Lorne Sausage

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite breakfast foods: Lorne sausage, also known as square sausage or sliced sausage. Lorne sausage is a Scottish food and can be found everywhere in Scotland. It is an uncased sausage made of a mixture of beef and pork, bolstered with rusk, and seasoned with coriander and nutmeg.  The meat is formed into loaves and then sliced.

When I lived in Scotland, I most often bought rolls filled with slices of square sausage from the café next to the office I worked at in Glasgow (sometimes they would run out of rolls and serve it on baguette), or sometimes I would buy a Styrofoam tray of fry-up meats–slices of Lorne sausage, some black pudding, and some fruit pudding–from the supermarket and have that on a weekend morning with some fried eggs and maybe a couple of slices of bacon, some sautéed mushrooms, and fried tomato.  For all of its ubiquity there, I’ve never seen this type of sausage outside of Scotland.

Even though I can’t buy Lorne sausage here, it’s really one of the easiest sausages to make, and I whipped up a batch this weekend. I bought whole cuts of meat and ground them myself, but you can just as easily make this with pre-ground meat as long as it is fatty enough.  There do seem to be plenty of variations on the recipe, though I made what seems to be a fairly basic one.  I found mention that some versions of Lorne sausage use “a couple of fingers” of whisky as an aspect of the seasoning, and while I’m sure that this would be delicious, it’s a little more refined than I would generally like for a breakfast food.  I used breadcrumbs for this recipe, but I’ve seen some recipes calling for oats instead and I would like to try that the next time I make a batch of sausage.

This is a nice, slightly sweet, robustly-flavoured sausage that is great for starting off the day.  For me, it has more than a touch of nostalgic appeal as well: there are some things like a certain kind of light on an otherwise damp and grey day, the complex aromatics of a glass of whisky, and yes, the taste of coriander and nutmeg, that really make me miss the couple of years I spent in Scotland and the friends I made there.

Lorne Sausage
Makes about two loaf tins worth of sausage

Ingredients:
1 kg not overly lean beef, cubed
1 kg pork shoulder butt, deboned
250g pork back fat, cubed
150g finely ground bread crumbs

1 tsp onion powder
3 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
3 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg

1/2 cup chilled water

Grind the meat through the large die on your grinder. Add the bread crumbs, the seasoning, and the water and mix until everything is well combined and sticky. Add more water if necessary. Fry up a little bit of the mixture and check for seasoning. Correct if necessary. Press the mixture into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, taking care to not have any air bubbles in the sausage, then put the loaf pan in the freezer for an hour or two. When the sausage has frozen slightly, remove it from the freezer and slice it. Keep what you’re planning on cooking in the near future in the fridge, the rest can be frozen, ideally with pieces of parchment paper between the slices for easy thawing and frying.

Fry the slices and serve them on rolls with a squirt of brown sauce or ketchup.

Smoke-roasted pork tacos


I love smoked foods. There are few things that can’t be made better with the addition of smoke. The problem is that it’s not viable for us to have a smoker right now–we don’t have enough storage space outside so we’d have to worry about junkies wandering off with it–so I mainly daydream about when we will be able to have one so I can make my own bacon, and can smoke ribs and sausages and fish and whatever else I feel like.

Or at least I daydreamed about that until I figured out that it’s actually pretty easy to smoke food on a barbecue.  All you need is woodchips and a grill large enough to be able to cook your food with indirect heat, and since we have literally the cheapest non-portable propane grill that Canadian Tire sells and can smoke on it, that means pretty much any two-burner barbecue.

Apparently this is actually “smoke-roasting” because it happens at a higher temperature than hot smoking, but if it tastes great, who cares about nomenclature, right?

The night I made these smoke-roasted pork tacos I was actually planning on making shrimp tacos with a small amount of shrimp we had in the freezer but when I went to the local fruiterie to get some vegetables and tortillas, I spotted a pork tenderloin on sale and thought that this would be a great addition to the meal.  And since I’d just found a bag of applewood chips that I’d previously bought and had forgotten about, I figured that I might as well try combining the two.

I marinated the tenderloin in a mixture of tequila and lime juice for about an hour, and soaked a couple of cups of wood chips in water for about fifteen minutes.  I drained the wood chips and put them in a foil pouch, making sure that it was open at both ends.  The pouch went in at the bottom of the barbecue.  I started up the barbecue with only one burner until the chips started smoking, turned the heat down to it’s lowest setting, then put the tenderloin on the side opposite the burner until it cooked to an internal temperature of 145F.

