An appropriate opening for this blog. Yesterday I bought a pile of pork sides and a few metres of casings. I ground half of the meat finely and the other half coarsely and spiced them up in various ways. Today, I created 2 kg sausages, most of which were directly confined to the freezer for later feasts.
This is no mere doodling or petty re-enacting of the ways of the olden days. Just take a look at the package of the sausages in the shop. It is possibly for reasons of tradition that the various kinds of Swedish sausages contain potato flakes (what are “potatisflingor” in English??) and sometimes sugar. Up to this point, my astonishment is just a marker of cultural differences and not really a quality judgment, although I don’t feel that a product with a meat content of some 70% ought to be called a “sausage”. In Sweden this would be korv in any case, so I should be content. I am much more concerned about those ingredients that all the sausages of the world contain.
Nitrites etc.: Julia Child (In From Julia Child’s Kitchen, p. 363-4) gives a nice short overview about how harmful a bite of sausage preserved in the traditional way (with nitrates) is likely to be. Not all that harmful, according to her. So perhaps adding nitrites would not be a major concern (or would it?), but since I now can freeze my sausages, I believe I’m more comfortable with just: salt.
Taste enhancers: the niche literature about the bad effects of sodium glutamate abounds, and of course, the normal customer cannot make head or tail of all the partly conflicting information. Let’s ask another question: what in the world can, in a pork sausage containing, say, 30% fat and a bunch of spices, go so wrong that taste enhancers are necessary at all? There must be some cheating going on someplace. I can, as I found out, make sausages at a first try that taste just as “much” as, no actually better than any commercial banger.
Vague preservatives of the E-something kind (for the non-Europeans: this is about the classification system of chemicals in food over here. My mustard here contains, for instance, E 224 which among educated people is known as potassium metabisulphite): Obviously, a sausage designed to survive many months in obscure supermarket corners needs to be safeguarded against decomposition. Or rather, the producer perhaps needs to be safeguarded against prosecution. The problem I see is that my stomach has kept itself fresh, thank you very much, without these chemicals, while the press periodically points out the one “E” or the other for rather worrying side-effects.
Coloring: granted, my Chorizo-style fantasy-bratwurst turned out pale orange. I should have added more paprika. Maybe it would have gotten medium orange instead. I will keep experimenting. That’s more fun than eating funny chemicals because the product supervisor of some creepy place has decided upon a specific color.
Salt: one place at the open market of Göteborg saluhallen has fresh Italian specialty sausages. Their meat content is great. They are spiced in various traditional ways, for example one kind contains fennel seeds – very tasty. They are small and they look really yummy. They contain, per piece, about as much salt as two whole regular meals. They are perhaps really good in a rustic bean soup, added instead of the salt. They are almost impossible to eat just grilled. What’s the point, one wonders.
Besides, making sausages is: fun, and cheap.