Thursday, August 10, 2017

Making Your Own Cider 101


As the hot summer days begin to cool off and fall quickly approaches, it’s time to trade in your beach beer for a cold glass of hard cider. The crisp, refreshing taste of hard cider has made its way into the hearts of many and has quickly become one of the most preferred alcoholic beverages on the market. While there are dozens of amazing cider brands to choose from, nothing quite compares to the feeling you get when you’ve harvested, pressed and watched your apples go straight from the tree to your glass. That’s right—brewing your own homemade apple cider isn’t just a rewarding experience, but a quick and relatively easy one, too!

Ingredients and Equipment:
10 lbs. of apples/1 gallon of juice
Fruit press
Large bucket
Nylon filter bag
Fermenter and air lock
Cheesecloth or large straining bag
Sanitizer (Star San)
Yeast of your choosing
Yeast nutrient
Bottling bucket
Bottle capper
Caps
Bottles
Syphon tube


Picking Your Apples:
Before you start brewing your homemade hard cider, you must first consider the ingredients and equipment you need to make the process run quickly and smoothly. Keep in mind that the type of apple you choose will greatly impact the overall flavor of your cider. If you want a sweeter flavor, opt for Gala, Fuji, Cortland, Golden Delicious or Red Delicious apples. Looking for a more acidic, tart flavor? Try Pink Lady, Braeburn, Jonathan or McIntosh apples instead! You can also mix and match types of apples to create a truly unique flavor that matches your personal taste preferences.

Juicing:
First, clean and mash or crush your apples into small pieces to prepare your fruit for pressing. Purchasing a fruit press, like our Harvest Fiesta Stainless Steel Fruit Press, will be greatly beneficial in the juicing process. To use, simply retract the telescoping base and pour your mash into the basket. Place a nylon filter bag in the basket before loading your apples. Doing so will catch the remains of the pressed fruit and make cleanup much easier once the process is completed. Be cautious not to overfill your press, for doing so will greatly reduce your juice yields.

Once you’ve loaded the basket about ¾ full, slide the base back into the center and place a large bucket under the spout to catch the juices. Easily crank the top handle until you’ve pressed the maximum amount of juice out of the apples in the basket. Once completed, retract the basket once again and remove the nylon filter bag. You may move the fruit contents around and give them a second pressing if need be. Transfer your collected apple juice into a jar or container and store away for later processing and fermentation. Check out this video to see the device in action!



Adding Fruit Matter:
After you have successfully pressed and stored your juice, consider adding small bits of apple to the mix. In homemade hard apple cider recipes, adding fruit matter to your ciders is often recommended, especially when using particularly harsh yeasts. Adding bits of fruit not only boosts its fresh, natural flavor, but the pieces also act as food for your yeast to consume. Fresh apple matter is always best, but frozen pieces work as well. Freezing tends to rupture the fruit’s cell walls and helps make it easier for more sugars to be processed by the yeast.

Pasteurization:
There are dozens of effective methods of pasteurization. Frozen fruit is typically pasteurized before it freezes, so simply dropping frozen fruit matter into the mixture will do no harm to your brew. However, it is important to realize that you will get much more color, quicker fermentation and more flavor if you blend and “mash” the fruit (whether it’s frozen or not) before adding it into the juice.

Choosing Your Yeast:
There are a variety of dry and liquid brewing yeasts that will work great for your home brewed cider, and you can find them either online or in-store at various homebrew stores. Although you can buy specialized yeasts for fermenting cider, dry wine yeasts do an excellent job and are a much cheaper alternative.

Keep in mind that the yeast you use will contribute nearly the entire character of your cider. While this may not be news to many of you, it is important to keep that in mind during the entire brewing process. Try to steer clear of Montrachet or red wine yeasts, as they take an extremely long time to ferment and produce the desired flavor. Also avoid yeasts that generate a lot of isoamyl acetate, for the banana-like flavors these yeasts produce tend to clash with the apple flavor. Opt for dry white wine yeasts instead, or try the typical S-04 yeast, which will create a dry, slightly tart flavor that is very enjoyable. Other yeasts to consider are:
  • Lalvin 1116
  • Lalvin 1122
  • Lalvin D47
  • WLP001 California Ale Yeast
  • 002 English Ale Yeast
  • 013 London Ale Yeast
  • Graff and saison yeasts

Fermentation:
Before you begin the fermentation process, make sure your fermenter and everything that touches your cool must (“must” refers to unfermented juice) is clean and sanitized. The best and easiest way to do this is to have a gallon-sized vessel (i.e., a bucket or a water pitcher) full of star san, a sanitizer for beer and wine equipment. Pour a small amount of the sanitizer into your fermenter and swish it around, making sure to evenly coat all of its surfaces a few times. Upon completion, dump the remaining star san into a bucket and place any of the small equipment you plan to use in the bucket as well.
Now you can pitch some yeast! Follow the steps below to successfully ferment your cider:
  1. Heat one cup of water until it boils, and then immediately turn the heat off. After doing this, add your yeast nutrient, let it cool to around 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit and then add pectic enzyme if you wish.
  2. Pour the mixture into your clean, sanitized fermenter and transfer the must (pressed apple juice) into the fermenter and pitch your yeast.
  3. Use about one packet of yeast per 5 gallons of unfermented apple juice. Remember that too much yeast is better than not enough!
  4. Use yeast nutrient according to your package directions (some packets state to use 1/2 tsp per 5 gallons, while others say 1/2 tsp per gallon).
  5. If you’d like, use about 1 tsp pectic enzyme per 5 gallons of must.
  6. Finally, cover your fermenter and attach a sanitized airlock. Let the contents ferment at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of weeks.


