Making up a recipe can be a frightening experience. You pull a few ingredients from the refrigerator, the pantry, even the garden, and you start turning an idea in your mind into a meal on your plate. Sometimes it works phenomenally well, sometimes it goes up in flames, but unless you’re a real pro at it, most of the time it turns out only OK.
Most of my experience making up recipes involves making dinner at home. It’s a fun way to experiment in the kitchen, but I don’t normally feel too much pressure because we’re only talking about one meal. If it goes horribly awry then you just wash it down with a glass of wine, and go to bed knowing that you won’t make the same mistake again.
Making up your own sausage recipe though, is a completely different experience. Talk about pressure… First, you’re dealing with pounds of pounds of meat, and having to throw that away if something goes wrong is enough to make any grown man cry. Second, sausage making is a time consuming activity and it’s just depressing to feel like I’ve spent hours working on something and have nothing to show for it. It’s a daunting task, so you can imagine my hesitance to give it a shot.
But after Sausage Fest 2007, I’ve made a few more batches and think I have a handle on the basics, so I wanted to branch out and try something of my own. The idea was to make a sausage that used Chinotto Italian soda. I first had Chinotto at Bar Toto, an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood and it was amazing. It’s both bitter and sweet, with herbal overtones and a mellow citrus aftertaste. It’s not your typical cloying sweet soda, and the fact that it’s made with sugar instead of corn syrup gives it a cleaner, fresher feel. Chinotto is apparently extremely common in Italy, which explains why the only place I’ve seen it in my neighborhood is at the local Italian market. Some people might think it’s anathema to cook with soda, much less add it to sausage. But I grew up in Texas where there’s a long tradition of cooking with soda (specifically Dr. Pepper) so I don’t have any hangups.
Anyway, here’s the recipe I came up with. I call this Version 1.0 because while the flavor of the sausage turned out exactly as I had hoped, the sausage doesn’t hold well together so I need to tweak it a bit to get the texture right. Anytime I try cooking it, the sausage just crumbles into little pieces. It tastes awesome though and goes great on top of pizza or roasted with brussels sprouts, but I probably need to tweak one or two things before it’s final.
3 pounds pork shoulder butt
1/2 pound pork back fat
1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
4 scallions finely minced (white parts only)
2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp. fresh grated orange zest.
4 oz. San Pelligrino Chinotto (about 2/3 of a small bottle)
medium hog casings (38mm, 1 1/2″)
- Cut the pork shoulder and back fat into small cubes
- Toss the cubes with the salt, minced scallions, grated ginger, and orange zest
- Place mixture in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to firm up
- Put mixture through the meat grinder at a large grind setting (I use the large grinder that comes with the KitchenAid grinder)
- Put the ground meat in a Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment. Turn on medium speed, and slowly pour in the 4 oz. of Chinotto. Mix for around 30-60 seconds until the meat is uniformly mixed
- Fry up a small piece of the meat to taste.
- If all looks good, stuff the meat into the casings.
- You can cook this right away, but I prefer to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors develop.
- Roast in the oven or over a low flame on your grill until an internal temperature of 150 degrees has been reached.
These directions assume you’ve made fresh sausage before, so if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to that process, I’d recommend picking up one of many books on the topic. And if you can’t find Chinotto in your local area, you can buy it from Amazon.com as well.