Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Best Hot & Sweet Italian Sausage, so far...

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Quite a feast at the lake. Italian sausage on homemade buns, green and potato salad,
and lobster – I can't forget the lobster! We had a wonderful time.

Yesterday was another stunner in Nova Scotia. It’s like we’re getting early August in early June.

I don’t want to complain, but wasn’t it hot... It had to have been in the mid 30°C or higher again. Sweltering. Today is supposed to be another warm one, but then back to more normal temperatures for this week.

It was an uncomfortable night trying to sleep. Two fans were running full on, and it was still muggy inside our little house. It’s cooler this morning (15°C at 6am) so if it stays cool there may be a quick nap in the offing.

But one should make hay while the sun shines. That’s where this recipe comes in. We certainly made best use of dinnertime yesterday.

The "Loch Ponoque Monster", aka Henry the Bouvier. He had a great time
cooling off at the lake, although he gets a little obsessed with the waves...

There’s nothing like a barbecue to enjoy this unexpected warm weather. No one wants to have the oven on in the house on days like yesterday. It also helps if you have good friends who have a cabin on the lake.

The village where we live is at the foot of a series of lakes dotted with cabins. The wind always blows down the lake and onto the shores, so it’s far nicer up there than in the village where it’s more sheltered.

On Friday, six of us decided to get together for a potluck at the cabin of two friends. They’re the kind of old friends that love you regardless of how “stupid” you may want to get, or end up getting... 

I had volunteered to bring sausages for on the barbecue – me being so recently fond of my grinder/stuffer KitchenAid mixer attachment. So I had to make sure it was a good recipe. My reputation was on the line... This one didn’t disappoint.

Making sausage at home is actually very easy. The do not
have to be stuffed. Just use as you would hamburger.
I have made Italian sausage in the past, but never stuffed. Also never barbecued, and never this good. So this was a “first” on a few levels. The sausages met with rave reviews. I do have to say I was even impressed. I’m not trying to say I’m a great cook, just that I’m clever enough to source good recipes.

As usual, I looked at several recipes, took the best bits, and then moulded them (pardon the pun) to my own liking. The most significant influence was a recipe posted by someone reminiscing about their Sicilian grandfather’s sausages. So I guess technically these are Sicilian, and very authentic tasting.

Whatever they are, they’re fantastic. Store-made Italian sausage will be bought no more!

This recipe included no extra fat, which is a bit unusual. All I used was a pork loin with the fat still on the top – the usual cut you buy at the grocery store.

This made enough sausage to feed all six of us, with side dishes, with one left over. If course you could shape it into patties, or meatballs, or whatever shape you wanted if you don’t have a sausage stuffer.

To top the sausages I sautéed sweet peppers with onions until caramelized. They were good. Two of our friends had brought lobster and tried that on top of the sausage à la "surf 'n turf", apparently to great effect. I want to try that...

We ate our sausages, salads and lobster overlooking the lake, with the breeze just enough to keep the flies away and cool us off after a hot, hot day.

This is now my "go-to" summer sausage, without doubt. Sweet, spicy and with just a little heat, I’m sure this recipe will become one of yours as well. It makes about 50-60” of sausage – enough for a crowd.

Here’s a tip for cooking sausages: cook them on low heat and slowly. This will minimize and splitting and subsequent flame flare-up as the fat leeks out. 

Do not pierce the sausage as they cook, for the same reason. When the juices look clear inside the casing they’re done. Enjoy!

The sausage benefits from sitting, either before or after
stuffing. The flavours combine. I twisted it into individual
links and cut them apart just before grilling. You could
skewer the whole thing as a coil and cook it that way too.
Best Hot & Sweet Italian Sausage
Yield: 10 sausages about 6” long
2-1/2 lbs pork loin, with top fat
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp whole fennel seed 
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/4 tbsp salt
1-1/2 tbsp red wine
sausage casings

Grind the meat through the coarse plate on your grinder. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except for the casings and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours so the flavours permeate the meat.

Shape or stuff as you wish.

If you’ve read this far I may as well give you an excellent  recipe for salad dressing. This was great on our romaine, grated carrot, tomatoes, cucumber and chives salad.

Balsamic Italian Salad Dressing
about 250 ml dressing
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bottle and shake vigorously. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to combine. Shake again before use.

Our friends have a beautiful spot to enjoy the summer, don't they?

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