Bottling Your Cider:
Once the fermentation process is complete, you are now ready to bottle your hard cider! Using a hydrometer is the most accurate way to check if your cider is fully fermented. Upon completion, the cider should taste very dry. Keep in mind that if you bottle a cider that is too sweet, it may end up exploding from continued fermentation occurring inside the bottle.

Clean and sanitize a bottling bucket and heat two cups of water to boiling temperatures. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and dissolve a priming sugar (corn sugar or dextrose) in the water. You will want about 1 oz per gallon (or 3/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch). Pour the hot dissolved sugar solution into the bottle bucket and carefully siphon your cider into the bucket as well. Fill your cleaned, sanitized bottles, leaving 1 to 1.5 inches of headspace. Cap and leave the bottles in a warm room for two weeks to carbonate. Next, refrigerate the bottles for three to 12 months. Keep in mind that cider ages well, so give it some time to sit for the best results possible.

Monday, July 10, 2017

5 Easy and Savory Summer-Inspired Dishes That Will Take Your Cookout Game to the Next Level

Everyone knows that cookouts, picnics and backyard barbeques are a summertime tradition. These events – and the food brought to them – may be the reason why summer is considered so many people’s favorite season. From the variety of fresh seasonal produce to delicious, fall-off-the-bone grilled meats, it’s easy to see why summer cooking remains a pinnacle of culinary perfection. However, it can be easy to fall into the same hum-drum routine year after year. Switch up your cookout menu with these five exciting, savory and easy-to-make summer-inspired recipes!

Fajita Chicken Kebabs



Grilling can be an intimidating cooking method for many people. It is extremely difficult to find the perfect balance between soft and juicy and seared and well-done. So, before you work your way up to steaks and briskets, take the fear out of grilling with these simple Fajita Chicken Kebabs! White meats like chicken are some of the easier meats to cook on the grill and are easy to allow you to experiment with a variety of grilled veggies, different kinds of marinades, and delicious spices. These south-of-the-border inspired kebabs will add a unique and flavorful kick to any summer shindig and can be completed in just 10 minutes!

Supplies
  • Grill
  • Package of wooden or steel skewers (adjust to company size)
  • Large zip-lock bag
  • Small bowl
  • Tongs (optional)

Ingredients
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts / 1 pound
Canola Oil / 2 tablespoons
Lime (for juice)
Chili Powder / 1 tablespoon
Cumin / 1 ½ tsp
Garlic / 1 clove, chopped
Jalapeños / 1 or 2, chopped
Salt / ½ tsp
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
Cilantro
Salsa, guacamole, or your choice of serving

Instructions
  1. Cut the boneless chicken breasts into small pieces that will easily fit onto the skewer. Then, place into a large zip-lock bag.
  2. In a small bowl, mix your canola oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic, jalapeños, and salt together thoroughly. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken and seal the bag immediately. Gently squeeze the bag to evenly coat each piece of chicken with the marinade. Refrigerate the bag for 30 minutes (or overnight).
  3. After refrigeration is complete, heat your grill to a medium-high temperature. While the grill is warming up, cut the bell peppers and onion into ¾ inch chunks and then add them onto the skewers alongside the marinated chicken breast pieces. Place the kebabs on the grill, pull down the cover and let them cook until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside and on the inside. The skewers should cook for about 6-8 minutes depending on how high your heat is, and they should be flipped once or twice during cook time.
  4. Remove the kebabs from the grill and place them on a large serving plate. Garnish the chicken kebabs with your fresh cilantro, salsa, guacamole or other topping of your choice.


Sweet Heat Cheerwine Baby Back Ribs


Just the word “ribs” alone gets my mouth watering. What is Cheerwine, you ask? Cheerwine is a southern cherry-flavored soft drink made in North Carolina. The beverage has been in production since 1917 and has become a popular southern favorite among many southerners, both young and old. A fun and sweet take on a southern barbeque classic, sweet heat Cheerwine baby back ribs is a surefire way to please everyone at your cookout and will have them coming back for more in no time – just make sure you stock up on wet-naps beforehand!

