The size of the casing will determine whether you are making soppressata (3 ½ inch) or sausage (1 ½ inch). While the meat is exactly the same, the difference in thickness between the two will ensure a difference in taste at the end of the aging process.
• 1 whole freshly butchered pork shoulder or thigh (11 kg)
• 50 g black ground pepper
• 50 g ground fennel seeds (can be ground with a coffee grinder)
• Fine salt (10 g/pound (450 g) of meat)
• Half a jar of salsa di peperone. You may substitute with paprika or hot flakes (to taste).
• 1 or 2 packs of sausage casings (lamb casings)
• 1 orange, cut in half (to help flavour & disinfect casings)
• Butcher twine for tightening the ends
• Meat grinder (preferably electric) with sausage stuffer attachments if possible
• Sausage stuffer (preferably electric)
• “S” hook
• Small bowl (for collecting the meat)
• Large bowl (for mixing the meat)
• Large wooden spoon
• Good scale (to weigh the meat)
• Wooden rack (to hang sausages)
Cutting the meat
- Start by carefully removing the skin of the pork shoulder and all the unwanted hard lard, ligaments and nerves from the meat.
- Divide the lean meat and the fat into two different containers.
- Both sausages and soppressata should have a ratio of 10 to 25 percent fat for 75 to 90 percent lean meat.
- Keep all the white hard fat and discard all the fat that is too soggy.
- Once you reach the bone (also called sacred bone) scrape off as much usable meat as possible.
- Make extra sure that there are no bones left on the meat to avoid damaging the grinder.
* You can ask your butcher to mince your meat, but doing it yourself will ensure your meat is free of any unwanted elements.
Grinding the meat
- Once the cutting is complete, start mincing the meat. The fat should always be minced thinner than the lean meat. You should, therefore, select the appropriate die plates or levels on your meat grinder. The fat should be at least half the size of the lean meat.
- Place a bowl under the grinder’s hopper to collect the meat coming out of it as you push the meat into the grinder with the help of a sturdy wooden tool.
- Once minced, weigh your meat and mark it down to ensure correct seasoning before transferring it into a large container for mixing and seasoning.
* Meat Grinder: While slower, domestic kitchen food processors will do the trick, but they usually don’t include a stuffing function.
* An average hand-cranked grinder and sausage stuffer typically costs $50 to $60, while a good electric meat grinder including sausage stuffer attachments will cost you anywhere from $200 to $500. You may find them in most kitchen appliance stores.
Mixing and seasoning
- In a large container, mix fatty and lean meats with a large wooden spoon and start adding the dry ingredients and the salsa di peperone. Count 10 g of fine salt for every pound (450 g) of meat.
- Once all the ingredients are roughly mixed together, continue mixing with your hands to make sure all the ingredients are spread evenly until your mixture reaches a thick texture.
Filling and stuffing
- Replace the die plate from your meat grinder with your stuffing tube (or use a separate sausage stuffer). Use a bigger tube for the soppressata and a smaller one for the sausage.
- Once the tube is installed, lubricate it with a bit of olive oil and slip the whole casing onto the filling tube making sure you pull it all the way to the end of the cylinder. Tie the end of the casing with a double knot to secure it and slowly start pressing your meat into the tube.
- Fill your casings up to 6 to 10 inches depending on how long you want your sausages. For the soppressata, use butcher twine to divide each soppressata link to the desired length.
- For the sausage, fill your casing in a continuous fashion in one long coil until the casing is completely filled. During the filling, there is no need to separate your sausages.
- Once ready, divide your long sausage coils in two and make a knot at the centre leaving a small loop for hanging. Then start making links to the desired length with butcher twine or by simply pinching off your coil dividing your links by spinning them between your fingers away from you several times. Continue this way, alternating, until you get to the end of the coil.
- To prevent the casing from ripping or sliding off the tube, let the meat enter the casing without adding any pressure, gently holding the casing onto the tube with one hand, slowly letting the casing slide as it gets filled and twisting the sausage with the other hand as it takes shape.
*If a casing breaks while you are filling your soppressata, you can always patch the broken area with a piece of extra casing that you will apply on the opening as a bandage. If the casing breaks while filling your sausage, simply tie the end of the casing and restart process with the remaining casing discarding the broken part as it is not really worth patching up afterwards.
* This step requires two people: one person holding the casing, the other one pushing the meat into the grinder.
* You need about 15-18 feet of casing for a 5-pound batch of links * Once done, make sure to clean and disinfect your machine properly, disassembling it completely.
Hanging and aging
- Once ready, hang your sausages on a rack in your cantina with an “S” hook making sure the sausages don’t touch each other using a small piece of wood or plastic to separate them.
- The soppressata must age three and a half months depending on how thick they are. Sausages should age for a minimum of three months.
- In ideal conditions, a white coating should slowly develop on the casing. This is a normal reaction that does not affect the quality of the meat and the integrety of the taste.
* If your sausages start turning green or black, discard them immediately as this means they have been contaminated by unwanted mould and are unedible.
Ideal aging conditions
- To properly age your cured meats and to prevent any appearance of mould, your cantina requires a careful balance between humidity and ventilation.
- You should always have a fan running to keep mould out of the cantina. The humidity level should always be around 35%.
- The ideal period to dry and age cured meats at home is between November and March.
- It is not recommended to age any kind of meat during the warmer, humid summer months.
- Once ready and vacuumed sealed, you can keep your meat for up to one year in the refrigerator.
written by Francesco & Carolina Caruso