Tuesday, 6 December 2005

A party game for Xmas - make sausages

It has been an ambition of very many years to make our own sausages; convenience food in the best sense of the word. Firstly it seemed to be a guaranteed barrel of laughs, with enough double entendre to last a lifetime. Secondly it meant knowing the content was 100% high quality home-reared meat. Thirdly, I think sausages are delicious, they are quick to cook and in hot demand for barbeques in summer and for dark winter evening suppers. And lastly, no matter how I plead with the local butcher when he butchers our pork for us, he produces perfectly nice sausages but they are never quite coarse enough for our taste and always with rusk added even tho I beg him not to (he is convinced that they would all go horribly wrong without rusk and my line that French sausages are 100% meat has little effect - British tradition must be best!). So, thanks to Natural Casing Company's hog casings (fat sausage size - you can keep your feeble chipolatas) that last for up to a year in the fridge, we got together with our neighbours for a trial run before deciding how many Berkshire weaners to buy next spring (that's to say, how many pounds of sausages could we face making next summer). First you rinse the casings (including running the water through them which is a hoot) and soak for about an hour to get rid of excess salt. We used some chunks of venison from the unlucky doe that had got herself tangled in our fence and had perished before we could untangle her, with some of our neighbour's pork - Berkshire they think or perhaps Saddleback - it was the odds and ends from the freezer, but the tell-tale black bristles were still intact. A little salt, black pepper, fresh sage and thyme were added, the zest of two lemons, a sploosh of Chablis (dregs), and a sprinkling of home-made granary breadcrumbs when the mincer needed a clean through (the sinews can get caught up in the blades) which might account for a maximum of 1% cereal and I guess a great deal less. After mincing the whole lot on the coarsest setting in a 40 year old Kenwood we fell about while rolling the 4-5 foot long casing onto the sausage making nozzle before turning on the machine and feeding in the first dollops of coarsely minced meat. Luckily we had remembered to tie a knot in the end of the casing so when the skin started to gently billow we knew that sausage was on its way. It was much, much easier to do than we had expected, even more hilarious in a teenage playing-with-condoms sort of way, and fabulously tasty. As the meat had all come out of the freezer we ate most of the sausages that evening with celeriac, carrot and swede mash, russian kale in mustard sauce and roast tatties (all from our Riverford box). 10/10. And definitely found a new party game.

Monday, 5 December 2005

To be taken daily - a little bit of happy art

I've just received my 2006 diary: the Redstone diary of Happiness edited by Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding. I've been chuckling and smiling my way through it, and admiring everything from the gorgeously perfect red paper pocket at the front, the rough mustard pages for me to scrawl on (carefully), onwards to the wonderful images. You get a topless young Elvis (from a more relaxed pre-six-pack era); gently erotic images from East and West; smiles and grins captured from across the world; absurdities like the visuals from a Chinese rusk packet from the fifties; Ganesh happily picking up sweetmeats with his trunk; some Manolo Blahnik and posh shopping bags for the happiness-is-a-designer-label lovers, and luscious Chagall (La Promenade shown here), McLean, Blake and Frost . It has cured me of Collins' diaries forever. My new diary ensures at least daily mini-happinesses for 2006.