Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roll Your Own

A cruise through my local supermarket this morning revealed the following facts: Boneless beef sirloin steak, America's favorite, was on sale for 2.99 a pound, pork sirloin roast was 1.49, and split chicken breasts were .99 cents. For reference know that in the trade these are referred to as "prime cuts".

Across the aisle, in the ever growing sausage section, a survey revealed the following prices: Store brand Italian sausage was 3.19, "Gourmet" whatever that means, was 3.39, Jimmy Dean's Breakfast was 3.39, so called "all natural" was 5.99, and D'Artagnan's was 9.18 a pound. Different brands of sausage made from chicken all hovered around the 6 dollar price point. Specialty sausage, chorizo for example was 4.99 a pound.

Hebrew Nats were 5.80 a pound and franks you shouldn't even consider eating fell to as low as $1.29. A new item, uncured franks (no nitrites), sell for 6-7 dollars a pound.

Bottom line: The prime cuts are half the cost of whatever finally makes it into the sausage of your choice. You can be assured your commercial sausage contains no prime cuts.

The old joke re. the making of laws and sausage, you don't want to see it, still holds. The following was the most info I would share with you without totally grossing you out:
"Spent layer chickens, an underutilized, inexpensive source of animal protein in the United States, were used to produce an acceptable all chicken frank following mechanical deboning of the chicken parts without pregrinding. The franks were subjected to shear tests and compared to two well-known commercial brands of chicken franks for overall acceptability by an untrained 59 member panel. The franks produced from mechanically deboned spent layer chickens (Lab franks) had greater resistance to shear than the two commercial brands and the panelists showed significantly greater preference for one of the commercial brands. Comments of the panelists indicated the texture of the lab-prepared franks was tougher than the two commercial brands. However, 12 members of the panel stated the lab-frank texture was tender. Collagen content of the spent layer franks was no higher than for the commercial brands. It is therefore concluded that the toughness could have been due to the nature of the myofibrillar proteins. Such toughness could be modified by tenderizing enzyme treatment of the raw material to produce varying degrees of frank softness or firmness depending on consumer preference".

Beef producers live with the daily fear that an incident of mad-cow entering the food chain is coming and the smart money is betting that it will be the result of bone material in beef that was "chipped off" and used for franks. That should be enough reason for you to consider making your own sausage.

You can go whole hog and buy sausage stuffing machines, casing, and learn to form sausage links while keeping the air out, or you can prepare your own recipe from prime cuts, control the additives by adding herbs and spices of your choice, add pure fat for flavor and mouth feel, and simply form a patty and fry or leave crumbled for pizza or pasta. The following is a site filled with recipes that you can adopt.

Here are my provisos. Use a food processor and make small batches that can be ground and mixed to a smooth paste. Always test a tiny bit in a hot pan to taste for seasoning.

For the truly food obsessed do the following. If you have a custom butcher shop, independent market, or slaughterhouse near by visit them and ask for caul fat. Here in Maine the way I obtained mine was to note a recipe on a restaurant menu that called for rabbit wrapped in caul. I called the chef and asked her to order an extra ten pounds for me. She did. I picked it up at the next lunch.

Caul fat is an inner organ lining the best of which comes from a pig. It is not greasy or smelly. In a ten pound box for example it will be squished together in a mass. Soak in a pan of water and start to separate the sheets. Lift a large sheet to a cutting board, and using a paring knife or scissors, cut 6 inch squares. (I pack what I don't use in small freezer bags). It won't be neat. It doesn't have to be. You can place a couple ounces of stuffing in the center, press to from a disk and fold the caul over. You can spread filling, tube like, across the caul and roll it like a frank. Fry over medium heat. The caul will melt away or leave just a trace of gorgeous netting. Once you have caul in your system you will discover a variety of uses. Here are pics of the ultimate chicken loaf.

1 comment:

  1. I bought a pound of breakfast sausage seasoning at a country store while driving through the south. If measured properly, it makes excellent sausage. I no longer have to imagine how they sprayed the bits of pork off the backbone with a pressure hose before they made the slurry that made my breakfast.

    I think I draw the line at scrapple. I'll have someone else make that.