Charcuterie can be many things. To some it is only the meat you can never pronounce – likely something Italian or French, but keep in mind the last decade of emerging trendiness in charcuterie obscures the reality of charcuterie existing in everyday life for centuries in plain sight. Hot dogs, ham, and bacon are all good examples. Guanciale is fancy. Jowl Bacon is not. Jamon Iberico is fancy. Country ham is not. Salchichón is fancy. Summer sausage is not.
Keeping true to the theme of cooking what I like to eat best, making my own summer sausage is akin to going back to charcuterie square one. Summer sausage is a staple at parties in Wisconsin. It is also a staple at solo lunches, camping trips and fishing outings. Just assume that if you end up eating in Wisconsin, summer sausage would be involved or, at very least, very available.
After a bit of a discovery phase, I put together the ingredients for making the summer sausage. In the middle of grinding the beef, my grinder went on the fritz (if any local readers have a grinder they don’t use, please let me know). This left me chopping back fat for awhile. Since this is a beef sausage, I thought that mixing in some chopped/diced cured marrow would be a good addition, so I switched some in for pork backfat.
Once I mixed the remaining ingredients in, I let the mixture sit to combine flavors and to start a quick fermentation phase. Then I stuffed the sausage into casings and let them dry for a day so that smoke would absorb better.
With a brisket and some other items already on the smoker, I made room for the sausages. After an hour and change, they had absorbed a good amount of smoke and were up to temperature. I moved the sausages quickly to an ice bath and then a cooling rack at room temperature for the rest of the day.
After chilling the sausages, I sliced through. Knowing traditional summer sausage were in much wider casings, I was curious how these would compare. The fat could have been diced more thinly. The fat is delicious, but the narrow sausages with larger chunks of fat threw me a little. The seasoning tasted a little less fabricated and far less even than the more commercial versions I have tasted, which is not surprising since I used real garlic, not garlic powder, and little else beside salt and coriander with little mustard seeds for texture. The beef was more forward which could be a result of the backing off on spices or because I added the beef marrow in place of the pork fat. The smoke fully permeated the sausages.
After sampling the summer sausage by itself, I went even further back with a little Merkt’s Port Wine and a great loaf of miche from Rocket Baby in Milwaukee. A great afternoon snack, Wisconsin-style. Delicious food that eats much like your favorite old chair sits. Comfortable and evocative of small moments in the past. Except the miche. We never had bread that great.
Started by Ruhlman and Polcyn, but went askew with many adjustments
- 1 lbs lean beef, ground
- 10 g Kosher salt
- 10 g Dextrose
- 2 g Cure #1
- 1 tablespoon ramp kraut juice
- 5 g mustard seed
- 1/4 tsp. coriander, ground
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon non-fat milk powder
- 4 oz. pork fat, diced (I subbed in 1 oz. of cured beef marrow for fat – use it if you’ve got it)
Step one: Combine the beef, pork, salt, dextrose, cure, mustard, coriander, garlic, milk powder and kraut juice and mix well
Step two: Fold in pork fat.
Step three: Press sausage mixture into a glass bowl and let sit overnight.
Step four: Cook a small bit of sausage, taste and reseason.
Step five: Stuff into casings and let sit uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.
Step six: Hot smoke to 150 degrees F.
Step seven: Remove immediately and plunge into an ice bath.
Step eight: Remove from ice bath and let come to room temp. Then wrap and chill.