Adventures in Sausage-making: Merguez

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Thanks to my new KitchenAid grinder and stuffer attachment, I have begun exploring the world of Charcuterie. Inspired by the Mediterranean thanksgiving meal this past year (see my previous post), I started with some Merguez, a spicy Moroccan lamb sausage. The recipe I used was a variation on Brian Polcyn’s and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe in “Charcuterie: The Craft Of Salting, Smoking, And Curing” (W.W. Norton, 2005). I liked the idea of the roasted red peppers for additional sweetness and the red wine for additional moisture and flavor.

Recipe:
6 lb. lamb
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper, diced
3 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
1 1/2 Tablespoon Ground Fennel Seeds
3 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
3 Teaspoons Ground Coriander Seed
3 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine, chilled
1/4 cup ice water

Living in a rural, small city, my challenge is always finding the right ingredients. Even with Wegmans only a mile away, local shelves are often lacking in anything other than the run of the mill. This time my challenge was pork fat. Who would have thought that something as common as fatback would be so difficult to find? It seems that unless you live in the South or have a real butcher, fatback is unobtainable. Luckily, I bought a rather fatty piece of lamb: a boneless leg. Many recipes call for lamb fat anyway and it actually seems more appropriate. It also sealed the decision on adding the roasted red peppers and wine for moisture. Purchasing harissa was also an issue. Many recipes rely on harissa for the spice and heat. In the Polcyn/Ruhlman recipe, all the ingredients for harissa are included in the base recipe. I probably would have made the harissa from scratch anyway.

The grinding and mixing went well. I kept the meat and grinder cold, as recommended. I did add some additional red peppers at the end of the mixing as the sausage lacked some heat.

Traditionally, Marguez is stuffed in lamb casings. Lamb casings are thinner and more along the line of breakfast sausages. I suspect that the reliance on lamb casing has more that do with regional aversion to pork than the preference for thin sausages. Pig casings were easier to obtain locally and I prefer the larger links.

The stuffing was a little bit of a challenge. It was difficult to keep air out of the casings. When I pushed the mixture all the way down to the auger and then pushed in more mixture, I added air to the mix and thus into the casing. I found it advantageous to use shorter lengths in order to easily burp them. When twisting them into links, I discovered that I had overstuffed some of the casings. I lost three links to burst casings. Next time I will keep them a little thinner.

On a humorous note, after soaking the casings I only rinsed half of them inside and out. The rest I left in a bowl by the sink. I was not sure I would need all of them. I could always rinse any additional lengths that I needed. As I was stuffing the rinsed casings, I turned off the KitchenAid mixer and heard some strange noises near the sink. I turned around to see one of our cats chowing down on the casings. She had devoured all but one long one. Luckily, that remaining casing was all I needed for this batch.

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