Today is an important day for my husband. It’s the opening day of fall sausage making. Little did I know that fifteen years ago I was, very much like Frankenstein, creating a monster. It all started on Christmas day.
I decided to surprise my husband with a big gift. I wasn’t sure what that gift would be. My husband doesn’t have a lot of hobbies. I poured over the catalogs that deluged our house during the holiday season. I actually paid attention to the commercials on TV. I even prayed for Divine Inspiration.
My husband was starting to show an interest in cooking shows. Back then, we still had the BUD (big ugly dish) and his favorite show was Good Eats Cheap (I won’t swear to that name, it’s been fifteen years and the BUD didn’t last that long. The little dish arrived, the Food Network captured our attention, and we moved on to a bigger venue). I do remember it had a home video quality and the men were from Virginia. But they were entertaining and my husband still uses some of their recipes.
For whatever the reason, the catalog, The Sausage Maker, came to my attention. And I made the first, fateful purchase. A good-sized smoker. That lived, unopened, in its box for well over a year. Long enough that my neighbor was starting to twit me about the purchase.
Then November rolled around and my husband unboxed the ‘smoker’. Inside the box was a book, Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas. I can’t locate an ISBN # in the book but it’s published by: The Sausage Maker Inc. 1500 Clinton St. Bldg 123 Dept. 27 Buffalo, New York 14206 The online address for The Sausage Make is: www.sausagemaker.com
I’m not sure what actually ‘hooked’ my husband on sausage making. I don’t know if it’s the process: the grinding, mixing, the smell of the spices. Or if it’s the ‘smoker’. The wood chips as they start to smolder. The aroma of the product. I’m not kidding. When that smoke hits your nose, you freeze in your steps, and just inhale.
I’m almost convinced that there is a primal gene in humans that draws them to wood smoke and preserving food. It’s a survival instinct.
But the kicker, the final deciding factor, is product. I grew up in central Kansas and the only sausage I was ever exposed to was store-bought breakfast sausage. And I’m sorry, but sage and meat do not go well together. When I married and moved to Illinois, I discovered that there is a strong Italian, Polish, German/Austrian community in this area. And I found out what sausage is supposed to be.
The first sausage that I fell in love with was fresh sausage. No sage. Just pepper and garlic. Oh, my, gosh. I love fresh sausage.
My next favorite is smoked Polish sausage. That is the one that is now smoking on the front porch. My husband got up this morning (and if he’s up, I’m up, because somehow I’ve become part of the sausage-making process. I didn’t volunteer.) It’s November, and everybody who knows my husband has projects lined up. He doesn’t mind doing it for friends. He enjoys the process, and he usually ends up being given product.
I can look forward to weeks of sausage making. My job is to get the work area prepared; the sausage stuffer set up, and I turn the handle. When the job is over, I get to wash the utensils. (Again, I didn’t volunteer) I don’t fight too hard because, personally, I trust my dish-washing skills more than I do my husbands.
The one smoker has grown to two. The sausage making has expanded into other projects, best known is the home-cured bacon. That’s a blog by itself. I’m not thrilled that I get the ‘grunt’ work. But I can’t buy sausage at the store anymore. I’ve become a sausage snob.
Sage makes me very suspicious ever since I was told that butchers used it to hide the taste of meat going ‘bad’. I’ve been introduced to the good product. The sweet Italian, the hot Italian, my favorite smoked Polish. I’m willing to be the minion in my husband’s pursuit of good food. I even wash dishes with very little complaint. (I wanted to type ‘no complaints, but that simply isn’t the truth. I do gripe just not very loud or long because I don’t want the product to go away.)
We’ve become regular customers of The Sausage Maker. Looking through the pages of the catalog is like Christmas all year long. Don’t tell, but I think this Christmas, my husband is getting a stainless steel dehydrator. Our old wooden one fell apart. It’s time to upgrade and journey into new territory. I’ll be sure and report how it goes.
The Smoked Polish recipe that my husband uses is on page 207 of the book described up above. I would have posted the recipe but I see in the front of the book that I’m prohibited without express permission of the author. If any of you request the recipe, I’ll email the owner of the copyright and see if I’m allowed to share one recipe. The book can be purchased separate from the smokers. The recipes that my husband has made have all been excellent.