Grind Your Own
This morning was the first that I noticed I didn't have the camera in my pocket, and the realization that I'd have to face the morning without being armed and ready to shoot wasn't lost on me.
However, to be truthful, I was starting to tire of constantly having to produce something each morning that, in my mind, actually had to have significance for those few hours between the shower and lunch time.
Is it a crime to say that perhaps there is something to be said about the benefit of wandering around aimlessly in life, at least part of the time?
So in a way I feel a chain has been broken, yet at the same time I miss it somewhat.
That empty hole should be filled with entertaining you all about my travels to stinky tofu land or picking olives in the middle of a Central Valley parking lot. Instead, I only offer up this ode to the joys of grinding your own meat.
I had forgotten, or perhaps never fully noticed, that we have a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer. I had used the attachment once a long time ago to stuff sausages, but I had ground the meat in the Cuisinart. In hindsight, that was dumb, considering I had a perfectly good meat grinder. But then, hindsight is 20/20.
No. Not the news program. I mean, it's clearly seen looking at it from the perspective that it's already happened to you. Like, "man, had I known what that pepperoni and olive pizza was going to do to my lower gastrointestinal tract, I would've had the mac and cheese. I wish my chafed ass could've seen this coming instead of being crippled over in pain watching it try to leave."
Kinda like that.
The pasta/meat grinder attachment comes with the necessary implements to make like a mad Italian all day and night long with various "plates", or the thinga-mabobs that the pasta/meat get pushed through, to make everything from fettucini to coarse-grind meat to hiding the body of Joey Spiglamonti, former president of the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League, your cousin Angelo bumped off the night before.
It's pretty simple to piece together and all you really need is some space, some time, and a good recipe. A good lawyer with a gambling habit is useful to have around as well.
I used the Sweet Fennel Sausage recipe from Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly (2000, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA).
First, and most important, the meat.
Oh, My, God Becky!
(here it comes…cue music…now)
I like big butts and I cannot lie
You other foodies can't deny
That when you look in the supermarket case
And a big round thing in your face
You get sprung
Oh, baby I wanna get with ya
And take your picture
My doctor tried to warn me
But that butt you got
Make me so horny
Now you got me making Food Porny
So Foodies (yeah!), Foodies (yeah!)
Has your butcher got the butt? (hell yeah!)
Well shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake that healthy butt
Baby got back
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
My "butt" (aka shoulder) is approximately 3 pounds and well-fatty. Aidells' recipe calls for an additional ¾ pound of pork back fat, but as this piece of meat was well-marbled, that was completely unecessary, especially since I'll be using the sausage to add to pasta dishes.
The key thing Aidells stresses, and is important whenever working with meat, is to keep the temperature of the pork cool. I wasn't too worried about my room temperature since it's been a pretty chilly week and I rarely crank the heat, but I suppose if it's the middle of summer, you might want to take extra precautions, especially if you're curing the meat later.
First, after you've assembled your grinder and have the necessary tools ready, you want to cube the meat. This could take a while, especially if you have a lot of meat, so it's important to have a sharp knife and work quickly.
Next, after everything is cubed, stick the meat in the freezer to keep it cool while you assemble the dry/wet ingredients. I also stick the bowl I'm going to grind the meat into in the refridgerator.
The dry/wet ingredients are:
½ cup of dry red wine (I used Port, which is definitely a deviation from this recipe)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of fennel seeds (mine are wild and given to us by Mark and Rodger, hand-picked from their mini-Wild Fennel farm up there in Portland, Oregon. Thanks guys!! I bet you never thought you'd see me use them!?)
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon of allspice
Next, comes grinding the meat.
This part was pretty damn simple and hardly even warrants these few sentences. Simply load the meat in the hopper with the machine running on low. Slowly, force the meat into the grinder and wait for it to come out the other side.
Try to mix the pieces of mostly fat with the pieces of mostly meat as much as you can so that the ground pork stays evenly mixed between the two.
It helps if you have someone to help photograph this while you do it so that you don't have to keep stopping. Lost orphans or drifters with a criminal past take excellent photos and you hardly have to pay them!
After it's all ground, take your dry spices and sprinkle half of them on top, then mix with one hand. What is the sound of one hand mixing meat? Don't ask disgusting questions, that's what.
Next, add the rest of the dry spices and then work in the wine.
After it is all mixed, let it marinade for a few hours to overnight for best flavor. I immediately packed mine in ziploc containers, labelled them, and stuck them in the freezer to eat later on in the week (or longer).
Of course, I also had to try a little.
I can't tell you how excited I am about all of this. Really! This whole meat grinding thing is a piece of cake (of course, you gotta have the right tools and all) and I feel like kicking myself for not doing it earlier.
For one thing, it's statistically safer than buying it at the store. I mean, if any rat poo finds it's way into my hamburger/ground pork it'll be because I put it there! And trust me, you won't be finding rat poo in my spice rack, at least not to my knowledge.
Second, I can control the amount of meat to fat ratio or types and amounts of spices that go into all of my ground meat recipes, so that's another added bonus.
And lastly, it can be cheaper and tastier than the sausage you buy already prepared in the supermarket.
Hey, I'm sold!
(Insert bad pun about getting back to the "daily grind" here.)