We are a nation of hot dog consumers. I’m not talking a few weiners here and there. The average American eats 70 hotdogs a year. More than 730 Million packages of hot dogs were sold in retail stores in 2009, about 20 Billion weiners per year. This doesn’t even include the largest chain in the world, Wal-Mart. Forget the $1.6B in sales. Not quite the national debt in zeros, but close, and a whole lot healthier.
We’ve got kosher. Beef. Pork. Chicken. Vegetarian, and then the cultural layer. Polish. Italian. German. Swedish. Let us not forget the wonders of spices and sauces, herbs and powders, and then regional styles of hotdogs and sausages. There is the Red and White (Rochester, NY, known as “hots” for the petters and slaw), Slaw Dogs (the south), slathered with sweet, finely chopped slaw and can include chili), Sonoran (Arizona) which are bacon-wrapped, grilled and placed in steamed bolillo rolls and topped with beans, tomatoes and other other burrito-like toppings. The list goes on. Of all, the New Yorkers should be proud. The group is the largest single demographic ($108M worth) with Los Angelinos a distant second, at a mere $90M.
|The filling–meat, potatoes and spices
Why, I wonder, don’t we make these ourselves? And really, why am I writing about this on Workout Wednesday. Two reasons actually. The first is I’m not in the mood and reserve the right to veere off topic. Part and parcel to this is I figure if I ate healthier hotdogs (a type of sausage), I’d be able to workout less (see my logic? it’s wisted but works for me). Last but not least, my 5 year old daughter removed all doubt in my mind that the average Joe can make a sausage.
Start with your favorite sausage recipe. This can be anything, and great ones are free, on line. The Olson family favorite, Potato Sausage, is simple. Ground pork and beef, potato and onions, salt and pepper.
That’s it. Walla.
Over the years, I’ve veered from the amount my Swedish forefather’s prescribed, dramatically reducing the potatos. My version has a lot more meat (protein) and less carbs. Thus, it’s healthier and I can eat a lot more of it. I also add more salt a pepper than my relatives, which is nice, but not overwhelming. One last variation includes cooking the potatoes part-way before adding it to the mixture. This shaves off another half-hour from cook-time.
Once you have the recipe, you need to get the ingredients, which is mostly meat. This year, I truly went to the dark side. I purchased ground meat (oh, for shame, my mother will say when she reads this). Seriously folks. Cutting the pork (or buffalo, whatever carnivorous tendency of choice), takes a while, then it must be run through the grinder. With a mixed sausage, like the one I make, that’s 2 different run-throughs with meat, then onion, then potatoes. All in, 4 different grinding processes.
This year, Rog brought home ground meats, I chopped the onions fine, boiled the potatoes for 15 minutes. It literally saved me 2 hours.Then the fun part began!
|Hold on to the casing outside the funnel
Cue kids. Porsche has never had such a good time cooking, outside making cupcakes (or any dough-subject). First, one gets to mix the batch up. Squishy. Gooey. Awesome. Adding the spices is fun as well.Next is grabbing handfuls of insides to place in the grinder. Most kitchen mixers have an attachment for sausage making. If not, it’s a bit spendy (around $100) but these can be had on Craig’s list or other places used. They are worth the price, believe me. 10 packages of good hotdogs and you’ve paid for the thing.
Using the large attachment (funnel) and placing one of the blades within, the skein, or sausage casing, is placed on the outside. Casings can be found at any butcher or meat market, and if you don’t have one local, the supermarke can order some in. Be sure to identify how many pounds of sausage you intend to make, as the butcher will give the casings accordingly.
Last week, T-day, we ran out because the guy gave Rog enough “to feed a family.” By that definition, we would have been mutant dwarves. Three, 10 inch sausages were all it made. When I explained to Rog the math about casings, Rog realized he’s be weinerless for the evening, and thus, made the special trip for more.
Worried? Don’t be. Whip out that machine in your kitchen a put it to the test. Well, in fact, for thirty years, my family did it my hand, with a modified shoe-horn
(yes, I am serious), until I got smart, and realized KitchenAid makes an attachment for sausage-making.
As the meat mixture (or vegetarin for that matter) is put in the top, use the wooden handle (or stomper) to push in down through the opening. This visual is a bit, um, interesting, but that’s was sausages are all about. And at 5, it’s an innocent.
When stuffing the sausage, the most important part is to leave air pockets every few inches. This is done by gently squeezing the mixture down the casing. This must be done repeatedly, or the casing will burst in such a way as to make you wish you were wearing a full-face hockey mask (I’ll loan you one of Rog’s).
Once full, with air-pockets in the casing, stop the blender and tie off the casing. It usually takes me 3 knots to make sure it doesn’t come apart.
Cooking—btw–place the finished casings in cold water until ready to cook. Once ready, the sausages can be cooked a variety of ways. The potato sausage recipe calls for cooking in hot water. Not boiling, but simmering. About a half hour in, the casing will become hard and full. Taking a pin (or needle) prick holes in the sausage and the water/air will be released. This also reduces the risk of the casing bursting.
The cook-time is somewhat of an art form-or trial by error, depending on the meat to vegie ratio. Generally, it’s an hour. Take one out and test it for texture. Like vegetables, come in our family like the sausages over cooked, and some under (yick).
That’s it. About 2 hours start to finish, very fun, and a huge monetary savings. They also freeze well (raw or cooked).