We served it on tortillas with pico de gallo, avocados and onions marinated in lime juice and tequila because the avocados were too hard to use for guacamole, cheese, and sour cream.  I ended up cooking the shrimp as I had initially planned and we had that as well.  For sides we grilled some corn and served it with a chile-infused butter and I also made quick-friend zucchini with toasted garlic and lime from Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican cookbook.

The meat took on a wonderful orange-ish colour from the smoke and had a beautiful smoky flavour.  It wasn’t difficult to prepare or cook and really made the tacos something special.  They may have been nicer texturally had I shredded the pork instead of slicing it, but the flavour was great.  We will definitely try this again.

Smoke-roasted Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4.

Ingredients:
1 pork tenderloin
A generous splash of tequila
The juice from two or three freshly squeezed limes
Salt and pepper
2 cups applewood chips

Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper and put it in a sealable container with the tequila/lime juice mixture.  Let this sit in the fridge for about an hour.  In the meantime, soak the wood chips in water for fifteen minutes, drain, and make a foil pouch for them.  Close the pouch, leaving the ends open, place it on the bottom of your barbecue and heat the grill until the chips begin to smoke.  Place the marinated tenderloin on the side of the grill opposite the wood chips–the tenderloin shouldn’t be over a flame.  Cook with the lid closed until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145F, about 45-60 minutes.  Serve with tortillas and your favourite taco fixings.

Quick-friend Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime
Serves 4. Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican.

Ingredients:
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 scant tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
A generous 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used fresh oregano from the garden)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Sweating the zucchini. In a colander, toss the zucchini with the salt; let stand 1/2 hou over a plate or in the sink. Rinse the zucchini, then dry on paper towels.
2. Browning the garlic and frying the zucchini. About 15 minutes before serving, heat the butter and oil over a medium-low heat in a skillet large enough to hold the zucchini in a single layer. Add the garlic and stir frequently until light brown, about 3 minutes. Do not burn. Scoop the garlic into a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl, then scrape the strained butter mixture back into the pan; set the garlic aside. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the zucchini to the pan and fry, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and tender but still a little crunchy. Remove from the heat.
3. Finishing the dish. Add the lime and toasted garlic; toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with the pepper, oregano and parsley, then mix, taste for salt and serve in a warm dish.

Damm Inedit

When we were leaving Spain, we were browsing the duty free in the Barcelona airport, looking at their meagre selection of whiskies, trying to find a nice bottle to bring home with us, I spotted a display of Estrella Damm’s Inedit. Inedit is a beer created by, according the the little booklet that comes with every bottle to hammer home the point you will be purchasing and drinking a truly remarkable beer, “globally acclaimed chef Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler and sommeliers Ferran Centelles and David Seijas from El Bulli Restaurant.”  It also boasts that it is a “beer specifically created to pair with food”.  I first saw this beer when we had lunch one afternoon at a great paella place by the sea.  At a table near us was a family of tourists with a couple of young children.  The dad ordered a bottle of beer; it was apparently some fancy beer despite the Damm label around the neck, because after serving it was kept in a bucket of ice at the end of the table, much like a nice bottle of wine.  One of the kids, who looked to be about six years old, asked the dad if it was dry-hopped, which Anna thought was hilarious because in that moment she saw our future. I was curious about it because while Spain isn’t exactly famed for its beer, I do like to try as many local beers as I can.

I’ve hinted at craft beer’s “wine envy” here and in comments here, and while this isn’t craft beer by any reasonable definition of the term, don’t we have in Damm Inedit the most literal example of beer trying to prove that it is sophisticated enough for wine drinkers?  That finally we have a beer refined enough that it can be drunk with fine food?

This idea is, of course, nonsense.  There are plenty of beers that go excellently with food.  Yes, even high-end food.  Last fall we went to New York and had a superb meal at wd-50. For my main, I had Wagyu steak with barley and malt and it went wonderfully with a malty German lager.  And here I am at Au Pied du Cochon’s cabane à sucre–maybe not fine dining, but gourmet nevertheless–feeding beer to a chicken head:The idea that there is now finally a beer good enough to accompany fine food says more about Ferran Adrià’s ignorance about beer than it does about anything else.  But, hey, it was four euro a bottle, so why not try it?

