Last Sunday, I hosted a Sausage Making Workshop at my place. I had about 35 pounds of scrap pork meat and fat trimmings in the deep freeze from slaughter time in November. And I also had some beautiful beef butt roast that I had traded for (locally and compassionately raised and slaughtered). I needed a day at least, and some help, to turn all that into sausage. And so many people had expressed interest when I mentioned this that I wound up teaching the process and getting my help all at the same time.
We had 8 people present for most of the day, and then 2 repeaters and 2 others came back the next day for a finish up session. Together we produced kielbasa (beef, applewood smoked), poblano chile sausage (pork, fresh), hot Italian style sausage (pork, fresh) , Cajun Andouille (pork, smoked), and bratwurst (pork, fresh). I still have enough trimmed meat left over to make a batch of salami, which entails an entirely different process since it’s fermented and dried – it’s more akin to the Fiocco than the bratwurst. And during the final clean up I found a bowl with about 2 lbs of bratwurst filling ready to go….somehow it got stuck in the deep freeze during the day and we forgot about it! So more brats are in my future too.
The kitchen was filled with friendship and laughter all day long. Believe me, sausage making is rife with opportunities for off-color comments. Pagans are very happy to laugh about sex and food and anything else, so this occasion was a natural. With poses like this, how could anyone resist?
To add to the fun, a professional photographer was present to document the process. Jim Blanchard of Jim’s Images offered to attend with his cameras and strobes and all that cool stuff. He has most often done nature and scenic photography, but also seems to have a talent for food photography (see his work at jimsimages.com and at http://ingoodtaste.ws/ ). It was amazingly nonintrusive to have Jim working. I had feared that in my small kitchen, crowded with people and work tables and supplies, that we might knock over his strobes or get grease on his camera, but no such mishaps occurred – he really is a pro (and a terribly nice guy).
This post is not really about sausage making, although I’m putting some of Jim’s photos in here just because they are so cool. What I want to write about is why I do these things.
Sausage is slow food. From the time I killed the pig until we ate the first sausages was two months to the day (and the Andouille are still not finished drying, nor are all the brats in casings). Now, I wasn’t working on it the whole time, of course. Putting the meat in the deep freeze for a few weeks guarantees that any trichinae will be killed, so it’s the conservative thing to do (although trichinosis is almost unheard of in the US anymore). The prep for the workshop took about 10-15 hours over the week before we met. I had to inventory the meat available, and then choose recipes that could be done in one day (important to let the budding sausage makers taste the results!). Then, I inventoried the various supplies including spices and other add-ins . . . did the prep work, such as roasting and peeling the poblano peppers . . collected up the equipment and made sure it was in working order. . . typed up a handout with all the basic information so that my students would be empowered to make sausage when they left. . . moved the meat in and out of various freezers in order to thaw it just enough . . . and so forth. Most of this would need doing even if this was just a work day, not a teaching day. Over the two days of sausage making, I was active for about 20 hours. So I guess you could say this kind of cooking is work intensive.
But – and there are so many buts that make this kind of work addictive for me….
- I continue to use every bit of my pig that I can. Much of this meat and fat is not suitable for other uses, except maybe for stews. Sausage making is a wonderful way to honor lovely gentle Hambone by making sure none of her body goes to waste.
- Slow food made with care and only with real ingredients is in demand. I can’t sell my meat because I refuse to have it killed in an FDA slaughterhouse or processed in a state approved butchering facility. Despite the alleged role of government oversight in ensuring hygiene and good treatment for the animals, I view the places with deep suspicion. Too many episodes of food borne illness, and too many horror stories of how the poor animals are treated throughout their lives and especially at the time of their deaths, make me trust my farm and kitchen far more. After all, the first lesson of the day was how to wash hands – and then I watched to make sure it was done. I sanitized all the equipment. I made sure the meat stayed ice-cold all day.
No one has ever gotten sick from eating my food. So if I can’t sell it, what can I do? I can teach about it, and I can charge or barter for the teaching and for a share of the day’s output. I won’t get rich, but it helps, and I build community with these kinds of ties.
- This kind of shared work builds community.
Some of the sausage students were old friends, some were folks I’ve met recently, and some I’d never met before. Most of the students did not know each other well or at all. Slow food preparation includes a lot of time for talk among the cooks. We had to cut the meat for grinding, which when you’re talking 35 lbs of meat, takes a while in itself.
At the end of the day, we had a wonderful meal of bratwurst, red cabbage, sauerkraut, applesauce, potato salad, and sourdough bread (can you see my German ancestors lining up?). By the time everyone headed home, connections had been made, friendships initiated, resources shared, support offered in a dozen different ways.
- Showing people ways to create healthy, delicious food that does not put money in the pockets of the concentration camp meat industry is one way I can offer the love of the goddess to all the creatures of the world.
- Eating food created with love and laughter, that has grown on my land, that has been nurtured by my love and work, creates an energetic bond to my food and my home that sustains my body and feeds my soul. Every time I eat this wonderful food, I will think of the fun we had making it, I will think of my pig, I will be drawn into fantasies of next year’s gardens, and I will be grateful to the Earth my mother for her gracious bounty.
“All photos (c) Jim Blanchard firstname.lastname@example.org used with permission.”