cooking, homemade, homemade pizza, pizza, recipes, sausage

Making the Perfect Italian Sausage

Often when things quiet down for a minute on the homestead, we take on a new challenge.  This usually happens in late winter, when we have had enough of the snow. We just want to stay by the wood stove drinking coffee all day.  A few years back we decided to try our hand at making our own sausage.  Because I am Italian we started with sweet and hot Italian sausage.

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In our minds we could see sausages hanging everywhere, maybe we would even branch out into a sausage business.  We do love to dream big,  usually we are brought back to earth very quickly.  We did some research, and found that there was a large price range for the equipment needed.  We dream big but don’t spend big, so we chose a meat grinder that attached to our kitchen aid mixer.  After that we ordered our natural hog casing, picked up some pork shoulder and wine, then waited for the weekend.  As it turns out red wine is a must when making sausage, it makes the whole process feel more like a party rather than stuffing an animal back into its own intestine.  We make our own food because we like to know what goes into it, so instead of ordering a spice mix we came up with our own recipe.  We used as many  ingredients from our garden as we could.  Then we set out to make a sausage you could not buy from a store.  We set up the mixer, cut up the pork shoulder, and poured the wine.  It is definitely best to keep the meat very cold this makes it grind much easier.

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We used two pork shoulders which gave us 15 lbs of ground pork .  The casing comes packed in salt, so while the pork was being ground we took the casing out of the salt, and soaked it in cool water.  Something we learned right away was that casing gets tangled. We found that if you put it in a big metal bowl, and untangle it before soaking you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Once the pork was ground, we mixed in the spices by hand wearing rubber gloves.  Pork is fatty, and its hard to wash all that fat off of your hands.  We then took the casing out of the water and put it in a strainer, next you have to run water in one end of the casing and push it through the entire length of the casing.  This helps get the salt out of the casing, we usually run the water through three times.  Then came the moment we were waiting for, it was time to do some stuffing.  We lubed the stuffing tube with oil, slid on the casing, tied the end, and poked a small hole with a knife in the casing to let the air escape.  I pushed the meat through the grinder with the stuffing tube attached, while Tracy caught it and twisted the sausage into links.  It is important to twist the links in the opposite directions each time you make a link, or they will come undone.  We then poured our second glass of wine.  Very quickly it became apparent that the stuffing was going to take a long time.  The stuffing tube on the grinder was not the best tool for the job, but this didn’t stop us from enjoying the time spent together.  If you can make sausage without making inappropriate jokes you are a better man than me.  We spent the next half hour laughing, sipping wine, and stuffing our first batch of sausage.

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Finally when all of the sausage was stuffed, we placed it in the refrigerator to sit overnight.  This allows the flavors to come together.  The next day, we pulled some peppers out of the freezer and grilled up our first batch.  We were pleasantly surprised, it was good, but we wanted great.  Over the next several months we made sausage tweaking the recipe each time.  Finally we arrived at the perfect recipe.

 

Along the way we learned a few things.  The first was that a real sausage stuffer was a must.  It makes the whole process quicker and easier.  Second, the casing needs to be soaked for at least an hour to make it easier to work with.  Third, casing comes in packages that make 25lbs and 100lbs of sausage.  The 100lb is much more economical, but the 25lb is easier to work with because the lengths are shorter. Fourth, fresh ingredients matter, we always use fresh garlic, and as many fresh herbs as possible.  Finally, wine will make the whole process easier on you and your spouse.  There is no wrong recipe for sausage, everyone has different tastes.  But when you make it yourself it will always be just right.

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Once we made one type of sausage we could not stop.  We now make kielbasa for Oktoberfest, breakfast sausage, venison pepperoni, and have even dabbled in andouille.

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It is always fun to learn a new skill, especially one that involves eating delicious food.  So the next time the winter blues have you down.  Get some wine and pork and make your own perfect sausage.

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cooking, homemade pizza, pizza, Uncategorized

Homemade Antipasto Pizza for Game day

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Homemade Pizza

Aside from the kneeling,  the concussion protocol, and all around poor officiating,  there are still a few things we love about game day.  Around here game day usually doesn’t start until dark.  There is always a lot to do here and we would prefer to be outside on a Sunday instead of in front of a t.v.,  but once the sun sets we do enjoy watching football and most of all eating.  We really love to have home made pizza.  This week we came up with a great twist, by combining two of our favorites, pizza and antipasto.  One of the most important ingredients in our pizza is the sauce.  It is made from canned tomatoes from the garden.

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We simmer them down the day before and add oregano, basil, fresh garlic, and crushed red pepper.  There is nothing as good as chunky homemade homegrown sauce.  The next step is to make the dough.  We have found that homemade dough tastes so much better than any frozen dough from the store, plus it is much cheaper.  It costs less than a dollar to make.  At some point we’d love to make it with our own flour.

 

 

Pizza Dough

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of flour

1 pkg active dry yeast

1 cup of very warm water (about 100 degrees F)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp olive oil, plus additional for bowl

In a warmed mixer bowl (we run hot water in in for a minute or two), stir together the water and yeast. Once the yeast is dissolved, stir in the salt and the 2 tsp of olive oil. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl. With the dough hook attachment, mix on speed 4 for about 2 minutes. Slowly add additional flour and mix until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl and is all gathered on the hook. Once the dough is on the hook, mix for an additional 2 minutes to knead. Transfer to an olive oil coated bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place** for about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 450 deg F.

After the dough has risen, punch the dough down and turn out on a lightly floured board. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/4″ thickness then transfer to a greased cookie sheet (we use a large 13″ x 17″, but this dough could be easily divided into 2 smaller pizzas or 4 personal size pizzas). Stretch the dough to the edges then top with whatever toppings you like.

Bake for 15 minutes and enjoy!

**here’s a tip, before making the dough, we turn our oven on, temperature not relevant, leave it on for about 30 seconds, then turn it off. It creates a perfect warm “proofing box” for the dough. If it seems too warm when you are ready to let your dough rise, just leave your oven door open while the dough is rising. We use this method for all of our yeast risen baking.

 

Once the dough is made we add the sauce.  When you spread the sauce, channel your inner pizza maker, just like when you were a kid and watched him make that beautiful spiral on the dough with the ladle.

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After the sauce is spread, next comes the cheese. We use 8 oz of whole milk shredded mozzarella.  Then the fun part is adding the toppings.  We love all types of pizza, chicken wing, chicken parmigiana ,  even pulled pork,  but this pie was on a whole new level.  We chopped up our meats, which were left overs from Friday’s antipasto.  We used  cappicola, felino,   prosciutto, sopressata, and coppa.

 

The pizza then goes into a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 min, relax and enjoy some of the game.  While you are patiently waiting for the timer to ring on your pizza, you will be treated a beautiful symphony of aromas. You can smell crisping salty meat mixed with fresh tomatoes and fresh dough,  you will think you are in Italy.  The sound of the timer will awaken you from your Italian dream, but don’t be tempted to dive right in.

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This is hot stuff,  and you don’t want your cheese to slip.  Allow your pizza to cool for 5 min then transfer to a cutting board for slicing with a pizza cutter, please don’t use a knife this pizza deserves the royal treatment.  Then grab a cold beer and sit down and enjoy your pizza, you may even forget there is a game on.