Monday 31 August 2015

Sausage Stuffing Failure.

The impressive looking sausage meat grinder /
sausage stuffer. This is it doing the first (coarse)
pass on our cubed belly pork. 
The expression "You don't win them all" was ringing in our ears today when we failed rather disastrously to make any more than 4 sausages. The short version of this story would read 'failed to slide any casings onto the stuffer horn' which, if you have played this game, you may already be problem-solving me.

We had been loaned the use of an almost-new and very shiny, impressive looking sausage meat grinding machine cum sausage stuffer to have a play with some of our belly pork. These machines are like an electric version of aul' Granny's hand grinder -  a funnel drops the diced meat down a tube, a worm-drive pushing meat through a perforated plate via a spinning blade but they convert, by swapping the blade and plate for a plastic spacer and a tapered plastic tube over which you slide the concertina'd tube of "sausage skins" (casings). You run the twice-ground meat, rusk and flavourings mix back through and allow the casings to be gently pulled off the horn by the mix extruding through the exit hole. Every 3 inches or so you give the filled casing a deft twist and then you expertly knit three strands of sausage into those professional links of 'sossies' that festoon butchers shops. What could possibly go wrong?

On the right 'plain' sausage meat; on the left with apple and sage
We were grand to start with, going great guns, "away on a hack" as they say. The meat all went through the grinder, got mixed with our expertly prepared seasoned and wetted rusk mixture, got split into two and run back through the grinder on the smaller 'screen' - 5 mm holes - in two halves, one as was, the other with apple and sage added. We broke for coffee and the man-made casings which came with the machine got to soak in warm water, still in their concertinas as per the instructions.

4 sausages was our lot. Not our finest hour. 
That is when the wheels came off the operation. Right there where it is all supposed to get funny, with endless potential for schoolboy toilet humour and good old British smutty innuendo and 'double-entendre'. The casings, once wet and pliable are meant to slide easily onto the horn using wet slithery hands to (yeah... I know... stop tittering at the back!) slide yards of it up there, hand over hand so that you can subsequently pump as may yards of sausage meat down the horn carefully releasing folds of casing concertina as you go. You try to avoid air bubbles and take care not to split the casing as you deftly twist the  filled skin every 3-4 inches or so. We have since seen YouTube videos showing demonstrators whizzing yards of casing up their horns, barely pausing to untwist the empty casing lest it become entangled at the end.

The chickens celebrate Liz's Birthday
Our problem was trying to get ANY of the casing over our 'horn' end without splitting it. It was a stretch to get it over and even when we managed to get a start, it was very tight to try to slide it up the tapered shape of the horn tube. The casing inevitably burst after a few inches, and the split would then run the full length of the loaded bit and you had to start over with a cut off, unsplit empty end. We took turns, both trying to help.

Bergamot, a gift from Anne last year. We thought we had
killed it all, but we have 2 surviving clumps.
Eventually I reckoned I had very slowly got about a foot on, so Liz started pumping (Stop it!) and we created 3 sausages before the casing then split once more and we had to start again. I then got another short length to work, one more sausage, but we were by then so fed up and frustrated that we decided to freeze the remaining meat for pies, scotch eggs or a 2nd attempt when we knew what we were doing wrong or what was wrong with the method or kit. Our total output for all that effort, then, 4 bangers and a 1.1 kg lump of frozen sausage meat. I put pictures of what we had up on Facebook to see would anyone suggest anything or spot any howlers.

The hollyhocks are looking good out front.
The concensus seems to be that we have a wrong size of casings for the spout/horn. This could well be right. The outside diameter of the smaller, exit end of the horn is 21 mm. The concertinas of casing in their raw dry state are about 16 mm internal diameter. We may well be trying to slide chipolata or Irish breakfast sausage casings up the horn designed for standard British bangers. To be fair, the lenders of the machine had not tried out these particular casings and are now in search of bigger ones and possibly natural 'gut' casings. We are all beginners fumbling around in the dark. They will probably be the next people to try this so they are as interested as we are in getting it right. None of us knew that you could get different size casings unless you were trying to make big salamis and chorizos etc and the butcher would not have known the machine size when he generously handed the pack over. Finally, to add insult to injury, I tried 2 of the sausages we HAD made and they split badly as soon as they hit the fat of the frying pan, so I squished them flat with the spatula - I might as well have just lumped in a couple of uncased patties of the meat! Delicious though!

