I say Knockwurst, you say Knackwurst

Or, this could have been called a sausage of two cities. In America we have regional areas that where settled by different ethnic groups.  For instance, you have the Cajuns and the Creoles, simplified into country folk and city folk.  Of course there is much more to it than that, but hopefully you get my drift. But no matter how you may wish to compare our regions, their history only goes back a couple of hundred years. We may have had our Civil war but that didn’t significantly alter the ethnic background of the local residents. This can’t said about Europe. Since this is about German sausage you need to realize that the German Empire is very old and has included many diverse cultures.  Parts of France and Spain to the South and West, Czechoslovakia and parts of Western Russia were part of the Bavarian States. It took WW I and WW II to define what what we now think of as Germany.
So when I say Knockwurst and you say Knackwurst, we may be talking about the same sausage. Each region made sausage, but there may have been a shortage of spice group A in region 1 so the same sausage took on a different flavor.  When you remember that spices where a commodity greater than coinage you can better understand how flavors and techniques moved about. And who can eat a coin? The flavors evolved back and forth across Europe but not always the ingredients.  Confused?   A bag of cinnamon is easier to transport that a sack of turnips, and less perishable. So while looking for recipes to make these two sausages I settled on a Knockwurst version, but to tell the truth, the same sausage could be called Knackwurst 100 miles away. The recipes I used as my starting ground came from the cookbook Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing” Book by Rytek Kutas.  It doesn’t matter which cookbook you select, or if you find recipes on the Internet.  Just don’t use the prepackaged packets of chemicals sold by’ Hunter supply outlets’.  Mix your own spices. Our knockwurst called for veal.  Veal is hard to find and expensive. It is also out of favor by a population that thinks it has been raised inhumanly.  So, let’s not talk about Chicken. To find a substitute for veal the best suggestions I found was to get extra lean pork, cut it up and soak in whole milk for a day or two.  Chicken could also have been used but then the sausage would have to be cooked to a higher temperature.
After all the meat had been ground and then weighed, it was divided into the different sausages that would be made. The only difference was the percentage of ‘Veal’ used.
Then the spices, dried milk, protein powder, etc as added and mixed in.
The knockwurst raw sausage stuffing was then bagged, tagged and put in the refrigerator to be stuffed another day. This was because the sausage was warming up and I had three more flavors to make.

Stuffing, cooking and smoking our sausage is here.

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Sausage Stuffing Day, a day to remember

So here is all this sausage mix in the refrigerator and I am starting to dread forcing all through the Kitchenaid meat grinder and out the sausage tube.  It’s Friday afternoon and I have a job to do.  No, a real job that pays the bills.  So I decide to stop by Cabelas on the way home. There is a sausage stuffer in Portland on Craigslist by the Sausage Maker but I don’t want to drive downtown on maybe a lark.
I should have. Now there isn’t anything wrong with the Cabelas machine.  It’s quite nice actually, but if I had gone down town I wouldn’t have bought the collagen casings and used what I already had, real hog casings. I have to say after using the collagen casings, never again. The Collagen casings where supposed to hold 50 pounds of meat, mine where gone in 20 pounds. They also tore, split and ruptured in ways I have never had hog casings do. Also the Sausage Maker was a newer design and on Sunday when we finally got everything together two of the stuffing tubes where stuck together.   I had to do the round-trip thing delaying our day. Maybe the Craigslist one would have worked out of the box (they said ‘new in box’) Back to stuffing.  The stuffer should be mounted, but to what?   Drill holes in my island or counter.  I think not.  We settled on using the potting table.  We washed it off of course with a work slab of new wood on top of it.  We also had it set up on the patio so we had our little gas fire going for heat and ambiance.
After learning from our casing mistake, we ended up with 25 pounds of 4 different sausages.  If we had cooked and not smoked some of the Bratwurst and Knockwurst we would have had even more variety. After all this whole adventure was to get some good German Sausage.  See, there is even a can of German Beer on the table. In hindsight I should have had a roll of kitchen twine on hand and tied the links. The twine could have been removed after cooking and/or smoking. Smoking was the next step for the Brat and Knock Wurst, I have three different smokers and feel the Smokey Hollow upright unit would be best for this.  The Green Mount Pellet smoker/grill had difficulty maintaining an even heat when set to it’s lowest range of 150 degrees.
I believe it is better to hang the sausage in a vertical smoker if possible.
But the sausage would have to be hung in the Smokey Hollow instead of layered on racks. That’s where the kitchen twine would have come in handy. I was very unhappy with the Smokey Hollow at first.   It is a closed system so the smoke doesn’t leave.  It just builds up and will eventually over smoke, and over smoking is bitter. I installed a damper so I could have better control. There is a difference between a heavy smoke and smoking for to long. But at the end of the day we had 25 pounds of sausage that will enjoyed for a long time unless family begs it off of us, or we force it upon them.
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The Great Brat. No, not our child, the Sausage

