Fun with sausages

Some months ago a friend mooted the idea of a “cooking circle” – a bit like a sewing circle, but instead of stitch and bitch we’d try making food we’d not make on our own.  After a few phone calls we were ready for our first get together to see what everyone wanted to do and how it could work, and a date and venue was decided for the first cook-off in Narbonne, to make Bouillabaisse.  Unfortunately I was struck down with flu, so couldn’t go, but by all accounts (and photographs) everyone had great fun and delicious food.

This week was the second get together, under the banner of charcuterie and nothing was stopping me this time!!  Seven of us descended on La Petite Pepiniere in Caunes Minervois, the home of my friends who hosted the afternoon.  The plan of action had been prepared in advance:  Pork Rillettes, Terrine de Campagne (pork and liver pate), sausages, garlic mashed potatoes, onion gravy, salad and a soufflé to finish.  The recipes for rillettes and the terrine came from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, the sausage recipe from Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie, and the soufflé recipe from Keith Floyd’s Floyd on France.

The meat for the pate had been put to marinate earlier in the day with the requisite spices and some alcohol, and the rillettes were cooking away in the oven when we arrived.  My butcher had kindly sold me some sausage casings, and I had managed to get the sausage stuffing tubes for my KA food mixer, so there was nothing holding us back!!  We started with the terrine, as that would have to be boiled in the sterilizer for two hours.  The butcher had minced the meat, so it meant seasoning and adding the other ingredients, and then a little bit was cooked and tasted – very important!  More seasoning, another bit cooked and this time the taste was just perfect, so the mix went into the various kilner jars everyone had brought along.  Once the rims were cleaned, the rubber rings on, the jars snapped shut, they were stacked in the sterilizer, covered with water and brought to the boil, and then kept at a boil for two hours.

Next came the rillettes:  the limpid fat (to quote E.D.) was strained, and the meat shredded with the help of forks and, once the consistency was deemed right, the mix was put into jars, and the remaining fat strained over.  Not for the faint hearted who should avoid cholesterol!

For the sausages the meat and fat were cut into strips and ground using the mincer attachment.  The meat was given a good mix to distribute the fat evenly, and then we split it into one-third and two-thirds.  The two-thirds were turned into a herbed sausage, with sage, thyme, a little savory and parsley.  The other third was seasoned with finely chopped garlic chives, ground chilli pepper, Sichuan pepper, five spice, soya sauce, sesame oil and salt and pepper.  And then came the fun of getting the mixture in the casing!  Open one end and run some water through, was what the butcher had said.  Not too difficult, but then the casing had to be slipped on to the tube – to much hilarity of course!  And you try to tie a knot into it!  Anyhow, as you can see from the picture, the sausages turned out great, and I would certainly make them again!  There was a little of the “spicy” mix left once the casing was used up, so we turned that into meatballs.  Once done all the sausages went into the fridge to rest and firm up, and we took a little break and a well deserved glass of wine!  Hands had kept busy:  peeling potatoes and garlic cloves for the garlic mash (12 spuds and 12 cloves of garlic), preparing the salad for our first course, cooking the base for the soufflé and getting the BBQ ready for the sausages.

The salad was accompanied by the rillettes, which tasted sublime and had a far better texture than anything shop-bought – perfect with the salad!

The garlic mash was made with olive oil instead of butter and seasoned with parsley, salt and pepper.  A divine addition to the succulent pork sausages!  Everyone had brought their favourite chutney to go with the sausages, and I usually eat sausages as an excuse for having mustard, but I found their flavour needed no additions.  There were however some fantastic pickles and chutneys to be tasted on their own!

The orange soufflés turned out light as a feather and oh so tasty – a fantastic end to a great afternoon/evening.

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