February 16, 2017

Sage Breakfast Sausage

Last time we made breakfast sausage I followed the recipe from Ruhlman and lacking a stuffer at the time, formed it into patties. It was pretty good, but a little salty, and the kids found it too "spicy". They LOVE to eat frozen breakfast sausages from Applegate. Now that we have a stuffer I wanted to try to make breakfast sausage the kids would like better, put into small casings.

I took a look at the ingredients label for the Applegate sausage, thinking to get some guidance about what the kids like. It goes like this:

Pork, Water. Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Cane Sugar, Salt, Spices.
Spices: Sage, Black Pepper, Ginger, White Pepper, Red Pepper

Ok, well I'm sure it's got more sugar than I put in mine usually; they taste pretty sweet. Kids like sugar; duh. I am willing to put in sweeteners, but I thought instead of cane sugar I could try to use sweet cider as the binding liquid, plus a dollop of boiled cider to add more sugar. And I never pass up the chance to use apples in a new application.

Sage is good, and I'm always looking for a place to use more sage since my plant in the garden is constantly straining to exceed the space I've allotted to it (on bottom left of following pic)

I decided to take out the ginger, feeling that it contributed to the complaints about it being too spicy. After looking at a bunch of other breakfast sausage recipes on the internet, I decided to cut back on the black pepper, but add in a little red pepper and some tyme.

Can't go wrong with garlic in my opinion, so I used a head of the Music we grew last season (usually 4 or 5 cloves).

For meat, pork shoulder was great last time, supplemented by some extra back fat. A previous project had left a good size chunk of back fat in my freezer. Becky had bought a beef heart a few months prior to examine and dissect for her science club, and sausage seemed a good place to use that up.

I picked up a new lump of shoulder from our neighborhood butcher, M.F. Dulock. The fat and heart came from there as well. The meat from Dulock is really, really good, and their customer service is top notch. It is also very expensive; this stuff makes Whole Foods meat seem cheap. But we prefer to get superb quality locally raised meat from the neighborhood shop. We do sometimes get meat from elsewhere, but my feeling is that if it is too expensive we should just eat less meat.

  • 2300g pork shoulder
  • 400g pork back fat
  • 100g beef heart
  • 40g kosher salt
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried tyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4c chopped fresh sage leaf
  • 1 head garlic, skinned and minced
  • 3/4 cup sweet cider
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider
The day before sausaging I defrosted the heart and back fat in the fridge. On sausage day I put them back in the freezer to chill along with the chunk of pork shoulder. When they were stiff but not frozen I took them out and cut them into ~15mm cubes. These were mixed up with the spices and put back in the fridge for a couple hours. Meanwhile the enterprise #5 grinder and a catch pan were put in the freezer to chill.

We set up the grinder and ran all the meats and spices through the 5mm die and returned the mix to the fridge.

Last time I made breakfast sausage I used hard cider for the binding liquid, but this time I wanted to boost the sweetness and make it more attractive to the kids, so I used a cup of sweet cider from our fall cider run (defrosted the day before).

The meat and cider was mixed with the paddle in the kitchenaid for about a minute, 

then I loaded it into a heavy duty plastic bag, which in turn was put into the hopper of the Enterprise stuffer. The corner of the bag was pulled out the exit port at the bottom of the stuffer and snipped off. 

I tried to push the meat down and work out major air pockets with a wood spoon, then folded the top of the bag over and readied the stuffer.

Earlier I had put a few hanks of pretubed 18/20mm sheep casing I had bought from Syracuse Casing to soak in warm water. Although it seemed like 18/20mm casing should fit on my LEM 606B tube (nominally 19mm diameter), it was too tight to load. So I went down to the LEM 606A tube, which was way too small. But this turned out to not be an issue since the filling could easily expand to fill the casing after exiting the stuffer delivery tube. I think it did make stuffing a little more tricky since it was harder to strike the balance between overstuffing and understuffing than it might have been with a right sized tube.

