In the heart of the city of Oxford is the Covered Market, where you can buy everything from clothes to foods to furniture. At David John Butchers, I was amazed by the sheer variety of sausages available, every single day.
Back when I used to live in a major eastern U.S city, I could get a variety of sausages, but nothing compared to this variety. Now that I live in a village in upstate New York, my choices of sausage are breakfast or Italian. If I wanted great sausages at home, I would have to make my own.
I started with a recipe for Oxford sausages, a delicately seasoned, fine-textured sausage.
Start with very cold meat–almost frozen. The cold temperature helps suspend the fat in the sausage, which means they’ll end up wonderfully juicy.
Cut 1/2 pound of lean pork and 1/2 pound of lean veal into large chunks.
Run the chunks through your meat grinder at the fine setting into a large bowl.
Grind 6 ounces of almost-frozen pork fat on the finest setting, too. Since taking these photos, I’ve experimented with grinding the meat and fat at the same time, and it cuts down on mixing time.
Put a slice of wheat bread in a food processor, and pulse until it is all crumbs. Add to your bowl of meat and fat.
Now it’s time for the spices. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp mace, 1/8 tsp thyme, 1/8 tsp marjoram, and 1 tsp sage. Add to your meat mixture.
For a bright note, add 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest. Add one egg, and you’re ready to mix it together. It helps if you have a heavy-duty stand mixer, but you can also mix it by hand. The key it to mix it quickly without warming it up. You want to fat to stay cold.
Now comes the fun part–filling the casings. The casings I use come packed in saline, but you may also find them packed in dry salt. You may wish to rinse the casings if you don’t want too much salt in your sausages.
Feed the casing onto the nozzle of your meat grinder, like bunching up pantyhose before putting them on your leg. You don’t need the cutting plate in place on the grinder, just the nozzle.
Feed your sausage mixture through the grinder at a steady pace. The key is to fill the casings until they are full but not stuffed tight, so that you have enough room to twist them into links. This was my first effort at stuffing sausages, so you can see I need to work on my technique a bit!
The end result is a pleasing, delicately flavored, mildly spicy sausage. Serve this with mashed potatoes and onion gravy, and you have a fantastic meal.
Here’s the short version of the recipe.
1/2 lb lean pork, ground on a fine setting
1/2 lb lean veal, ground on a fine setting
6 oz pork fat, ground on a fine setting
1 slice white bread, processed into crumbs
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp mace
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp marjoram
1 tsp sage
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 large egg
Combine all ingredients in bowl until well mixed. Fry up a small amount to check spices for taste. Adjust as needed. Fill sausage casings.