We decided to try it with one of the best foods to pair with beer: (homemade) sausage on a bun.  Of course, had I looked more closely at the Inedit booklet before starting dinner I would have realised that such a fine beer wasn’t made for such rough and ready proletarian fare as sausage on a bun, but was rather “created to pair with the most exquisite and challenging foods. Foods that contain: citrus and oils: i.e. salads, vinegar based sauces. Bitter notes: i.e. asparagus, artichokes, rucula. Oily textures: ie. salmon, tuna, fatty cheese.” Though from the beer’s website we see that “this beer can take acidic, sweet and sour flavours by the hand. the symphony of flavours in each dish is different, but there can be a common thread capable of unifying them all, for a sense of continuity so there is no need to switch drinks.” So maybe it can go with most foods?  Sausage it is, with a side of grilled potatoes and zucchini.

Maybe we should have eaten something closer to the recommended foods to get an idea of how this beer pairs with food because it brought very little to the complex seasoning of the sausage. It is, in effect, a pretty ordinary Belgian-style blanche with subtle coriander and orange peel notes, and a clean finish that suggests a bottom-fermenting yeast.  The subtlety of the spicing verges on blandness.  It was okay, but not something I feel inclined to try again.  There are far better examples of this style: Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly is a locally-brewed blanche that far surpasses the Damm version.

I’m struggling to find things to say about the beer because there really isn’t anything remarkable about it. If this was a wine, and the beer and its presentation really do beg the comparison, I can’t see it having a place on a high-end wine list.  There’s just not enough going on with it.  The very idea that there is a beer that can pair with food, instead of a variety of beers with different flavours–bitter, sweet, sour, spicy–suggest a lack of seriousness put into conceiving the ways in which beer and food can work together. This beer and its conception seem completely ignorant of the brewing world, and it basically does a very mediocre job of attempting to reinvent the wheel. I suspect that a large reason why the beer exists, and is distributed as widely as it is (for example, you can purchase bottles in Quebec at the SAQ) is because El Bulli was hemorrhaging money–the New York Times reports here that annual losses of a half a million Euros were what led to the restaurant closing–and the beer doubtlessly generates a decent amount of income.  That doesn’t mean that it’s groundbreaking or exceptional.

Barbecued Ribs

On Thursday morning I was sitting at my computer with my morning coffee reading the day’s news. I was on The Guardian’s website and, in an experience that is no doubt familiar to many Guardian readers, found myself enraged at the headline for one of their articles. Was it some provocative but thick-skulled analysis of the conflict in the Middle East? A woefully misinformed and patronising article about Canadian politics? Anything ever by Madeline Bunting?  No, it was the headline for the following article by Felicity Cloake on the site’s sidebar: are ribs, this “mainstay of the American barbecue canon overrated or a porcine classic?”

Ribs overrated?  They’d pushed me too far this time.  I ranted to Anna about how stupid the Guardian is and how they only publish things with extreme views that will divide and anger people who will then repeatedly click on the article to leave vengeful comments on it.  Such is the world with print media declining.

To be fair, once I calmed down enough to read the article, it wasn’t actually bad at all.  Basically Cloake’s point is that the British are terrible at barbecue and so their idea of barbecuing ribs is to throw them on the grill for a few minutes on each side and then wonder what the big deal is about ribs as they joylessly gnaw on tough and barely edible meat.  You would think that I’m exaggerating here, but barbecue is an unknown art in the UK.  We tried it when we lived there and had poor results.  You can easily find a cheap charcoal grill, but good luck finding decent charcoal.  And when I say “decent charcoal”, I mean charcoal that will actually heat up enough to be useful for cooking.  It’s like the British state and its perverse obsession with all things health and safety carried out a risk analysis and determined that not only is barbecue potentially carcinogenic but also that hot things can burn and so people should be denied the primal pleasure of cooking things over fire.  Balls.  I digress.  Anyway, Cloake goes on and tries different methods of cooking ribs to find the best possible recipe.

Not that a recipe for ribs is really necessary.  To me, ribs are one of the quintessential “cook from the heart” foods.  As long as you’re cooking them for a long time with low heat and making sure that they don’t dry out, you can do pretty much whatever you want with them and you’ll end up with great meat.  I prefer to give the ribs a slow bake in the oven and finish them on the grill, which is, I know, anathema to the purists who insist that you can only do proper ribs if you smoke them, but I don’t have a smoker, and I’m not confident enough about my barbecue’s temperature control to be able to cook them for hours at a low temperature on the grill.  When it’s all said and done, the ribs are tender and delicious and that’s good enough for me.

