There’s been a little pause in the blog…mostly because I had a little excitement: I co-hosted the Italian morning radio show Amici on CHIN Radio here in Toronto yesterday! More about that tomorrow…but first we need to get to a recipe! The last recipe of All Food February is a big one. Firstly, it’s about sausages, which is a request I get a lot. But secondly, it’s for a sausage recipe I can’t find anywhere else. Have you ever made potato and pork sausages?
This recipe comes from my husband’s family. He fondly remembers eating these as a kid on family road trips. They would pack the sausages, straight from the freezer, into tin foil and place them in the back windshield of the car to warm up in the summer sun as they drove to their destination. The recipe itself is typical of southern Italian cooking, and Italian austerity measures, as it uses potatoes as a filler for meat (which there wasn’t a lot of years ago).
Last year my husband decided he wanted to make these sausage that he hadn’t had in years and we searched desperately for a recipe. We found nothing: not on food recipe sites, not in books, not even on blogs. I started to doubt that it was possible to even make these sausages (wouldn’t the potato go bad?) and only came around when I was watching an episode of Lidia’s Italy and she was mentioning different types of sausages found in Italy. Potato and pork were mentioned – so they do exist! Too bad she didn’t give a recipe for them! We ended up inviting over the Nonni and got to work putting this old recipe back together and making some mighty fine dried sausages.
The recipe is approximate, you’ll need to gauge your needs based on the amount of pork you use and the flavours you want. As always, before you dive into recipes that preserve meat be sure to read up on proper meat handling and curing techniques.
Potato & Pork Sausage
1 pork shoulder, ground
Equal part boiled potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred)
1 liter of red pepper sauce
2 handfuls of salt
1/2 a handful of fennel
2 tablespoons dried hot pepper flakes
You can purchase a pork shoulder at a butcher and ask them to process it for you into ground meat. Or debone your pork shoulder, cutting it into large pieces and leaving some fat with the meat. Process it through a meat grinder. You’ll also need to purchase natural sausage casings from a butcher (or, if you prefer, you can get the synthetic kind.) The casings need to be cleaned by running cold water through them and turning them inside out. Turn them right side out again and let them sit in lemon water over night. Peel your potatoes and boil them in a large pot of water, removing them when they are tender. Let the potatoes cool fully.
Once your meat, potatoes and casings are prepared, you can begin the sausage making process. Crumble the potatoes by hand into 1/2 inch pieces. Mix the ground pork into the potatoes. Add in the red pepper sauce, fennel, hot pepper flakes and salt. You can mix this together by hand or, if you have one large enough, a stand mixer. Allow the meat mixture to rest for 2 to 3 hours in cool place so that the potato absorbs the flavours you’ve added in.
Once the meat is ready, you get to eat! Take a handful or so of the mixture and cook, with a tablespoon of oil, in a frying pan until the meat is cooked through and crispy. This taste test will let you know if you’ve got the proper ratios of flavours for your sausage. You’ll want to be the most concerned with the amount of salt (as this is required to cure the meat) and the spiciness. The meat should taste a little salty and the heat should be to your liking. Adjust the seasoning in the meat accordingly to your taste test.
When you are happy with your meat mixture, it’s time to make the sausages. For this you’ll need a sausage stuffer, butcher’s twine for tieing, scissors and lots of help on hand. Slip a casing onto the stuffing tube, gathering it on the tube and tying off the end. Put the meat into the stuffer and start cranking the meat into the casings. When the meat starts to come out, use one hand to regulate how fast the casing slips off the tube and how tightly packed the meat is in the casing.
Tie off links using the twine at 5 to 6 inches long. It’s important to either tightly pack the meat into the casings so that no air is caught inside and harms the curing process or, if you find air bubbles in your finished sausages, prick the casings with a sterilized needle to release the air.
Let the sausages rest for a few hours. The sausages then need to be hung up to dry. In links of two or three, hang them in a cool, dry place (a cantina or garage will do) so that they are not touching each other. They need to hang for approximately three weeks until they are cured: they should be hard, but still have some give when you press them with your fingers. Be sure to check on them periodically to ensure they are drying well and no mould is forming on them. These sausages can be vaccum sealed and kept in the freezer or fridge for up to a year.
These are best with bread and cheese, warmed up slightly or even roasted in the oven. Don’t forget to remove the casing before biting in!