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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sausage Making

The last vacation Heather and I went on was to England and Scotland. It was a ton of fun and we had a great deal of astounding food, but one of the things that struck us was how damn good the sausages we have were. We were especially taken aback by Cumberland style sausages, which are rich, full flavored, not overly complex, and served as a coil instead of links. One of these monsters was a foot and a half long, and it tasted amazing!

So the first thing I did when we got home(well, not exactly the first, but you don't really need to know that, do you) was order a sausage stuffer and start doing some research. I've had British bangers before, but I never really thought about what made them different than other kinds of sausages. It turns out there is actually something fundamentally different, and that is the liberal addition of water/stock, and something called 'rusk'.

"What the hell is rusk?", I hear you muttering. Well, traditionally rusk is a breadcrumb made from unleavened bread. I am making a wild leap here, but I suspect it was from unleavened bread because it was cheap, and this was a meal for a poor person. I strive to do things traditionally and by-hand as much as I can, so in the spirit of tradition I baked several loaves of unleavened bread, let them dry out naturally, and ground them into crumbs went to Costco and bought the cheapest commercial breadcrumbs I could find.

Are you nuts, me doing that part by hand? Do you think a British peasant, if they had the chance, wouldn't go for the cheaper route--in this case Costco? Of course they would.

The recipe is quite simple. Seasoned pork shoulder is ground at as close to ice cold without being frozen as possible through a small die, mixed with rusk and chicken stock, then stuffed into (hopefully the same) pigs intestines. Tie or twist carefully, cook gently, and enjoy one of the greatest culinary treats in the world. This link here has a solid recipe and explanation of how to make a solid master recipe for bangers and Cumberland style sausage.

This sausage contains 'Rusk' - a toasted wheat bread crumb. This modifies the texture and the taste making the unique British Sausage. 14% of the sausage by weight is dry 'Rusk' ingredient in my Dad's Award Finalist British Sausage recipe.

The 'Rusk' absorbes the pork fats that melt when cooking, keeping the taste inside the sausage. The pork fat is what makes a Pork Sausage - try a comparison with so called 'lean' sausages. I think most will prefer the improved taste of the one with pork fat. My Dad used 25% Pork Fat to 75% Lean pork meat, and this made up 65% of the total sausage weight.

Water is added to the rusk (20%) and after the Rusk absorbes this and swells in size it is throughly mixed and the Seasoning added. My Dad did not bother fiddling around miixing different spices, herbs and seasonings, together with some preservatives to give longer shelf life. He found a supplier (LUCAS) that produced the right combination giving him the taste (fairly mild spice/herb), he was after.

For this recipe I changed things just a tad, cause what cook doesn't, and used the following:

  • 5lbs good quality pork shoulder, not trimmed of fat
  • 1 1/2 cups plain faux-rusk (bread crumbs)
  • 1 1/4 chicken stock
  • 40 grams salt
  • 10 grams black pepper
  • 10 grams nutmeg
  • A small handful fresh sage
  • 10 grams smokey chile powder

The piggie gets ground, the rest of the ingredients added and mixed, then a quick taste test. Take a very small pattie, about the size of a marble, and quickly cook it. If it tastes good, stuff into 35 millimeter hog casings. I used these casings which were incredibly easy, this stuffer, a Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment, and the book Charcuterie. All in all, it was a terrific success, and more pics of them after they are cooked will be added.


  1. Awesome.

    I also know the magic wonderful taste of english sausages. this is inspiring me to try it out :-)

  2. With the correct equipment they were surprisingly easy to make. And as long as you season them appropriately and test the mixture before you stuff (fry up a tiny patty, like a mini breakfast patty and taste it), then it's a pretty low stress though long-time-wise project.


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