It’s been over eight years since George and I made Hungarian sausage with Mary Jo & Mike Fodor. It seemed time to try it again, so yesterday we made around 50 lbs.; a lot of work, but worth it.
In the ‘old days,’ Mary would buy 120 lbs. of pork butts and we’d show up at her house at 8AM, spend four hours cutting the bones out, trimming some of the fat, and double-grinding the meat. Then we’d pour all of the meat out onto the table, add the seasonings (including paprika, garlic, salt, pepper & caraway seed) and mix the meat. Then after cleaning and prepping the casings (that’s pig and sheep intestines, for those unaware of what ‘casings’ are), we’d stuff all of the sausage into the casings, weigh and package and figure out how much our totals were. The detail-orientedness of the task means no drinking of alcohol, which makes for a decidedly somber experience.
Fortunately, the good people at The Sausage Shoppe (thanks, Norm!) agreed to double-grind the meat for us, which saved us so much time (and so much cleaning of Kitchen Aids). we were able to season and mix the meat, stuff it, weigh and total the amounts within five hours, which is a record.
I love that the sausage stuffer is an antique that our brother-in-law found in a shop somewhere… made by the Enterprise Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia, this stuffer is close to 100 years old. The times we’ve made sausage, we’ve always used this stuffer. I can’t imagine ever making sausage with a $2500 stainless-steel motorized stuffer. We have to use the Enterprise stuffer, where the only piece on it that isn’t cast-iron is the aluminum stuffing tube.
It’s a lot of work to make 50 lbs. of sausage, but it pales when I consider the company. We talked and laughed, took breaks to play with the kids, fried up a sample here and there, drank a few beers, and had a good time. I wonder if it was like this fifty or a hundred years ago when farming communities would get together to preserve large quantities of foods.
We have such a disconnect from our food today; most of what we buy comes from the grocery store, not a small specialty proprietor (like the Sausage Shoppe) or directly from a farmer or grower. When you spend hours preparing your very own sausage, don’t you appreciate the flavor and texture more than you do the Hillshire Farms links that you can pick up in the refrigerated Meat section at Cub? Don’t your own tomatoes from the garden taste sweeter than the ‘vine ripened’ ones on sale at the Giant Eagle?
George and I spent hours peeling and cutting pears in order to make pear butter and pear sauce. I swear it’s the best thing on peanut butter sandwiches and the sauce is so good on ice cream… are my taste buds affected proportionately to the amount of work that I put into preparation?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll enjoy this sausage every time we have it, and when next March rolls around, I’ll probably call Mary Jo to see if we can set aside a day to do it all over again.
As long as we don’t have to grind.