Lean Hungarian Spiced Beef Sausages
Oh, the adventures of sausage making! Our freezer is practically bursting with meat right now, and I am a-ok with that. My attitude towards sausage making is such that if I’m going to go to all the fuss and bother of making a batch of home made sausages, I might as well make two. After all, the grinder was out, the enthusiasm was up, and I had more casings than I could shake a stick at. The first round of sausages that we posted were Chipotle Tequila Pork Sausages (oh yeah), which were boozy, spicy, and full of south-of-the-border flavor. However, we also wanted a Safety Sausage. You know, something that was approachable, fussy-eater friendly, and…well, leaner.
It’s a general principle of sausage making that the best flavored sausage has about a 30% fat ratio. Which is great, I suppose, if you have the metabolism of a hyperactive 6 year old. I don’t. I have the metabolism of a two-toed tree sloth who can’t make it up the trunk without panting. With every sausage that I eat, I come precariously closer to summoning another chin. Therefore, we gave the golden ratio a deep six followed by the handy-man’s salute, and decided that since our beef sausages weren’t going to get their flavor from fat, we would give them their flavor through….flavor. A novel concept, yes, but one that we do try to follow from time to time. This is not to say that these are fat-free sausages by any shake of the thighs, just that on a scale of ‘okay’ to ‘coronary’, you’re on the winners’ end.
If you were looking for some general rules on sausage making, links to reference materials, or a reminder that Mike totally promised me that we could build a smoke house in our back yard if I promised not to dry-cure meat in our home (I figure that the more I remind him of this, the less likely he is to plead ignorance when the time comes), you can check out our first article on the topic.
Lean Hungarian Spiced Beef Sausages
Makes approximately 24 links, at 5″ each
- 4.5 lb (~2kg) beef
- 1 lb (450g) slab smoked bacon
- 1 tbp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp caraway
- 1 tbsp marjoram
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp hot paprika
- 3 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp finely ground black pepper
- 1.5 – 2.5 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp dried onion flakes
- 12 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 15′ sausage casing (sheep intestine)
Just like the first batch of pork sausages, which we happened to be making at exactly the same time, there are no pictures of the first few steps. Somebody totally dropped the ball and took all of the intro pictures without a memory card in her camera. Now, now…it’s not important who did that, so let’s not point fingers. Let’s just focus on the fact that this will be a much FASTER post without all of those troublesome photos to look at, right? Right……
Start by gently toasting the coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and caraway in a small dry skillet. As soon as they’re fragrant (1-2 minutes) remove them from the heat and start pounding them out in a mortar and pestle. If you prefer, you can use a spice grinder for this step, but try not to make sure that they’re closer to a coarse grind than a powder.
Add 1.5 tbsp of salt to begin with. If you want more salt to make up for the lack of fat, by all means go it – but first wait until everything is ground, mixed, and you’ve cooked off a small portion to see where you need to adjust the seasonings. Mix in all of the remaining dried spices, including the onion flakes and finely minced garlic. The moisture from your garlic will thicken this up until it’s rather like a dry paste, which is fine.
Cut the beef into cubes of about 1.5 – 2″ chunks, being sure to remove as much sinew, gristle, or nastiness as you possibly can. Anything tough, stringy, chewy or resistant will have a heck of a time going through the grinder, and will likely wrap around the blade causing ‘smear’ (as in the picture below). Smear happens (ha! At least I didn’t preface that with, “Confuscius say -“), but being careful about your butchering technique will drastically reduce the possibility. You can tell that you have smear going on when the meat stops grinding out in clean, long strings of mottled fat and meat. Instead, some of the holes in your die will be blocked and the meat will pulpily grind out only through a few, with a somewhat dreary and uniform color. I won’t mince words here: do it properly and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
Oh, but we’re not at the grinding stage yet! That was just a sneak preview!
