With strawberries in full force at the market recently, it is tough for anything else to get a second look. With good reason, as a great strawberry is difficult to beat, but my favorite early summer market target happens to be something that is rarely seen without the strawberry – rhubarb. After making mustard using the tart stalks recently, I picked up another bunch while in Wisconsin recently at the great Dane County Farmer’s Market and stuck, as I prefer to do, on the savory side.

One of my standby Spring dishes is a hot & sour pork made with rhubarb and I thought that the dish might adapt well into a sausage. With some minor modifications, I had a framework in my head of how I wanted the sausage to turn out. First off rhubarb would stud the sausages giving a little tartness. Next, a good bit of ginger and chilis would give sharpness. Then, green garlic, scallions and cilantro would add freshness. The sausages would be seasoned with both kosher salt and light soy sauce. The hot & sour pork includes a good bit of sweetness in the form of honey, but in lieu of sweetening the sausage, I thought that adding five spice and orange zest would bring out some sweetness without being cloying. Orange zest is one of the great cure-alls in our kitchen. With two little girls knocking out oranges regularly, the amazing zest is everywhere and instead of wasting it, the zest shows up in vinaigrettes, sauces, and now sausage.

After grinding the pork and fatback, then assembling the sausages, I brought out the stuffer. I had been struggling with my stuffer lately, so I ordered replacement parts. When they arrived, they ended up being from a different model which means that I could stuff the casings by hand (which I did a few weeks ago – not advisable) or not stuff the sausages. Since I was unable to stuff, I left the sausage mixture in the fridge for a few days for the flavors to harmonize a little.

Usually, I would obsess over stuffing the sausages, but I have found recently, that I have been appreciating the sausage patty. The sticking point was that I like patty uniformity both between patties and on the same patty. I have been rolling and cutting patties recently, but I found a better way using plastic wrap and the lid to a cookie jar currently fermenting vinegar.

After forming the patties, I grilled the patties along with giant portabella caps. While in Madison, there were a few booths at the market selling fresh coriander with roots. Oddly coriander roots are not readily available in Chicago regularly and this is my first chance to use them. I made an Asian inspired gremolata made from coriander root, green garlic,  fresno chili, and lime zest. The texture on the coriander root requires that you chop it finely, but the zip that it provided was really nice balance to the rich and slightly sweet sausage. The texture of gremolata isn’t a perfect match to sausage, but would be great with braised pork and the same flavors.

And since I am from Wisconsin, how could I serve a legitimate sausage without some sort of pickled cabbage. I had made a hand-cut slaw with red cabbage, fresh coriander, ginger, marigolds, violas, fish sauce, and rice wine vinegar. With new additions of edible flowers in my herb boxes, this was a good chance to use the flowers to not only bring flavor, but a beautiful contrast in color to the deep red cabbage.

As I suspected, these sausages were really unique and complex. The tartness and crunch of the rhubarb is a welcome addition and the combination of green flavors, five spice and ginger are strong throughout the sausage. With the extra patty, I switched out the gremolata, however delicious, with a dollop of sriracha. The additional heat was great against the sweetness and the smooth texture was a familiar accompaniment to the sausage.

Given grilling season, I am happy to have over a pound of extra sausages to freeze and bring out later in summer for a change of pace. By then my stuffer will be back in action, so not only with the flavors change it up, but the patty will be a nice change of pace over the link.

Pork & Rhubarb Sausage

  • 750 grams pork shoulder
  • 250 grams pork fatback
  • 1 cup rhubarb, diced
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1 stem of green garlic, diced
  • 2 fresno chilis, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 10 grams kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice
  • 1 orange, zest only

Step one: Partially freeze fatback and pork shoulder.

Step two: Grind fatback and pork shoulder through large dye. Making sure to keep everything cold.

Step three: Add all remaining ingredients and stir, using paddle attachment, to bind sausages. Chill overnight.

Step four: Stuff sausages or make into patties.

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