I challenged the kids in my "food appreciation" classes to stuff sausages for tonight's parents dinner and they came through like champs.
I've beeen teaching classic and even ancient food preparation techniques to my elementary school students, including things like fermenting sauerkraut, pickling and lately making sausages.
They are totally captivated by sausage making. They love to squish the meat between their fingers. And this week they got their first look at hog casings and my hand-operated press for filling the casings.
The casings fit over a long nozzle. A long handle attaches to a plunger that forces the meat into the casings. Pressing the meat requires a good bit of upper-body strength. Each of the kids got a turn, and there were cheers, hoozahs and squeals as the meat squirted into the casings.
Some of the little kids actually had to grab the handle with both hands and lift themselves off the ground to get the meat to move through the nozzle. But they did a great job. We made five dozen sausages during four different classes.
This job is best done with two persons, one to operate the press, the other to hold and guide the casings as they fill with meat. You then shape the sausages into links by pressing the meat this way and that with your hands. Pinch them off, then twist to finish a link. Twist in the opposite direction to finish the next link. And just work your way down the line in that fashion.
To separate the links, just snip them apart with a sizzors.
What we've made for tonight's dinner are fresh Kielbasa sausages with pork shoulder, fat back and plenty of garlic. We used a recipe from Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book and the result was a full-flavored sausage that the kids were wildly enthusiastic over.
2 1/4 pounds pork shoulder (pork butt)
3/4 pound pork fat back
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Medium hog casings
Cut the pork and fat back into cubes to fit your meat grinder and process with a 1/4-inch plate (the size of the die in the grinder). In a large bowl, mix the meat with the other ingredients. Grind a second time. Press into casings and form into large links, about five inches long.
Kielbasa can be cooked fresh or smoke-cured. We cooked ours fresh. Use a small trussing skewer to poke a few holes in the sausages so they don't burst. Brown on a griddle or in a heavy skilled, then finish cooking in a 325-degree oven. The internal temperature of the sausage should reach 155-160 degrees, as measured by inserting an instant-read thermometer long-ways into the center of the sausage.