made similar soup using A LOT more homebrew, but I was running low this time.)

I salted the stock lightly and tasted often.  When I had the flavor I was looking for, I strained off the liquid and picked off whatever meat had separated during the boil.  Then I threw the bones away.  Since I had just strained the liquid into a separate jar, I used the two quart pot to sauté some carrots, celery and onion in butter.  When the veggies were almost done, I added all of the meat into the mix and cooked it a bit more.  Then I just added the stock back in and simmered everything for about 10 more minutes.

Jamey, this might have been the best soup I’ve had in years.  The light lemon flavor and the fat of the olive oil and butter were a perfect match.  The chicken meat was tender, and I could have drank the broth all day.

It’s a long email, I know.  But next time you roast a chicken, this is a guaranteed way to perfect soup.  My initial plan was to add noodles, but I never missed them.  Who needs chicken noodle soup when chicken soup is better?

IPA-Crusted Pizza

Dude,
It was good to talk to you tonight, and a bit of an encouragement just to share stuff with ya.

So the verdict is in. The pizza was really good. I’m still way amateur when it comes to homemade pizza, but theconsistency and presentation on this one was pretty good.

Basically, I kinda just winged it. I really wanted pizza, but I wanted to stick with my October Unprocessed commitment. So at Trader Joe’s I picked up unbleached whole-wheat flour, and some good, basic mozzarella with no crazy anti-caking agents or anything. I had bacon from Whole Foods, local hot sausage from the farmer’s market, and some jalapenos I pickled myself (inspired by your pickled eggs bit).

For the dough, I used 4 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder (this is the only iffy thing on processed foods), 1-1/2 tsp. salt, a packet of yeast, 2 tbs. olive oil, and a can of beer. Mixed it together (had to add a little water), kneaded it and covered. After about 2 hours I split it in two, rolled it into a ball, and then flattened that shit.

I did my own pizza sauce, too (sorta). I got the idea from AllRecipes.com, but I did things my own way. Basically, I took about 4 oz. tomato paste, 3 tbs. grated parmesan, a couple garlic cloves, 2 tbs. honey (instead of sugar), ¾ teaspoon onion powder, and ¼ tsp. of each of the following: oregano, marjoram, fresh basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. Then I slowly poured crushed tomatoes into the mix, stirring constantly, until it tasted how I wanted. I also salted to taste. It was sweet and yummy.

One pizza was a spicy Hawaiian-style. I used bacon, sausage, pineapple, and jalapeno.

The other pizza was full of caramelized goodness. I caramelized slices of heirloom tomatoes (!!!!!) in my skillet, and caramelized some onions – all with my local, organic, raw butter. Threw that on a pizza with cheese. DAMN. I think tomorrow I might just caramelize some tomatoes to eat like candy.

Sprinkled oregano on top, then baked at 400 degrees. I always bake in a pan, then for the last couple minutes I pull the pizza off the pan with my pizza peel and put it directly on the rack.

I’m interested in your pizza tips one day.

Cheers,
Jamey

P.S. Oh yeah, and I brushed melted butter on the crust. It was awesome.

Agave Lemon Beer Butt Chicken – with BACON

Every year, if we’re all together, my (Jamey) family has a beer butt chicken cook-off around Christmas or New Years. This is what I did in 2010, and it was awesome. Daniel asked what I did…and here’s my response.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Okay, here it is.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 beer butt stand (you can get these at Walmart or online)
  • 1/2 beer in a can (you can use a soda can & fill it up with homebrew or whatever)
  • Lemon pepper seasoning (the one I used was fancy, and included a lot of goodies like garlic powder and salt and such – in other words, just find one that sounds awesome)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Agave nectar (you can get this in the honey section)
  • 1 pack of bacon (12 oz or 16 oz, you choose)
  • 2 lemons
  • Toothpicks

Thaw the chicken, separate the skin from the front and the back of the chicken carefully. There may be sections that will be difficult to separate, so I just took a knife and made little slits in the skin, and put my finger in their to separate it a bit.

Squeeze bits of the butter in between the skin and the meat all over the chicken. I didn’t quite use the whole stick, but pretty close.

