Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Six months through this Charcutepalooza carnival the activity of amusement is sausage stuffing. And what an amusing activity it is, to take scraps and pieces of meat and fat, handle them just so, and transform them into a deeply satisfying oblong object of wonder.

The Charcutepalooza challenge was to make either Italian Sausages or some variety of Poultry Sausage. For months I’ve been pestering Brian to make to make some Chicken with Cherries and Sage Sausage, so I decided to go the poultry route, and make that sausage myself. But Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s suggestion of Duck Sausage with Prunes got into my brain and wouldn’t get out, so they became Duck, Cherry and Marsala Sausage instead.

But before we get to the sausages, I’m going to sidetrack a bit. Over the past six months one of the most difficult aspects of Charcutepalooza for me has been the keeping it to humanely raised meats rule. I’d thought that would be easy, since we’re members of a food buyer’s club that purchased from an Amish farmer who practices humane animal treatment and is also a CARE (Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-farming) farmer. But the timing isn’t always good, and the different kinds of meat that I’ve needed for the various tasks haven’t always been available, so I’ve had to find other sources.  Both D’Artagnan and Whole Foods are known for their animal treatment policies, but they are pricey, and recessions aren’t easy on headhunters and artists. After doing a little research, I was surprised to learn, though, that Safeway has a similar policy. That’s probably why their meat is so good.  Wegmans carries D’Artignan, and their website has a chart detailing the practices of their various suppliers. Other grocery stores don’t seem to have much concern with it; I couldn’t find any animal treatment statements on the Giant, Shopper’s, or Trader Joe’s sites, and Harris Teeter as well as Costco have  “we’re working on it” statements. We have two Asian Markets nearby, Lotte and Grand Mart. Neither advertises an animal treatment policy, though I was pleased to find that Grand Mart carries duck from Maple Leaf Farms, which has 39 pages of duck-well-being guidelines.
Now there may be those who mistrust large grocery chains, who would argue that these policy statements are misleading hogwash, and to buy your meat from the farmer himself.  But I figure that a guy selling meat at the farmer’s market can just as easily look you in the eye and lie about his product as a big grocery store can. Not too long ago I had a lady selling vegetables at our local farmers market tell me that her asparagus was “just picked this morning” as she tried to shield a Dole produce tag from my view. Just picked up from Costco, probably.
I’m not interested in preaching or converting anyone to the Humane Only Camp, but I do think we should think about these things and try to live by The Golden Rule, even when it comes to animals. The research into all of these store policies was interesting, and I suspect that those who have made it their goal to preach and convert must have had some influence and impact on companies and farmers who have decided that it is wise, at least economically, to join the Humane Only Camp. Good job, you guys.

Back to the sausages. All that said, I have to admit that I don’t know if the hogs that gave me my sausage casings were treated humanely. I’ve noticed that Wegmans does carry sausage casings occasionally, but Brian got our hog casings some time ago at a Hispanic butcher down in Manassas. To hear him tell it, it ain’t easy, but it is funny, trying to describe hog casings, let alone humane treatment of animals, when the butcher and the customer speak two different languages!

So here’s how to make those sausages:


½ c dried cherries
½ c Marsala
¼ c Triple Sec
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 ¼ lbs duck meat, breast and leg meat, from a 5 lb. duck
1 lb chicken thigh meat, from 4 chicken thighs
8 oz pork backfat
½ c olive oil that has been frozen solid
¾ tsp Spice Parisienne*
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1 T chopped fresh marjoram
1-2 T Kosher salt
white and black pepper, about ½ tsp each
Sausage casings

*A spice mix used in pate, made with minced bay leaves, white & brown pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, mace, cloves, sage, marjoram and rosemary

Rinse and soak about 10 feet of sausage casings in tepid water for at least 4 hours or overnight. After casings have soaked for about an hour, hold them to the tap and run water through them.

Soak the cherries in Marsala and Triple Sec while you’re preparing the meat.

Make sure that there are no tendons left on the meat, and cut it into 1x2” pieces. Toss with spices, herbs, orange zest, 1 T salt and peppers. Chill in refrigerator or  freezer, but don’t let it freeze through.

Chop backfat into 1x2” pieces, and chill as well.

Just before grinding sausage, chop olive oil into 1-2” pieces.

Set the bowl you’ll be grinding the meat into in a larger bowl filled with ice.

Grind in meat grinder twice, using the large die first and the fine die second. On the first pass, when you feed the meat into the grinder, add two pieces of meat, then one piece of fat or frozen olive oil. Using both die makes the process easier, but handle gently between grindings.

Drain liquid from cherries and reserve liquid. Chop cherries coarsely.

Add reserved liquid and orange juice to the ground meat and fat. Beat with mixer paddle until liquid is incorporated and continue to beat until it sounds “sticky”. Mix in cherries.

Fry up a bit to test the seasonings, and adjust as needed.

Stuff sausage into casings using sausage stuffer, and twist off into 6” links.


Brian is usually the one in charge of making and stuffing the sausage around here. This time he guided me through the process. These are his tips:

1. When soaking the casing, rinse the inside early on. Otherwise the salt it is preserved in will make it difficult to thread onto the sausage stuffer.

2. Cut the meat and fat into long pieces that go easily into the grinder, in our case 1x2”

3. Keep it cold, but don’t freeze it.

4. When you’re adding meat and fat to the grinder, add two pieces of meat then one piece of fat

5. Run the meat and fat through the large die first and then through the smaller die. Don’t mix or stir it between grindings.

6. Keep the sink clean and clear as you work.

7. Wipe the counter down before you start stuffing the sausage, but just use water, no soap or chemicals.

8. Clamp the sausage stuffer down tightly.

9. When you squeeze and twist the sausage into links, twist them clockwise, then counterclockwise. When you go to snip them apart, make sure that there is plenty of twisted casing on either side of your knife or scissors.

Next up: how we served it

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