What seems like a thousand years ago but was in fact only a few weeks, I sojourned to Atlanta, GA, to attend BlogHer Food. It's my third time attending and presenting at the conference, which had its first two years in San Francisco, CA, where I live.
In times past, I've moderated panels on protecting your work and being authentic in social media, and my final session last year was a panel on canning, preserving and foraging with the fabulous Marisa of Food in Jars, Audra of Doris and Jilly Cook and Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook (and author of the just-released "Hunt, Gather, Cook").
This year, BlogHer took a new tack on the conference. Aside from the existing tracks of Visuals, Vocals and Vocation, they decided to take food more literally, adding a Vittles track. The wonderful Cathy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Kim of The Yummy Mummy, co-organizers of Charcutpalooza, pitched a panel and asked me to join them. How could I say no?
Initially, it was pitched as a demo of hot smoking, which was the current Charcutepalooza challenge at the time. To my delight, BlogHer accepted the pitch. But there were challenges. Hot smoking doesn't necessarily require open flame, but it does, by its nature, generate a lot of smoke. That's all good and well if we were doing the demo in the hotel's kitchens, but in a conference room we were sure to asphyxiate the attendees, or at a minimum set off the sprinkler systems.
In an attempt to avoid an acrid-smelling wet tee shirt contest, Cathy and Kim wisely chose to steer the demo toward the new current challenge: Sausage grinding. This, we could do.
Ultimately, each of us did a different sausage: Cathy did hot Italian, Kim did breakfast sausage, and I did chorizo, using a recipe from my dear friend Anita. Using our three gorgeous new stand mixers (thanks, Kitchenaid!), we showed an eager audience how to grind chilled pork, add seasonings cook it up until succulent and delicious.
Of course the predictable snark and innuendo ensued. As I started on the chorizo, Hank inquired whether I needed any help handling my meat, to which I remarked that everyone should note how the mixer was groaning and straining due to the firmness of my meat. And, on it went from there. Hank said that you could teach a sausage class to a group of 80-year-old nuns, and the same jokes would still come up.
We got the crowd involved (like Foodie Lawyer Dan Conran, above), encouraging them to try their own hands at grinding, mixing and cooking the sausage. Aside from the valuable hands-on learning experience, everyone also got to enjoy the fruits of their own labor.
Cathy's post really captured the excitement of the day. All three sausages were delicious, but I was quite pleased with the chorizo. It's a recipe we've made with Anita more than once, and it's a serious crowd pleaser. With her permission, I'm including the recipe here.
Anita developed this recipe by trying a variety of Spanish and Mexican chorizo recipes, and adapting them to her taste. The end result leans far more to the loose, crumbly Mexican style; however, it does not include annatto seed (achiote paste), which is typical for many Mexican chorizos.
4 pounds pork shoulder, 70% lean 30% fat
1 oz kosher salt
1/4 cup hot chile molido*
3 T smoked paprika
3 T hot Spanish paprika (pimentón picante)
1 T ground Mexican canela (or 1/2 T regular cinnamon)
2 T Mexican oregano, crumbled after measuring
2 T thyme leaf
2 T ground cumin
2 T ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
2 small bay leaves, crumbled or run through a spice grinder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
add after grinding:
2.5 oz red wine vinegar
Cut the pork into chunks; toss with all seasonings except vinegar. (Note: We seasoned after grinding due to timing issues.) Refrigerate seasoned pork, as well as the grinder parts, to chill thoroughly.
Grind meat, fat, and seasonings together through the coarse plate of a meat grinder into a well-chilled mixing bowl. If your meat has a lot of connective tissue, clear the blade and die frequently to prevent smearing. If the output starts to look pink (rather than red) or oozing out of the edges of the die rather than coming out of the holes cleanly, it's time to clear the blade. Once the meat has been ground, return it to the original metal bowl and mix in any remaining loose seasonings. Optionally, run the meat through the grinder again if you want a smoother texture.
Mix the ground meat on low speed with the mixer's paddle attachment for one minute, gradually adding the vinegar. Mix on medium speed for about a minute, until sausage is sticky to the touch. You'll be able to hear the change in texture.
Make a test patty and cook it in a pan. Taste the sample and adjust seasonings and consistency as needed. Case into links, form into patties, or store in bulk. Will keep refrigerated for 7 days, or frozen for up to 6 months.
* Anita uses Mojave brand hot new mexico ground chile found in latino markets and the ethnic aisle of safeway.