Pork · Sausage Making

Making Sausage – Prep Work

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You’ve no doubt heard the term mise en place (meez en plahs), which means “to put in place” or, basically, to get everything ready before you begin.  We mostly hear it used in the kitchen – you mise en place all your ingredients so you’ve got everything measured and ready to go before you start cooking – and it’s a good thing to do, frankly, because it would be a shame to suddenly realize that you’re out of some crucial ingredient midway through your fancy dinner prep.  Or something like that.

Anyway, in preparation for our Second Grand Day of Sausage Making this past Saturday, Bill and I did our mise en place on Friday.

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One of the jobs was to remove all yucky fat (the loose, stringy fat as opposed to the firm, desirable fat) and sinew from this 8+ lb bone-in pork butt.  We were planning to make two kinds of sausage (John was making one large batch of one single recipe.) and this large piece of pork would be enough for both batches.

The sinew, which includes the very thin sheath around some muscle groups and the thicker sections that attach to even thicker tendons or bone, will clog the holes in your meat grinder and cause the meat to smear.  You don’t want smear when you’re making sausage.  Very bad.

IMG_8086 (Not a great picture, but you can see some of the stringy ends of thicker sinew on the piece of pork above.)

And the meat also needs to be chopped into small pieces – around 3/4” square, although they don’t have to be square.  Just small.  And without sinew.

For past sausages, Bill has done the meat prep, so it was my turn.  He can’t stand that particular job – it’s picky, time-consuming work, much like picking the meat from a lobster or crab body.  Or harvesting all the little dried coriander seed without including bits of stalk in the final bowl.  A lot of time, but, ultimately, worth all that effort.  And more a job for me than for Bill.

I don’t mind those sorts of jobs.  I find them soothing and peaceful and – as John also said about this same task – meditative.

So Bill sharpened my little knives and one big knife, and I got started.  I cut boneless sections from the pork to work on and kept the rest in the refrigerator.

I followed the lines of fat and the lines of sinew, trimming it away from the meat as carefully as I could.  Then I’d chop the trimmed portions into small pieces for grinding.

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To be honest, I had fun trimming the pork.  I loved biology class and anatomy and physiology class in high school…cell structure, muscle groups, the skeleton…I love all that stuff. 

Look!  A blood vessel!  See it, just about in the middle of the picture?  I positioned it so you could see right through it to the cutting mat below.  Cool, huh?  Well…okay…it is to me.

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Anyway, back on topic, all this removal of sinew and slicing meat from the curve of the bone was fascinating.  I know there will be people out there who think this is sick or cruel or creepy…so be it.  Me?  I want to take a butchering class some day so I can really do this correctly.

But that will be in the future.

Back to the pork.  Or the prepping.

While I sliced and diced, Bill worked on other aspects of our sausage prep.

First, he roasted three poblano peppers.

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Then he sweated the charred skin off and chopped them up.

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And then he mixed a blend of spices together for our other sausage.  I’ll get to the recipes in another couple of posts.

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Once I had some of the pork meat trimmed and chopped, Bill combined that with some breast meat he had chopped, and put that through the grinder.

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And then he combined that with the spice mixture.

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All that went into the fridge, ready to go for the next day.

I was still working on the pork butt, so Bill started cutting up the fatback.  Fatback, or back fat, comes from above the loin, and is thick and white and a great fat for sausage-making.  I got ours from a butcher I befriended.  He was trimming loin and saved a couple pounds of the fat for me.  Yay!  It’s nice to have friends.

Anyway, Bill weighed out the fat he needed and chopped it up for the next day’s grinding.

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Again, Bill was done but I was still trimming and chopping.

And I was hungry.  Bill had fed the kids dinner earlier, and now he fed me.  Bleu cheese on Triscuits.  Yum.  A perfect pairing, in my opinion.

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And finally, about 3 1/2 hours after I started (with a few interruptions and pauses to chat, swig beer, laugh, and eat cheese and crackers) the pork was trimmed, chopped, and in the fridge.

All that was left were the scraps.

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Now, granted, if I was more experienced, there would be fewer scraps, but still, this was pretty good, I think.  For the first time. 

Just agree with me.  I’m very needy.

Anyway.

Next post will feature our friend John’s “Experimental Sausage #2” – both the making of and the recipe, which he has generously agreed to share. 

Come on back soon!

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