LABOR DAY SAUSAGES
As you probably know, we make our own sausages here at Featherblade, using the pork trim and shoulder cuts from the whole pigs that we get in. What you might not know is that when we opened, we had a few complaints about the consistency of our sausages, particularly our English style ones (as that is all we did at first). Customers were expecting a more emulsified and juicy sausage than we were producing in our first few weeks. And so they should, I am English and I promised English style sausages but they didn’t match up. The team and I worked on them in those first few weeks and tried to improve them but we’ll all admit it was a challenge.
First, pinhead rusk (yeast-free breadcrumbs) – a common ingredient in English sausages is not available here; we had first used matzoh meal (which was a mistake) but then switched to panko breadcrumbs. The rusk or crumb is important as it acts as a fat absorber, so as the sausage is cooking, the rendering fat doesn’t leave but instead binds to the crumb, staying inside, improving flavour, texture and juiciness.
Second, we also knew that ideally we’d have a mixing machine that can help bind the ingredients with the pork before grinding, but we just couldn’t afford one at the time. We were making and testing mixes almost every day, all while coping with those opening weeks, getting to know each other as a team and generally learning along the way.
We thought we had it once we had switched to the panko (the nearest rusk alternative available) and started grinding the mixes 3 times to further emulsify the texture. It was better.
But it still wasn’t perfect.
Can a sausage ever be perfect? Depends on who you’re talking too I suppose. One question I was often asked is do we have sausages like Richmond Sausages (a common supermarket brand in England) or similar. I knew that they weren’t very high quality but it’s what some people expect from an English banger so I did more research and managed to find the recipe online from an ex-employee. It wasn’t pretty, these things were less than 40% pork, a load of fat, rusk and water, blitzed together in a huge blender to form a paste – loaded with salt and flavorings to disguise the blandness of the fat and rusk.
I quickly discarded the idea of replicating that particular brand of sausage.
But the mixer/blender issue was still there, so I researched more and decided we had to invest in one eventually, so we did. More research about the mixing process ensued. I knew that temperature had a part to play but honestly never learned the science behind it, as we were always using cold meat from the fridge, grinding, mixing and linking pretty quickly. The meat we process never gets into the so-called danger zone temperatures (above 41F) where bacteria can develop so I thought all was well.
Turns out I was wrong.
Temperature is actually critical when trying to create the emulsified texture of a classic English sausage. Even if you use meat from the fridge the grinding and mixing process heats it up. That’s not what you want. What you want is a nirvana of flavours, fat, protein and liquid binding to produce a firm and juicy sausage and this does not happen if the sausage mix isn’t mixed enough, or ground correctly, and crucially all this occurring at the right temperature: cold AF.
So, armed with our shiny new mixer, the team and I started testing again and I think we have made huge strides. We now prepare the fat and meat the day before, mix thoroughly in our mixer using ice cubes and ice cold water as the binder. And immediately refrigerate after grinding so that it can stay cool. This new method has produced what we were looking for.
We are happy with the results, and hope you will be too.
We now have over 60 sausage recipes in our arsenal, many of which are not English style but instead more ‘American style’, which tend to be courser and bigger too, naturally. We’re not going to mess around with those but if you try one of our traditional English sausages I hope you will notice the difference, or at least like them more than you did before. I will also add that the sausages we make are Featherblade recipes, so unfortunately if you’re after a Richmond sausage it’s not going to be for you. We’d like to think they’re better, at least for your health.
Thank you and have a great weekend!