OK, so a few days ago I went down to check out the new Honest Weight Food Co-Op's new digs in Albany. I was mostly interested in their purportedly much expanded meat section. As you would know if you have been reading my ramblings lately, I have sworn off "commodity/industrial" meats. So finding a decent source of responsibly farmed flesh is fairly important to me right now...
First, the good stuff about the Co-Op. There really is a decent selection of meats now. You could probably source any of your meat needs there now which was not necessarily the case at the old location. If you are into dabbling in some of the more esoteric meaty arts you will be pleased by some items that you don't really see too many other places. For instance, they have rather large amounts of leaf lard ripe for the rendering! I love cooking with lard and leaf lard is the primo stuff. I will be buying some soon. But they also had some pig's tails, ears, and more importantly to me -- fat back.
Here are two frozen packs of fat back that I bought at 4.99 a pound (not the cheapest I have seen, to be sure, but not completely unreasonable). One is from Sugarbush Farm (Stephentown, NY) and one is from Stony Brook Farm (Schoharie, NY). As you may or may not know, more often then not, good fat back is the secret to good charcuterie.
Here is where my eyebrow started to raise a bit concerning the Co-Op's meat operation... I also bought a piece of grass fed/finished beef produced at Sweet Tree Farm (Carlisle, NY). The Co-Op was selling this 2.29 lbs. piece at 11.49$ per lbs. I will start by saying that I have no idea who does the actual "butchering" of the meat that is sold at the Co-Op. I don't know if they are breaking down primal cuts that they get from the farms or if they are just wrapping and selling smaller cuts. Either way they are responsible for the product they are providing. I had a couple problems with this purchase.
This piece of beef was labeled as "Sirloin Roast" and was tied off with butcher string. Firstly, to anyone who knows a bit about beef cuts "Sirloin" on its own doesn't really mean too much... After a closer examination I believe I got a bit of the bottom sirloin butt with a bit of flap meat attached... To me these sorts of distinctions mean stuff. Different parts of a cut have different applications. That flap meat is delicious freaking stuff! I would never waste it by cooking it along with another hunk "roast" style. That stuff needs to be treated like hanger or skirt steak.
Secondly, when you tie something off with butcher string and label it as a "roast" I think this implies that a certain level of butchery has occurred. I knew that I was going to be using this meat for sausage so I untied it and was confronted by an unfurled hunk of meat with a very large amount of silver skin and membrane running throughout. You can see this below -
Anyhow, I had planned a big dramatic post on whether using all these expensive and quality cuts made a difference when used as components in different sorts of applications, blah, blah, blah... I was actually going to make hot dogs (the most pedestrian of meaty items!) but I didn't have any fitting casings on hand...
My mind wandered on to one of my favorite types of wurst -- Teawurst. Rolf's Pork Store in Albany makes what I think is an extremely good version of this spreadable sausage and that is where I usually get my teawurst fix. I thought it might be funny to make teawurst out of the high-end meats that I had accumulated at the coop. Teawurst is often a way to use up all the odd fatty bits and ends laying around the butcher shop so using the pricey beef I had bought just seemed to amuse me.
I discussed the use of my grass fed "sirloin" on the Twitters and some were aghast that I would defile my beef by grinding it up and using it for wurst... To tell you the truth, I have found that I generally derive more true culinary pleasure from charcuterie (however utilitarian) then I do from consuming meat as whole muscle. Not that I would grind up rib-eye for hot dogs (actually I probably would...) but using sirloin in a sausage recipe seems completely reasonable to me.
Geez, that was a lot of blathering. I am done, on to the recipe! I started by grinding 2 lbs of the beef and 1 1/5th lbs. of the fat back through a fine (1/8") plate. During this hot weather you are doing to want to partially freeze the meat/fat, your bowls, and the components of your grinder. Teawurst is an emulsified sort of sausage so keeping the fat very cold is crucial.
Normally pork is the predominant non-fat meat used, but I went with all beef. So this recipe is not really traditional and I am calling it "Beefwurst."
