Back to the ol’ grind

4 minute read

Many moons ago my parents gave me a food grinder attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer. It’s sat in my cupboard, doing little aside from taking up space. Until today, that is, when I decided to make my own sausage.

Living in an apartment, I was able to discard any sausage recipes which involved smoking or hanging of said construct in a cool dark place (cave preferred). That mostly left me with fresh sausage but still the options were many. I’d also decided that casings were not for me and that I could make do with sausage patties and meatballs. This ended up being a wise decision, as it wasn’t until returning from the store that I discovered that my grinder attachment does not include a casing-stuffing sub-attachment. So, these things in mind and not wishing to stray too far afield on my first attempt, I chose apple sausauge for the recipe. Pork apple sausage, officially, but I opted to do chicken apple sausage instead.

The best chicken meat for sausage making comes from the thigh. Meaty, fatty, tasty. I went for boneless skin-on thighs, but the store only had them bone-in. Fine, I’m not above (ahem) boning a chicken or two. So my first task was to remove the bones from five pounds of chicken thighs and cut the meat and skin into chunks. This left me with a grisly stack of bones enrobed with shreds of raw flesh, which I immediately tossed into a 3-quart pot, covered with water and set to simmering for the next four or so hours. Chicken sausage and chicken stock all in one day. Excellent.

The mound of meat and skin was salted and then chilled while I assembled the grinder. Then mayhem ensued. This is where I get to pass on to you, my faithful readers, this word of advice:

Never make sausage out of chicken unless you have an industrial-grade meat grinder.

Now, it’s not that either the Kitchen-Aid mixer or the attachment is a flimsy piece of equipment. Far from it. My mixer never once complained during the entire ordeal (which lasted at least two hours, in total). The attachment did what it was designed to do and, I’m sure, performed admirably given the challenge at hand.

No, the problem was the chicken itself. It turns out that chicken meat is very stringy. And the skin? Though it appears flabby and delicate in truth it must be akin to kevlar. Both substances continually clogged the holes of the grinder plate, requiring me to disassemble the thing, dig out the offending material, reconstruct the grinder, then start the entire process over again. This happened every two minutes or so for the duration of the first grind. Butchers’ grinders must be able to overcome this problem somehow, judging from all the chicken sausage I see at their counters. My grinder, however, was not up for this task.

Did I say “first grind?” Yes, I did. Because foolishly I’d decided to do a rough grind of chicken only before adding the other ingredients and then performing the final fine grind. As bad as the rough grind was, the fine grind was so very much worse. As a matter of fact, I only made it through about one quarter of the stuff before I said, “Chunks? Chunks are good. I like chunks” and completely packed in the idea of finishing the fine grind.

The subtitle for this post ought to be “Vicky’s Cross Contamination Festival, 2006.” That’s because grinding sausage is a messy ordeal. There were little globs of pulverized chicken bits everywhere in my kitchen. The counter, the mixer, the floor, my shirt, my hands… I’m still not sure that I got it all, to be honest.

While all of this is going on, the stock has been simmering away in that calm and reassuring fashion that stock has. Occassionally I added more water to keep it, well, stocked until the bones had given their all. I had plans for this brew.

After a stay in the fridge, a bit of the sausage was formed into two dozen little meatballs. These were browned in the 5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven then set aside. Into the sausage grease and fond was tossed a mirepois (equal parts onions, carrots and celery) until the lot was soft. Then I added the flesh of two squashes (one delicata and one carnival) which I had roasted earlier. Over that I poured the now-strained freshly made chicken stock. Top on, simmer for a spell, then hit it with the immersion blender until smooth. The browned sausage meatballs were added back to the dutch oven, the top put back on and the whole thing simmered for another half an hour. Salt, freshly ground black pepper and a shot of lemon juice were added at the end, then I served myself up a bowl and garnished it with parsley.

The verdict on the sausage? Too much sage. Glad I added more white pepper. Otherwise nice and spicy (cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger). Not a roaring success but definitely a success nevertheless. Which is a good thing considering that I made over four pounds of the stuff.

It was a royal pain in the butt to do this and I don’t know that I will be doing it again any time in the near future (the ready availability of very good fresh sausage at my store makes it this an even harder sell). But I could probably be persuaded to give a nice pork breakfast sausage a try sometime. In a while. After I’ve allowed the mental scars caused by the chicken to heal.

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