Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spicy Lamb Sausage

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of making my own sausages. Fresh sausages, such as Jimmy Dean-style breakfast sausage, are pretty easy to make but I’ve been wanting to experiment with using cures and such. I’d love to make my own pancetta or Spanish chorizo, but the fear of botulism poisoning has kinda been holding me back. Well, I think I’m finally ready to face that fear.

Kind of.

Before turning my basement into a curing facility, I thought I’d try some easy fresh sausages first. Armed with my newly purchased book, Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie (thanks Meatchip for the recommendation!), I decided to try my hand at making a lamb sausage. Ruhlman gives a recipe for merguez, which is a delicious fresh North African lamb sausage. Using their recipe as a starting point, I played around with it little and the result was a tasty fresh sausage that is somewhere between merguez and chorizo (mergizo??). The garlic and smoked paprika really came through, as did the sweetness from the roasted red peppers. Now I’m on the hunt for more sausage making ideas, so if you’ve got any, let me know!

I would have taken pictures of the cute little patties I fried up, but they were gobbled up before I had a chance. You'll just have to enjoy the snapshot of 4 pounds of sausage.

If you are at all interested in making your own sausages or cured meats, you must pick up Charcuterie. It really is so informative. And it’s so much more than sausages. They discuss smoking and brining and give recipes for accompaniments.

Spicy lamb Sausage
  • 3.5 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, diced
  • 1 pound fat (no skin!) from salt pork*(see note), diced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 whole heads garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 large roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • up to 1 tbs red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup very cold water
  • kosher salt, to taste
*Note: regular old pork fat will work just fine. Just make sure it has no skin on it. I only used salt pork because my local store didn’t have any pork fat available at the time and I didn’t feel like running around town looking for it. If you use regular pork fat, you’ll need to add more salt. I discuss this below.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients (except the water and salt) and mix well. Put the bowl in the freezer for an hour to chill the meat and fat well. This will make grinding so much easier, trust me.

When the meat mixture is almost frozen, run it through a grinder using the coarse die. If you want a finer texture and more compact sausage, use the fine die. Make sure to catch the ground meat in a large bowl that is being chilled on ice. It took me about 20 minutes to get through the entire lot. In that amount of time the temperature of the meat could increase a lot, so you can see how imperative it is that the meat be nearly frozen to start. The blades also work better on colder meat and fat. Once the meat mixture is all ground up, add the water and mix well. It’s so easy if you have a KitchenAid set up because you can catch right into the metal bowl and then mix it up using the paddle attachment. No worries if you don’t have a KitchenAid. Just put some elbow grease into it. When everything is mixed well and uniform, put it all back into the fridge to get very cold if you are going to stuff it.

While it’s chilling, take a small bit and cook it up to taste if it has got enough salt. The salt pork already contributes quite a bit of salt, so you may not feel it needs more. I ended up putting in a little more (about 1 tbs for the entire lot). If you used regular pork fat, then you definitely need to add salt. According to Ruhlman’s guidelines, 4.5 pounds of meat could use about 1 to 1 ¼ oz kosher salt.

At this point, you can stuff the sausage into casings or just use it loose. Obviously (or maybe not), if you are going to stuff you should have some type of stuffing system. I really do not recommend trying to stuff by hand, especially if you are new to this. You’ll end up with loose sausages that resemble penises with tumors. (Yes, I said penises with tumors because that’s exactly how the lumpy sausages will look.) I do have the stuffing attachment for my KitchenAid, but I didn’t bother with casings and just froze usable portions. If you go the casing route, make sure you soak them for at least 30 minutes in cool water and them rinse them well before using to get rid of the brine. Once you’ve stuffed, you're ready to cook. Whatever you can’t eat in 2 to 3 days should be frozen. Wrap them well in plastic wrap then throw them into a Ziploc bag. It would be a shame if you take them out of the freezer and find they are all freezer burnt!

Wondering what this lamb sausage is good for? Try using it in any dish that calls for sausage. It's a great flavor base for soups. I'm simple; I like it fried and served with eggs and sauteed onions and bell peppers.


Manggy said...

I've seen this book and peeked inside-- it's quite expensive! I hope you get the most out of it. I have no griner or stuffer, so it's not really feasible for me at this time to make my own deli meats :(

dp said...

manggy, what you need to do is make nice with a good butcher. Then you can order special cuts of meats and have them grind it and many will even sharpen your knives!

And a lot of the book covers more than sausages. I'm going to try my own pancetta soon. You can live vicariously through me :-)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've also stayed away from sausage and the like for fear of screwing it up and making myself woefully ill. I've also been timid about simple things like jam/preserves for the same reason...

This looks really good though--I'll have to check the book out and maybe reconsider my fears. The flavor sounds like it should be delicious!

dp said...

Mike, just reading the book gave me a lot of confidence. Then take baby steps like me and start with a fresh sausage.

I'm planning to make my own strawberry jam this year. Just waiting for strawberry season, which won't be until early June. I've done it by canning, but I'm going to do freezer jam this time. You may consider this before diving head first into canning. You can purchase containers specifically for freezer storage and pectin used for freezer jams.

Anonymous said...

I love Merguez! It's interesting that Ruhlman's recipe only asked for 2 tsp of cumin. All the Merguez I've eaten is on "cuminy" side. Try toasted whole cumin seeds. It really makes a difference. Again. Nice details on the method of preparation.

dp said...

James, I don't think Ruhlman's recipe actually call for cumin...can't remember, and it only called for 1 tsp red pepper flakes, which wasn't going to cut it with me. And I used smoked papika instead of the regular stuff, which made a big difference. I've heard that the best seasoning is to use harissa, but I didn't have that on hand so I just improvised.

Anonymous said...

Charcuterie is an awesome book isn't it? Your "mergizo" looks awesome.

You should definitely try getting some hog casings and stuffing them! Maybe even make your own longanisa:


Anonymous said...

sorry, that link didn't work. but i've got a longanisa recipe over at my site based on the basics from charcuterie.

dp said...

Marvin, your longanisa is on my list!

And yes, I love the book. I think this weekend I'm going to try the Canadian bacon. I just got my pink salt and the thought of using it just makes me giddy :-)

test it comm said...

Making your own sausages sounds like fun and that sausage blend sounds really tasty.