The sausages came out a nice diameter. In the sections which were filled too much, the casing would rupture when we twisted it to make links. I don't recall this being an issue with the hog casing; maybe sheep is weaker than hog? Or the smaller diameter is thinner? In any case we ended up with some busted links. But these are fine to cook and eat, so no big deal.

This time we mostly froze the links on a cookie sheet before bagging and vac sealing them. In this way, the sausages were prevented from squishing into an unappetizing meat pile when vac sealing, which is what happens if you vac seal them at room temp.

With ~3kg of meat, we had too much to load into the stuffer all at once. But barely too much. It would have been more efficient to only have 2.5kg and load the stuffer once, or 4+kg for two loads.

A pleasant sausage experience, and the results are delicious. No complaints from the kids this time, though I think they still like the sugary Applegate sausages better!

February 1, 2017

Urban Micro-Orchard Year 3

2016 saw the third growing season for our espalier micro-orchard project. Some things are going easier than I thought, like training to the trellis, pruning, and grafting, while other unexpected challenges have emerged. Things are shaping up well, and I can see the way to a wonderful established planting. But it is going to be a longer and more winding path I had originally thought!

December 12, 2016

New bunny suit for Old Bunny

I've been continuing to make these bunnies as baby gifts these last few years, never actually catching up with how many I'd like to make. Meanwhile, Violet still keeps her bunny (the first I made, in 2010) as her favorite, and it has gotten pretty ragged looking. This bunny has been slept with thousands of times, and has soaked up an ocean of tears (plus some drool and a little blood). It has been on trips in suitcases, on planes, and in the car. The ears were near to falling off completely, and the rest of the outer fabric had degraded to a fragile spider web like layer. The ones I've been making since the first one have used a double layer of muslin for the outer shell to help with durability and to prevent wool fibers from escaping.

I proposed making her a new one, but she was adamant in her desire to not retire her old one. So we came up with a scheme for preserving the old bunny but protecting it from further decline while still keeping it in constant use. A bunny suit!

October 25, 2016

Cider 12 - Winter wheat from the orchard and a bicycle powered apple washer

Another great year of cidering at Five Islands, Maine with a good group of people, excellent weather, and delicious food.

A complementary writeup and different set of photos can be found at Ben's blog.

May 4, 2016

A Quick and Basic Frame Saw

I bought some rough cut green oak from a local supplier early this spring, for making into some plant trellises and a little perch on a maple tree for the kids. Feeling that this by itself was not enough of a challenge apparently, I decided to try to do a bit of carving on the tops of the posts to make these installations more interesting.

April 11, 2016

Tapping the Urban Maple, and Boiled Cider

Last year, I read about tapping trees that are NOT sugar maple at the blog of Anna Hess, and I resolved to tap the handful of trees on our small city lot. We have two Sycamore Maples and two Norway Maples. I had no idea what to expect, but I thought it would be fun to try. The easiest way I could come up with to test the waters was a piece of metal tube stuck in a hole, with a length of tubing run down to a container sitting on the ground.

April 7, 2016

Violet's Tiny Embroidered Buckwheat Hull Pillow

She has had this project going for a couple years now, but recently wrapped it up.

March 24, 2016

Garden Review 2015: Strawberries, and other Permaculture Plants

Perennials are coming along, most of them more slowly than I'd like. Some died. Strawberries were a huge success, others gave a couple fruits and berries. We planted some new edible vines and shrubs.

In other recent posts I have written up Apples, perennial greens & herbs, and alliums. But there are plenty of other plants I feel the need to write up!

March 15, 2016

The Children Assemble a Nixie Tube Clock

Violet had been wanting a clock in her room for a while, to know how late it was getting when she is up reading after bedtime, and also to be able to set an alarm to get up in the morning. We could have just purchased a cheap clock from any number of retail sources, but I thought it would be a good opportunity for a project.

March 1, 2016

Aggressive Composting, and Retiring Chickens

Reading The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins last year really inspired me to try to compost (almost) everything. So this last season we started ignoring those picky commonplace composting rules often given to home scale composters. Such as: No Meat or Animal Products, No Fat, etc. We just started putting it ALL in there.