Saturday 25 July 2020

Loukaniko: Greek Style Sausage

It's been over three years since the last post by the Butchers of Great Thorne.  We've been dormant on the blogging front, but rest assured, we have continued our quest to perfect the art of sausage making (albeit only very occasionally). 

Admittedly though, this was our first sausage making session for over a year.  A lot of people have taken up hobbies and crafts during the pandemic, so it seemed appropriate to get back into the amateur butchery game.  For our first sausage making session back, we were joined by good friend of the Butchers of Great Thorne, Alex. 

During this session we decided to tackle Loukaniko, a Greek-style sausage.  We also decided to revisit Longganisa, a Filipino sausage that we'd actually made before (but it was so delicious that we promptly forgot to post the recipe on the blog). We'll post the Longganisa recipe soon, but here is our take on Loukaniko.

Loukaniko is spiced with onion, garlic, coriander seed, cumin and pepper.  It also usually includes orange zest.  We didn't have any oranges on hand, but Vinnie had a giant bag of cumquats from his parents place, so cumquat zest has replaced orange zest.  

Alex with his 2 litres of Retsina
What sets this sausage apart from others, is the Retsina.  Retsina is a Greek white wine, which gets some its flavour from being exposed to tree or pine resin.  Alex was tasked with tracking down the Retsina for the sausages.  During the COVID-19 Pandemic, it seems that everyone has been keen on drinking Retsina, so most places were sold out, but he found a 2 litre bottle at an international wine shop in Leichhardt.  

The recipe only called for 1 cup of Retsina.  So with the majority of the Retsina left unused, we also threw together a sausage-making cocktail featuring Retsina, cumquat juice (from all of the cumquats we zested), Amaro Montenegro and soda water.  Surprisingly refreshing.

  • 3kg of pork shoulder and belly, for a perfect fat content.
  • 1.5 kg of lamb shoulder.
  • Natural sausage casings.
  • 2 onions, finely chopped.
  • 12 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 cup of Retsina, preferably from a 2 litre bottle.
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, chopped.
  • Rind from 30 cumquats (or 2 oranges).
  • 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper.
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin.
  • 2 tablespoons of ground coriander seed.
  1. Chop the pork and lamb up into small 2 inch pieces, fat and all, and place on trays in the freezer, until slightly frozen and icy (approximately 1 hour).
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.
  3. Grind up the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander in a spice grinder or mortar & pestle.
  4. Remove the meat from the freezer, and put through a meat grinder.  We used a meat grinder attachment for a KitchenAid.
  5. Mix the onion, garlic, spices, salt, cumquat zest and retsina into the minced meat.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Fill sausage casing with the mixture. 
  7. Twist into links, and you're done! 

Thursday 16 February 2017

Merguez Sausage

It’s the news you’ve all been waiting for. The Butchers of Great Thorne have re-united like freshly linked sausages. After 18 months away in the UK, the home of modern butchery, Vinnie returned to Australia. We don’t want to mince words - we’re very happy to be back in business and will forget that awful time by engaging in some offal time!

As our first butchery project this year, we decided to make Merguez sausages. We recently went to Fatima’s in Surry Hills for a Lebanese feast, and tasted some deliciously spicy Lebanese sausages, which were grilled over charcoal.

In an attempt to recreate this, we researched recipes for sausages from the Middle East and Africa and the one that stood out was the Merguez sausage.

This is also our first lamb sausage, despite it being cut with a decent amount of pork fat.

A key ingredient in the Merguez is Harissa paste, which we made from scratch. The paste included some Mexican Ancho and Guajillo chillies which gives it a really earthy, smoky flavour. Vinnie will post a recipe for Harissa paste on his Jarhead Pickling blog.

Zorro, our Meat Inspection Officer
We have also now invested in a new sausage filler that makes really quick work of the stuffing process compared to the standard filler attachment to a food mixer/processor.

Our use of lamb shoulder also gave the sausages a really nice flavour and texture, and even after cooking them through on a barbecue, they still retain a lot of juice.   One improvement for next time will be to increase the amount of Harissa, paprika and chilli powder in the mix for additional heat.

Best way to serve these Merguez – on flat breads with tabbouleh and some garlicky yoghurt.

  • 3kg of lamb shoulder. 
  • 600g of pork fat. 
  • 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds. 
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds. 
  • ½ Cup of Harissa Paste (find recipe here). 
  • 1 tablespoon of ground pepper. 
  • 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt.

  1. Chop up the lamb shoulder and fat into small pieces and place the chopped meat into the freezer to harden for an hour.
  2. Grind the meat and fat on a coarse setting.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the fennel and cumin seeds and the pepper in a pan and then grind until the spices become a powder.
  4. Mix the ground spices through the meat along with the harissa paste and the salt.
  5. Fill your sausages.