Bratwurst, glorious bratwurst. The term has been used to label many different sausages.  Technically it is a sausage made from fresh pork or veal, or both. But for my purposes, it is that great linked sausage served by the Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg Germany.  And to be served over a bed of caramelized onions and Sauerkraut .
Bratwurst may be linked or roped, it can be frozen raw, it can be pre-cooked (generally in a hot water bat) or it may be smoked.  I like my Bratwurst well seasoned, spicy and tangy. The spices will include mace, cinnamon & nutmeg to name a few. The recipe I used  can be found here.  We graduated to a sausage stuffer instead of the Kitchenaid mixer. If you are going to make links, we found hog casing to work better. We were going to prepare 5 pounds smoked and 5 pounds pre-cooked, BUT I got carried away and smoked it all….YUM.
I guess I will just have to make another batch 🙂
One Bratwurt, one knockwurst and one Bockwurst sitting on sauerkraut and onions.
It’s difficult for it to get any better than this.   Oh yeah, add Mustard.
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Why you should make your own sausage

I enjoy a good sausage; one with personality. It was about 20 years ago I started on a creative cooking adventure.   I added Paella, Gumbo, Jambalaya and even dishes that where about the sausage it self. I would read these recipes for inspiration & then head off to the mega mart for the ingredients. It’s here that the spice rack evolved (that and Alton Brown).  It was where I learned to dump last years paprika and replenish the can  with fresh.
So off I would go.  Where is the Andouille?   Where is the Chorizo?  If you can’t find it, use  smoked Garlic-ed sausage. That sure sounded vague. Speaking of Chorizo, there is a Spanish-Portuguese version and the Mexican version. They are not the same. I was getting frustrated.  I wanted to make these dishes and have them taste authentic.  No matter how good they turned out, I always felt a bit cheated. Cheated by America’s sausage makers. Here is where I started loving the idea of making my own sausage.  Homemade, ethnic sausage.  Not the stuff from the mega mart.  Not the same packaged links with different names that all taste the same.
What you put into it, is what you get
I have voiced my number one argument to make your own, the spices vs the chemical list, and second which could also be number one, the fat content. In the United states, any meat mixture containing over 30% fat can not be labeled sausage.  Keep this in mind when picking up a of hot dogs that conveniently does not say sausage on the label.

Make the sausage yourself and you control what goes into it.

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Wonderful Sausage, a dying art

Sausage, where would civilization be without sausage?  A poorer place indeed. I would say 99.9% of those reading this blog have never had to do with limited or no refrigeration.  I can’t find the picture of Skip and I standing next to the Ice Truck, but do have one that shows Mom getting milk from the Milk Truck.

The first refrigerator I can remember had a freezer about the size of a gallon milk container on its side. If you ever put anything into it, it stayed until the next global warming because it soon became iced in.

So, back to sausage. Man didn’t have a way to store fresh meat for very long so people found that cooked meat and salted meat would last much longer. They also convinced themselves aged meat became a delicacy. So man learned how to make sausage, chop the meat up, add salt and other seasonings. Then smoke it if you wanted to store the meat for the season.

Today, we generally do not make our own sausage, it comes from the mega mart, air sealed in plastic and containing an ingredient list that I can’t pronounce. The list containing everything but flavor.

The art of sausage making has all but disappeared for most of us. If you’re a hunter, then you will either have your game made into sausage for you or learn to do it yourself.  Even then you are missing out on the real treat, flavor.

The local game processor more than likely buys and then adds seasoning and preserving packets containing all the ingredients mentioned earlier.

I always used the stuffing tube on my Kitchen Aid meat grinder but with 25 pounds of ground meat looking at me, I decided to buy a 5 lb sausage stuffer from Cabelas, 12 miles away, so I didn’t have to wait for Amazon to have it delivered.

While shopping, I noticed a 10 to 12 foot section of wall with hundreds of little boxes with titles like, Cajun Andouille, Bratwurst etc, all with an ingredient list of chemicals that I can’t pronounce and a seasoning list that consists of ‘seasoning added’.

This is the reason why I called sausage making a dying art. Not the grinding and stuffing, but the chemical packets instead of spices.

Read a recipe instead of opening a package of chemicals.

I have mentioned that I use a cookbook of sausages.  I believe it’s a great starting place and there are hours of just enjoyable reading as well. “Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing” Book by Rytek Kutas.

