Sausage making

saausages

Boy, do we love sausages and sausage.  I used to purchase sausage in the grocery, but began to notice that it was either too salty or too fatty.  Since living in China, where ground pork is used a lot I find that I am seeking more, unseasoned product, which is not readily available where I live.  The sausage in China does not have additives, just pork.  It is sold with little fat and then you can purchase fat separately to add to your liking, no salt.

Often I wanted to make dishes that didn’t have the usual sausages spices of sage, rosemary and thyme.  I wanted to use the Chinese spices, or Greek spices, or Italian.  Chinese five spice does little to mask the western spices added to store-bought sausage.

Now I go to a meat wholesaler and purchase various cuts of pork, in bulk, and make my own sausage.  Sometimes I purchase Boston butts, or fresh leg of pork, or picnic cuts.  These I bring home and grind in my commercial grinder.

The nice thing about the grinder that I purchased is it has a number of attachments including sausage stuffing equipment, coarse blade, fine blade for bockworst and such.  I can make links, chubs and more.

Recently, my husband and I made apple sausage to eat for breakfast.  It has fresh apple added to sage, mace, allspice, a small portion of salt and white pepper.  I freeze this in small batches which is just enough for us to each have a patty for breakfast.  I also use this to make cornbread and sausage stuffing for the turkey for the holidays.

One delightful recipe we found was for an Italian Cheese sausage which we made into links and use for pasta with tomatoes, garlic, onions and green olives.  A great quick meal.

At Christmas last year we made traditional potato sausage, stuffed in casings and rolled into coils to eat with lefse for a Swedish holiday dinner. I guess that is my Swedish half coming out.  I love it.  We made lots so it isn’t just a holiday meal.

Chinese dishes we make include dan dan mian and ma po dofu, two of our favorites and easy to make after I get home from work. These both require sausage that has been coarsely chopped which one of the discs makes beautifully.  In China they chop the pork with two cleavers to get the same effect.  I can do it in the grinder.

The coarse ground pork makes the most delicious chili, but it isn’t as good as the coarse ground elk for chili.  Of course, the elk is harder to come by.  Almost all the sausage we make is coarse, apple, chorizo, italian (both hot and mild), salami (both wine cured and Genoa), and the Chinese dishes.

I feel that the money we spent getting the grinder and the money we save buying the pork in bulk far outweighs the store bought sausage.  We bought the grinder at Grizzly Tool.  I get pork from our local wholesaler, Cash and Carry (Western Washington).  If you have a grinder, for your Kitchen Aid mixer or another brand, try a small batch and if you love it, invest in something more substantial.  I also recommend the book, Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas.  The copy I have is the fourth edition.  Good reference material.

Get adventuresome and try making some of your own sausage, like Apple Cinnamon Sausage or Chorizo or Sulzworst Einfach.  These you will find in the above mentioned book.  Very tasty.

If nothing else try something new when you cook.  You never know where it may lead.

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Corncakes for Breakfast

When I was growing up, Saturday mornings were always corncakes.  Mom would make a mixture which is similar to cornbread, but wetter and make cornmeal pancakes.  My grandmother lived in Santa Barbara, California.  She had a gigantic lemon tree in her backyard.  Every so often she would send us a box of fresh lemons.  She would include fresh figs from her fig tree to if they were in season.  The lemons were always a treat because, at the time, they were very expensive to buy in the local grocery.

We would eat corncakes a little larger than silver dollars with butter, white sugar sprinkled generously, and lemon juice squeezed from fresh halves of lemons over the top.  This was a real treat for us.  I don’t think we had ever tried maple syrup. It just wasn’t something in our cupboards.  I don’t know where we got this idea, but the butter, sugar and lemon must have been reminiscent of lemon curd to someone in the family, though my sister and I had never heard of or tasted it.

Cornbread had an important place in my family history.  My mom always said it was cornbread that won my father’s heart.  My father always said it was his Oldsmobile convertible that won my mom’s heart. Anyway cornbread appeared often in the menus of my childhood.  We ate cornbread with chili. We had cornbread slathered with sausage gravy for breakfast.  Sausage gravy that was dark and well browned during the frying to create a brown, not white and gluey, gravy with onions in it.