Monday 12 January 2015

Our Legendary Boerewors Recipe

Following the success of our first batch of sausages, we decided to get ahead of ourselves and take on a chicken sausage and the legendary Boerewors.   Once again we had the help of our friends Alex and Danny (although unfortunately no Orson the dog).  This post will be about the Boerewors we made, but we’ll post about the chicken sausages in the coming weeks. 

The word “Boerewors” is an Afrikaans word which translates to farmers sausage.   It’s a favourite of David who has South African heritage, and has been eating it since he was a kid.   Boerewors must contain 90% meat (i.e. limited random bits and pieces that are not uncommon in commercial sausage production), must contain beef, and usually also includes pork or lamb.  

The most distinct flavor in the Boerewors comes from the ground cloves.  So if you’re not a fan of the flavor of cloves, then this sausage is, unfortunately, not for you!

South Africans take Boerewors so seriously that they put in place some legislation with the elaborate title:  The Regulations Governing the Composition and Labelling of Raw Boerewors, Raw Species Sausage and Raw Mixed-Species Sausage.  The regulations were put in place following a period during the 1960s where cheap Boerewors, which often included inferior ingredients such as offal, bone meal and soy, flooded the market.

The legislation requires, amongst other things that "raw Boerewors shall be manufactured from the meat of an animal of the bovine, ovine, porcine or caprine species or from a mixtrue of two or more thereof..."

This pretty much means that there are many variations to Boerewors, with some people using different cuts of meats from every animal known to man (e.g. camel or kudu), although these are not true Boerewors and must instead be sold with the dominant meat as the name.

In South Africa, butchers are extremely competitive with their Boerewors recipes, vying with one another for the title of the best Boeries in town.   As a result Boerewors recipes are often jealously guarded which made life difficult for us.   Despite this hurdle, and with the help of the internet and some ancient South African cook books that David's mum owned, we were able to put together the following Boerewors recipe.

  • 2kg beef steak (you can choose whatever cut you want, although rump is the traditional cut.   We generally opt for chuck or oyster blade in our sausage making as it is often cheap and makes for good sausage meat due to the high proportion of fat);
  • 1 kg pork shoulder;
  • 1kg lamb shoulder;
  • Speck or fat;
  • 4 tbsp of coriander seeds;
  • 1.5 tsp of whole cloves (ground);
  • 2 – 3 tbsp of salt;
  • 1.5 tsp ground pepper;
  • Just under 1 tsp of ground nutmeg;
  • 2 - 2.5 tsp ground allspice;
  • 2.5 tsp brown sugar;
  • 125 ml dark vinegar (you can use dry red wine vinegar instead but we prefer the dark malt vinegar);
  • 5 – 6 cloves of garlic; and
  • Thick sausage casings.

Choosing Meat

We initially were looking for mutton instead of lamb to impart a richer flavour, however, the mutton was very expensive that day and in the end, from a flavour perspective, lamb is a good substitute.   Similarly, you could swap the pork for some wild boar or add some venison to make the sausage more gamey.

The amount of speck or fat is dependent on the fat levels of the cuts of meat you are using and how juicy you like your sausages, however, the fat levels shouldn’t exceed 30%.   We opted for around 400 or 500 grams, although we didn't weigh the fat and mainly relied visually on the distribution of fat through the mince.   Many recipes call for speck, however, this can be expensive (our butcher gave us the fat for free) and doens't have a huge impact on the final flavour.

How to Make Boerewors

1.    The first step is to soak the casings in some tap water.

2.    To mince the meat you should pre-freeze the meat in 2 inch cubes for 30 minutes to stiffen it for easier grinding.   Using a coarse grinding plate, mince the meat and fat.   You can use a finer grinding disk if you wish, however, our preferred Boerewors has quite a grainy meat texture so it feels like you are eating real chunks of meat.   In this recipe you only grind the meat once (some other sausages require a coarse grinding followed by a second grinding of the mince through a fine grinding plate).

3.    Next, roast the coriander seeds and cloves in a dry frying pan, tossing the spices occasionally until uniformly brown and aromatic.   Be careful not to burn the spices – best to start on a very low heat and slowly increase if it doesn’t feel like the temperature is sufficient.   Grind the coriander and cloves in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder and sift the ground spices to remove the clove husks (this is an important step as removing the husks from your teeth when you are eating the Boerewors is not an enjoyable task).   Mix these spices with the remaining aromatics.   When we mixed all of the spices, the aroma of the mixed spices smelt exactly like it should which was very exciting and stomach grumble inducing.

