With advertising that urged bacon lovers of the world to unite and that featured images of that most fragrant of fats frying up in a skillet, there was no mistaking that the cooking workshop, "Makin’ Bacon 2," held last Sunday in San Francisco, was a true love letter to bacon and its close cousin pork sausage.
The course, an encore performance after a successful earlier incarnation, was organized by members of Slow Food Berkeley (to raise money for Slow Food’s Time for Lunch campaign) and taught by Rick Abruzzo, the proprietor of the San Francisco street food charcuterie cart, Mission Sausage. Abruzzo, who answers questions about his culinary background with the simple response, “I like sausage,” is a self-taught master of all things cured.
Drawing from the bacon recipe presented in Michael Ruhlman and Bryan Polcyn’s tome Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, Abruzzo enthusiastically espoused his own his philosophy of bacon making, “Make it your own.” While the basic dry cure recipe (a mixture of salt, sugar, and curing salt or sodium nitrite) is essential to preventing illness, when it comes to flavoring, Abruzzo says, “If it goes good with pork, throw it in the bag.” He has tried everything from a very traditional maple syrup and brown sugar mix to an aromatic combination of cloves and coffee.
While his bacon making certainly shows off his creativity (and tastes amazing), it is with sausage that Abruzzo ascends to hog heaven. Again working with basics in charcuterie technique – keeping the pork chilled before grinding; working with meat made up of 25-30% fat; removing as much sinew as possible to prevent it from clogging the grinder – Abruzzo went through the back-breaking process of butchering pounds of near-frozen pork shoulder before using an electric grinder and stuffer to create gorgeous links of fresh sausage. The resulting wieners ranged from andouille to sweet Italian, and as samples were passed around the classroom, the response was a simple “mmmm.”
For those in the Bay Area, Makin’ Bacon 3 will be coming on January 10th to a classroom near you (Union-SF. For those further afield, here’s Abruzzo’s recipe for a truly unique spin on sausage, which takes a classic South American pairing of pork and banana and turns it on its head.
Banana Beer Sausage
by Rick Abruzzo
5 lbs of pork shoulder, boneless, 1" cubed, sinew removed
40g kosher salt
6g pepper, coarse grind
2 medium bananas, chopped coarse
2 bunches of mint, chopped coarse
1 cup chocolate stout beer
Directions: 1. Toss the mint, banana, salt and pepper with the meat. Ideally season overnight in your fridge. 2. Using an electric grinder (see note below) or a Kitchen Aid attachment, grind with small die. 3. Add beer to distribute season, toss till beer is absorbed by the meat. 4. Stuff into casings (see note below) or fry as patties.
Notes: Abruzzo recommends the site Butcher-Packer.com for all things sausage (grinders, casings, stuffers, seasoning, etc.)
While you can simply fry the sausage as patties, if you want to go the link route, Abruzzo makes the following recommendations, “Soak the casings in tepid water for 30 minutes. Flush with water a few times before using. The best way is to hook the casing up to your faucet like a water balloon and run water slowly. Load the casing on the stuffer funnel like a condom, but don't tie off the end until the meat is poking out, or you'll get air bubbles.”
This is the first in a series of "Dispatches from the Bay" from Katie Robbins, a freelance writer currently splitting her time between cities of New York and San Francisco. Her writing on food has appeared in Saveur, BlackBook, and the Atlantic Monthly's Food Channel.
Photos: Arthur Perley