Leaving the house at 8am on a Sunday and driving an hour to get to a pig butchery and sausage making course probably isn’t most people’s idea of a fun day out nor a perfect wedding present, but Jed and I were happy as the proverbial pigs in muck at the prospect of our day ahead.
So, what kind of people are attracted to this course run by the Empire Farm? We were joined by a few who, like us, just enjoy food and were interested to learn a new skill. Others had smallholdings or farms and wanted to learn the practical skills needed to handle their own produce and turn it into a profitable business.
Dan from Twelve Green Acres farm and our tutor for the day is a pig farmer and butcher who sells his meat both in his local area and at farmers’ markets in London. He brought a 30kg side of one of his own pigs with him for us to work with; a Duroc middle white cross, classified as a porker meaning that it is quite lean with only a thin layer of fat and therefore good for selling as pork joints.
The morning was spent in the butchery learning about rearing pigs for meat, slaughtering, the equipment needed for butchery as well as watching as the side of pig was divided into individual joints.
Before lunch we got hands on, each of us taking a joint to de-bone and skin then chop into chunks in preparation for the afternoon session of sausage making. Unusually and rather decadently, the whole side of this pig was going into the sausage bucket. These couldn’t fail to be good sausages!
After a beautiful lunch prepared by Sally who runs the farm and courses, which of course included some of Dan’s sausages, we headed back to the butchery to get stuck into the second part of the course.
All the meat and some fat (20-30% of the mixture should be fat) were coarsely minced and divided into 2kg portions for us to work with. We set to weighing out the majority of the ingredients needed to make a traditional English pork sausage* as well as our chosen flavourings of chilli, garlic and shallot, combined them with the course pork mince and some water (the water helps push the meat through the machine and into the skins but is lost during the 24 hours that the sausages are left to hang after making) then put the mixture through the mincer a second time on a finer setting.
After cooking a small patty of the mixture in the test kitchen and adjusting the flavouring, we were ready to get stuffing. Stuffing is a two person job – one person to load the machine and turn the handle and one person to guide the mixture into the natural hog casings and ensure an even, air-free sausage – something I could use more practice at!
A little bit of coaxing and squeezing out of air was needed before we could start linking. I’ve always wondered how it was done but once you’ve learnt the pattern and found your rhythm, it really isn’t that difficult and was fun to do.
We ended the day with a sausage taste testing. We all cooked off a couple of the sausages we’d made and marvelled at people’s flavour combinations – some conservative, others quite weird and wonderful. Even if we do say so ourselves, we made some bloody good, tasty sausages! We were pleased to be taking them home with us to go in the freezer and sustain us for a fair few weeks!
*Traditional English pork sausage recipe
1.8kg pork including 20-30% fat
200g breadcrumbs (or 100 – 150g breadcrumbs and 50 – 100g flavourings such as leek, apples etc.)
0.5 tsp nutmeg
0.5 tsp mace
10 – 15g black pepper
water to mix (or beer, wine, cider or something else that tickles your fancy)