In such a health- minded day and age, the idea of eating sausage has seemingly become taboo. I cannot even count how many times I have heard “Oh, I don’t eat sausage, it is so bad for you”. Sometimes the sausage is not even brought up, but the idea of eating pork itself seems to scare some. In all reality, the pork we eat nowadays is much healthier, cleaner, and more efficiently raised and “processed” than ever before. After hearing this opinion of sausage numerous times, I am baffled to see how many people who still eat it, buy their sausage at a supermarket (of all places).
At A&S in Wyckoff, our sausage is as fresh and as natural as can be. We use Natural, American raised pork shoulders delivered to us multiple times a week. The shoulders, or “Boston butts” as they are deemed, are selected by our meat distributor according to my requirements. I like the freshest cuts of pork with the right amount of fat. After all, fat is good, as long as it is good fat and just enough of it.
Here is the process I go through a few times a week:
As soon as the shoulders arrive, I start to trim them. Discarding the excess fat, glands, nerves, and tendons, the trimmed meat is gone over with our eyes only to make sure it will be sufficient to be chopped, cased, and sold in our store.
This is a fresh pork shoulder, as it looks when we receive it.This is the same pork shoulder, broken down. The meat to your left is for the sausage, the piece to the right is for our popular Pork Braciole.
This is the same pork shoulder, broken down. The meat to your left is for the sausage, the piece to the right is for our popular Pork Braciole.
The shoulder is broken down, as seen above. The fat is discarded or saved for homemade lard while the meat is seperated. The majority of the cleaned meat is used for sausage. However, the nice large piece of meat found under the shoulder bone (on right side of secondpicture above), which has so much flavor, is saved to make our Pork Braciole. This meat has a lot of connective tissue so it requires long cooking times but the end result is delicious, a perfect cut of meat for braising with great San Marzano tomatoes (or fresh if you like). Next, we head for the chopper.
This is the shoulder after it is chopped in our commercial meat grinder. It is passed twice through our course blade till it is the right texture for our sausage.
Here is our preparation for our Hot Sausage. Salt, Sweet Pepper Powder and Hot Red Pepper Flakes from Calabria, and THAT'S IT!
This is our Cheese and Parsley Sausage. Salt, Pepper, Shredded Pecorino Romano (only genuine), and fresh chopped parsley.
Tomato Basil Sausage has San Marzano Plum Tomatoes, fresh hand- ripped Basil, Pecorino (genuine), salt, and pepper. Nothing else.
As you can see in these pictures, which I took today, this is as pure a product as you can find. The ingredients we add to the pork are the best possible; the Pecorino is genuine from Lazio, the fresh herbs are delivered daily, the tomatoes are from San Marzano region, and nothing is added to prolong color or freshness. I have grown to understand the necessity for nitrates and nitrites in the use of curing and drying meats but I do not, and never will, use any preservatives or nitrates/nitrites in my fresh sausage. This is important to me. Most of those sausages you see in the supermarket, whether it be a big- name manufacturer, or factory made by the supermarket in which it is sold, contain so many chemicals to prolong its freshness and taste. Okay, so the stuff will not kill you but I do not find it necessary in fresh sausage. As long as you know where the meat is coming from, where it has been, and how it is handled, then let your mind rest at ease. That ends the use of the first of two machines which we use for sausage making. Here is some more handiwork:
I mix all of the meat, by hand. This guarantees that the spices are spread perfectly throughout. I wash my hands often. No gloves are used, as they carry bacteria easily where hands can be thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized.
This is the Cheese and Parsley Sausage mix as you saw in the first series of photos as well as the previous one.
The meat is thoroughly mixed by hand. This is done for two reasons. 1. To ensure the spices, cheeses, and vegetables are perfectly dispersed. 2. I feel that mixing machines add an unnecessary heat to the fresh meat. Just like making dough or using a food processor, a mixing machine requires repetitive motion which naturally creates heat. Have you ever made pizza dough and felt how warm it is once it it out of the mixer? Well, imagine that with your pork instead. Many who manufacture large quantities of sausage use these machines in very cold rooms to reduce heat as much as possible. But, for a store like ours, there is no need for this. Next we use another machine, the last of the two we require:
This is our Hot Sausage being pumped into Natural Casing.Here is our Cheese and Parsley Sausage being pumped, also into Natural Casing.
Here is our Cheese and Parsley Sausage being pumped, also into Natural Casing.
The machine I use to pump the sausage into casing is a hand- crank operated machine. This is not a requirement of mine. I love hydraulic operated sausage pumpers, but I just do not have one yet. The one I use is pretty old and was passed to me by my father, which means a lot to me. This adds more work to the process but it is tolerable, for now at least. The casings we use are natural Sheep and Hog Casings. The Sheep Casing is used for skinnier sausage varieties, while the Hog Casing is used for the larger links. I promise, we are almost done, here is the last step:
The links of sausage are hand- tied with cotton twine.The freshly cased Sausage is then lightly gone over with a pricker, releasing any extra air.
The freshly cased Sausage is then lightly gone over with a pricker, releasing any extra air.
The sausage is tied into links with cotton twine, usually three links makes a pound. The wheels of sausage (picture not available right now,check back soon) like the Cheese and Parsley variety, is held together with wooden skewers. The use of a “sausage pricker” or pincher helps to release any air that may be left between the meat and the casing. This process helps to ensure the meat will properly breath and not spoil quickly.If you like the one I am using, it is made in Italy, and you can buy one from www.sausagedebauchery.com.
That is the end of our story, the sausage is now ready to sell. I personally trim and chop all the meat, measure the spices, mix, and pump it all into casing. We all have chipped in with the sausage making. However, I do love to do it, since it is one of my favorite things to eat.
We separate ourselves from many other sausage producers in almost every step of the way. Our dry spices are as fresh as possible and the best in quality. We use dry Wild Fennel imported from Italy, great pepper products from Calabria, cheeses from the best producers, and the best pork and casings. This is very important. Quality counts in every facet of food production and sausage is something that our stores are well known for and, therefore, will continue to receive the most attention possible. Everyday, in our meat case, you will find these varieties: Sweet, Sweet with Wild Fennel, Hot, and Cheese and Parsley. But, we also make “specialty” varieties. Pork: Tomato Basil, Broccoli Rabe, Lucanica, etc. Chicken: Pepper and Onion, Broccoli Rabe. Also, we are very well known for our Lamb Sausage which is made in the style of Bari, and our Wild Boar Sausage.
Try these great creations soon. Please, do not buy sausage from a supermarket or any place that either does not make their own or does not make it fresh as often as possible. Forget the misconceptions of sausage being “bad for you”. Pork has become healthier than ever before and for thousands of years it has been made into some form of sausage from Bratwurst to Bologna to Sopressata. Check back soon because I will show you other forms of our sausage and also, next post will be short but sweet. You will get to see what our Fennel looks like in comparison to what everyone else uses.