I’m becoming mildly obsessed with learning how to make traditionally processed foods at home. I know it probably seems a little silly to most people, but knowing that I’m not beholden to some corporate entity somewhere for my favorite flavors and foods is somewhat freeing.
It’s really funny, because I write persuasively for a living. I’m a fundraiser by profession, and in this role I am paid to convince people that they need to donate their money, services or time to my organization. What’s ironic about this is that I hate being “marketed” to. I think most marketing is nothing more than glorified brainwashing, using psychological tactics and sociological and demographic profiling to convince people that they need a product in their lives. I actually get angry at commercials for products that claim to be something they’re not, or to offer some benefit that they can’t possibly deliver. I believe strongly that we need to educate ourselves about the things we consume – both from a food standpoint and from a general consumer product standpoint. It’s important that we know where the things we buy come from and learn about the ways those things are cultivated, processed, packaged and marketed.
As an aside, I recognize that I allow advertising on this blog, and that I (or the non-profit organizations to which I choose to donate) benefit from the revenue generated by those ads. One of the reasons that I chose Foodbuzz as my ad network is because I felt like they were reasonably responsible in choosing the companies that they partnered with. Most of the advertisers on Foodbuzz are, from what I can tell, straightforward and truthful in their marketing efforts, and as such I have no problem being associated with them. Additionally, many of them are socially responsible, donating a large portion of their proceeds to health and wellness related charities.
Disclaimer over. Soapbox stashed away. Onto the food.
If you’re tired of hearing me talk about making sausage, you can stop reading now. If you’d like to know how I made delicious all-beef (except, of course, for the hog casings into which the deliciousness was stuffed) pepperoni, then please read on.
(yields 2 pounds of sausage)
2 lbs. beef chuck, very cold
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 feet of hog casings
Note: most of the recipes I found online called for “pink curing salt” or saltpeter (potassium nitrate). One of the reasons I like to make my own sausages and cured meats (I corn my own beef for St. Patty’s day, too) is so I can avoid nitrates and other added chemicals in my foods. I adapted a couple of recipes to come up with this one. Since I was freezing the end product (at least the portion I didn’t use right away), I wasn’t worried about the preservative properties that these missing ingredients offer.
Begin by rinsing your casings and allowing them to soak for 30 minutes or so.
Cut your extremely cold (even partially frozen) beef into pieces small enough to fit into the feed tube of your meat grinder.
Run the meat through the grinder. Once ground, add spices and seasonings, and mix using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer for a couple of minutes. Place meat mixture in the fridge and leave for 20 minutes or so, just to chill. Meanwhile, slide your casings onto your sausage stuffing attachment – use olive oil or butter on the stuffing tube to make this process easier.
Once the meat mixture has chilled, feed it into the casings. This process is made easier by a partner lending a helping hand, but it can be done by one person. Once you’ve gotten all of the mixture into the casings, tie off the end and form links by twisting every 10-12 inches.
Turn your oven on and heat to 200F. Place the sausages on a rack sitting on baking sheet to catch drips and let cook/dry in the oven for a couple of hours.
To finish, I smoked the pepperoni on the grill for another couple of hours. I built a small fire using hardwood charcoal on one side of my grill. I used soaked hickory and oak pieces to create the smoke – placing them near, but not on, the fire.
I placed the sausages on the cold side of the grill and closed the lid. I kept an eye on things and periodically added more wet wood to the mix in order to keep the temperature at or below 200F. (you just want to make sure the interior of your sausages reach a temperature of at least 160F). After a couple of hours of good smoking, I removed the sausage from the grill and was rewarded with wonderfully flavorful pepperoni.
It was a perfect topping for this homemade pizza. I might have also indulged slightly by eating some of it straight up like a giant Slim-Jim or small summer sausage. Maybe. It was that good.
Next up – making mozzarella at home using non-homogenized whole milk from a local dairy and vegetarian rennet.