Supplies
  • Oven
  • Grill
  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking sheet with rim
  • Large serving plate, dish or platter

Ingredients
Paprika / 2 tsp
Chili powder / 2 tsp
Dry mustard / 2 tsp
Ground ginger / 1 tsp
Garlic powder / 1 tsp
Salt and ground black pepper
Baby back ribs / 2 (3lb) slabs
Cheerwine soft drink / One 12 oz. bottle
Canned Tomato Sauce / 1 (15 oz.) can
Brown Sugar / 1/3 cup
Dijon mustard / 1 tbsp.
Chili-garlic sauce / 1 tsp

Instructions
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and then thoroughly mix together your paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, ginger, 4 tsp of salt, and 2 tsp of pepper into a medium-to-large-sized bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of the mixed spices onto the ribs evenly and place the meat on a large rimmed baking sheet (the rims will prevent excess oil and fat from dripping off into your oven). Wrap the meat tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender. This step should take about 2 or 2 ½ hours. Upon completion, remove the foil and leave the ribs to rest for about 30 minutes.
  3. Combine the Cheerwine soft drink, tomato sauce, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, chili-garlic sauce and 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and then gradually reduce the heat and simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally until it is reduced to 2 cups. This typically takes 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Heat your grill to a medium temperature. Grill the ribs, basting them with 1 cup of the Cheerwine sauce and turning them over frequently. The ribs should appear lightly charred – this takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the ribs to a large serving plate or platter and cover with whatever remaining sauce you have!


Broiled Steak Kebabs with Orange Relish


Is there any better way to celebrate grilling season than with steak? These quick and delicious broiled steak kebabs with orange relish give a refreshing and vibrant spin to an American barbeque favorite. Whether you’re looking to switch up your barbeque menu or aiming to impress your guests with your culinary finesse, this innovative take on a classic kebab will surely make you the buzz of the cookout!

Supplies
  • Grill
  • Pack of skewers (wooden or metal)
  • Medium-large mixing bowl
  • Large serving plate or platter
  • Tongs (optional)

Ingredients
Jerk Seasoning / 1 tbsp.
Canola Oil / 2 tbsp.
Olive Oil / 1 tbsp.
Orange segments, chopped / 1 ½ cups
Cucumbers, chopped / ½ cup
Red bell pepper, chopped / ½ cup
Minced jalapeño / ½ cup
½ Red Onion, cut into 1 in. pieces
Fresh Cilantro / ¼ cup
Sirloin / 2 lb. cut

Instructions
  1. In a medium-large bowl, thoroughly mix together 1 ½ cups of chopped orange segments, ½ cup of chopped cucumbers and red bell peppers, ¼ cup of freshly cut cilantro, ½ minced jalapeño, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and ground black pepper.
  2. Gently toss together your 2-lb. sirloin (cut into 1-inch pieces), ½ red onion (cut into 1-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of jerk seasoning, and salt and black pepper. After doing so, thread the meat on medium-sized (about 8-inch) metal or wooden skewers.
  3. Broil the skewers on top rack of grill, turning them once during the process, until they are medium rare. This should take between 10 and 12 minutes.
  4. Simply remove the skewers from the grill rack and garnish with seasoning, cilantro, and lime wedges as you please!


The Perfect Classic Cheeseburgers


Ahh, Cheeseburgers: The shining star of American cookouts everywhere. Is your summer really complete without one of these juicy burgers? We sure don’t think so! Cheeseburgers are found at almost every summer get-together, no matter who’s in attendance or how big the crowd is. While many grill cooks have perfected their hamburger techniques, many still struggle at making the perfect summer cheeseburger. That’s why we’re here to help! Follow these simple grilling instructions and be on your way to being the hero of your next backyard cookout!

Supplies
  • Grill
  • Spatula
Instant-read thermometer (optional)
  • Tongs (optional)
  • Serving plate or platter


  • Ingredients
    Brioche (or other soft hamburger buns)
    Butter
    Raw Red Onions
    Ketchup
    Fresh Tomatoes
    Sharp Cheddar (sliced)
    Fresh ground beef chuck (80% lean)

    Instructions
    1. Keep your meat cool – the amount of time between removing from the fridge and grilling should be minimized as much as possible. Ground beef will immediately start to lose its freshness as soon as it leaves the cold temperature of the fridge. Washing your hands with cold water before handling your patties is a great way to ensure the meat doesn’t lose its natural flavors or freshness, but be mindful that you should handle the meat as little as possible when shaping your patties. Compressing the meat too much will lead to dense, dry burgers – yuck!
    2. Burgers are already rich with flavor, so keep the seasoning minimal. Burger experts usually only use nothing more than sea salt and fresh, coarsely ground black pepper to season their patties. You should save your creative flair for the garnishes and not compromise the beef’s natural juiciness.
    3. Lightly brush the burgers on both sides with melted butter (the amount is dependent on your personal preferences). Doing so helps prevent the patties from sticking to the grill and adds an extra layer of delicious flavor.
    4. Pro Tip: No matter how much you are tempted to do so, NEVER press the patties with your spatula while they are grilling! This compromises the patty’s juiciness and will make them dry and dense in the long run.
    5. After about 2 minutes on the grill, give the patty a quarter-turn to get those beautiful grill marks you see on posters and in commercials. After doing this, try to flip the burger only once during the grilling process. When the edges begin to brown or you see a few little pearls of blood bleeding through the top of the patty, the meat is ready to be flipped.
    6. Make sure your burger is cooked to perfection! Medium and rare burgers sure are tasty, but you don’t want a burger too pink or red. Try using an instant-read thermometer to get the best idea of when your burger is thoroughly cooked and ready to be eaten. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the patty (typically the center) and make sure it reads at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
    7. Gently glaze your buns with butter and lightly toast them on the grill for optimal taste. You can either melt the cheese directly onto the patty or infuse your ground beef with cheese to keep the patty’s juiciness and add a flavorful punch that everyone will enjoy. Once completed, remove all meat and bread from the grill and garnish the patty with your favorite dressings. Voila – a simple, beautiful cheeseburger that will please even the toughest crowds!


