Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Beef Franks

I know I haven't posted much recently, I haven't been making new things very often the last few weeks. The summer was crazy with the Lilburn Farmers Market, which was a great experience and I had a wonderful time! It just took me a little bit to recover from all those crazy days. Now I am rejuvenated and ready to attack new projects!

For my next new experience, I decided it was time to make my own sausages. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to the outlets and I finally got the food grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. I had been thinking about it for about a year or so, but just hadn't bought it. One, I was anxious about buying a $50 attachment. I always worry about money and I also worry about whether or not I will really get any use out of it. I didn't want it to be something that ended up just taking up space in my kitchen. That real estate is getting more and more expensive with all my tools/electrics, etc.

Two, I was worried about making the actual sausages. I've never used natural casings before and didn't know how to handle them. Plus, while I am somewhat of an adventurous eater, the idea still kinda creeped me out a bit. It is one of those things where I know I eat sausages often, but I choose to 'forget' or 'ignore' the whole intestines thing. It works better that way for me.

But if I wanted to control the ingredients, I needed to 'man up' and deal with the casings. I watched a demo at Williams Sonoma a while back and looked back at the notes they gave us. Plus I did a little background checking online. Armed with the information and my natural casings from Patton's Meat Market, I was ready to give it a shot.

For my first attempt, I chose an all beef frank. I found a recipe on thespicysausage.com that utilized beef chuck seasoned with cayenne, coriander, garlic, onions and mace. It sounded interesting to me. I just wasn't in the mood for a pork sausage this time and this recipe seemed simple enough and used ingredients I usually have on hand.

In my internet searches, many sites suggested grinding the meat two to three times. So I took my beef chuck, cut it into long strips and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes (another online suggestion), then put it through my brand spankin new grinder with the coarse grinding plate. I combined the extra ingredients and mixed them in with the meat. I changed out the grinding plate to the fine one and ground the meat for a second time.

It was at this point that I realized I didn't have the sausage stuffer attachment. Ugh!!! I don't know why I was thinking it came in the box, and I don't know why it took this long to notice I was missing a vital piece of equipment. After searching online, I found a store 20 minutes away that had one in stock...crisis averted.

I soaked the hog casings in water for 20-30 minutes, then fed a large amount onto the sausage stuffer attachment (which I greased with a little bit of Crisco to prevent it from sticking). There was no turning back now! Onward and upward. I slowly fed the meat into the food hopper and made my sausages. It took a little bit to get used to feeding the hopper with one hand and guiding the sausage with the other, but it worked out well in the end. I kept the meat cold by placing the tray in the fridge while I fed some through the machine. Well, I said I, but I meant my husband, who had to get up every few minutes to get the tray out of the fridge for me. I only have so many hands, you know.

There were a few air bubbles in the sausages, but it wasn't too bad. Nothing a little hole couldn't fix. I sectioned off each link and ended up with about 25 sausages from my initial 4.75 pounds of beef chuck steak. Not too bad. I placed the sausages in the fridge to cure for a few hours before cooking them on the stovetop (the grill was out of gas).

I was really pleased with the final product. I was worried the casing would be a distraction, but everything was very smooth and tasted great. There were a few places where the seasoning was a little bit stronger than others, but that was because the bowl I used was just barely big enough and evidentally I didn't mix it quite as well as I could have. But other than that, it was a great first try. Successful enough that I think there will be more homemade sausages in the future, as well as grinding our own meat for burgers and such.

I froze the remaining sausages to take with us on vacation next week with our families. Hopefully they will enjoy them as much as we do!

Here is the recipe, courtesy of The Spicy Sausage (except I used a hog casing):

5-lb beef chuck, fine ground
3-tbsp coriander
1 1/2-tsp cayenne
1 1/2-tbsp salt
1/2-cup onions, grated
1-cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2-tsp mace
5-garlic cloves, minced
2-tsp sugar
1-cup water

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until very fine
Stuff into lamb or sheep casing

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