I prefer spare ribs to back ribs because they have more fat on them.  I always get mine from my butcher.  The night before I cook the ribs, I first remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.  You can find out how to do that here.  With the membrane removed the rub and the sauce can better penetrate the meat.  I use a rub, which consists of sugar, salt, and spices, though how I make the rub varies each time.  I’ll post the rub I used this time below, but I normally improvise it based on whatever seems good at the time.  I apply (rub?) the rub onto the meat, wrap it in plastic, and keep it in the fridge overnight.

About four or five hours before the planned dinner time I start baking the ribs in the oven.  I only did it for about three hours this time because I had a band practice that went a little bit late.  They still worked out great, and there are plenty of baked ribs recipes that call for a two hour bake, so I guess that two hours is probably the minimum?  But generally speaking, the longer you can bake them, the better.  I brush them with sauce before they go in the oven–Anna made the sauce from from Sheila Ferguson’s Soul Food, which she posted about here–and put them into a 250F oven on a broiling pan.  I put some water in the broiling pan with the idea that the water would steam and keep the meat moist.  I’m not actually sure this works, but the idea seems to make sense.  I’ll occasionally reapply the sauce and turn the ribs.  The sauce should bake nicely onto the meat and as the meat cooks it should pull away slightly from the bone.  When they’re cooked and tender, they can be taken out of the oven and kept until you’re ready to grill them.

When the guests arrive and you’re ready to eat, brush some more sauce onto the ribs and grill them on the barbecue to get the sauce nicely caramelised, and then serve.  We had ours with grilled corn, spoonbread, and a potato and vegetable salad.  The meat was tender and flavourful.  We had a couple of friends over for dinner and over drinks and conversation we devoured the two racks over the course of the night.  It was what summer eating should be about.

Rub for ribs
Makes enough for two racks of ribs

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (I use Colman’s)
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix everything together and generously rub it into the meat.

The beautiful, beautiful world of pork

When people asked us what we were planning on doing in Barcelona, I always replied: “eat ham”. A funny, jokey response, right? Wrong.  It’s not that I wasn’t interested in seeing Barcelona’s sights, walking along the Ramblas and the narrow, winding, shaded medieval streets of the Gothic quarter, lounging on the beach, seeing the Gaudi buildings and all that, it’s just that I am first and foremost interested in the things you can do to a pig.

I was not to be disappointed.  Anna wrote about the wonderful tomato bread we had on our first night here, but our meal at the excellent Paco Meralgo also consisted of octopus with caramelised onions, cod fritters, asparagus sauteed with wild garlic, a ham and potato salad (Anna was initially skeptical of this, thinking that it was going to be some grocery store-style salad with mayo and cubes of diced ham–look how wrong she was):

and a plate of gorgeous dried sausage:
Our exploration of the fine meats Spain has to offer went on from this exciting start.  The next day we went to the Boqueria Market and bought a small selection of Serrano ham and jamón ibérico to snack on:

The Serrano was excellent, with a deep, rich cured flavour, but the real revelation was the jamón ibérico. This is the famed Spanish ham made from a specific breed of pig raised only in the Iberian peninsula, with the most prized animals fed only on acorns.  As far as I can tell, the hams are simply made–just salt-cured and dried for as long as three years–and they have this incredibly complex and sophisticated flavour: tangy, salty, nutty (Anna thought that the ham reminded her in a way of a well-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano), sharp, this is the greatest ham I have ever tasted.  This ham haunts my dreams and mocks me with its simple beauty.

The other great discovery was morcón, which we first had as part of an extremely (extremely!) generous mixed charcuterie plate at a tapas bar called Onofre.

It was so good that we went back there on our last night to have it again.  Morcón is the poor country relative of chorizo: the paprika-heavy seasoning is the same, but the morcón uses fattier, less expensive cuts of meat (my Spanish language comprehension is next to zero, so I believe that the server said that it is made from back meat…but I could be totally wrong about that) that are diced instead of ground.  If you have any doubts about how delicious fat is and the difference it can make in food, do a side-by-side comparison of morcón and chorizo.  The chorizo is excellent, yes, but I will take morcón over it any day.

Look at that beautiful fat!

When we got back I called my parents to let them know how the trip was and that we made it back safely, and my mom–who had been following Facebook updates about the vast quantities of ham and sausage we were eating–asked why we kept talking about ham and weren’t eating seafood.  We did eat seafood, delicious seafood, and that’s perhaps for a future post, but who can resist eating excessive amounts of cured meats when ones this good are on offer?