    Glazed Country Ribs


    It’s no secret that every cookout aficionado is a fan of ribs. Crispy and sweet, ribs are the perfect dish to please every cookout attendee. These glazed country ribs give an inspired twist to a country-style favorite. Brushed with a red-currant glaze and seared to perfection, these ribs will give a tangy kick to any event!

    Supplies
    • Oven
    • Grill
    • 9x13 inch roasting pan
    • Aluminum foil
    • Small pot

    Ingredients
    2 Medium yellow onions
    Country-style pork ribs / 3 lb. Cuts
    2 Garlic cloves
    Canola oil / 3 tbsp.
    Fresh ginger, grated / 4 tsp.
    Low-sodium soy sauce / ¼ cup
    Sherry vinegar / 4 tsp.
    Salt / ½ tsp.
    Freshly ground pepper / ½ tsp.
    Red-currant jelly / 1½ cup
    Ketchup / 4 tsp.
    Water / 1 ½ cups

    Instructions
    1. Begin by preheating your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and chop 1 onion into 1-inch pieces. Place ribs, chopped onions and garlic in a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan with 1 ½ cups of water and cover tightly with aluminum foil before placing in oven. Braise until ribs are very tender. This should take roughly 3 ½ hours.
    2. For the Red-Currant glaze, chop your remaining pieces of onion into tiny little bits. Heat canola oil in a small pot over medium heat and add onion, cooking it for about 6 minutes until the pieces are soft. Add ginger to the mixture and cook for one additional minute. You can now stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat source.
    3. Remove the ribs from the pan, discard onion and garlic pieces, and drain the remaining liquid from the pan. Increase the oven’s temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the ribs back onto the pan, coating them evenly and generously with the glaze. Place the meat in the middle of the rack for optimal cooking temperature. Continue to baste the meat with the glaze every 10 or so minutes for up to 30 minutes. Serve the ribs alongside a ½ cup of reserved glaze.

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    The Meat Lover’s Ultimate Beginner Guide to Summer Cooking

    SMOKED MEATS USING WOOD CHIPS:

    You’re at your favorite barbeque joint, and as you’re glancing over the menu, your eyes scan the pages for those two familiar, mouth-watering words: ‘smoked meats’. The rich flavor and savory texture of smoked meats are often what differentiates gourmet cuisine from your average Joe’s backyard barbeque. So, how do restaurants always get that perfect smoky flavor that seems nearly impossible to recreate at home? The secret is simpler than you’d think and may be lying right in your backyard. That’s right; wood chips are an effective way to infuse smooth, smoky flavors into a variety of your favorite meats, fish and cheeses. No longer do you have to rely on costly meat smokers to provide your meats with the rich flavor you crave – inexpensive and easy to use, wood chips are a great way to take your barbeque skills to the next level and create truly remarkable, fall-off-the-bone meats everyone will enjoy.

    Before using wood chips to smoke your grilled meats, it is important to realize that there is a wide selection of woods to choose from, and all come with a variety of different textures and unique flavors. It is important to choose a type of wood that pairs well with the flavors of the meat, fish or cheese you are trying to smoke. While oak pairs well with any type of meat, it is a general rule of thumb that white meats like poultry pair well with sweeter woods like maple, cherry, oak and alder. Reversely, red meats like beef and pork pair well with woods that feature stronger, more robust flavors. For example, hickory, mesquite and walnut give off a bold flavor that complements heavier meats like pork and beef perfectly. Looking to enhance the subtle flavor of your favorite cheeses? The same hickory and mesquite wood chips used for your red meats can be used to add a flavorful punch to a wide variety of premium cheeses. Refer to the handy wood smoking chart below to see recommended pairings of wood and meats that will help you create the best tasting smoked foods!

