Vegetarians… I’d advice you to stop reading right now… Vegans… run for the hills. The rest of you carnivores… carry on.
Is there anything quite as wonderful as a well made sausage ? I think not… Well ok, maybe a couple of things… but good sausages are definitely up there. Top 10 for sure. So it will come as no surprise that when I heard Slow Food Perth were planning a day of old school sausage making, I jumped at the chance.
I’ve got to say I’m really starting to like these Slow Food events. A bunch of people who love food and wine as much as I do all getting together to learn about it and enjoy themselves, and possibly devouring vast sums of magnificent produce. What’s not to like ?
The title of this event was “The Best Cuts”, the setting was the home of chef Vincenzo Velletri, Slow Food chef extraordinaire, and one of the W.A representatives at the Terra Madre, Slow Food’s international conference, last year.
So our task was to turn a 120 kg pig into as many sausages as possible. A specially slaughtered pig was obtained from Spencers Brook Farm, an organic pig farm specialising in Berkshire pigs. Although ours was a large white pig formerly named “Chubby”, who we were told had led a happy life out on the farm for many years. So with knives and cutting boards at the ready, we filed into the kitchen at Vincenzo’s house in West Swan to begin the work.
These were no ordinary sausages to be thrown into a grinder and spat out the other end. But hand cut and mixed sausages of Monte San Biagio. Made as true to the origins as possible.
The Monte San Biagio sausage is now a part of the Slow Food presidia, which means they are actively being preserved and protected. So making them wasn’t simply a case of throwing a bunch of random ingredients into a grinder and spitting sausages out the other end.
Vincenzo cut sections of the meat into large chunks and then a production line of people helped to work it down into tiny cubes small enough to look like mince meat, but with much more body and texture than you’d gain from grinding it. The cutting took all morning. Which is why I suppose Italian families might only do this a couple of times a year, and why you’d get the whole family involved. It’s a lot of work. But short breaks for coffee (with maybe a little grappa), and marmalade crostata, made things fly by pretty quickly.
Then finally the cutting was done, and it was time to mix. Sea Salt in large quantities is added so the meat cures properly. Then it’s just crushed coriander seeds, dried chilli, and white wine. Mixed through the pork and combined well by the hands of a bunch of enthusiastic slow foodies.
So while we let the sausage mix settle, it was time for lunch. Another helping of the wonderful polenta with sausage mixture poured over the top. But this time I got to help make it :) A team of strong armed helpers took turns stirring a massive pot of polenta until it was just right, while I cooked down some of the sausage mixture in a pan with a little olive oil and white wine.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, another team of helpers were making fresh pasta using biodynamic flour and semolina from Dayle Lloyds Eden Valley Biodynamic Flour. Dayle had happily driven the 3 hours to Perth from Dumbleyung that morning to be a part of the day and bring some wonderful flour to use.
Lunch was again a sumptuous feast. Polenta and sausage, Fresh fettucini and passata, Italian broccoli, salad, fresh bread, wine, and when we thought it was all finished, more pork steaks seared on the bbq and drizzled with home made olive oil.
Our bodies rested and our souls restored, it was on to finish the job. Another group of likely ladies (Sharon included) took hold of the intestines that were to hold the sausage mixture, and squeezed all the air out of them (sadly I missed out on this bit). Then still more teams of people fed the sausage mixture into the funnel that pipes it into the intestines. The interesting thing being how easy Vincenzo made it look, and how hard everyone else did :)
Still, it was a great learning experience, and a lot of fun. We ended up the day with 4kg (count em!) of sausages to take home, which I promptly hung in the laundry to dry out. Being over two weeks ago that we went, I’ve since started using them to great effect… slicing pieces on their own for antipasto, and using it much like my beloved chorizo (which has taken a temporary backseat), in an arrangement of pasta and omlette style dishes.
How do they taste you ask ? Fantastic… Very spicy from the amount of chilli that went into them, and with a robust coriander flavour that becomes more or less intense depending on which piece you bite into. I’d highly recommend anyone give it a try. Just find your nearest Italian family and get stuffing !
Many thanks again to Slow Food for organising the event, and here’s looking forward to the next one :)