I’ve done this twice now, and it really works.
(Adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, 1999.)
1 ½ pounds coarsely ground pork, about 20 percent fat (from the Boston butt or shoulder)
2 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (use a hot paprika; Pepin calls for ¾ teaspoon black pepper)
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (Cookiecrumb’s innovation)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios (Pepin uses pecans)
1 fat clove garlic, minced (Pepin uses ½ teaspoon; what is he thinking?!)
3 tablespoons good red wine
(Optional: 1/8 teaspoon potassium nitrate, aka saltpeter. I skipped it.)
How To, in my own words:
This is unbelievably easy, but you must plan ahead. Mix the above ingredients with your hands, in a large bowl. Get all the seasonings well distributed.
Now (after you wash your hands), lay out an 18-inch piece of plastic wrap, with the long side facing you. Sculpt the meat mixture into a log shape and plop it on the wrap. Fold over the plastic and use it to roll the meat into a thin, even sausage, about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Slap it around a bit to make sure there are no air pockets. Wrap the plastic tightly, twist the ends, and tuck them under.
Next, lay a piece of aluminum foil, same size, in front of you. Roll the plastic-wrapped sausage up in the foil and seal it the same way.
This now goes in the fridge (I took the precaution of sealing it in a zipper bag to contain the garlic odors) for THREE DAYS, or up to a week. This is when magic happens.
You’ll have to use a saucepan or pot wide enough to accommodate the length of the sausage. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the still-wrapped sausage (but don’t put the sausage in yet). Bring the water to a very low simmer (180-190°F). Lower the sausage into the water, weight it with a plate to keep it submerged, and cook slowly, gently, for 40 minutes. Then turn off the heat and keep the sausage in the water until ready to serve.
If you do it right – not too hot, not too fast – your sausage comes out pink but fully cooked. It is a thing of beauty. (The saltpeter would preserve an even redder color.)
Unwrap and slice the sausage into 1/2-inch rounds. Arrange slices atop a robust warm potato salad (mustard, vinegar, onions, etc.) or a warm lentil salad. Or something cabbagey would be good.
Tasting notes and recipe riffs:
I took some liberties with this recipe, at Pepin’s urging. Well, he urged me to use truffles, but I figured he was giving permission for me to fool around. So I substituted smoked hot paprika for the black pepper. I could have used even more; there was no discernable kick. Then again, I was just being subtle. (On purpose, yeah.) Suit yourself.
I also added some fennel pollen (which I had harvested from the church parking lot across the street last summer). Fennel would be a prominent flavor in an Italian recipe, but I just used a little, and again, it was subtle (and nice).
I doubled the amount of garlic. Enough said.
I subbed pistachios for the pecans, but you could use almost any nut (except for peanuts).
The pork shoulder we bought was nearly two pounds, so I ratcheted up all the proportions of seasonings (although the amounts given above are correct for 1 1/2 pounds of meat).
However, instead of rolling the entire mass of sausage into one log, I divided it in two, and the other one is still in the refrigerator, curing. We’ll get to it in a few days.
I have a nice blender made by Cuisinart. It came with an interchangeable food-processor attachment, complete with feeder tube, blades, all the works. I also have a “real” Cuisinart food processor.
I tried coarsely grinding the pork in the little food processor, and nearly deafened myself. It seems the motor on this appliance is too dinky for tackling a meaty job, and it screamed and struggled and spun and sputtered.
So Cranky dragged out the Big Boy (which I’ve used for chopping meat many a time), and it handily did the job.
Haul out the heavy artillery if you have it.