Chop the smoked bacon slab up into 1″ chunks and put these in a large unreactive mixing bowl, along with the beef. Sprinkle the garlic and spice mix evenly over the meat, and really work it in with your hands until every piece has been massaged and is fully dressed like a lady in red. Cover the bowl, and leave it to chill in the fridge overnight.
The next day, take out your meat only when you’re quite sure that you’re ready to grind it. Temperature matters, and the colder you can keep things the better. You may even want to chill your meat grinder and blade.
Drop the meat into your grinder and crank it through. As the meat comes out, gather it into the bowl of your stand mixer (or back into a large bowl if you don’t have a mixer). This is a lot of meat, so you will likely have to stop halfway through and mix the meat in two batches.
Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (or a large wooden spoon if you’re using elbow grease, will, and sheer determination) add the red wine and mix this on low for several minutes until it is all absorbed and the meat just looks a bit sticky. If you’re doing this in two batches, be sure to only add half the wine to each batch.
When all of the meat has been mixed, pull off a small amount and form it into a ball or patty. Fry this up in a teensy bit of oil, and taste it to make sure that the seasonings are correct. If you feel that it needs more salt, add more. That goes for anything that you feel is lacking, now is your chance at redemption. When you’re satisfied that the flavor meats your expectation, put it back in the fridge to chill for at least a half hour, and up to a day.
Let your casings soak for at least half and hour and up to a day, changing the water periodically until it stays clear. The intestine may have been salted to preserve it, so it’s better to wash off any sins that the butcher left for you…just in case. When you feel ready to start stuffing, rinse out the insides of your sausage using cold running water.
As we know, sausages like it to be a little bit wet (I know what you’re thinking, you dirty bird), so moisten up the stuffing attachment before you slide on the intestine. Don’t forget to leave a few inches of limp slack at the end.
Push your meat through the stuffer and into the casing, exerting a slight pressure as needed to make sure that the casings fill up well without any air pockets or mingy bits. These sausage casings, although they were from the same container as the ones that I used before, looked a bit…how do you say….. appallingly grotesque. Maybe they were turned inside out? Is that possible? I suppose that it’s possible….Oh well, no harm done, when the sausages cooked up all of that eerie looking white membrane disappeared.
Turn the sausages out into links. This is easily done by twisting off the far left end and then pinching your left thumb and index finger at a point 5 inches up. Pinch again with your right thumb and index finger at a point an additional 5 inches up. Twist that center link 3-4 times in one direction. Repeat the process for the next link, but turn in the opposite direction. In this way, you’re only turning every second link, which is good because otherwise your sausage will start to look like your garden hose, that time you dragged it around the side of your house, over the garden gnome, around the Really Big Rock, and then tried to water the flowers.
If you’re as much of a creature of habit as I am, you likely have your own particular way of cooking perfect sausages. My favorite method is to do a steamy-braise in a covered pan with just a little bit of water (or beer, if I’ve managed to keep any beer in the house for more than 24 hours without drinking it) until the sausage is mostly cooked through but still tender. Then I drain the pan and wipe it down (putting the sausages to rest on a plate or whatnot) and get it screaming hot with a bit of oil sizzling away to quickly sear and brown the outsides of the sausages.
Beef-ore you do that though, remember that these sausages are so lean that you really want to be careful not to overcook them. Use whatever cooking method tickles your toes, but be sure to keep an eye on them so that they don’t dry out.
To go with the Hungarian spices in the sausages that we browned, we made sides of garlic and paprika braised potatoes and red cabbage with apples. A sprinkle of parsley on top, which has no purpose whatsoever other than adding a well needed hit of color, and you’re linked in to a great meal.
These are a relatively healthier sausage, as far as sausages go, but still full of flavor and with nary a preservative to be found. It just doesn’t get any better than that! And, after a full Eastern European meal of braised cabbage, potatoes and meat, we were just so totally………….stuffed.
(Okay, I promise that’s the last one)