I really wanted the meat to be the star of the show here so I used a very judicious hand in formulating my spice mixture. Here is what I came up with - 1/4 tsp. dextrose, 3/4 tsp. white pepper, 1/4 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, and 3 juniper berries. All of that gets ground to a fine powder in a burr grinder.
Notice no salt yet. This is a spreadable sausage and you don't want it binding up. Salt leads to myosin which leads to binding. Save the salt until the last minute. I sprinkled the spice mixture over the meat/fat and lightly stirred it in with a spoon. The mixture goes in the fridge overnight.
The next day, place the meat mixture in the freezer until it is nice and crusty. Short of frozen solid but pretty cold. Run it through a fine plate again. Back in the freezer to chill down again and then a third trip through the grinder. Put it back in the freezer to chill down in preparation for adding the final ingredients.
As if all of the fat back doesn't make this recipe rich enough you are going to use a little cream. I used some heavy cream from Meadowbrook Farms Dairy (Clarksville, NY). About a 1/3 of a cup will do you nice in this instance.
Beat the cream into the meat mixture with the cake paddle on your stand mixture. At this point I also added a 1/4 tsp. of Bactoferm F-LC (you could use T-SPX I guess..., I use F-LC as an all purpose culture) diluted in water. The final addition is 18 grams (2 1/2 tsp. approx.) of salt and 1/2 tsp. of cure #2 diluted in a small amount of water. The 3 grindings have already emulsified the meat to some degree but a final go around in the stand mixer will ensure a good final texture. Don't go overboard, maybe a minute or two on med-high speed.
I really would avoid using an electric screw powered stuffer for filling the casings. I find them to be emulsification killers. Use a hand cranked stuffer if you can beg, borrow, or steal one... I filled three collagen chubs with 1 lbs. of the mixture. The last one actually had a little over as this was a 3.2 lbs. recipe.
I hung the chubs at 70 degrees and almost 100 percent humidity for 24 hours.
Next we cold smoke the teawurst chubs. As everything else involved in this recipe was pretty much from New York I decided to use some apple wood chunks to keep with the theme. I gave the chubs about 5 hours of good smoke at 60 degrees which is a relatively short time. I was looking for a nice beefy/meaty flavor and didn't want the smoke to be overwhelming.
I thought they came out looking pretty good.
I hung the "beefwursts" at 70 degrees overnight and then moved them into the fridge for another 24 hours. This afternoon I finally cut into one.
I was tickled pink by what I saw and felt upon cutting into the little bastard. The texture was creamy and spreadable, the color was what it should be, and it smelled wonderful. I spread a nice heal of Heidelberg Rye (Herkimer, NY) with a hearty schmeer of my beefwurst!
Just look, isn't that a beautiful thing?
I was thoroughly pleased with how this stuff turned out. The spicing was subtle, the meaty flavors came through, there was just enough fermented tang, the salt level was spot on, and the conservative amount of smoke was just the thing. This stuff tastes really, really good.
I worked out the price per chub in light of having used some pricey components and it came to between 10 and 11 bucks per pound. That ain't bad in my opinion. I would certainly pay 10 clams for a big one pound chub of this smokey meat butter. I think Rolf's charges 7 dollars per pound so this isn't even that much more expensive than theirs!
I guess one of the things that can be taken away from this project is that using the best ingredients you can lay your hands on may not actually push the price of the end product as high as you would think. To my sensibilities the value of my 3.2 lbs. of Mr. Dave produced beefwurst far exceeds the monetary cost! I will be feasting on meat butter for quite some time!
I have said this before and I will say it again. I am always shocked when my bumbling ass manages to produce something that tastes this good... Go fourth people! Maketh thyselves some beefwurst!
This post has not been proofread. I am tired and it is long. Please forgive any and all egregious errors of grammar and spelling. Thank you.
***Oh yeah, this recipe is essentially for a "raw" product. Make at your own risk. Freeze the meat for 30 days to kill the possible baddies if you are worried. This is my disclaimer.