Corn pone was another manifestation of cornbread in my youth.  When there was a turkey carcass around, the bits and pieces were picked for Turkey Pone.  My husband and I still carry on this tradition and he is very disappointed if I make turkey soup from the carcass instead of pone.  Make a batch of corncake batter.  When it is ready to cook, pour a little into the pan and smear around until you have a thin corncake. Sprinkle liberally with the turkey pickings.  Cover with a little more corncake batter.  Cook, flip and serve with leftover turkey gravy and leftover cranberry sauce. Yum.

This morning I treated myself to the corncakes with lemon and sugar.  I remembered those Saturday mornings of my childhood when I could smell it cooking as I arose from bed.  I never tired of it.  The smell of fresh lemons is still a reminder of those days.  You should try it sometime.  Another variation is to use honey instead of white sugar, which is almost as good, but not the same.

Enjoy!

An Artist’s Eye

email Girl with the pearl earring with frame--Deon Matzen

Above  Study of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painted by Deon Matzen

What is an artist’s eye? Someone posed this question to me recently and though I have been thinking about it, I was flummoxed as to what it actually is. Having done some research I am now prepared to make some comments.

As many of you know, I am an artist.  I studied art in college and, off and on, over my lifetime I pursued an artist’s career.  I know that I am probably more susceptible to color than the average person.  I also know that I see more than most other folks.  In the past, I put this down to being more observant of my surroundings, but it isn’t just that.

My students often comment, “How did you see that?”  I will be helping them with a painting and point outa missed detail or a misconception on their parts and show them, either through a sketch or an explanation, what I see in the scene.  They cannot believe they have missed it as it becomes obvious when I point it out. Many have commented, after studying with me for some time, that they are now much more observant people.  They see the world differently.  Maybe the artist’s eye is something that can be trained.  I think this is true, though some of us are born with it.

Often times I tell my students to leave their brains out of seeing, that the mind and logic only serve to misrepresent the truth.  It is true.  Our preconceived ideas of what objects should look like ruins our ability to really understand what they look like. If I ask you to draw a horse from memory, using your brain and memory, and then ask you to draw a horse from a photo or real life, which is the better example of a horse?  The one you imagine or the one you REALLY looked at and drew?

In beginning drawing classes my students use large drawing tablets (18 x 24”) to draw large works.  Often times I ask them to draw objects bigger than life.  Sometimes I ask them to draw with their non-dominate hand to force eye-to-hand coordination to come into play.  They concentrate so hard on making the hand work that they cannot use preconceived impressions of the object (the mind and memory) to draw the object; they must focus on the object and the movement of the hand.  Most students will complete a more accurate rendering of the subject than when left to draw in the usual manner.

Other times I will have the students cover their work while they are drawing, not allowing them to see what is happening on the page but making the hand follow the eye as it moves around an object.  Mostly this results in a much better drawing than if I just let them draw while looking at the page.  If left to their own devices, many students will spend more time looking at the page, trusting memory—the weak link—while seldom looking at the object and thus misremembering it. I have watched the new artist work. Many times, a student will spend about ninety percent of the drawing time looking at the drawing and not the object.  Those who spend most of their time looking at the object while continuing to move their pencils will become the better artists.  It is a hard habit to break, watching you hand draw.  After many, many years of being an artist, when I draw and when I paint, I spend most of my time looking at the object(s) and not looking at my work, mostly  using my peripheral vision to guide my progress.

Do I look at the world differently, being an artist?  I guess I do.  I see the details.  I notice the colors and how they relate to one another.  I understand how bright light can cause my pupils to constrict, causing shadows to lose details. Lightness and darkness (value) are important to me and I am constantly aware of how shadows play out in a scene.  How dark or light are they?  That tells me how dull or bright the daylight is.  I am constantly aware of this.  Maybe the average person is not.  I see textures in the scene and am aware of them, the smoothness of water and how reflections waver or not, the patterns made by the leaves of various species of flora, the forms and shapes of rocks and how they differ from one another.

While researching the subject, I came across a good article by By Sadie F. Dingfelder. Monitor Staff.,2010, ,Vol 41, No. 2, Print version: page 40. (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/02/artists.aspx) In this article, they seem to come the closest I can imagine to describe “the artist’s eye.”  For some of us this is an instinctual thing, something we have always had, something that has allowed us to see the world more clearly and in greater detail.  For others, my students, it is something I have trained them to do.  Some of the unsuccessful are frustrated about learning something that seems too basic and simple to them, learning to see. I tell my students that all I am teaching them is to see and eye-to-hand coordination.  They laugh at this, but, really, it is as basic as that.  But remember to leave the brain out of it.