    charboil.com

    Smoking woods come in several different shapes, including chunks, logs and simple smokes, and the sizes of the wood pieces greatly affect the overall smoking process. While there are dozens of options to choose from, barbeque pros typically recommend the use of wood chips for grilling because of how quickly they smoke and how easy they are to manage. The smoking process can also vary depending on the type of grill you are using. Charcoal grills, for example, are great for quickly smoking foods like chicken or fish. Simply follow the instructions below to perfectly smoke a variety of foods: After heating and dumping the coals into the grill’s pit, scatter the wood chips across the surface and close the grill lid immediately. For longer smoke times, try using wood chunks in place of chips. The chunks will last longer against the hot coals. Using a gas or electric grill to smoke your food? Simply place the wood chips over the heat source, and once they begin smoking, move them away from the heat so they won’t burn out. Remember that regardless the type of grill you are using, it is always vitally important to refrain from opening the lid during the smoking process. Be mindful that the more smoke you keep in during cook time, the richer the flavor will be upon completion!


    Soaking wood chips has been a point of contention among cooks for several years. Many believe that
    soaking wood chips in water before use prevents them from burning up faster and results in better quality smoked meats. Contrary to popular belief, this method doesn’t have any benefit to smoking and only makes the process much longer. An effective way to keep your wood chips from burning up too quickly is by wrapping them loosely in tin foil. This will keep the chips from catching fire but still maintain a steady smoke flow.

    DIY CLASSICS: SUMMER SAUSAGE

    When you think of summer meats, summer sausage may be the first thing that comes to mind. An American classic, summer sausages are cured, fermented sausages that typically consist of pork and beef and are widely considered a staple to backyard barbeques everywhere. These sausages feature a deeply rich flavor with very little fat, making them a favorite among chefs and foodies alike. Where does this sausage’s name come from, you ask? Decades ago, summer sausages were typically prepared during the winter and stored until the summer, when they would be eaten by field workers throughout the day. The sausages were usually smoked to increase the shelf life of the meat and add antibacterial properties that came in handy during long periods of storage. Most people notice that smoked sausages carry a more distinct flavor and have thus become much more popular than the unsmoked versions. While many people rely on their local deli or butcher to provide them with premium smoked sausages, practically anyone can make fresh and delicious smoked summer sausages from the comfort of their own home! Follow the steps below to create your very own flavorful summer sausages from scratch!

    Recommended Ingredients:

    Fresh Beef Chuck / around 1.54 lbs.
    Pork Round / around 0.66 lbs.
    Salt / 4 tsp
    Dextrose (Glucose) / 2 tsp
    Ground Black Pepper / 1 ½ tsp
    Sugar / 1 tsp
    Ground Coriander / 1 tsp
    Mustard Seeds (Whole) / 1 ½ tsp
    Allspice / 1 tsp
    Garlic / 1 clove
    F-LC Culture / ½ tsp
    Cure No. 1 / 2.5 g or ½ tsp

    Basic Instructions:
    1. Grind mixture of meat through 3/16-1/4” plate (5mm).
    2. Mix F-LC in 3-4 oz non-chlorinated water, stir gently to disperse.
    3. Mix together all spices and cure and mix into meat first, then add FL-C culture solution into meat & mix thoroughly again.
    4. Stuff mixed meat into casings that are around 40 to 60mm in diameter. Pin prick out all air pockets using sterilized sewing needle or sausage pricker
    5. Ferment at 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit and 85-90% humidity for 24-36 hours.
    6. If you want your sausage to be extra tangy, leave them to ferment for 2-3 days.
    7. Place the sausage in either a smoker or place on grill and smoke with wood chips and small bowl of water on side to add humidity for about 6 hours to cooked internal temp of 155-160F to finish recipe. Enjoy or store for later.
    8. …Or if you want to continue with the drying process, smoke at 90-100F then move to 50-59F and 75-80% humidity area if continuing to dry to 30% weight loss (may take 3-4 weeks).

    Step 1: Choosing your Meat

    Summer sausage is usually made from a combination of beef and pork, or simply just beef alone. While the beef to pork ratios may vary depending on what recipe you are following, it is recommended to use either ¾ beef to ¼ pork or ¾ pork to ¼ beef. Of course, you can pick which ratio to use depending on which meat you prefer, or alter the ratios accordingly. Want a sausage with a higher beef content? Try using a 2/3 beef to 1/3 pork ratio. You may also use more exotic meats, like venison, for your filling and can adhere to the same ratio guidelines as aforementioned.

    Beef chuck and pork shoulder (aka “butt”) are inexpensive yet extremely flavorful and are common choices for the fillings of summer sausages due to their perfect, 80/20 marbled fat content. To make the highest quality sausages, buy your meat fresh and either grind it yourself or ask your butcher to grind it for you. The meat should be ground fairly fine and through a 3/16-1/4” (4.5-6mm) plate. The taste of the sausage is largely reflected on the quality of the meat you buy, so consider these helpful tips when purchasing meats at your local market or butcher:

    • Choose beef with a vibrant cherry-red color—Many shoppers encounter darker purple-red colored beef in their market’s meat departments. This is common for vacuum sealed packaging, and the beef will turn to a brighter red color when exposed to oxygen.
    • Choose pork cuts with a pink coloring—The pink coloring of pork cuts is a sign of its freshness. Remember that quality cuts will be firm to the touch as well.
    • Always try to buy fresh meat products last—The amount of time meat products are taken out of cool temperatures should be reduced as much as possible.
    • Never buy meat products that feel warm—Quality meat products are always cold to the touch. If you select a cut of meat that feels warm, it is probably on the verge of going bad and should not be purchased.

