Saturday, December 31, 2011

I need some more music

I could listen to a good a cappela choir all day long.  Hell, they could be singing in some language I can't even recognize and I'd still listen, just because the music is so beautiful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have things to do.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tinkering Day

Added a few links to the blogroll.  Shoveled the walk.  Gonna work on brewing and vintning tonight.  It's a "day off", but given how much I have to do, it's really not much of a day off.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Og wants pictures

Well, I aim to please!

Bratwurst and mustard:

For those who labor under the idea that bratwurst has to be slathered with STUFF, and put on a bun, let me disabuse you of that idea right now.  The proper way to enjoy a bratwurst is with mustard and a hard roll.  Don't put the mustard on the sausage, you put a dollop of it on your plate.  You then take the brat in your primary hand, the roll in your off hand.  Dip the brat in mustard.  Take a bite.  Take a bite of the roll.  Take a swig of beer.  Repeat.

It.  Is.  That.  Simple.  That was beaten into my head by a man who ate many a bratwurst in Germany, and never ONCE was ketchup, onions, or any other condiment other than mustard served.  Cook the brats in beer?  What, are you trying to cover up a crappy flavor?  He DRINKS beer and EATS brats, and how DARE I try to ruin a brat by cooking it in beer!  If the flavor of the bratwurst is so bad you have to cover it up by cooking it in beer, you need better sausages!

Now, I've also had brats to me by a master butcher from Germany, served on a roll with ketchup, mustard and relish.  I guess you eat it how you like it, and everybody else can pound sand if they're upset.

Andouille, fresh from the smoker:

After it's smoked, you have to let it sit for a while for the heat to really build up.  But give it a week, and after you eat a bite the heat starts in the back of your throat and moves it's way up to your lips, until your entire mouth feels like you've swallowed a propane torch.  It's friggin' awesome.  Sliced thin, and used as a pizza topping?  Ohmygodgood.

I should note that actual Cajun andouille is thicker than this, but 1) I can't get real beef casing here, and 2) my smoker can really only cook a thin sausage.  Any thicker and it would still be partially raw in the middle, and that just won't do.

Italian Sausage, covered in pasta and marinara sauce:

Note that the sauce and pasta are nothing but delivery vehicles for the sausage.  We make a hot and a medium-hot.  We used to make a sweet, but we found that we never really used it without adding some more heat to it, so we skipped the middle step and just make it hot.

Next time I'm actually making sausage I'll take pictures of the action. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I got it from Mostly Cajun

Who got it from Tam.  Anyways, the most frequently played tracks on my iPod.

10.  I don't have a friggin' iPod.  While I enjoy technology, I tend to have either CD's, or my computer, or my new tablet around.  One more electronic do-dad isn't necessary.

Be a Man, make Sausage

So I cased and packaged almost twenty pounds of sausage last night.  Six pounds of bratwurst, six pounds of a new sausage we're making called "Chipotle and Cheese" with massive amounts of onion and garlic, three + pounds of our Cranberry Brats (we're in Wisconsin, after all!) and three + pounds of a bratwurst with Granny Smith apples, which didn't come out nearly as good as I had hoped.

Ah well, that's why we experiment.  It still tasted good with a little mustard.

In any case, making your own sausage is relatively easy, and for those who actually care about what goes into their food, should be a priority on learning how to do it.  We first started making our own sausage when the Ragin' Mrs. allergies started cropping up.  We couldn't find a single sausage that didn't have some form of soy in it.  Soy flour, soybean oil, soy protein, blah blah blah CRAP and MORE CRAP.  In sausage.  We started out making our own Italian sausage and breakfast sausage, and when we couldn't find a single bratwurst IN FRIGGIN' WISCONSIN that didn't have soy in it, we hunted until we found an original recipe and then fiddled and tested and experimented with it until we perfected it.  And I mean, guys who spent decades in Germany taking a bite and almost weeping PERFECT.  One gent uttered the phrase "Oh my God, that's my lunch in Munich!"

