Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Calorie, Is it outdated?

The BBC Food Programme is an excellent show and I make time to listen to it every week. Although it is mainly based around concerns and food trends in the UK occasionally this it covers topics which relate to any region. A recent broadcast was featured on the Calorie, something I suspect many of you have been counting at some point and potentially the amount of calories in a food item has caused you to make changes in what you are choosing to eat. The premise of this broadcast is that the the Calorie as related to the consumption of food is outdated in determining how healthy something might be and even how it might affect weight gain or loss. Like most of the Food Programme shows they look at the subject from a very balanced viewpoint with both sides represented. If you are a calorie counter, or someone who is concerned  about diet and how certain foods affect your weight I suggest you give this episode a listen.

The Calorie

Mon, 24 Oct 11
28 mins

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home made Bangers (Sausages)

This time of year as the weather gets cooler and the nights are drawing in, my mind turns to comfort food and on my list is the sausage or as they are called in the UK bangers. Unfortunately like most things what we often find in our supermarkets are highly processed tubes of meat from suspect sources full of preservatives and often over seasoned (salted). I find that a shame beacause almost every culture on the planet has its own unique combination of meats,spices and cereals stuffed into a casing and then dried or cooked fresh into a suculent savory delight.
Given that I mosly get my meats direct from the farm in whole form, what I tend to have a lot of is good ground meat. So a few years ago I bought an inexpensve sausage stuffer and delved into the art of sausage making and I have to say that I haven't looked back. In fact, for the last three years my wife and I have hosted a sausage making party where friends come over and make sausages and share both recipies and laughs. The event has been a big success and everyone enjoys not only the event but the treats they go home with.

Most sausage recipes consist of some good ground meat and seasonings (salt and pepper) and optionally spices, herbs and fillers. The latter can be a controversial item and the use of fillers is dependent on the type of sausage you are making. In general that add both softness and moisture to the end result as the soak up a lot of juices from the other ingredients, most sausages from the UK include some kind of filler. Italian sausages tend to be all meat and if cooked alone will become drying but these are often broken up into sauces to retain all the juice when cooking. Sausages to be dried would not use fillers as they would cause spoilage. When using fillers they should always be good quality either oatmeal, bread crumbs or multi-grain cereal and should be soaked and drained before use. When using fillers about 5% by weight is a good ratio, for 1Kg of meat use 50g of filler.

There are loads of recipes online which use various combinations of seasonings however all sausages need salt and probably more that you might imagine. I good rough guide is about 5-10g of salt per kilo of meat. Because cooking has an effect on the power of seasonings it is a good idea to take a little of your mix and ether fry it or poach it in order to test for seasoning as this will allow you to adjust before stuffing.

Stuffing is basically inserting your sausage mixture into a casing. This is necessary for traditional links but you can just shape your mixture into patties but links are easier to store and freeze since the casing protects them. The are a large number of choices for casing both natural and synthetic. Most recipes will provide guidance on the type of casing. Since I normally make pork sausages I go for natural hog casings (or runners) and there are various sizes depending on your own tastes and machine. I get my sausage supplies from online sources such as Amazon and Sausage Maker who provide the casings and stuffing machines. The casings need to be soaked before use as they are stored in salt.

The process of stuffing a casing is fairly simple, no matter if you use a machine, a kitchen aid or even a funnel. Basically there is a container for the meat, a tube through which the meat is pushed and some means of forcing the meat into that tube. Firstly run the soaked casing up over the tube and gather it up. Make sure the tube is loaded with sausage meat before you tie the knot at the end of the casing (prevents and air lock). Then slowly fill with meat allowing the casing to pull off the tube. The trick is to guide the casing off the end of the tube once it is filled with the meat and making sure there are no air holes. This is vital for dried sausages as air will create spoilage. Keep stuffing the casing until you come to the end and then simple knot the casing to seal the meat in the casing. Finally you can twist the links

So here are a few of my favorite recipes, they are all pork based. Ground pork can be found in good markets like Wholefoods and Genes (locally) but if not pork shoulder or a combination of shoulder and pork belly can be used and ground up. You butcher will often do this for you.

Herby Sausage 

This has become a favorite at our sausage making parties and many of our friends rate it as one of the best they have tasted.

  • 950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 7g salt
  • 20 Sage leaves
  • 20 Chives
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • bunch of Marjoram
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.
Simply chop all the herbs finely and mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Gloucester Pork Sausage

This is from my home county in the UK and is a family favorite. Use Gloucester Old Spot pork if possible.

  •  950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 10g salt
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 10 sage leaves finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of marjoram
Chop the herbs, grind the spices and mix with the rest of the ingredients

Easy Chorizo

This is for a fresh chorizo sausage and can be put in casings or simple used as is in recipes calling for chorizo.

  • 1Kg of fresh ground pork
  • 1.5 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1.25 tblsp of salt
  • 25ml of white wine
  • Small head of garlic minced, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 tblsp finely chopped oregano
Just mix together, check seasoning and stuff the casings.