At the desk: Sausage-making opens world of flavor and friendship | News

Rose Dutchman

A few years ago I decided to have foot surgery in the winter, anticipating that by the end of the predicted six month healing time I would be ready for summer activities. My husband Eric, knowing that I have a hard time sitting still, has come up with projects to help me get through this time. One of these projects was learning how to make sausages.

This was not without ulterior motives on his part. When I suggest a vegetarian dish for dinner, he often (half-jokingly) adds “with sausage?” I agree that it’s a great addition to many dishes, and you can often get a lot of flavor from a relatively small amount of meat. A win-win situation on days when I want to lean towards veggies.

We started dabbling in sausage making and I had a hard time choosing which one to start with. Many types of sausage are made with pork, and we’ve found that the base for most has about the same meat-to-fat ratio. What differentiated one type from the other was the difference in spices. I thought we could make three types of pork sausage as easy as one.

The first round was a bit of a disaster but a good learning experience. We were in a hurry and shredded the meat with the one (too big) disc we had on our stand mixer attachment. We tried filling by hand and came out with lumpy sausages; The air pockets burst and spat fat everywhere as we cooked them. But the flavors were so much better than most commercial sausages and I was hooked.

To make a proper sausage we decided to get some equipment. We found a set of old metal discs in different grinding sizes after a search on eBay – check. I knew my friend Andrea, a fabulous cook who knows butchery, had a sausage filler and we asked to borrow it – check. We read that natural casings (a lovely euphemism for casing) are best and spoke to Mark at Maxbauers who was happy to provide them – check.

We tried making sausage again, with Andrea giving wise advice to ensure the meat and fat are very cold before grinding. The grinding went well and we carefully seasoned the meat, enjoying the process of tweaking the spices to our liking. It was difficult to get to grips with the stuffer at first, but with Andrea’s help we managed to make some beautiful and tasty specimens.

After that first year, making sausages became a regular winter occupation. We went to Tandem Cider on an early winter day and met our friend Susan who raises pigs. We talked about the importance of good fat in sausages and asked if she had any we could buy. She didn’t, but gave us the number of Jackson, a young farmer in Leelanau County.

We called and he asked us to meet him at the farm. We drove out to the pretty old barn and waited. When a truck pulled up, I felt like I was involved in an illegal drug deal. A young man jumped out and waved at us, proudly holding up two bags of nice white grease. We shook hands and agreed on a price, then we were given a tour of his animals in the barn.

Jackson explained that he rents land on this farm and shared his goal of one day buying his own land. It was a chance meeting because when he found property he invited us to visit. He showed us the pigs he raised not only for meat but to help clear the land. Later that year we bought one of the pigs to stock our freezer with pork.

Along the way we found help from others – my yoga buddy Dr. Joe started making sausages and shares his recipes and stuffer with us; we in turn lend him our vacuum sealer. Another friend, Tim, happened to drop by one day while we were stuffing and stayed to help. I have some hilarious photos of Eric and Tim joking while they work the meat into the casings. You can only imagine!

One of my fondest memories is a day with our friend Seth, who fondly remembers making sausage with his Italian grandfather Ed. Seth asked if he could invite his friend Thom to our place. Thom raises Mangalitza pigs, prized for their meat with creamy, rich fat. Thom very generously brought some lovely pork to grind and a recipe of his own. We made different sausages that day, all very tasty, but what I loved the most was the stories about Ed. We followed his original recipe card, and I was happy to see the bags of “Ed’s Italian Sausage” in our freezer for months to come.

That evening Seth’s wife Renee came over after work and we had a hilarious feast. Seth has a knack for storytelling, openly sharing his weaknesses and laughing about them with us. There were more stories about Ed, stories from Thom about raising hogs and moving from Hamtramck to Leelanau County (Thom’s wife Kathleen runs the Polish Arts Center in Cedar) and we all shared how fortunate we felt to live up north.

Not every sausage production has to be a community effort, but maybe it should be. After all, it is more practical to only occasionally share used devices and to exchange information about what you have learned. While it’s true that “many hands make easy work,” time flies when conversations flow. And the best conversations I remember are the ones that happen in the kitchen and around the table.

Find a winter feeding project this year and see if you can hire a friend or family member to study with you. It could make the darkness of winter brighter and tastier.

There are a number of local sources that make good sausages that you can buy: Maxbauer’s and Burritt’s in Traverse City, Hansen’s in Suttons Bay, among them. If you want to make your own sausages, I recommend Home Sausage Making by Susan Mahnke Perry and Charles G. Reavis. Good illustrations of techniques and equipment and good recipes. I love Luganega.

The following is Seth’s grandfather’s Italian sausage recipe as it was on the menu, with no instructions. My notations are in italics.

Ed’s Italian sausage

8 pounds. pork (ground)

4 pounds. beef (ground)

3 tbsp salt

2 tbsp black pepper

2 T. coriander (ground)

3 T. fennel seeds

¼ tbsp red pepper flakes

3 T. grated (Parmesan) cheese

— Ed Harris (thanks Seth!)

Pasta with sausage and mustard

In the recipe below, the sum is greater than its parts, especially if you use a good Italian sausage.

For 4-6 people

1 pound. penne

1 tbsp olive oil

6 hot Italian sausage (1½ lbs.), meat removed from casing and crumbled

¾ C. dry white wine

¾ C. Cream

3 T. coarsely ground mustard

Mash red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

½ – 1 C. thinly sliced ​​basil or chopped parsley

In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta al dente, drain but first reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Add sausage and cook, stirring, until sausage is brown and cooked through. Add wine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan until wine is reduced by half. Add cream, mustard and pepper, simmer for two minutes. Add pasta and some of the reserved water if the sauce is too thick and heat through. Add basil just before serving.

— Adapted by Rose Hollander (original source unknown)

Jambalaya with sausage and shrimp

Jambalaya often comes up as a side dish with rice, but I love to skewer the veggies/protein into the rice portions to create a one-dish appetizer. The amount of ground pepper used depends on how hot the sausage is; add more if you want it hotter. This is a simplified recipe for a weeknight meal.

For 4 – 6 servings


1 bay leaf

½ cup cayenne pepper

½ T. White pepper

½ T. black pepper

1 ton dried oregano

½ T. dried thyme leaves

½ T Salt

Mix spices in a small bowl and set aside.

1 T. neutral oil

8 ounces. Andouille sausage, sliced

  • 3 ounces. Ham, cut into small cubes (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 c. Celery chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

15 oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice

2 c.+ chicken or seafood broth

1 ½ cups rice (preferably “converted”)

1 pound raw shrimp

2-3 spring onions, sliced, for garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sausage and ham and fry until crispy, stirring frequently. Add the onion, peppers, and celery and stir until tender, then add the spice mixture and cook, stirring, for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice, then broth and bring to a boil. Add rice and stir, then cover and lower heat to cook rice, about 12 minutes. Add shrimp and if dish seems too dry, add a little more broth, then cover again and cook until shrimp is cooked through, about 5 minutes or more. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve garnished with spring onions.

  • You can easily add chicken to this dish or substitute chicken for the shrimp. A diced chicken breast should be added before the spices. Cook the chicken until just tender and continue with the rest of the recipe.

– Rose Hollander

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