Beefy Onion & Cheese Sausages
Mike was out at a bachelor party on Saturday night. Judging by the fact that he got back slightly after 5 in the morning with a weeping goose-egg on his forehead, it would appear that he had a really good time. So, being a caring and compassionate girlfriend, I planned an activity that he would truly enjoy on Sunday morning: spending 4 hours elbow deep in highly seasoned raw meat. Hey, I’m nothing if not a giver.
We’ve made super-extra-really-lean beef sausages before, so I was willing to give a little and use a bit more fat this time around. However, being a “weight sensitive” person, these sausages are still significantly leaner than the porky kind of cheese smokies that you would buy in the store, for two reasons:
1. The base is hearty beef and not a fatty cut of pork, obviously.
2. I am physically incapable of making food that is 35% fat by weight. Seriously, I just can’t do it.
Bearing that in mind, when you’re cooking lean(er) sausages you need to remember a few basic rules:
– don’t overcook your meat.
– an initial braise will do you a world of good.
– don’t overcook your meat.
Yes, even if you heard me the first time it still bears saying again. Overcooking will turn even the juiciest and porkiest of fatty sausages into a dry and mealy meat package, so why risk that with the lean beef sausages that you took such care to make? A good rule that I generally try to follow is that once the sausages start sputtering and drizzling out fatty fluids, they’re probably done. You can do the ‘feel test’ or use a meat thermometer if you so choose, but once the fat starts running out of your bangers it’s the narrow road to nowhere and you want to get out fast.
Okay, now if you’re new to sausage making (which is actually unbearable amounts of fun) the key thing to remember in terms of productions is that you’ll have much more success if everything is colder than a witches teat. After you refrigerate the meat while it marinates, only take out small portions of meat as you go along to make sure that you don’t let the temperature rise too high. It will also help if you chill the grinder body, blade and die. A half hour in the freezer makes a world of difference, so bear that in mind as you get your kit all set up.
Finally, let’s talk about the sausage casing. There are organic cellulose sausage casings that you can buy (similar to what comes on Hot Rodz) and rehydrate prior to use, but I prefer to use traditional intestine casings. They’re stronger and won’t snap or tear as easily, and I really enjoy that they usually come packed in lengths of about 5-6 feet….because really, it gets hard to pack and freeze more than 6 feet of sausage. Consider this a blessing of charcuterie.
Now then, I’ve ambled on long enough. Like I said to Mike, suck it up you baby, let’s make some sausages!
Beefy Cheese & Onion Sausages
Makes approximately 3 dozen sausages
- 3 kg (6.6 lb) eye of round *
- 1.5 kg (3.25 lb)boneless beef ribs
- 750 g (1.7 lb) fatback or beef fat **
- 450 g (1 lb) thick cut bacon
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 6 plump cloves garlic
- 3-4 yellow onions
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
- 2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) smoked aged cheddar cheese
- 30 feet sausage casings (sheep intestine), or about 5-6 lengths
* Any flavorful and partially marbled cut of cow will do, really, but because I’m a cheap mofo I went for an eye of round. Such is life.
** Yes, my fatback is labelled “Tina”….and has no price because apparently there are some butchers out there who consider fat to be SCRAP (the more fool, they!) and won’t charge you from the refuse of their carefully cleaned meats. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! Pretty awesome, I say. Also, the butcher had a handlebar moustache. I’m a total sucker for a handlebar moustache, and even moreso if Mr. Moustache is in a hygienic smock rather than a wife-beater.
Put the mustard, wooster sauce, and spices into a medium sized bowl. Finely mince (or grate on a rasp, if you’re lazy like me) the garlic cloves and add them to the mix. Add the salt, pepper and the quarter cup of water. Give it a good stir until the consistency is somewhat saucy.
Peel the onions and give them a solid mince.
Chop the beef(s) and fat into moderately large chunks or about 1-1.5 inches each, toss them in the mustard mixture, and add the onion. Let the meat marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight before chopping the bacon into generous chunks and adding them to the mix.
Cut the cheese into smallish chunks (about 1/4 inch) and add them to the meat.
Put a medium die into your meat grinder and pass through a small portion of the meat.
Form the meat into a small patty or two (god forbid that I should make a meat patty for myself and not my sausage making companion!) and fry them up for a few minutes until they’re cooked through. Check the meat for seasonings and add salt or pepper as you see fit. As far as I’m concerned, this step is absolutely indispensable. I mean, you’re about to make 36-40 big ol’ beefy sausages. Do you really want to risk having bland and underseasoned sausages just because you didn’t want to sully a small pan? No. I will answer that for you. No, you don’t.
Soak your sausage casings for at least a half hour in 2-3 changes of water, or until the water runs clear. Following that, clean out the inside of the casing by running water into the top and forcing it through like a water balloon. This is not an unenjoyable process, and it might actually be about as much fun as you can have with sausage casings….or so I hope.
Moisten the stuffing attachment of your meat grinder and slide on a length of casing with the end dangling off about 3-4″ long. Don’t close off the end or you’ll have rather unfortunate air bubbles getting trapped in the sausage and eventually bursting the casing as they cook….not that over time I’ve found that out the hard way, or anything. Start passing the meat through the medium die and into the casing, being sure to let the casing get relatively full and slightly taut before slowly guiding it forward.
I love guiding sausage. I love guiding sausage so much that I’m sure Mike would start to become rather suspicious were it not for the fact that his head-wound was starting to throb as it wept down into his eye.
Oh yes, and P.S. – this is not a picture of me guiding our beefy sausages into the world, these are our Buffalo Wing Chicken Sausages (my next post, most likely) but let’s not split hairs.
When you have filled the casing up to about 3″ from the other end, slide it off the stuffer. Ease the filling on your near end down, just slightly, to make sure that it’s packed fairly tight. Tie off that end.
With your sausage in a straight line in front of you, measure 8″ up from the end and pinch your left hand over that area. Now measure 8″ up from that spot and pinch your right hand over the area. Turn that center portion clockwise 4-5 times to form sealed links. Move your hands down 8″ and try this again, but turn counter-clockwise on the center portion. Repeat, alternating directions, until you run out of room for links and the sausages are ready to be either cooked or frozen.
Traditionally bangers are served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and baked beans (if you’re lucky). However, my gluttony can only go so far, and it’s summer after all, so we threw our bangers into buns with garlicky dill pickles and a sweet-hot grainy mustard drizzled on top.
On the side there were lightly dressed romaine leaves and some roasted sweet potatoes, but let’s not waste time talking about VEGETABLES now, shall we?
On Sausage Making Day it’s all about the meat. The flavorful, well seasoned meat. Good god, but do I ever love sausages, especially when they’re homemade and I know exactly what went into them. Also, every time that I make sausages I add just a LITTLE bit more fat (and I turn around while I do it to pretend that I don’t notice) because lean sausages are great and make you feel virtuous, but juicy sausages are pretty awesome too. One day, I promise, I will summon up all my effort and make sausages that are 30% fat or more the way that traditional sausages should be. But…that day is not today. In the mean time, however, just don’t overcook your delicious beef sausages and you can still feel virtuous whilst avoiding 5 pounds of pork fat. See? Good things happen when you make sausages, pure and simple.