No, you're not getting that recipe.  We may end up selling it before too long, and we're keeping it proprietary. 

If you want more encouragement to make your own sausage, go to the supermarket, pick up a package of sausage and read the ingredients.  Get towards the end, and see how many you can pronounce.  If you're sensitive to things like Nitrates, Nitrites, Sulfates and Sulfites, watch out.  If you don't like having high-protein soy flour, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils  and other various ingredients with multi-syllabic chemical ingredients in your food, then most likely you'll have to make your own.

In any case, the first thing you'll need to make sauage is good meat.  We found a grocery store that sells the ends to their "boneless country ribs", which aren't ribs by the way.  They're pork roasts cut into strips so that you can grill them and call them ribs.  ANYWAYS - we take the ends which they sell relatively cheap, and cut it into small chunks that we can toss into the grinder.  Some recipes call for beef, some for lamb, most for pork.  I add my seasonings before I grind the meat, as I find it gives the sausage a better, more complete flavor.  But you can add it after, and it shouldn't hurt a thing.

Don't be afraid of fatty scraps here, either.  Sausage needs to have about 20% fat in it, otherwise it dries up when it cooks.  A lot of that fat cooks out, so don't think you're eating a fat pill with these. 

Take your cut up meat, and run it through your grinder.  You can buy manual meat grinders/sausage stuffers just about anywhere.  We have an electric grinder/stuffer, and if you have a high-end stand mixer, most of those (such as KitchenAide) have grinder/stuffer attachments that you can use.  We used our KitchenAide to make sausage for years before we finally got our grinder.  Pay attention to the plate size - the smaller the holes in the plate, the smoother the end product will be.  If you want a real coarse sausage, like breakfast sausages, use the larger sized plate.  For our brats I use the smallest sized plate.  I use a medium size plate on my Italian sausage.

My meat grinder doubles as a sausage stuffer, I just swap out the plates for a stuffing tube.  Other machines are uni-taskers.  The only requirement is that it takes the ground meat and stuffs it into a casing, so there's really no "wrong" answer on what machine to use.  Here is where a big textural factor comes into play; you can get collagen casings, which are dry, and can keep for months until you use them.  Or you can get natural casings which have to be used a bit sooner.  Natural casings also need to be handled differently.  Once the moisture from the sausage works it's way into the collagen casing, there's only a slight difference in how the sausage feels, but you can still feel the difference.  The Ragin' Mrs. and I prefer real, natural casings.  Hog casing is the standard sausage size.  Lamb casings are for breakfast sausage and other smaller diameter sausages like hot dogs.  Beef casing, if you can get it, is for the large, summer-sausage type creations.  When we were in Puerto Rico, the only casings we could get were the collagen, so that's what we used.  We're able to get the hog and lamb casings here in Wisconsin.

As you're filling the casing, pause to twist individual links.  Or, if you're going for a smoked sausage like Andouille or Keilbasa make long whole loops that can be hung over a smoking rack.  We make our own andouille here at the Ragin' Manor.  Goes great in soups, casseroles, and the Ragin' Mrs.' Red Beans and Rice.

Package up the sausage how ever you feel, and enjoy.  Once you try real, home-made sausage that doesn't have a bunch of crap fillers in it, you'll never go back.  There's loads of websites about sausage making with recipes, techniques and hints.  Use 'em. 

Maybe next time we'll talk about making beer.  Or mead.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

11 Rules your kids did not and will not learn in school

Any folks with kids out there, you may want to print this out and post it somewhere in a high-traffic area.

Rule 1: Life is not fair -- get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
 You know, for all the times I was called a nerd in high school, I wouldn't want any of those bastards working for me.  Meh.  That's why I moved away.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New toy

I am typing this on my new tablet, although I just found out it doesn't like the cold very much.  Still, this will be great for all the traveling I do.