My mom made dinner almost every night of the week when I grew up. On occasion, there would be a few things to munch on before Mom served our meal. Nothing fancy, mind you. Often she would open up a couple of cans of Vienna sausages…..
…..slice them in half, and we would grab them and eat them as fast as we could. Nothing fancy in which to dunk the sausages; just plain ol’ Vienna sausages. The first time I opened up a can of Vienna sausages and laid them in front of Bill, I believe he thought I’d lost my mind.
But perhaps more often than that, Mom would lay out summer sausage and a hunk of cheddar cheese. Actually, in the Gloor household, summer sausage might be an appetizer; it might be a picnic lunch; it might be a snack in the afternoon. We fought over the end pieces, for reasons I now can’t even begin to remember. What I know, however, is that to this day, if there is summer sausage available, I can’t keep my hands off of it.
I had never thought about making summer sausage or even how it was made; it was just one of those things you buy in your neighborhood grocery store’s deli. Still, our neighbor here mentioned that he made his own summer sausage, and shared his recipe with me. One of my challenges for 2018 was to prepare food I have never made before. With this in mind, I gave it a try this weekend…..
I had everything on hand except the home meat cure. I checked the grocery stores, but like the Elmer’s glue I sought last week, I couldn’t find it at Fry’s. I’m pretty sure, however, that it isn’t an ingredient in slime. Anyway where do you go if you want an unusual ingredient and you want it fast? Amazon, of course. Dear Amazon: one bag of Morton’s Quick Tender Home Meat Cure, some Elmer’s glue for slime, and a kangaroo to give to Bill for his birthday please. Two days later – ding dong.
My neighbor stressed the importance of getting the fattiest ground beef, so I started with two pounds of 80% lean hamburger meat. To that, I added liquid smoke, mustard seeds, finely minced garlic, coarse-ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. I shaped the mixture into two tightly formed logs…..
The meat logs were wrapped in aluminum foil, shiny side against the meat. I placed the aluminum-wrapped meat into the refrigerator for 24 hours.
The next day, I punched holes into the bottom of the foil with toothpicks and placed them on a broiler pan into which about a half-inch of water was added to the bottom…..
The meat was baked at 325 degrees for an hour-and-a-half, and then removed to cool on the counter for a bit before it is once again placed into the refrigerator for another 12 hours.
After 12 hours, I unwrapped the meat, and there’s what I found….
Friends, it is good. It is, in fact, delicious. Even made from scratch, I can’t proclaim summer sausage to be health food. I haven’t had the guts to look at the ingredients in the curing mixture, but I’m pretty sure salt is the number one ingredient. Remember, that’s how Laura Ingall’s mom preserved her meat over the long Missouri winters. I don’t remember ever hearing Laura say, “Ma, I’m a bit concerned about our blood pressure. Could you cut back a bit on the salt?”
But the flavor is delicious and I haven’t even tried it with cheddar cheese and a piece of melba toast. Yum. Here is the recipe I used for my sausage…..
Homemade Summer Sausage
2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
2 T. mustard seed
1 T. finely-minced fresh garlic
2 T. liquid smoke flavoring
2 T. meat curing mixture (I used Morton Tender Quick)
1 t. coarse black pepper
1 T. red pepper flakes
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients using your clean hands just until thoroughly combined. Form into two equal logs, and wrap each log in aluminum foil with the shiny side facing the meat. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Poke holes in the bottom of the logs using toothpicks. Place the logs on a broiler rack into which you have added about ½ in of water.
Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly on the counter. Place the sausages into the refrigerator to chill for 12 hours.