At this point, it may be a good time to put the chicken on the stand for decoration purposes, but don’t put the beer in yet. Sprinkle the outside with the lemon pepper, and load your hand up with lemon pepper and work it into the meat, between the meat and skin.

Cut one of the lemons and squeeze the juice all over the bird, and even inside if you wish.

Use the agave nectar and squeeze it between the meat and skin, and then do a few circles on the outside of the bird (it will slowly run down your chicken.

Now wrap that shit in bacon, and use toothpicks where necessary to keep the bacon in place. Glaze the bacon with the agave. Now let it sit for awhile for the flavors to soak in.

Pull the stand out, put the beer can in the stand, then stick it back in. I threw a few bits of red onion inside the can, as well as some lemon peel, but I have no way of knowing if this did anything. Sounded good to me, though. Oh and I put a bit of soy sauce in the beer too, but that was an impulse. Also, I used a Bavarian-style hefeweizen in keeping with the lemon fruitiness theme. But I bet even Coors would make a mean bird.

Slice into the other lemon a bit so that the meat of it is exposed and shove it into the top of the bird where the neck used to be. This will keep the beer goodness locked inside the bird, and will hopefully allow lemon juice to drip into your bird, making it moist and delicious.

Grill or bake upright (thanks to the stand). We grilled for about an hour. It pretty much requires your attention the whole time (keeping the grill shut as much as possible), but especially because of the butter and bacon – you will have flare ups.

Use a meat thermometer and pull off when it’s 170-180 in the thigh. Remove it from the stand (this is tricky and may require several tools and people), remove the lemon, get the toothpicks out of it, carve, and enjoy.

This kicks ass. I’d like to figure out how to make it a little more lemony if possible. Oh, and drink a few beers when you cook it. I almost forgot that.

Laterz,
Jamey

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

Oh shit.  I think I just peed a little bit reading that.  You know its a quality recipe when it has the three-B’s of awesomeness – bacon, butter and beer.  I’ve never heard of a beer-butt can cooker, but that looks genius.  I will definitely have to try this.  Thanks!

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

They are awesome.

Here’s a standard type: http://amzn.com/B000XE63M2

And here is a fancy one, looks like no BPA. http://amzn.com/B0007ZGUK2

German Pork Ribs!

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey Bennett

I’m sure I’ve told you about the Octoberfest party Jenny and I are planning for this Fall.  We’ll have two 5-gallon kegs – the Octoberfest, which I entered into the TN Valley Competition (it took silver!), and the Bohemian Pilsner.  We’ll also be grilling all day. This is actually what inspired my recent crack at making sauerkraut (results still unknown).

Anyway, I’ve never used kraut for anything other than dousing a sausage, and I figured if I’m going to be making it I should find other ways to eat it.  I don’t think I can eat enough hot dogs to make it through two liters of sauerkraut.

So here’s what I did as a test.  This was just an amalgamation of other recipes and ingredients I found online.

I bought a 24 oz can of GOOD German sauerkraut and 2 pounds of country style pork ribs.  These aren’t the rack ribs you think of when someone says ribs.  They’re much larger and come sliced individually.

I salted the ribs and browned them in olive oil in a heavy duty pot.  Set ‘em aside.Tossed in a whole onion sliced and two green apples sliced and sauteed them in the oil and pork remnants.

Once the onions were translucent, I added all of the kraut (strained and drained) I also stirred in some caraway seed, a few Juniper berries and a heaping scoop of Grey Poupon Harvest Ground Mustard.

I sauteed this mix for another minute then removed half of it.  I set the ribs on top of the mixture and covered it with the remaining half of the kraut, apple and onion mix. Then I just dumped a full 12 oz bottle of Octoberfest beer, covered it with foil and the lid and baked it for 5 hours on 275º.  In all, prep time was almost nil.  It was less than 20 minutes between opening the ribs and closing the oven door behind them.

I didn’t take any pictures because it ain’t a pretty meal to look at, but the pork melts in your mouth and the kraut/onion/apple mix is ridiculous.  I served it all with mashed red potatoes with butter, cream, rosemary and thyme. I’m thinking this is what I might make for the Octoberfest party.

TwoDudes exclusive update.  Put the leftovers spread on a hoagie roll with a generous slathering of course mustard, and you’ll be in pig heaven!