Pub Night: Homemade Sausage Rolls
If you don’t think of sausage rolls as “pub grub” then you have obviously never worked in a pub around the holidays. Any holiday. Any holiday at all. Is it Christmas or Easter? God bless, and here are some sausage rolls. Happy Rabbie Burns Day — haggis and sausage rolls for all! Oh, it’s BIFURCATION OF THE ATOM DAY. Perfect, I have a batch of sausage rolls in my freezer, just waiting for such an event.
Sausage rolls were always particularly prevalent around Christmas, which means that this is perhaps not the most timely post, but if there’s a bad time for sausage rolls I certainly don’t know what it would be. Christmas is kind of like an underground day in the pub world. I was 27 before I actually enjoyed my first statutory holiday at work, despite the fact that I started my first ‘real’ job (babysitting and errands don’t count) at the tender age of fourteen, and that is almost entirely due to years of toil in the hospitality sector. Servers don’t get holidays. Period. Your average pub is closed for one (1) day every year: Christmas Day. Not Christmas Eve, which I had to work for six years straight. Not New Years Eve, or (far more painful) New Years Day. The single day of rest was Christmas, but just because the bar wasn’t open it didn’t mean that it was, well, closed.
When I say that Christmas was like an underground holiday at a pub, it’s because there would be a sign on the locked doors advising everyone to enjoy the holiday cheer…..at home, because they weren’t coming in and have a bloody Merry Christmas while they’re at it. The sad masses would sorrowfully turn away with bowed heads and slumped shoulders, shamed that they would even think about hanging out at the bar on such a holy and family oriented day. Inside the pub, however, it was a different story. The jukebox would be blaring, the taps would be flowing, and sausage rolls would be gobbled up as quickly as they were plucked from the fiery realms of the Salamander. The bar was always crammed with the pub’s owners and their family, extended family, friends, friends of friends, most sorrowful alcoholic customers, and a smattering of staff who had worked there for so many years that the thought of not showing up to either work or drink for a day inspired panic. Now don’t get me wrong, these were still secret sausage roll eating rendezvous that nobody was supposed to know about, except that EVERYBODY knew about them and had to suffer through listening to Smug Nuts the sycophant chattering about his glory day from December 26th to April 1st, and fawning over so-and-so’s sausage rolls every chance that he got.
Note: All the sausage rolls in the world would not be enough to make me get nostalgic about giving up the bars, when I think back to working every holiday (apart from Christmas) for roughly half of my life.
Note 2: Every pub owner thought that their sausage rolls were the very best ever, and they weren’t shy about sharing that opinion either. But they would all be incorrect. These are the very best sausage rolls ever.
What the publicans did get right is that deliciously flaky sausage rolls are a champion for pleasing the crowd. These babies are as much at home with a cold pint of ale as they are with a tannic red wine or a buttery chardonnay. Easy to assemble and effortless to cook, if you’re a fan of sausage rolls I strongly suggest that you try these sometime soon. Because, hey, when it comes to sausage rolls, you really shouldn’t wait for the holidays to hit unless you plan to start celebrating Christmas in April…and May….and maybe again in July…..
Homemade Sausage Rolls
Makes 24-28 bites
- 1 lb puff pastry
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
- 125 g turkey kielbasa *
- 1 large garlic clove (or 2 small)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/4 tsp coriander seed
- 6 allspice berries
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 eggs
- 2 slices pumpernickel or brown bread
- 1/2 cup milk **
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley (about 1 tbsp chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste ***
*Pork kielbasa is also fine and has an only slightly higher fat content.
**Yes, Canada has two official languages: French and English. I really should have turned that carton around for you guys, but I didn’t. “Lait écrémé” is not some crazy kind of Quebecois cream, it’s actually just skim milk because that’s what we keep around the house. You can use whatever richness of milk you happen to have in the fridge.
***Please don’t under-season your sausage rolls. I use about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt with 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper, but you can tweak to your personal taste. As always, when it comes to meaty fillings I would recommend pinching off a small amount of the ready to use stuffing and frying it up as a “tester patty” to see if you need more salt, pepper, or anything else. And just in case you forget about this caution, I’ll mention it again in just a minute…..