4.    After thoroughly combining the spices and vinegar with the mince, the mince will be ready to be stuffed into the casing.   Different sized casing can be used, however, we prefer a thick casing around 1 inch in diameter as this leads to a juicy thick sausage.  Thinner sausages have a tendency to dry out and juiciness is key to good Boerewors.  

5.    To fill the casing you push the casing onto a nozzle and tie off the end.   Be sure to lubricate the casing nozzle with oil or butter as a dry nozzle will cause the casing to constantly tear and will really hamper your progress.  

6.    Pump the mince through the casing and allow the filled sausage to form a big coil.  Try to avoid over stuffing the casings as this may cause them to burst during cooking, however, ensure that the casing is packed tight enough so that no air bubbles can form as this can lead to bacteria growth which can spoil the meat.

7.    Once the casing has been stuffed full of all of the mixture you can tie off the other end.   When dividing the sausage, merely cut off the desired amount but leave it in a coil (i.e. do not twist into individual links), as Boerewors is traditionally sold as a long coil and not as smaller individual sausages.  

Cooking your Boerewors

The final step is to cook the Boerewors (although it is best to leave it in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to develop).   Some people skewer the coil of Boerewors through the side so that it is easier to flip on the BBQ but in our view this is sacrilege and attempts should be made to flip in its natural form.   Be careful not to overcook as the best Boerewors is a juicy succulent one.   

When we ate our Boerewors we were pleasantly surprised by the success on our first go.   It was beautifully juicy, had a really strong meatiness to it that no typical butcher shop sausage comes close to. The meat was quite grainy and had a lovely texture and the spice flavouring was absolutely spot on, although for the next batch we make we may increase the levels of the spice mixture to give it a bit of extra punch.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Our Second Batch of Bacon

Our first batch of bacon seemed to miraculously disappear.  Many of our friends and family wanted to try it, so we ended up distributing most of it.  But we also just couldn’t stop eating it ourselves (much to the detriment of our gallbladders.) 

Our first bacon experiment also yielded some interesting discoveries.  The flavour of the batch certainly wasn't perfect and it was very salty when compared to store bought bacon.  So we were keen to fix up the salt quantities in our second batch.

We also found that drying out the bacon, uncovered in a fridge yielded better results than letting it sit in a plastic bag, as was mentioned in Tim Hayward's book Food DIY (but this would still be a good approach if you don't have space in your fridge).  

It’s all about the salt

Our first attempt at bacon was delicious but (if we’re being honest) extremely salty. 

The recipes that we had looked at in our research seemed to ask for about 500g of salt per kilo and we were precise in our measurements.  So why did the bacon end up retaining so much salt? 

Was it the type or brand of salt?  We used Saxa brand rock sea salt, which we ground up using a spice grinder.  It isn’t the most expensive brand of salt, but would pricier and better quality salt yield different results?  A lot of the recipes online ask for kosher salt, which is apparently less intense than regular sea salt, and comes in flakes rather than rocks (a bit like Maldon sea salt).  Unfortunately kosher salt isn’t easy to find in Australia.

Or the coarseness of the grind?  Does salt penetrate the meat to a larger extent if the salt is finely ground?  It certainly dissolves into a brine quicker, so perhaps this means that the brine covers a greater part of the meat. 

Or simply the quantity?  There were a range of recipes online which didn’t ask for as much salt as we had used in our first batch.  In our first batch we had used 500g per 1kg of meat and as we made 1.5kg of meat this equated to 750 grams.  We decided that this may have been excessive, so moving forward we decided to reduce the salt by about a third.  So we decided to use 500g of salt regardless of the meat quantities.  In the end, we had 2kg of pork loin and 2kg of pork belly, and in each bag we included 500g of salt.


For our first batch, we used sage, juniper, maple syrup and brown sugar as the main flavourings.  This time we thought that we would try using honey instead.  

I had an old jar of honey that needed to be used as it was starting to crystalise in its jar (I heated the honey briefly in the microwave so it would be pourable).  

To this we added some cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, thyme and rosemary and chilli flakes.  The honey was much thicker than the maple syrup and left a thick coating on the pork.  

Bacon Results

While this second batch of bacon turned out to be less salty than our first, we are still yet to determine the perfect level of salt.  We are planning on halving the salt levels for our next batch, or experimenting with another type of salt.

The honey imparted some interesting flavours into the bacon.  It was slightly more sweet than the first batch and appeared to caramelise more readily than the maple syrup.   However, a consequence of this was that the bacon tended to char easily if not cooked with care.  

The most noticeable flavour we added was the cinnamon.  When cooking the bacon, the toasted cinnamon makes it smell like cinnamon scrolls! It’s really quite delicious, but probably less versatile to use in things like pasta, particularly with ingredients that don’t quite go with cinnamon. 

So it's back to the drawing board for us!  We'll post about Bacon 3.0 in the coming weeks.