Sweet Italian Sausage


There was an annoying moment a couple of weeks ago in Top Chef Canada during the supermarket challenge when the smarmy prick Rob made a disparaging comment about Connie making sausages for the challenge.  He said something to the effect of why would people make sausages at home when they can just buy hot dogs.  Now, Rob is full of stupid kneejerk comments and it isn’t worth dwelling on them, and it seems like the problem with her puff pastry-wrapped chicken sausages was that they simply weren’t good enough to convince home cooks to attempt such a dish, but there was the general sense in the episode that homemade sausages maybe weren’t the most appropriate dish for people to cook at home.

Michael Pollan has written at length about the way in which food television has become about the spectacle of cooking rather than about cooking itself, and that it has lost the instructional and educational quality that early TV cookery shows, like Julia Child’s, had.  And isn’t this in part what was going on in that episode of Top Chef Canada?  That sausage, which isn’t an especially difficult food to prepare if you have the time and right equipment, was condescendingly seen to be beyond the grasp of the average supermarket dweller.  Or what about the way in which charcuterie plates have become trendy at upscale restaurants?  I have nothing against this, and there are few things more pleasing and satisfying than well-prepared and expertly seasoned cured or otherwise processed meats, but it does show the way in which charcuterie has travelled far away from its humble origins.

I started making sausage from scratch about a year and a half ago after my parents and Anna conspired to get me a meat grinder and a copy of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie as a gift for Christmas. If you’re thinking of making sausages at home, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.  They cover the vast array of ways you can prepare charcuterie–curing, smoking, dry-curing, confit, sausage-making, and so on–all in a way that is practical for the home cook.  I have really only scratched the surface of the book and made sausage and pâté from it, but there’s easily enough material in here for years of exploration and experimentation. The book is beautifully illustrated and the step-by-step instructions are clear, easy to follow, and will have you making excellent sausage on your first attempt.

Making truly great sausage is the reason why this is worth doing at home.  There are some fine sausages available to buy in this city, but I prefer mine.  They’re much more flavourful, and as a nice bonus, they’re inexpensive to make.  Twelve or so feet of sausage usually costs around twenty dollars to make, and the quality of them is unmatched.  I know that the meat in them is great and isn’t just the sweepings from a butcher’s floor, I can adjust the flavourings and seasonings to exactly my taste, and best of all, they’re super fresh.  They take a bit of effort–it usually takes me about an hour and a half to make a batch of them–but because you’re making them in quantity, that effort will feed you for several meals.

My most recent batch was the sweet Italian sausages from Charcuterie.  I’d made the spicy version a couple of times and they’re great for putting into sauces or baking with pasta, or just frying up and eating, but I thought that I would try the sweet ones for a change.  I might even like them more than the spicy ones: unlike a supermarket-style “mild” Italian sausage which is mainly just bland, these sausages have a beautiful depth of flavour. They grill well and I used some of the leftover loose meat in a lasagne which turned out super well.

Sweet Italian Sausage
Adapted from Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie.
Makes 5 pounds of sausage

Ingredients:
4 pounds/1800g boneless pork shoulder butt, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 pound/450g pork back fat, diced into 1-inch cubes
1.5 oz/40g kosher salt
2 tbsp/32g granulated sugar
2 tsp/12g minced garlic
2 tbsp/16g fennel seeds, toasted (I like to coarsely crush these in a mortar and pestle to better distribute the fennel throughout the sausage)
2 tsp/6g coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp/16g sweet Spanish paprika
0.75 cup/185 ml ice water
0.25 cup/60 ml red wine vinegar, chilled

12 feet/4 meters hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed

Instructions:
Note: these are the basic instructions given in the book, though it deals with the steps in a much greater depth in the book.  Making sausage isn’t especially difficult, but it does require an understanding of the process if you are to make great sausage.

1. Combine all the ingredients except the water and the vinegar and toss to distribute the seasonings. Chill until ready to grind.
2. Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice.
3. Add the water and vinegar to the meat mixture and mix with the paddle attachment (or sturdy spoon) until the liquids are incorporated and the mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance, about 1 minute on medium speed.
4. Sauté a small portion of the sausage, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5. Stuff the sausage into the hog casings, and twist into 6-inch/15-centimeter links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.
6. Gently sauté or roast the sausage to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F./65 degrees C.