Allowance when I was in grade school was 10 cents a week, given every Friday morning. It was mine and I could spend it as I chose. Freedom!!
I had a choice of the five and dime on the way home from school. Ten cents would buy a handful of a variety of candy. Or, I could stop at the candied apple shop nestled next to Safeway and spend the whole dime on a red candied apple. And that is what I always opted for - a red candied apple on a stick. I could see them as I entered the store, there on the shelf nestled next to the caramel apples. Both apples set on a melted flat layer of caramel or melted red candied apple flavoring. But the red candied apple held no equal. That treat would last me most of the way home. Chewy red outer layer with the flavors of the apple added in each bite. No sharing with friends I walked home with. And it was good. Very good.
Mom worked across the street at a small grocery store/butcher shop. I would walk in and she would treat me to a fresh slice of baloney every day on the way home from school. And one day, I innocently told my friend to come in with me because we can get a slice of baloney. Wrong!! Mom explained to me that night that she had to pay for the slice of baloney. The treat would continue without issue, but just for me. She could not afford to treat my friends. Finances. Two working parents. Challenging times and so forth. So I walked in alone, had my treat and then trekked the rest of the way home through town, over the bridge. Scary stuff these days.
Quite often, mom would bring home scraps of meat trimmed at the butcher shop. Again, she noted that she had to pay for the trimmed scraps. Nothing free or gifted, even for the employee. She would set up the grinder and my job was to hold the cutting board still and turn the grinding handle. The scraps of meat and fat were fed into the grinder and out came hamburger or sausage, depending. Maybe a second grinding for a finer textured meal. That night, we would have hamburger steaks and to this day, nothing from any local store or proclaimed “special” butcher shop compares. Not even close. I remember that those hamburger steaks were better in flavor than a steak. Hands down. Mom had skills. The scrap meat she brought home was from the better cuts of meat and suet pushed aside. All we added was a little work. And the flavor. My goodness. Suffice it to say, I find nothing in any store here in middle New England that even comes close.
The sausage counters here are laden with and labeled Italian Sweet/Maple Sausage. We have even tried butcher shops who also cannot get beyond similar seasoning. And it is not real sausage, not even close. Look around the sausage counter and you can get every offshoot of a chicken, turkey, tofu, and cheese mix. There has to be an old man sausage-maker hiding in some back alley making the real stuff. Just has to be. But we have not found him yet. And please do not tell me you have found a “wicked good” butcher. Just do not go there.
So, we set out to make our own. We know off the bat we cannot do any worse from the get go. And good sausage-making is an art form. Just
because you have “the recipe” does not mean you have the touch.
We like Alton Brown. Miss his early cooking shows. Found his breakfast sausage recipe. Simple, straight forward with spices that sounded like they belong in days of old breakfast sausage. We purchased a pound of plain ground pork from the meat counter. A finer, leaner grind.
Last night, I brought in fresh thyme and rosemary. Finely chopped, just enough to make half the recipe. The bride pulled the rest of the spices off the shelves. We opted not to put in the cayenne pepper. We also did not have the side pork to add. Just lean, ground pork.
As we started, we knew we were on the right track. The smell of fresh herbs finely chopped and the other herbs added to the bowl brought back the old time smell of breakfast sausage in the air. Like the dog first checking the cool morning air, our heads turned to get whiffs of the mixed spices. You know what I am talking about. When you walk into a home for Thanksgiving dinner, the smell of the cooking turkey and sage is in the air. All the smells say holiday, gathering, dressing, gravy and turkey. Most likely has been a year since all those smells turned your head.
She added the ground pork, mixed well and while talking, moments of smelling it all coming together. Keep in mind that what we were making was a test and w/o all the exact ingredients as called for in Alton's recipe. We rolled the final mix in saran wrap and approximated a log roll of sausage. The sausage was set in the fridge. No real mess to clean up either. Mom would be proud, but I am sure would add insight on little things we did not do or spices we could also add.
Sausage, eggs and toast this morning. Yep, we have the start of real sausage. The patties were dryer than normal but that was to be expected. The pork we used was leaner and we did not have on hand the side pork called for in Alton's recipe. But the flavor was there. That old time flavor with just a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes. And there was the aftertaste and lingering flavors that called for toast and eggs. Top off the cup of coffee, Honey!!
We will either use mom's grinder and grind boneless pork butt and side pork according to the recipe or, find the cuts of meat in the counter and ask the butcher to grind. The spices are perfect for now. Maybe something missing but too early to tell. The fat from both of those cuts of meat will enhance the next final product. And if we can do it, so can you. This is a treat that comes together with very little mess or fuss.
If you like leaner meats, the above first try I explained here is very good.
Any first product is a prototype. Be it a small wooden cabinet or pork sausage. The next try incorporates changes from what is learned prototyping. But finally, real pork sausage again. All from a little homework fresh spices from the garden and spices off the shelves. All spices next time will be fresh.
Starting our second batch of making bacon later today. Ten days of letting the seasonings set and then into the smoker. We'll see and keep you in the loop.
Garden garlic just pushing up fresh Scapes in the center of plant growth. A sign of the growing season. Once they make the full circle turn, they are harvested. Garlic bleeds from the harvest cut and the scapes are gathered into a tupperware bowl. They are to be eaten now. Chop the whole scape into a large chunk of butter and melt it. Stir and set aside and then in the fridge. Add to any pasta or smear over fresh french bread and set briefly under the broiler. Add to freshly cooked vegetables. Fresh garlic, like gravy and whipping cream is to be wallowed in. Use them now, do not let them go to waste and be careful who you give them to as they will be waiting in line next season. Now the garlic plant can put its energy into growing large garlic bulbs and not the scape.