    Step 2: Choosing your Spices

    Here’s the fun part! While mustard seed, garlic and black pepper are the most common spices used to season summer sausages, feel free to experiment with different spices and choose a mixture that best suits your personal palate. Several popular sausage recipes call for the use of coriander, ginger, allspice and an eclectic variety of other flavorful spices. If possible, grind the spices by hand just before adding them to the beef/pork mixture. Doing so will retain the spice’s freshness and ultimately give your sausages a more distinct flavoring.

    Step 3: Curing Salt and Cultures

    Because summer sausages are fermented meats, their production requires the usage of a meat cultures such as FL-C. Bactoferm® FL-C meat culture features bioprotective properties and are typically used in the production of fermented sausages with short or traditional production times. This meat culture is recommended in the production of all fermented meats and is noted for its ability to stop the growth of Listeria, a type of bacteria commonly found in food production facilities. During the fermentation process, the sausage’s pH drops, making it less likely to grow unwanted bacteria. Having trouble finding FL-C meat culture? No worries! Shop our inventory of premium FL-C meat cultures here!

    Step 4: Mix your Meat

    During this process, you want to make sure that the curing salt and spices are mixed thoroughly into the meat mixture. Ensuring that all of the ingredients, especially the curing salt, is mixed evenly into the meat is extremely important. If the FL-C isn’t mixed after the other ingredients have been, or isn’t thoroughly mixed in, it may compromise the entire fermentation process and result in poorly made sausages. One trick many experts use to make sure the ingredients and meat have been properly mixed is to look closely when pulling apart the mixed meat for mini mountain peaks. Meat forms peaks & valleys when vital meat proteins myocin and actin have been successfully broken down during mixing. Mix the meat until it forms a cohesive whole. Now you are ready for stuffing!

    Step 5: Stuffing the Meat

    In order to begin the stuffing process, you first need to get casings. While 55-60 mm casings are the most popular among summer sausages, 40 mm and up to 75mm casings are frequently used as well. There are a variety of casings you can choose from, including natural, collagen and fibrous casings. A wide variety of casings is available to purchase on our website if you run into trouble finding them elsewhere. There are also many ways you can stuff the meat inside the casings, but perhaps the most efficient is by using vertical sausage stuffers (found here). These handmade, stainless steel sausage stuffers come in small-to-large sizes for a variety of different applications and make the stuffing process much easier and more efficient. When using the stuffer, be sure to stuff the meat firmly into the casing, making sure to minimize air pockets forming inside. If you’re cooking the summer sausage and there are air pockets in the casing after you stuff them, don’t fret. While it’s best to get rid of as many of them as possible, an air pocket here or there won’t compromise the overall quality of your sausages! If semi-dry curing, meaning you are lightly smoking then drying them until weight loss is achieved, then prick the casings where air pockets are visible with sterilized sewing needle or sausage pricker.

    Step 6: Smoking the Sausages


    Using the information provided above, you can easily smoke any sausage at any length using a grill and some wooden chips. Use cherry or hickory wood chips if you can, for these produce smoke that complements the natural flavors of the sausage perfectly. When smoking and cooking your summer sausage on the grill, smoke between temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees Fahrenheit until the desired color is achieved. After this, gradually increase the temperature to 150, then 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t have access to a smoker or grill? No worries! Simply turn to your handy-dandy oven to do the job for you. When cooking in your oven, start cooking the sausage at the lowest setting (which typically falls around 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and slowly increase the temperature to 190 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches the target temperature. Place a 1/2" or deeper pan underneath the sausage to catch drippings. Voila! After completion, give yourself a nice pat on the back – you can now consider yourself a summer sausage expert! Making sausages at home is not only a rewarding experience, but your friends and family will be impressed with your dedication and expert cooking skills. Going from a backyard barbeque cook to a full-blown sausage maker is no easy feat, but by following our directions and browsing our website for special offers on all sausage-making essentials, you can be on your way to making gourmet smoked meats any time you’d like!

    Tuesday, May 2, 2017

    Introducing Sausage Maker’s Premium-Quality Wood Chips!

    Making high-quality food starts with high-quality ingredients, so why would you use just any old wood chips when you’re ready to smoke your meats? Sausage Maker now offers a huge variety of premium-quality, competition-grade wood chips to impart the best possible flavor into your smoked foods. Whether you’re gearing up for a competitive grilling event or smoking up some weekend barbeque, our wood chips are just what you need to get that final touch.


