Merguez sausage fairly simple to make
Today was curing, smoking and barbecue day at school and it ushered in the strangest snow storm of all; not a bad way to spend a Tuesday. Students made duck pastrami (to be smoked the next day), Andouille sausage and pepperoni. The latter is hanging in the walk-in after a dip in potassium sorbate, which keeps it from molding up and growing the nasty bacteria that can find its way into cured foods.
We will have to wait 20 days before braving the pepperoni, but the duck pastrami and Andouille can be tried tomorrow. That makes for an exciting day.
Never one to shy away from making sausages, I pulled out some leg of lamb and made a small mountain of Merguez, one of my absolute favorites. A spicy, tangy Moroccan favorite that has found its way around the globe, Merguez is traditionally made from lamb, garlic and warming spices.
It is a fairly simple sausage to make, and as my students learned today, it can be pretty fun. I could open a salami shop with little persuasion; I enjoy doing it that much.
The trick to a good Merguez is in the use of good, young lamb, a spice mix that can be as varied in as many ways as you have Moroccan cooks, and our old standby Harissa, or chili paste.
Oh, harissa, how I love thee. My very first recipe 10 years ago in these hallowed pages was for harissa, and that was a seriously long article; it could have qualified as a book in hindsight. I was quickly put to a limit since my editor learned that I can ramble on.
Now, harissa is one of my standbys because it can go on just about anything; wings, pizza, rice dishes, seafood, chicken, beef, lamb et al. Just make sure to salt the paste when you are done and you will notice a marked difference between the unfinished and the finished.
Another little trick for this recipe is something that is not in every charcuterie book. Simply put your ground sausage mix in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and blend thoroughly until it gets almost pasty. As long as everything stays cold (as the recipe indicates), the fats and proteins will bind and will be good to go.
When it comes to stuffing your sausage, if you are bold as to go that direction, we have to discuss the famous case of hand cranked sausage stuffer v. machinated stand mixer attachment.
I’m a big fan of hand-cranked sausage stuffers. They are surprisingly simple to use, even simpler to clean and it makes you feel like an old European butcher minus the lederhosen. As long as you maintain the stuffer and don’t lose any of the parts, you will be a pro in no time. Just look up LEM or sausage maker to get started on this amazing hobby. They also sell many curing powders and safety chemicals that you may need.
Adding this to your ever-growing battery of hobbies such as home brewing, wine making, bacon curing, stock making and other crafty habits only makes you stronger. It makes you happier, and if your beer is good and the sausage spicy, you stand the chance to weather this brutal spring in one piece.
Fresh Merguez Sausage1 lb. lamb leg
4 oz. fat (I use pork but you may not want to)
2 tbsp. Merguez spice, or as needed (recipe follows)
2 tbsp. Harissa (recipe follows)
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp. Minced cilantro
Natural casings, if stuffing
Before you start, make sure that you ice everything down; bowls, grinder parts et al.
Cut the lamb and fat into strips and run through a grinder twice; once through the large die and then once through the fine.
Add all other ingredients and put everything in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
Mix on medium speed until it starts to look a little gummy.
Cook a small patty in order to check seasoning. This is called a tester.
Once your seasoning is satisfactory, either use it in bulk or stuff.
If you want to stuff it, I would recommend a hand-crank machine over the stand mixer any day.
Merguez Spice1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
2 star anise
¼ c. salt
1 tbsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. Spanish paprika
Grind all of the spices together until pulverized.
Set aside in an airtight jar until ready to use. Will stay fresh for up to two weeks in aforementioned airtight jar.
Harissa4 oz. Dried Ancho chilies, soaked.
4 oz. Dried Pasillo chilies, soaked.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp. cumin
¼ c. EV olive oil, or as needed
Salt, as needed
Peel skin from chilies and remove the seeds and stem. Place in a blender.
Add remaining ingredients except salt and blend until perfectly smooth.
You will probably notice that the Harissa is a little bitter. Add your salt at this point and notice the difference. Salt tends to remove bitterness from the flavor of dishes. It’s a science thing that I can’t rightly explain, but it is what it is.