Homemade is Better…Unless You’re Sauerkraut

It has come to the week where I attempt to make the most challenging food so far in this challenge.  I’m not saying that it won’t get beat in the many months to come with much more challenging dishes, but this week I made homemade sausages.  Now, this was very difficult for two very distinct reasons.  The first is that there are many time consuming steps to making sausage. The second, mostly just a problem for me and not necessarily for all sausage-makers, is that it is almost impossible to take a flattering picture of sausage while making it.

I decided to make enough sausage to eat for both Polish week and German week and so I borrowed a friend’s meat grinder and went to work.

There are many ways to make sausage and many variations, but I didn’t have time to smoke the sausage and so I went with fresh sausage made with pork and beef.  First things first, you should trim all the fat off of the meat you are using.  I then cut up the meat and fed it through the meat grinder in batches.

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Once the meat has gone through the grinder once, you should mix it with water to emulsify it and give it a paste-like consistency.  I also added salt, pepper, allspice, and garlic powder and mixed it all up.  Then I added ground fat back so that the sausage has that nice fatty flavor we all know and love.  Once that is ready, you need to prepare the casing.  Here is where things get interesting.  You need to rinse the casings completely and I must apologize for the next several photos.  I want to give an accurate representation of this whole process, but it was so difficult to get pictures that didn’t look dirty or suggestive, if you know what I mean.  So, again, I apologize, get you’re giggling and blushing out of the way now, and know that it was in pursuit of culinary mastery.

I put the casing in a colander and rinsed the outside, then opened up one end and let water run through the casings.

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Yes, they looked like super-sized condoms in person as well.  After making a complete mess with water flopping out the end, I had rinsed them thoroughly and it was time for stuffing. I attached the correct nozzle only the grinder and pulled the casing over it, leaving just a little hanging off the end so I could tie it in a knot.

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Once this was done, I turned on the grinder and slowly filled the casings with the meat so that it was full with no air bubbles, but not too stretched that the casings split open.

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If the casing does split open, the easiest thing to do is stop the grinder and tie off the casing right before the tear. then just cut it off and tie a new knot, then you can start over again on another ring. Once I had filled all the casings I put them in the fridge to be cooked the next day.

Other elements of my Polish dinner included homemade pierogies and a cucumber dill salad.  The pierogies didn’t seem that difficult until I finished cooking them and then I saw how lumpy they looked.  If I had taken a little more care to knead the dough a little longer and to stuff and fold them neater, they probably would have looked better.  But they tasted delicious and as one of mu friends said, “They looked delightfully homemade,” which was very diplomatic.

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The dough was pretty straight forward: flour and salt, then add boiling water and mix it up. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then add cold water and mix again and let sit.  You need to make sure after you let it sit that you then knead it to the right consistency.  As with all dough, if it is too moist, add more flour and if it is too dry add some more water or a touch of canola oil. Once it is nice and smooth, roll out your dough to a thickness of just a couple centimeters.  Since I don’t bake that often, I didn’t have a round biscuit cutter or anything like that, but luckily I had a glass with just about the right diameter.

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It worked decently well and was extremely resourceful of me, if I do say so myself.

For the pierogi filling, there are, again, a multitude of variations, but I went classic.  I made mashed potatoes but instead of adding milk, I added sour cream and butter, with salt and pepper, of course.

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The sour cream made the potatoes very smooth and creamy and I will definitely be keeping that little tip in mind for future mashed potatoes.

Then all you have to do is put a spoonful of potato on each dough disk and fold it over, making sure to pinch it closed all the way around.  You can use a touch of water to seal it easier.

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Then you drop them in boiling water until they float back up to the top (just a few minutes) and that’s how you know they are ready.  Make sure to drop them in one by one and don’t over crowd the pot or they won’t rise and then you won’t know when to fish them out.

I added one final step to the cooking process by cutting up an onion into thick strips and cooked them in butter.  Once the onions had softened a little, I added the pierogies and coated them with the butter and onions.

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Finally I made a cucumber salad. Dice the cucumber and then in a bowl, mix sour cream, chopped dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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Stir up the sauce and then toss with with cucumbers until they are coated thoroughly.  This dish added a little lighter element to a very heavy dinner.

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While I was making the pierogies and cucumbers, I had the sausage boiling in a large pot of water.  Just something simple this week, maybe I’ll be more adventurous for Germany.

Finally, I invited over a group of friends that included three Polish critiques to see how I did.  I served up all the food with three kinds of mustard, horseradish, and sauerkraut (not homemade, sorry).

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And for dessert, my friend made kolaczki which are delicious, traditional Polish cookies!

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I think the two flavors were apricot and blueberry?  But don’t quote me on it.  All I know is we pretty much polished off the whole plate in less than ten minutes. Yum!

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Next, I cooked the rest of the sausage as part of my German dinner.  Catch you next time!

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