Hands up those who would spend a wet Sunday afternoon with kids making their own sausages. I specify 'with kids' because wet afternoons without kids are not necessarily spent in the same way as wet afternoons with kids...
We bought an electric grinder recently, ostensibly to make mince because the supermarket variety is not the best, and going to the butcher's and asking him to mince prime rump before our eyes is a bit precious. Grinders are terrific fun to use (yes, that's my life...!), being noisy, dangerous and vicious. We buy stewing meat on promotion, grind it up and make herdsman pie or spag bol (so far) out of it.
Flushed with success, we bought some pork bits yesterday. Carrefour doesn't sell sausage casings because they don't make their own sausages, but Intermarché does. We know the head of the boucher department well enough to ask him if he had any casings from when we took him a whole leg of pork, frozen (bought there) and asked him to saw it in half, which he happily did.
Yesterday, thus, I knabbed him as he was milling around the meat section and asked him if he had any 'sausage skins' (peau de saucisse). I was greeted with a blank look, and had to explain further until we hit upon the correct translation 'boyau'. The blank look was replaced by a perplexed look - I don't think many people approach him about making their own sausages, and I had to explain that we had bought a grinder with a sausage attachment and had decided to experiment making our own sausages. Without recounting my entire life, I managed to amuse him sufficiently to the point where he asked me how much I wanted.
"Oh, vingt" I said.
"Vingt tonnes?" he asked as though it was a completely normal quantity of featherweight casings. At that I fell about laughing and replied, no, just enough for 20 sausages. Smiling broadly, he went into the back and came out with a handful of casing, advised us how to use it, popped it in a bag and told us it was a cadeau. This was very kind of him, but I also think it would have been complicated finding a code, price and whatnot, and we didn't want enough to warrant fuss.
This afternoon, we set to discovering the secrets of sausage-making. I boned up on recipes on the internet, then found a good one in my Harrod's cookbook. It required fresh sage, thyme, parsley and marjoram. My little garden grows various herbs, including sage, thyme and parsley, but I'm not sure if the other herb that's growing is marjoram or something else. I planted it last year in a mixed pot and was never sure if it was that or summer savoury. Still, it smells okay, so in it went.
The pork went through the grinder once, then got mixed into the herbs and brandy (well, it is a Harrod's recipe!), then went through again. We were supposed to leave it to imbibe for 24hours but being notoriously impatient, we decided it could imbibe once in the casings!
Having attached the sausage tube, we tried to slip the casings on, and discovered that we should have asked for casings for fat sausages (as in saucisse de Toulouse), because our chipolata-sized casings were a tad smaller than our chipolata-sized tube. Thus began the Battle of the Nozzle with us struggling to fit casing to tube - a bit like fitting a condom which is too small...
After an initially successful skirmish, we pushed out a few inches of sausage, delighted that it was actually working. Then the casings fought back and forced a retreat by splitting. We gathered the troops and tried to work out how we could reduce the size of the nozzle. A number of methods were used, from hacking up a nozzle from a new tube of mastic, dismantling a hosepipe end, routling through the tool box for circle joints and finally coming up with a temporary nozzle that allowed us to finish off the job. We now have several inches of variously-sized sausages; some bulging, some skinny, some suprisingly realistic.
It took us two hours, and we won't be able to try the fruits of our labour for another couple of days. I'll keep you posted...