Brawn with loads of fresh parsley in it.
Well, we may not (yet) be any good at the sausages but we are pretty good at other foodstuffs. Liz claimed the brawn job this year so she had all the fun of boiling up those heads for hours with a few trotters thrown in for added jellification. She has produced a classic among brawns having adding late on in the process, fistfuls of the fresh parsley which now thrives in our polytunnel and has also produced as a sideline 5 good litres of an epic pork stock which sets as a jelly when it cools. To freeze it in foil portion-tubs I was more slicing blocks off than ladling it out.

Salmon baked in cream with cucumber and lemon juice.
My chance to shine came over Liz's Birthday weekend. The family tradition is that the Birthday girl/boy can choose the menu but the spouse cooks it and Liz, having sneaked the chance to cook 'first chops from new pigs' from under my nose (delicious, fried with crushed juniper berries and lemon juice), let me do family favourite, Theodora Fitzgibbon's old Irish recipe of salmon baked in cream with cucumber and lemon juice. We both love this recipe while always being delighted that the lemon juice does not curdle the cream.

Split pig skulls as art materials?
Lastly we may have taken the "everything but the squeal" and recycling thing a bit further than was wise this week. We have a friend in Wales who is a successful professional artist. No names at present because we have not checked with her that she doesn't mind me posting a link from these less hallowed halls; this lady holds exhibitions of her latest work and installations. We know she is good and does well and we admire the quality of her work but she will not mind me saying that the product is not to everyone's taste; you would maybe call it 'thought provoking' if you were being ambivalent, perhaps 'unusual' or 'weird'; if you were being less polite. Liz finds some of it rather too unsettling to want any in the house on our walls.

By the admission of her own website "Her themes are magical, often found in folklore, fairytales or the manifestations of the strange around us, but just as magical is her transubstantiation of thoughts into haunting visual images – her translation of woven baskets into a drawn language as intricate and ordered as the baskets themselves, her conjuring of pieces of lace or coral as reliquaries of past life, or her invention of a scene so impossibly familiar that one wonders if it has rekindled a spark of lost memory." In practise she paints raggedy crows and magpies perching on babies cradles, pictures featuring skulls and mythical runes and folkloric stuff.

Tidy sized mushrooms coming off the front lawn now.
When she is creating 3D stuff, models and the like, the work can include real teeth and other parts. For this reason, it occurred to Liz that the lady might like our pig skulls from the brawn-boil, teeth and all and when Liz suggested it, our artist was delighted. Naturally, Liz wanted to clean them up a bit before posting them off so they got more boiling and a good scrub and pick over with an old toothbrush and assorted sharp 'picks'. They are packed and ready to go - we just need to decide what desription to put on the customs docket! We will be fascinated to see what the lady makes of them and with them. That may be years away. She apparently finds or sees things and they can then be a long time rattling round in her head before she thinks of something to make with them.


Anne Wilson said...

Ask Webbs if he can let you buy the larger size casing. Our Kenwood sausage maker has two sizes of horns supplied. Leave a tail at the start of filling of about two inches, don't try to get a twist in the sausages as they fill the casings, just pinch hard ever four inch's or so you can twist them later. Don't try to get too long a length in the horn. When you have made you mix before turning it into sausages fry a table spoon of the mixture to taste and adjust any seasoning you might want.

mazylou said...

Artist's supplies, what else could it be!?

Matt Care said...

Thanks for those. I think they went down as "organic artist's materials" in the end. And Anne, yes, our machine owner/lender is seeking bigger casings on line (and possibly real gut ones) prior to all four of us having another go when they have had a couple of their adult sows slaughtered. Thanks for all the related tips re when to pinch etc, too. We will all be experts by the time this is all done.