Tonight for dinner, we’ll be having sausages and mash. Not just any sausages, mind you, but beautifully tasty sausages made with nothing but fresh, free-range Berkshire pork and seasonings – no fillers, cereals or preservatives. And do you know how I can be so very sure of this? Because I made them myself! Much to my excitement, Richard Gunner, of Feast Fine Foods, was kind enough to invite me to one of his first sausage making classes recently, which he is holding in the Central Market Kitchen, in Adelaide. As a result of requests from many of his customers, Richard has introduced a range of classes for the avid home butcher. The classes include both pork and lamb butchery classes, which are both proving very popular, but it was the sausage making class that caught my eye. The classes are held in small groups and there is no room for slackers – this is a total hand-on experience, with loads of scope for plenty of personal creative expression.
Unlike many of the cooking and food demonstration classes I have attended, this one was particularly “bloke heavy”, with the boys outnumbering the girls 8/5 – a fact not lost on one who has a husband who is notoriously difficult to buy gifts for. A voucher for one of these classes would make the perfect gift for the man in anyone’s life and the boys in our group were completely engaged right from the very beginning.
The class starts with an introduction to some basic knife techniques, especially the art of sharpening a knife and keeping it that way – imperative for safely working with large joints of raw meat. This was followed by a demonstration by Steve, the butcher, of how to bone the shoulder of Berkshire pork which we were to use. He then proceeded to put the meat through the mincer, showing us the two different textures used for sausage making. For the traditional “paste” sausage that we generally see wrapped in bread at barbeques the mince is put through twice, to give it a smooth consistency, while the meat for the more textured gourmet sausage is only put through once.
There followed detailed conversation about the optimum fat to meat ratio and the desirability of some fats over others. The pork we were using had the perfect amount of fat, so no more was added but for leaner meats added fat is necessary and I was surprised to learn that this can be either animal fat, including chicken fat and skin, or coconut cream! The issue of seasoning was then addressed and it came as no surprise to learn that Feast sausages are flavoured as naturally as possible with salt, herbs and spices.
As Steve mixed the meat, salt, spice mix and iced water together to make the sausage filling, Richard filled us in on the various sausage skin options available and the desirability of one over another, before introducing us to the business end of the evening – the sausage filling machine. The wet skins (we used sheep gut) is concertinaed up over the nozzle at one end, the meat mixture is pushed in at the other and clamped down with a plate, then a crank is turned steadily to feed the mix into the tube of skin. This is where the real “hands-on” aspect of the evening began as we all took a turn – with varying degrees of initial success, but much laughter.
At this point we were divided up into groups of three or four to begin work on our own sausage creations and instructed to come up with our own blend of flavours. If you attend a daytime class, you are able to go through the market and make your own selections but, as mine was an evening class, there was a dizzying selection of fresh products, spices, herbs and nuts provided. There were a few things there that came as a surprise to me and my companions and I quickly scooped up some fresh pears, fresh ginger and some unexpected bottles of pear nectar and made off with them to our corner of the kitchen.
Sleeves were rolled up, gloves donned and we got busy weighing salt, iced water, chopping, mixing and tasting, with one eye on the rest of the class. Some seemed to get over-excited, putting as many flavours into their mix as they could manage, while others clearly gave it a lot of thought. The group of blokes next to us impressed with their blend of orange (juice and rind), pistachios and dates – my favourite next to our own pear and ginger combination.
The final challenge to rise to was the linking of the snags which wasn’t as easy as it first looks, but was eventually mastered.
As the sausages were completed Richard ran around and grabbed one of each of our snags and fried them up so we could all have a taste and compare our efforts and, for first-timers, I think we all did quite well. There was clearly some pretty serious interest from some of the participants in making this more than a once only experience. All one needs to mince up meat is a good stand mixer with the correct attachment, or the old fashioned table-clamped kind and Richard will gladly help out by sourcing the skins and a sausage filler for those who are keen to expand their skills at home.
These classes are perfect for those who are eager to take the next step towards taking control of their food, or just to satisfy some curiosity about how our food gets to us. Richard and his staff are helpful, informative and generous with their skills and knowledge and work hard to make sure everyone get the most out of what is a great class. And the best part – no one goes home empty-handed. We all toddled out of there bearing two kilo’s of sausages we had made ourselves, plus a bag of Feast’s fantastic pork and fennel sausages – brilliant value for an entertaining evening.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of Richard Gunner and Feast Fine Foods.