Aaah, Charcutepalooza. You and your July challenge (emulsified sausages). You just about did me in. Literally. Our relationship started out so promising – I mean, hot on the heels of June’s successful sausage stuffing party, (perhaps too close – just a week in between as I needed to complete this before leaving for Europe) I felt I (with a lot of help from friends) could achieve anything… And homemade hotdogs – what could be better than that for a going away barbecue with friends?
I started out with some gorgeous (and expensive) organic beef short ribs. Starting out with the best ingredients, how could anything go wrong?
My $18 of beef made just six hotdogs, so no room for error with six guests expected! The beef is ground once and mixed with some pink salts and other spices, then it rests in the fridge for up to 24 hours. The oxidization process started to alarm me and Neil was on the receiving end of a couple of “the beef is GREY” texts and phone messages. In fact, underneath, it was gorgeous and pink. When it’s chilled out for 48 hours, you grind it again and stuff. By which time it is more like a paste than chopped meat….
So I was all ready to stuff… Fortunately, Ethan came over to lend a hand (and take photos…)
But we managed fairly well with our tiny quantity of meat – even though it was ground twice instead of once and hence, much more gummy (reminiscent of the chicken sausages from last month), the meat was fairly cold and easily stuffed into the casings. Producing some mighty fine looking hotdogs, if I do say so myself!
And you know, we could have just stopped at the hotdogs and we would have completed the challenge. But no, because Neil and I have made both the Apprentice and the Charcuterie challenge every month so far, we ventured into the world of the weisswurst – a pale sausage made with veal shoulder and flavoured with lemon and parsley. Sounded divine, very summery.
Now, normally, I halve, even quarter recipes (as I had to do with the hotdogs, math for the kitchen was in full swing there!) but for whatever reason I bought MORE than I needed of the veal shoulder and, obviously, my brain was in summer mode when I froze it without weighing it into the correct quantity, meaning that I had much more meat to stuff than I really needed. But no worries, I made a plan to grind the meat and commandeered Neil into helping me with the casings as soon as he got home one night. Let me tell you he was not thrilled to arrive home and spend an hour stuffing sausages. The veal, being much leaner than the beef (even with fat back mixed in there) was SO GUMMY by the time we got to stuffing it and I had already been working for a couple of hours when we began the stuffing. My right hand (from pushing the meat through the grinder) was a little sore but I thought nothing of it at the time. Check out the gummy factor below – on the left, the meat ground once, on the right, when it’s ready to stuff.
See all that gummy yuck in the top of the stuffer? Ewwwww. That, my friends, was also all over me and I had to wash the Kitchen Aid and its various bits and bobs about 6 times to feel that I had them clean enough. The weisswurst, however, looked wonderful…
These were really, really good. I went a bit overboard with the lemon zest but this made them bright and punchy – something I would not expect from what is essentially an uninteresting looking sausage.
They also taste great on a piece of baguette slathered with mustard, pickles and ketchup….
Two days later, patting myself on the back that I managed to complete the challenge before leaving for the summer, I noticed a slightly more insistent twinge in my “grinding and stuffing” hand. And later, a huge bump. And intense pain. And then I couldn’t actually do anything with that hand. Oh, and I needed to pack and you know, go to Paris later that day. My RMT diagnosed this as clearly just an underused muscle that was being used intensely all of a sudden, and told me to make sure I iced it and rested it as much as I could. Making sure to tuck a load of Ziplocs into my luggage, and using them on the plane filled with ice, and putting my hand in a brace to remind myself not to use that hand without some thought, the pain slowly went away. But it took a good week.
So when I think back on this challenge, whilst I will remember the appreciative guests and their praise for both the hotdogs and the weisswurst, I will also remember the absolutely disgustingly gummy mess I was trying to stuff into the casings. And the gummy mess all over me. And all over my kitchen. And how much my hand hurt on the trip to Paris. As I tweeted to Cathy “I am #soovercasings”. I do feel a definite sense of accomplishment though and have to thank Mr Neil and Ethan for their help – could not have done this without them. And our neighbour Orest who popped his head in every now and then to make sausage jokes. Oh, and to eat the sausages. Oh yes, and to put up some fence decoration on our new patio. That kinda sorta look like a tribute to the past two sausage challenges…..
So yeah, I am in Paris right now for the next two weeks. Taking pastry and cooking classes and wine tasting workshops. It’s a tough life but someone’s gotta do it. And am nervously awaiting the August Charcutepalooza challenge and crossing my fingers it does not involve sausage casings. Or any special equipment. Keep up with me this summer through my Summer 2011 Flickr set.