    Our wood chips are NEVER kiln dried…but why is that important? Kiln-drying wood removes the best part: moisture and sugars. Using our wood chips means you will use less wood and impart more flavor into your foods. It also means your chips won’t flare up the way kiln-dried chips do, which can give your meats an acrid flavor. We chip to order and pack in breathable cardboard to ensure the best moisture retention while preventing molding. These chips make all the difference in competitions!

    The flavors we carry are:
    • Apple: Perfect for pork sausage, pork whole muscle (bacon, shoulder, loins), poultry (chicken, turkey, goose, pheasant) and fish (especially salmon).
    • Hickory: Can be used with almost any type of meat!
    • Wild Cherry: Same meats as Apple.
    • Sugar Maple: The sweet flavor of the wood seems to infuse foods like chicken and pork best. But also recommended for pork sausage, pork whole muscle (bacon, shoulder, loins), brisket, poultry (chicken, turkey, goose, pheasant) and fish.
    • Pecan: Try it with pork sausage, pork whole muscle (bacon, shoulder, loins) and poultry (chicken, turkey, goose, pheasant).
    • Post Oak: Competition BBQs, all beef smoking, venison/game, pork sausage, pork whole muscle (bacon, shoulder, loins), turkey, goose and pheasant. Also try mixing with other woods for unique flavor combinations! We suggest Wild Cherry or Apple (or both!).
    When it comes to long smokes at low temperatures, the best flavor comes from properly seasoned wood. You’ll use less wood in the long run while improving your flavor profile. You’ll get a more controlled smoke, and the first impression of your meats – the smell – is going to make a huge impression.

    Get your next amazing bag of wood chips by clicking here. Looking for equipment for your next competition as well? Get everything you need from Sausage Maker. We carry top-quality smokehouses, accessories, cold smoking equipment and everything in between. Get everything you need from one place by clicking here.

    Thursday, April 6, 2017

    Making Polish Sausage at Home

    Our recipe for Fresh Polish Sausage for an Easter dinner

    As you begin planning your Easter dinner, your mind may immediately jump to the traditional “centerpiece” ham, lamb or chicken. But don’t forget the sausage! While we do have some fabulous recipes and supplies for Easter ham, this tutorial will help you pay tribute to the Polish Easter with a sausage that is an indispensable part of a traditional holiday meal in Poland and far beyond.

    While this recipe is for Fresh Polish Sausage, you can adjust it for any Fresh sausage recipe. This simple tutorial will walk you through every step of the Polish sausage-making process, from meat purchasing considerations to the very end (although the serving and enjoying part is all you!):

    What you will need:


    Supplies for making Polish sausages: pork butt, meat grinder & more


    Buying the Meat: 


    We need a good marbled cut that will give us about 80/20. For our purposes, the best cut is the Boston Butt (the top portion of the shoulder, above the picnic). For this recipe we need only 10 pounds - and since we want full control over the content, we will not order the cut ground, but whole. We can do the grinding to our desired consistency later.

    cubing a marbled meat cut for sausage making

    Grinding: 


    Finished cubes of meat for sausage making

    Now, we are going to cut the meat into approximately 1” cubes. We used a razor-sharp ceramic knife, but any sharp knife will work. This meat has enough marbling to discard much of the surface fat, so we will carefully cut the thicker pieces off and toss them out. Then it’s time to pass the cubes through the meat grinder, using a 3/8” or 1/2” plate for a coarse grind.

    Grinding your cubed meat with a meat grinder for Polish sausage

    Mixing: 
    With the meat ground and evenly laying in our mixing bowl/lug, we thoroughly disperse the seasoning and one cup of cold water into the meat mass and mix for approximately 5 minutes until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The meat should become a grayish, sticky, cement-like mixture, which indicates a proper development of myocin proteins. It will look more appetizing later, we promise!
    A ground sausage mix for Polish sausage


    Stuffing: 


    Ground sausage meat with seasoning for a Polish sausage

    The Hog Casings should be soaked in water for at least one hour prior to applying. For convenience, we used Pre-Tubed casings; after soaking, these versatile casings are much easier to apply to a tube. So with our stuffer packed with our freshly ground and freshly mixed sausage meat, we crank the sausage through and link at our desired length.

    Polish sausage links, finished


    Our Financial Savings Breakdown: 

    • The Boston Butt (or Shoulder) was purchased at $1.80 per pound, so our purchase of ten pounds totals $18.00 
    • The Polish Sausage Seasoning totals $6.99 
    • 32-35MM Hog Casings @ 30% of package totals $7.20

    The total for ten pounds of homemade sausage (approximately 30 links): $32.19, breaking down to $3.22/lb, or $1.07 per link. Not a bad deal for an Easter feast that could easily keep 15 people well-fed.

    Sausages in stores or delis normally cost over $5 per pound, making the amount we just made at least $50 total. Remember that making it yourself also gives you complete control over the ingredients (brand names often include additives/preservatives/binders/extenders), meat cut, fat content, freshness of product, and the pride of making a unique, homemade food.

