Sundried Tomato and Fennel Sausage
1/3 c. dry packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 – 1 T. olive oil
4 T. cold water
2 t. fennel seeds, freshly ground
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 T. fresh thyme, finely minced
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. white pepper
2 lbs pork shoulder, well chilled
Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, and cover with boiling water. Allow to soften for 15 minutes, then drain and finely chop. Place chopped tomatoes in a small bowl, then mix with the olive oil, water, fennel, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Set aside
Cut the pork into smallish cubes, about 3/4 inch or so. Pass through the coarse plate of a meat grinder. Place pork in a bowl, then using your hands, mix in the tomato and fennel spice mixture until well combined. Pass meat mixture through the coarse plate of the meat grinder one more time, then place in a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
Shape into patties and fry, stuff into casings, or simply saute the loose sausage. Enjoy!
Alternatively, if you don’t have a meat grinder, if you ask nicely, most butchers will grind the meat for you in their shop. Or you can simply start with ground pork, adding 1/4 c. or so extra chopped fat from slab bacon or pork belly
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Sometimes you find an ingredient that just inspires you. Usually for me it’s not something that’s exotic or expensive, but rather something that is of such high quality or is so fresh that you want to run home and cook something with it *right now*!
Such were the dried tomatoes I found at a small salumeria in Como, Italy this past weekend. Steven and I went down for a long weekend and pretty much ate ourselves silly with amazingly delicious Italian food. The highlight was an under-the-stars dinner on the terrace at Al Giardino (on Via Monte Grappa, if you happen to be in the area) in the outskirts of Como — fresh burrata, handmade pasta with fresh spicy sausage, breaded and fried lamb chops, a chocolate and pear tart, and oh the red wine!
But back to the tomatoes. These dried tomatoes are perfectly pliable, deep rusty red, and highly aromatic. Personally, I find more uses for dry packed tomatoes than tomatoes packed in oil, though both have a time and a place. Once I got back home, I started thinking of ways to use the tomatoes… tomato cream sauce, polenta with dried tomatoes, egg custard with dried tomatoes and herbs… and then my mind drifted to sausage — I do live in Germany, you know :).
Making sausage is really much easier than one would think, especially if you just make patties or use it as bulk sausage. Most of the time when I buy sausage links, I end up taking it out of the casings anyway, so when making my own, I rarely bother with the stuffing step. If you don’t have a meat grinder, then things are even easier! Just ask your butcher to grind whatever meat you purchase there in the shop. If possible, start with a cut of meat rather than buying pre-ground pork, as you are more likely to get the meat to fat ratio correct with a cut like a picnic shoulder or boston butt. Then just mix in the seasonings, and you have bulk sausage.
And one last note, definitely don’t skimp on the fat when making sausage — an 85/15 or 80/20 meat to fat ratio is ideal. Less than that and your sausage will have a grainy, dry texture. And really, if you’re going to go to the trouble of making sausage from scratch, shouldn’t it be as tasty as possible? And speaking of the taste of this sausage — it’s fantastic! Herby with a hint of savory sweetness from the tomatoes, and just the right amount of pepper — delicious at any meal!