After watching Food Inc. a few months ago, it became very apparent to me that most people have no idea where their food comes from. (As a side note, a fellow teacher friend of mine wrote me to say that her class was watching this same movie, and she asked her class what the “big machine” was in the field. Not a single one of her urban kids knew what a combine was.)
However, I have also come to realize that there are some foods that we would no longer eat if we could see them being made. Sometimes the process itself just turns the stomach just a little too much. This is what I experienced last weekend when I went to a sausage stuffing party.
(No, that’s not a euphemism.)
Really — I went to a party where a bunch of family members make their own sausage creations and then smoke them in a smokehouse. My brother-in-law’s family has been doing this for years, and for the last two events, I have been present and taking pictures.
Thus ended my sausage-eating days. Well, almost. I will still eat it occasionally, but never without a quick flashback to how it’s actually made.
Did you know that grocery stores actually sell BOXES of intestinal casings specifically for making sausage? They smell dee-licious, let me tell you.
Each casing must have water squeezed through it to thoroughly rinse it, so my sister always ends up with this fun job. I was not the only one watching this process with sort of a look of horrified fascination; it’s three parts gross, one part interesting.
Each family brings their own meat and, most importantly, their own recipe. Spices are on hand, but it’s up to each family to concoct their own “secret” recipe.
Needless to say, spices abound.
But the measurements are very, very important.
Mixing the meat is the next step, taking care to get all the spices evenly distributed.
This is definitely an old fashioned Midwestern party. Vegetarians might feel a tad out of place.
Then the meat is dumped into the grinder, the casing carefully slipped on the end of the nozzle, and the sausage-making begins.
The sections are tied with string to keep the meat in its glorious casing-enwrapped place. With each batch, a small patty is fried and cut up (before it is put in the casing) so that samples can make the rounds. The world’s least judgmental taste testers eat the samples and almost always utter words of approval. It’s sausage. Unless someone accidentally dumped in three times as much mace, it’s all going to pretty much taste the same.
The smokehouse is the next stop, where the sausage will spend the next several hours being thoroughly smothered.
The finished product is then paraded out so that everyone can oooo and aaaah over it, and the wrapping commences.
With all the people on hand for this stage, it is a very efficient assembly line. We Midwesterners don’t mess around when it comes to preserving sausage.
Last year I took about 200 pictures of this process. This year? About a hundred or so. I came to realize very quickly that this year’s pictures were turning out nearly identical to last year’s pictures. Apparently, the process of stuffing sausage does not vary much from one year to the next. Lesson learned.
And that, boys and girls, is the story of sausage. The real challenge comes from trying really hard not to think about those casings next time you eat some. I dare you.