    Serve up with some potatoes, grilled vegetables, sauerkraut, or peppers and onions, and enjoy!

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Traditional Corned Beef & Smoked Pastrami

    This St. Patrick’s Day, all of us here at the Sausage Maker ask you to keep one thing in mind: You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy some delicious homemade corned beef! This old-time favorite is quite easy to make at home with just a couple of convenient ingredients. Follow our recipe below for a traditional treat that'll have the whole crowd's mouths watering.

    Note: You can also make a delicious pastrami with this method; you’ll just smoke the meat instead of boiling it.


    Ingredients:
    ~10lbs meat of your choice (see below)
    1lb corned beef cure (product #11-1112)
    ¼ cup pickling spice (product #10-1093)
    8 quarts cold water
    Hickory or apple wood chips (if preparing as pastrami)
    Briner or food-safe plastic container

    The Choice of Meat
    The classic choice for corned beef is, of course, beef! To be more specific, most traditional cooks use beef brisket. But if you’re feeling a little adventurous this year, there are plenty of other meat choices too! The Sausage Maker’s founder, Rytek Kutas, spent years testing all sorts of cuts and kinds of meats to take the guesswork out and leave you more time to chow down. A few favorites of his for corning include venison, elk or moose shoulder roasts and, believe it or not, turkey thighs come out fantastic. All four choices are leaner options too, which means you can eat even more.

    The Brining Process
    Start by mixing all the brine ingredients together thoroughly. Place the meat in the brine, making sure it is fully submerged. Store under refrigeration for three days for roasts under 3” thick, and add an additional 24 hours of curing time for each inch of roast after that. InstaCure is already included in our Sausage Maker corned beef cure, which means the meat will take on a fantastic pinkish tint as it cooks.

    The Cooking of the Feast
    Speaking of cooking, we should clarify just how long to boil it. The answer? A while. Remember, these are roasts we’re talking about! An hour per pound is the general rule of thumb. Slice meat razor thin and against the grain. Using a deli slicer makes things look even more top-notch. Turkey thighs will be faster to cook, right around an hour of boiling time. Serve on the bone or carve up as you see fit.

    The Pastrami Connection
    For those interested in making pastrami, you'll cure the meat the same way but soak the roast under refrigeration overnight to draw out a little excess salt. Pat the roast dry using clean paper towels. Rub down the roast with spices or a rub as you see fit. Coarse black pepper and ground mustard are excellent spice choices.

    Place an aluminum pan filled with 1-2” water on a shelf directly under the meat to catch drippings and keep things more humid in the smoker. Smoke at 180-200°F with the chimney at least half open, using dampened hickory or apple wood for approximately four hours or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F for beef (165°F for poultry or game meat). Wrap the roast in foil to keep juices from dripping out and the surface from drying.

    The Steam Step
    Now it’s time for steam. Swap the wood chips for water in your sawdust pan and bring the temperature up to 200°F to turn the smoker into a sauna. Cook another 2 or 3 hours or until the internal temperature hits 180°F (or close). The roast was done safe at 145°F; it’s all about tenderness at this point. That’s it! Slice thin against the grain, just as you would for corned beef.

    Enjoy it, savor it, you did it yourself!
    -John French

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

    What to Do with Extra Game?



    Hunting seasons for most types of game are coming to an end, and we at the Sausage Maker hope it’s been as successful a season for you as it has been for us. You might have brought home many pounds of delicious venison, pheasant, elk, rabbit or whatever game suits your fancy. You’ve made delicious stews, dried jerky and pot roasts. But now you’re faced with a dilemma.

    What should you do with all the extra game sitting in your freezer? If you’re handy in the kitchen and feeling adventurous, you could try making a sausage that features an unusual protein, like duck or elk. You could, of course, give some of it to family and friends, but there is only so much you can give before they start avoiding your calls and calling you the “meat guy.” No worries! There is an easy way to donate extra game meat to families in need.

    As most of you know, it’s illegal to market and sell your wild game because of state laws aimed at preventing poaching. But several nonprofit organizations in popular hunting states exist to help you offload some of your meat legally and charitably. Check out Hunters for the Hungry, founded in 1991, and Sportsmen Against Hunger (this links to the Michigan chapter, but several others are established across the country).

    It’s an easy donation process. Just take your legally harvested, field-dressed deer to a participating meat processor or specified collection point and fill out a form stating you’re donating your game. From there, the meat is processed and given to local feeding programs so it can be delivered to food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens.

    If neither of these organizations are in your state, there are similar programs that will allow you to donate meat to local food banks or churches. You may have to pay a processing fee, but it’s tax deductible.

    Your contribution, no matter the size, makes more of a difference than you may think. Across the U.S. every year, more than 400 million pounds of meat is donated to food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens, providing 1.6 billion meals for families in need. This couldn’t be possible without the thoughtfulness and generosity of hunters like you. If you have extra game in your freezer that you have no use for, don’t throw it away! Do some good that’ll leave you feeling good too.