A couple years ago on the SCA-Cooks email list there was a long discussion on sausage which piqued my interest in the subject. Of course I didn’t do anything about it until now. One of the things that I don’t remember being discussed much, except possibly by Count, now Duke, Gunthar OL was different methods for grinding/mincing the meat and the resulting texture.
Since my interest is at least as much in the why as the how I decided to make four small batches of sausage using various methods to grind the meat-modern meat grinder, food processor, mince with knives and pound in a mortar and pestle. After looking in various manuscripts the only mention of a mortar and pestle being used was in Terrence Scully’s “The Neapolitan Recipe Collection” for a mortadella recipe. Since there was only the one and it wasn’t for a fresh sausage I decided not to do that method and ended up only doing three methods.
I decided to go with a recipe out of Marx Rumpolt since it had minimal spicing and no fillers. This was important since I wanted the emphasis to be on the texture of the sausage. I got the translation out of the sausages-msg file at Stefan’s Florilegium, www.florilegium.org.
Sausages from a sow to make. Take fresh bacon and the meat from the back haunches and mix them together and when you have mixed them season with pepper and salt. Take some intestine from the sow and clean it out and fill with the meat. When you have made the sausages throw them into cold water so they will become stiff and hard. Remove them and let them dry so you may fry them .
My wife picked up just under 4 pounds of pork shoulder that I divided equally using a digital scale with a tare/zero function. I also divided a pound of modern US bacon since I didn’t have fresh bacon. All the meat was cut into 1” to 1.5” chunks to make it easier to go through the mechanical processors.
1.25 pounds of pork shoulder, fat included
0.33 pounds hickory smoked bacon
1 Tbsp unrefined sea salt
15 turns of the pepper grinder with a 3 peppercorn mix on coarse.
KitchenAid meat grinder attachment.
This worked well and quickly. We have the 6qt model with the big motor so it had no problem handling the meat. The texture came out, unsurprisingly, like modern ground meat.
I have an old school Cuisinart, big motor and three settings-On, Off and Pulse so again there was no problem processing the meat. I did the meat in two batches, each with half of the bacon and half of the pork shoulder. First I pulsed it a few times to get the process started, then I switched to the on position and let it run until the meat looked well processed but not into a completely homogenized paste. The two batches came out slightly different in color; one was lighter than the other. I suspect that this was because the fat content in each batch was different. This will get evened out when I mix in the salt and pepper.
Hand Mincing With Knives.
It is what it sounds like. I got it started and passed it off to my wife Mistress Mary Taran of Glastonbury since the shoulders were aching and the CRPS was starting to flare. The texture looked closer to the meat grinder. But that is to be expected since the meat grinder is an auger that pushes the meat onto a rotary knife that cuts the meat against a metal plate. The difference is that the meat comes out of the grinder in strings from the holes in the metal plate.
I picked up a pound of natural pork casings for $8.99. I really could have gotten away with a quarter pound. I also got some unrefined sea salt to use instead of modern refined salt. I rinsed the casing in clear water multiple times until the water was clear after the casings were swirled around.
I ran the mixture through the KitchenAid sausage stuffer. It isn’t as bad as some people made out but it would work better with two people instead of one and the larger food tray accessory. It is a bit wasteful since you lose a link or so worth of meat mix at the end.
After running the meat mix through the machine I tied it off in links. Each mincing method got a different length the meat grinder got the shortest with the food processor and hand minced getting progressively longer links. I did this as a visual cue so I would know which was which.
I put the links in an ice water bath to harden the fat as per the instruction. I didn’t leave it in the water bath for a long time since they were going into the fridge afterwards and that would do the job of hardening the fat and stiffening the sausage.
The test patties made with meat left in the forcing cone were quite tasty.
Caid Fall Crown Tourney 2010 Public Test
The experiment went very well. I cooked the sausages in a frying pan on a Coleman propane stove. I put about a 1/4 inch of water in the pan like I normally do with sausage since it helps to cook them faster and more evenly. After they were cooked I sliced the sausages into bite sized pieces and invited a number of people to try them. I explained the experiment and then had people try the sausage.
Surprisingly the results came out about equal as to which people considered closest to the hand chopped. THL Ciorstan MacAmhlaidh came up with one plausible theory—that the hand chopped sausage had some inconsistencies in the chop so that the mouth feel was different for the different people. Baroness Collette Montpellier of Gyldenholt and Maestro Giuseppe Franco di Bogia preferred the food processor version and came up with quantifiable reasons why the most prominent of which is that the hand chopped and the food processor version had a balanced taste while the meat grinder version had a more pronounced bacon flavor.
A couple people generally preferred the meat grinder version and admitted that it was because that kind of texture is what they get from modern sausage. However, most people liked the hand chopped the best.
Either modern mechanical method would work well and might be recipe dependant and what effect the cook was going for. The tasters generally considered the hand chopped a more rustic sausage because of the cut size. Mary said that she could have cut the meat into smaller pieces which could have affected the outcome.
Things to try next and further questions
Use a larger die in the meat grinder. Don’t run the food processor as long. Alternatively, run the food processor longer to try to get a paste like texture. Would a different stuffing method affect the outcome? Some on the SCA-Cooks list suggested using a funnel which would be a more period method anyway.
Non SCA Test
The day after the tournament Mary Taran and I went to her father’s house for lunch. We brought the meat grinder and food processor sausage. Both he and a long time family friend enjoyed the sausage. They both preferred the food processor version.
- Current Mood: cheerful