This isn’t the only sausage cookbook.  There are many excellent ones available. But if you’re going to make your own sausage, then start with a cookbook, not a box of ingredients.  Also make sure you read the recipes a couple of times before embarking. Mistakes have been made and with a little investigation, can be avoided.

We make Andouille and use a Food Network recipe from Emeril Lagasse. We love it, but the first batch was horribly over seasoned, we re read the recipe.  The mistake is in the list of ingredients. They said.

  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ½ cup Emerils Cajun Seasoning
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient

They should have said.

    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient

or

  • ½ cup Emerils Cajun Seasoning

Second, third, and fourth batches turned out fantastic.

Casings to use: We have always used natural 32-36 mm hog casing. While purchasing the 5lb stuffer I talked myself into using the artificial casings. Big mistake. Others may swear by them, but to me they are just junk. They may work well with high end equipment making a continuous link or equipment that automatically squeezes and cauterizes the casing into links. But if you’re going to twist your own links, then stay away from this stuff, as it splits, tears and just doesn’t want to be handled after the stuffing.

And to make matters worse, the package said they would hold 50 pounds of meat, and mine were gone at the 20 pound mark and when compared to real hog casing, they are very expensive.

On twisting, if you’re going to smoke your sausage you can not twist into links and then hang, they will unwind. You must either smoke the links on racks or cook them on racks. Some sausage is water cooked, twisted links will unwind when floating in a hot water bath. I know.

If you want to hang your sausage, after all we always see sausage hanging, then I suggest you get a hand crimper and use sausage staples. After the smoking and removal from the smoker, you may cut off the metal clips.

I became so frustrated trying to spin sausage in and then out (sounds strange, but you spin link 1 up and away from you, link to 2 back and down towards you, repeat sequence for 3 and 4, etc.) it creates nice links only to have all that work undone during smoking or precooking. I  searched YouTube to see how that store bought stuff looks so perfect. Prefect making sausage machines was the answer, machines that cost as much as a car does.

At least now I don’t have to feel apologetic when someone sees my home-made sausage.

I will also have a Smoker Primer posted in the near future. I have 3 different smokers and although they all will smoke the protein, they each work quite differently.

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Louisiana Andouille Sausage, making your own or that store bought stuff

Hopefully the title will tell you what I think about that packaged stuff. In the past I have purchased off the shelf and it has always been disappointing. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we decided to start making our own sausage, not just andouille but kielbasa, breakfast patties, stuffed pork sausage with jalapenos, the list goes on. Sure, you have to deal with casings, grinding meat and stuffing away, but the end results are sure worth it.

Sausage days are either when it’s gone and we need it or holiday meat sales. I was in the local supermarket and they had pork shoulder at $1.49 a pound, an okay price but to sweeten the deal it was buy one, get one. 2 little piggy’s came home with me.

One went into the freezer for some smoked pulled pork and the other for andouille.

I start by cutting the meat into 1 inch strips after removing the blade. Save the blade and all other bones for making your bone broth. You don’t make your own bone broth? Save the bones anyway and find some that does. Maybe they will share with you.

We use the greatest multi-tasker made, the Kitchen Aid mixer and a host of their attachments. It’s a great machine for the home cook. Grind the meat with a medium cutter and it goes pretty quickly. After grinding you mix in your seasoning. We use a slightly modified version or Emeril Lagasse’s Essence. We use 1/4 cup per 2 1/2 pounds of meat. You should then add 1/3 cup ice water (we use 1/3 cup red wine) per 2 1/2 lbs meat. Mix well and put back into the refrigerator for an overnight melding of flavors.

I suggest you start with Emeril’s Essence and then modify for taste or any other good Louisiana seasoning recipe. The secret to Andouille is like all Cajun and Creole cooking. Use what’s available and season to taste.

We cook with wine a lot, some of it even goes into the food.

  • Ingredients for Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    1 tablespoon dried thyme

Day 2, set up the sausage stuffer and load your rinsed casing onto the tube. Although one can do the job, two makes it easier. We do a limp stuff instead of filling the casing, this allows us to tie off separate links (yes, we can spin, squeeze and reverse spin but it’s hard to get separate links that way). To help the casing slide off the tube keep dripping water onto it.

I like links around 1 foot or a little longer. When using in a recipe the 1 foot link is just about right.

Next comes the smoking, this is what makes or breaks the sausage. In the beginning I smoked the links at around 200° but the sausage cooked too quickly with getting enough smoke. Now it’s set for 160° and takes about 2 hours to finish. Perfect

No respectable Gumbo is without a good, smoked andouille sausage. Andouille may be substituted for many recipes calling for a smoked sausage such as the Spanish Paella and Jambalaya.

This is a perishable product and we do not add nitrates so right into freezer for these.

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