Green tomatoes and country ham skin. These are things most people throw away. Hell, a few years ago, I would have thrown them away. My wife would get great pleasure from throwing these types of things in the trash, but I love taking these types of things, an unripe vegetable and the typically inedible part of a cured meat, and turning them into something delicious – together. It makes me feel creative, responsible, and utilitarian. Using the ends and fallen fruit and veg can be done a number of ways, but among my favorite is as a component of the mighty sausage.
After a glut of sausage making in late Spring, the plastic gears on my 6 year old sausage stuffer finally went kaput. After laborious searches for replacement parts, which ultimately were fruitless, I bought a new stuffer. Almost immediately after it arrived, I broke it out to incorporate these two trash foods, along with a pork sirloin roast, taken from just North of the ham, that had been “frozen in carbonite” in our freezer for upwards of the length of human gestation.
In their original states, the tomato and country ham skin would make terrible sausages. The green tomatoes would add far too much liquid to the sausage causing the forcemeat to steam in its casing (and as a result explode on the grill) and the ham skin, after aging for over 2 years, would be far too dry to make for a pleasant texture. It is like the Three Bears – one too wet and the other too dry. Luckily, I had worked with both green tomatoes and pork skin recently to make them texturally similar.
Starting with the green tomatoes, based on a play on fried green tomatoes, I had oven-dried the tart, unripe tomatoes. Taking the liquid out of the tomatoes intensifies the flavors, but tames the tartness. As part of the drying, the flesh became more dense with the skin softening. I treated the ham skin in the same way as when I prepared pork skin noodles, basically confiting them until I could push my thumb through the skin. Once completely softened, the smell of country ham was wild through the kitchen – smoke, salt, pork, and sweet brown sugar. The combination of the aromas green tomaisins and the country ham was almost too much to bear.
After dicing the tomatoes, I ran the sirloin, meat and fat, separated and chilled to being nearly frozen, and skin through my meat grinder. Then chilled the mixture. Next I added the tomato and seasoning and whipped the forcemeat. To season the sausages, I stuck in the American South using some flavors that reminded me of the ham and a green tomato relish that I love, piccalilli – salt, brown sugar, black and red pepper, and mustard seeds. Finally after tasting and re-seasoning, I broke out the new stuffer and cased the sausages.
The sausages were distinctively hammy. Not in the honey-cured, church basement-ham sandwich kind of way, but in the slicing a piece off of country ham and letting the funkiness take over the room kind of way. I should have known, since the skin is in direct contact with the cure and the smoke, that the ham flavors would be strong. The skin added textural richness that was wonderfully cut by tomato. My expectations were that the sweet-tart green tomatoes would carry the flavors, but they were definitely in the background to the pure aged ham funkiness. Without them, however, the sausages would likely have been one-note.
It is not as if a ham-flavored sausage with burst of sweet-tart flavors could ever be considered a bad thing – just a surprise. The decidedly savory sausage comprised of ingredients typically trash-bound ended up being one of the more unique sausages I have tasted and one that needs to take a turn in our fall rotation. If I am lucky enough to get more green tomatoes, because you know that ham skin in not in short supply, there will boat loads of treasure made from the trash.
Ham and Green Tomato Sausages
- 660 grams lean fresh ham
- 220 grams fat from a fresh ham
- 120 grams country ham skin
- 4 medium green tomatoes
- 28 grams salt
- 4 grams brown sugar
- 2 grams black pepper
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
Step one: Boil or confit country ham skin. Roughly chop.
Step two: Slice green tomatoes and dry in a low oven over a few hours. Dice.
Step three: Grind fresh ham and skin through large die of meat grinder paying special attention to keeping everything cold.
Step four: Add remaining ingredients and, with a paddle attachment, whip forcemeat until bound.
Step five: First test bind by placing small amount of forcemeat on palm and inverting hand. If it sticks, it is bound. If not, keep whipping. Once it sticks, take that meat and cook it, taste it, and adjust seasonings.
Step six: Case the sausages, chill the sausages, eat the sausages.