I learned a few things while making bratwurst this week for Charcutepalooza - like how every time you turn on the meat grinder, children march into your kitchen, look at you with mad scrunched up faces and accuse you of ruining their Bullwinkle viewing time with your loud, banging machine.
And how the kitchen counters fill up with a clutter of dirty, raw meat-caked dishes and pots, until the dish washing takes almost as long as the sausage-making itself. And how every time you finish, no matter how well you clean, there's a tiny voice in your head that wonders if every time a kid touches the counter, they aren't really dragging their little fingers through a patch of lingering salmonella and we'll be spending the night in the ER. There's a sense with sausage-making that it could all go well, or just very very badly.
There's also the smell of the hog casings, if your nose gets a little too close. The fact that you have to bribe a member of your family to stand there pushing meat through a pig intestine - fun - so you can actually create something that resembles a sausage.
And there's the little unexpected problems, like how people - small whiny people - might clamor for pancakes in the middle of your sausage-making and you have to stop and make a whole other meal in the middle of your raw meat explosion. (Thanks Jennie Perillo, for your "instant" home-made pancake mix. You saved me.) Or how you're chugging right along stuffing your sausages, you're in the flow with your unwilling partner, child or neighbor, the stuffer is cranking, sausages look imminent, and the hog casing breaks and meat is flying through the air, scaring the cats and freaking out the lingering vegetarian neighbor, who you didn't think was coming over, but did, and is now more resolute than ever about not eating meat. Yes, that happened.
Sausage-making always feels epic to me. No matter how many times I do it, it always ends up feeling like an episode of "I Love Lucy". But weirdly, I like it a lot. The craziness and chaos and unpredicability are what I love about the kitchen and cooking. You just never know what might happen.
Like the platter above. After making the bratwurst from Michael Ruhlman's book, the rest is all down hill. There's Kate in the Kitchen's Home-made Garlic Mustard, pickled asparagus with recipe by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and pickled carrots made with basically the same recipe, only with 1/3 cup of Florida Gallberry Honey. (Big thanks to my good friend Merry Jennifer for the honey). And the Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad from Merrill, which moves brussel sprouts out of the Fall and right into the Summer. I used her recipe almost exactly, except I subbed out the cheese and added bacon.
What I like about this platter is that it's simple, because each of the individual components is made by hand or with some kind of love and attention - because the ingredients themselves are fresh and taste good - the whole thing is pretty simple and spectacular all at once. If you make everything ahead, leisurely over a couple afternoons, you're just plating right before lunch. But if you're a nincompoop like me, you just do everything in one time-intensive, crazy, mad-dash across the kitchen. And it's still worth it.
Here are the Best of the Blogs for the Stuffing Challenge:
1. The Messy Epicure
Asia Dogs with Mango Slaw and Hoisin Mustard
2. The Butcher's Apprentice
Merguez, Tabouleh, grilled peppers and Mom's bread
3. Maurine's Kitchen Thoughts
Italian Sausage with Duck & Pancetta (and a tribute to mom)
4. Hounds In The Kitchen
Mint Lamb Sausage
5. Lighter & Local
Spicy Garlic-Ginger Chicken Sausage
6. Eat Drink man Woman Dogs Cat
The spectacular fail - duck sausage
7. Sir Food Alot
You Must Respect the Process (with gladiator pics)
8. A Cook Blog
A Tale of Two Sausages
9. Au Jardin Potager
My 10 year Old Wurstmeister
10. Edamame Eats
Kofta-esque Bison Sausage
And the Best of the Stuffing Photos:
1. Smoke Cure Pickle Brew
2. David Dadekian
3. Taste Food Blog
4. Buttermilk Party Cake
5. Foodie Lawyer