Merguez Sausage

February 24, 2008

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I decided to start my sausage-making attempts with merguez sausage because, not only does it incorporate some of my favorite flavors – spicy and lamby with North-African influences, but you can’t find it around where I live.  It didn’t hurt that I could cheat on grinding the meat as my local butcher, Danny Rohrer, carries ground lamb.  The way I saw it, I was going to attempt to make and stuff the sausage, and learning one step at a time was enough.  

With preground meat, the sausage-making was a snap.  I tossed the spices into my KitchenAid, mixed in the lamb, and incorporated the red wine and water until the mixture had achieved what is called its “primary bind.”  All this means is that the spices and meat have come together in a sticky ball.   I tried to work quickly to keep the meat well-chilled, apparently a key point in sausage-making.  Charcuterie warns often that letting the meat get warm will affect the final texture of the sausage, and recommends chilling between steps of the process.  

So warned, I put the bowl of sausage in the freezer to get cold again and pulled out the sheep intestines, “natural casings”, I had received in the mail earlier in the week.  And this is where things began to get a bit dicey.  You can at this point merely portion your sausage and use it loose in recipes or in patty form, freezing what you will not use in the next day or so.  Or you can attempt to wrangle it into a sheep intestine to form links.  Upon my first whiff of the casings, I will admit to having doubts about the whole process. 

But the book said to soak the casings and so after separating out 3 strands from the salty lump of intertwined casings, I put them in water and walked away for a half hour or so.  Which vastly improved my state of mind.  I came back ready to rinse and rerinse the casings, determined that I could do this.  The smell having dissipated rendered the casings much less scary, kind of slippery and wiggly and amazingly strong for something so thin.  It wasn’t until I started to rinse the insides of the casings that they began to knot up on themselves, which made the process an exercise in patience.  Finally (and more quickly than it seemed, I’m sure), the casings were ready.

I hooked up my KitchenAid food grinder attachment with the sausage stuffer, slid one of the casings up over the tip, and promptly had to call for help.  R. obliging left his accounting homework behind and came to the rescue.  Between the two of us, we wrestled the sausage into the casing, though it was not an easy job.  We have some ideas for the next round (freezing the meat in indivdual balls or tubes that would fit into the feeder tube?), but if anyone has any suggestions on how to sucessfully tame a KitchenAid sausage stuffer, they would be much appreciated.

To celebrate the sausage wrangling, we took the last of the unstuffed sausage and fried it up with potatoes into an impromptu hash.  The spicy red-pepper flavors of the lamb merguez mingling with the crisp potatoes.  Along with eggs sunny-side up, yolks golden and still runny, we sat down to breakfast for dinner, always a comforting reward at the end of a hard job…

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Merguez Sausage

     adapted from Charcuterie, makes quite a bit of sausage

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced 
  • 3/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced

combine all above ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on.  add

  • 3 pounds ground lamb

mix until incorporated and add

  • 1/8 cup dry red wine, chilled
  • 1/8 cup ice water

mix on medium ~ 1 minute until mixture has a uniform and sticky appearance.  place bowl in refrigerator to chill.  portion lamb sausage.  stuff into casings if you dare.  double wrap any sausage you are not going to use within 3 days in cling film and freeze.

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