Small Steps to the Garde Manger: Breakfast Sausage with Sage and Ginger

I recently bought myself a copy of Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, with intentions of reviewing it for Food Bound-the soon to be added section of the Well Fed Network, all about the literature of food. I also recently got a grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid, with my Amazon birthday gift certificate. I'm pretty excited (and a bit fearful) over entering a realm I've generally left for the experts. There is something about the preparation of sausages , pates, smoked meats meats and fishes which seems both more athletic and more mathematical than most cooking. Neither physical strengh nor mathematics has ever been my strong suit.

There does seem to be a fair amount of grinding, meat cutting, and temperature-taking involved. On the other hand, I adore pates and sausages, rilletes and bacon, confits et. al. and the general topic of preserving. Clearly if I want to write a useful review, I will need to make several recipes. So I thought I'd break myself in with what seems to be the simplest recipe in the book, a breakfast sausage with ginger and sage.

It is simpler than most of the preparations, because it does not need to be stuffed into a casing-it can be made into patties, or frozen in a log and sliced off as needed. I don't have any sausage casings, and will have to do some investigating to find some. Also, I was able to use the hunk of pork butt which was taking up a lot of space in my over-the-fridge, one-and-only freezer. I did cut the recipe in half, as the pork putt was only 4 lbs after I hacked out the bone. It was a good thing I did, because 1/2 of the recipe made 2 huge logs of sausage. At the rate I consume breakfast sausage, it is a very adequate supply indeed. You need these ingredients, which must be well chilled, as must your equipment:

boneless pork butt diced 5 lbs
kosher salt 3 tbsps
finely grated fresh ginger 5 tbsps
finely chopped fresh sage 5 tbsps
minced garlic 1 tbsp
ground pepper 2 tsps
ice water 1 cup

Equipment: stand miner with grinder and paddle attachments- chill bowl and moving parts

I'm sure you could also use a manual meat grinder and do the last step by hand. In truth, I would be tempted to try this with preground pork if I had none of this equipment, because the flavor is so good. However, it would not be the same-the texture of this sausage is lovely, too- and nothing like ground meat from the grocery. No pictures, I'm afraid, I thought I'd do them frying in the cast iron skillet, but the light in the kitchen said "flash or no photo." They did not retain their allure in the lurid glow of the flash. In fact, they looked quite frightening, so I've spared you. They look very nice in person, not special or different from any other breakfast sausage, though.

You combine everything but the water, quite thoroughly, and chill the mixture. Grind through the small holed grinder, into the chilled bowl of your stand mixer. This takes a while, especially if you have never done it before. There is a little pusher to help it along. Put the bowl on the mixer with the paddle attachment, add the ice water, and mix on medium for about 1 minute. Fry up a bit to correct seasoning, exclaim, "But it is perfect!"- always assuming you agree, of course. Make into patties, or do as I did, and form your sausage into conveniently sized logs, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. When you are ready to cook, slice off rounds from the log-rather like icebox cookies.

Now comes the hard part- cleaning up. You must disassemble your grinder and clean it meticulously-for festering bits of meat would be not only scandalously unhealthy, but a huge vile turn off. This takes forever. but I am here to tell you it is worth it. The seasoning is delicious and fresh, the texture is light and delicate, and these breakfast sausages are truly out of sight-in a good way.I'm looking forward to further ventures in more elaborate charcuterie.

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