When you buy puff pastry it is generally frozen. Leave your package of puff pastry in the fridge overnight to defrost and thaw, but still remain chilled.
Whisk together one (1) egg with the half cup of milk. Tear the bread into rough bits, crust and all, and add them to the milk. Press them down and lightly turn the mixture over to ensure that every bit of bread is covered. Leave this to soak for a few minutes while you ready some of the other ingredients.
Put the fennel seed, coriander seed and allspice berries into a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder). Tamp them until the spices are coarsely broken down rather than finely ground.
Ready the food processor! Most kielbasa in encased in plastic but also has a protective (and non-edible) casing around it. When you peel the plastic off of your cured sausage, also carefully check to see if there is a casing and remove it.
Chop the kielbasa into a rough dice and put it into the bowl of a food processor. Peel the garlic clove(s) and chop into 3-4 pieces before adding to the mix along with the bread/milk/egg, ground spices, and parsley.
Puree the mixture for 1-2 minutes or until there are no lumps from the kielbasa. Yes, I realize that it looks like dog food at this point, but just avert thine eyes and remember that you’re doing this for the greater good. Scrape the canine mixture out and into a medium sized mixing bowl housing your ground meat. Season the mixture with a healthy dose of salt and be heavy handed with the pepper.
Gently work the meats and puree together until they are evenly combined, being careful to have a light hand and turn the meats together rather than squeezing them through your fingers. When everything is well combined and the seasonings are worked through, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and tuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours if you like. When the meat chills and firms up it is much easier to work.
Proper seasoning is really the difference between food that is “Meh…” and food that is, “MWA-MOW-MNNGGH”. At this point it really doesn’t hurt to make sure that you haven’t been too sparing with the salt and pepper. If you like (and I recommend that you do), pinch of a small amount and form it into a mini patty. Brown that up in a non-stick pan or using a wee smidge of oil and check the seasoning. After all, if you need to add more salt and pepper this is your last chance to do so.
Lightly flour your work surface. Take half of the defrosted and chilled puff pastry and roll it out into a long flat rectangle about 14 by 8 inches. Slice the pastry lengthwise into two equally long flats.
Take one quarter (1/4) of the meat mixture and form it into a long log along one side of the dough, going all the way out to the edge on both sides. Brush the far side of the pastry lightly with water and roll it up to seal the meat in a puff pastry shell.
Gently press the shape of your cylinder until it is fairly well rounded (just like me) and place it seam side down on your work surface. Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder straight down at intervals just over an inch to make 12-13 pieces from each roll.
Whisk the remaining egg with two (2) tablespoons of ice cold water and use this to brush an egg wash over just the pastry topping on each piece.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF as you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.
If y0u’re going to make some of the sausage rolls now and freeze the rest, lay the rolls down in a single layer on top of waxed or parchment paper and tuck them in the freezer until they’re firm. As soon as the sausage rolls are mostly frozen you can portion them into freezer bags and throw them back into the icy depths until you have an impromptu party and need to feed something to the beasts.
To bake the sausage rolls, line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or spray lightly with a non-stick spray like PAM. Place the sausage rolls seam side down and keep them well spaced to allow for puffy expansion. Bake the sausage rolls for 20-22 minutes (add on 5-10 minutes if you’re cooking them from a well frozen state) or until the pastry is puffy, golden brown and cooked through. Don’t worry, because when the pastry is cooked fully the sausage will be as well.
The obvious accompaniment to sausage rolls is a nice pint of beer and a hollering crowd of good company, but you can serve them as you see fit.
Once you’ve tried homemade sausage rolls and realized how gloriously tasty they are for a minimal amount of work, you may never go back to the freezer section of your grocery store again. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
Cheers big ears, and mind those empty hands of yours. After all, time to lean means time to clean! Now put on a smile love, and help a bonny lass to her wee nippy. By the by, I mighta forget to mention that you’re working on your birthday, Thanksgiving, Easter and All Saints Day. Yes, again. But don’t worry, the sausage rolls bring the light ta make ye smile. Pubbers promise.