Saturday, December 27, 2008

My first sausage-making venture

I've been interested in sausage making for some time now, but have never done anything about it, until now. A 5 lb pork shoulder roast caught my eye at the grocery store the other day so I bought it. The smallest recipe that I could find online was for starting with 10 lbs. of pork, so I just cut everything in half. I believe in starting off small and easy in most of my new ventures, and I thought that 5 lbs. was more than enough to start experimentation.

Stuffing sausage into casings is my goal, but I still have some equipment on order and have to make bulk sausage for now. I bought some casings at a local butcher shop yesterday but still need the sausage stuffing tubes for the KitchenAid.

Here is the recipe for 10 lbs of breakfast sausage that I used, cutting this in half for the 5 lbs of meat I had:

10-lbs ground pork
4-tbsp salt
1 3/4-tsp white pepper
3 1/2-tsp ground sage
2 1/2-tsp ground thyme
2 1/2-tsp nutmeg
2 1/2-tsp ground ginger
1/2-tsp red chili peppers flakes
1/2-cup cold water

I cut the meat from the bone-in shoulder roast, and cut the meat into about 3 by 1 inch strips. These fit easily into the feeder of the KitchenAid meat grinder. Before I ground it, I put the pieces on a cookie sheet and placed the sheet in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Getting the meat COLD makes it easier to work with and helps prevent the fat from smearing in the cutter of the grinder.

After running the meat through the grinder, I mixed the spices and poured them into the meat. I put the spiced meat into the mixing bowl of the KitchenAid and mixed it all together using the bread hook.

Then I bagged the mix into one-pound bags and froze all but one of the bags, which I will use for breakfast tomorrow.

I had a small amount remaining and cooked two patties. It was very lean for sausage (low fat content) and it was VERY good. In future batches I will probably add pork fat to the meat, but for now this tasted fantastic.

Soon I should have the equipment for making links, and hope to be making Italian sausage links and bratwurst soon. I'm off from work this coming week after Christmas and hope to be posting more regarding sausage links, and more cheesemaking. I'm going to build my own cheese press and will let you know how that goes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Homemade Butter

“As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.”

I got another wild idea, to make my own butter. This was easy, but I still managed to make a big mess in the kitchen because I had a brain cramp.
Pour 2 cups of heavy whipping cream into your stand mixer or food processor, I have a KitchenAid stand mixer (ok, it's really my girlfriend Sue's but she keeps it here at my place.) Using the paddle I mixed it on medium speed for about 10-15 minutes. At this point I added a couple teaspoons of salt, just to the point where I liked it.
Here's where I goofed up. The cream starts to thicken, the whey comes out of the cream, and butter starts to form. If you aren't careful, or in the next room as I was, it starts splashing whey all over the kitchen counter. What a mess. If I were in the room at the time, I would have just turned the mixer to a slower speed while the butter was forming.
I turned off the mixer, and drained off the liquid. Then I lined a collander with paper towels and ran the butter under cold water until the liquid became clear. Then I placed paper towels into the collander and let the butter sit for a while to dry out. I chilled it in the fridge for a few minutes, then gently squeezed the butter wrapped in paper towels. Forming it into a brick/log gave it a nice look and I placed it in the refrigerator.

The Mother Of All Vinegars

Home Made Vinegar

I decided to make my own red-wine vinegar. Why? Just for kicks and giggles. It seems lately that if I start thinking "I wonder how easy it is to make xxxxx...." then I am obsessed with making whatever it is.
While researching vinegar making, I learned that if you leave wine sitting for a few months that it will turn to vinegar. This is similar to sourdough and buttermilk in that there are natural bacteria, molds and fungi in the environment that are required in the process. However, for more consistent results, it is best to purchase a 'mother vinegar', or get some from a friend that makes vinegar. I bought my 'mother' from an online brew-making website.
I wanted to watch my costs in this experiment, so I bought a 5 liter, boxed Cabarnet Sauvignon. A crockpot (washed thoroughly then scorched with boiling water) that I use for pickles and sauerkraut seemed to fit the bill, so I poured the wine and mother vinegar in that. Since good vinegar is aged in wooden barrels, I also added a handful of wood chips. I didnt have any oak chips, and hoped that my hickory chips will suffice.
Vinegar should age in a 70-80 degree temperature range, cooler than that and it takes longer. The best I can hope for in the house is about 68-72 degrees. I placed it near the kerosene heater in hopes that I can get a few more degrees in placing it there.
A towel or cheesecloth must be placed over the top to keep out the fruitflies, I used a towel.
Now I have to wait for about 3 months to see if it worked or not. In a week, I noticed in stirring it that I did have small amounts of the telltale nasty-looking sludge which is the bacteria, the 'mother'. In future batches I can transfer the mother and/or a couple cups of the vinegar to a new batch, and the cycle continues.
I will post more news regarding this, but it looks like it is a 'hurry up and wait' game from here on out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

Growing great bacteria in the kitchen, or, How to make your own yogurt at home.

This was easy, and it turned out good. You can buy a fancy yogurt incubator but I just used my crockpot to incubate it. I started with a half gallon of store-bought, whole milk. So you will need:

1. Milk, low fat or whole (not nonfat)
2. About 1/4 cup of yogurt that has active cultures (I used Dannon Plain Yogurt) for every quart of milk used.
3. (Optional, for thick yogurt) Unflavored gelatin, about 1/4 oz package per quart of milk.
4. A food thermometer that can measure between 100 and 180F.
5. A stainless steel stockpot, and a crockpot.
6. Two or three large, thick towels
7. Fruit and/or flavorings of your choice

Using a stainless steel, thick-bottomed pot, I heated the milk to 180 degrees and held it at that temperature for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. This kills the unwanted bacteria in the milk. Then I removed it from the heat to cool.
I turned on my empty crockpot for about 5 minutes on LOW. When the milk cooled to about 100 to 115 degrees (no higher than 115, this will kill the good bacteria in the yogurt.) I poured the milk into the crockpot.
This is when you add your yogurt starter. For every quart of milk, add a 1/4 cup of active-culture yogurt. Mix the yogurt with an equal size amount of the warm milk and stir it together before stirring in to the crockpot.
At this point (after the high heat) you can flavor with fruit, sweetener, anything you want. For my half gallon of milk I used a couple teaspoons of vanilla and a half cup of sugar dissolved in a small amount of hot tap water.
Also at this point is where you want to add your gelatin. I experimented and added a 1/4 oz package of unflavored gelatin for every quart of milk. I dissolved the gelatin in a small amount of hot tap water before stirring it into the milk. (Late note: after this sat for 24 hours I noticed it was very thick, so I might cut down to one packet the next time and see how that does.)
Then I put the lid on the crockpot and covered around the base and lid with the towels to try to maintain a good working temp of 100-115.
I left it overnight (because I started too late in the evening) and awoke to a crockpot full of yogurt!

Notes: I am experimenting now with the temperatures my crockpot heats liquid to, on the high and low settings. I hope to make my next batch in the crockpot only, and not use a separate stockpot to heat the milk.
I let this sit overnight without the crockpot on because of time. I read where, if you do this during the day, that you can turn your crockpot on LOW for about 5 minutes every hour to maintain a good heat of between 100-115. I’m sure more experimentation will help with this.

Coming soon: Mother of all vinegars!