Sorry for the unexcused absence. This weekend was a rush. Aside from having unexpected guests, we also had our annual sausage fest. Okay, that came out wrong. What I mean is that we had our annual Hungarian sausage making party.
What? You don’t have a sausage making party at your house?
The concept of the party is really quite simple. You take lots of meat and spices, grind it all up, mix it together and stuff it into casings. Sounds simple, right? If only it were that easy. We make two popular Hungarian sausages each year, hurka and kolbász, using family recipes that have been passed down for generations. Making them is so complicated that, if you’re going to do it, you may as well make a huge batch because it is the same amount of work whether you make one or one hundred. We make enough so that all of our friends and family can have some. It just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without them.
One thing that you can know for sure is that something will inevitably go wrong at the sausage making party. One year we had a major miscalculation and ended up putting more than ten times the amount of garlic needed in the recipe. That is like using the entire bulb when the recipe only calls for one clove! Thankfully that has been our worst mistake.
This year everything was running smoothly. I had the glamorous job of grinding the meat (jealous?). It is, in all actuality, one of the best jobs because you can watch what everyone else is doing and, assuming you don’t stick your hand into the grinder, there is very little opportunity for injury, unlike peeling potatoes, which (and I know from experience) can be very dangerous… nothing like cutting the tip of your finger off with a potato peeler. Another cool job is the one where you get to mix all of the ingredients by hand in huge bins. This job can be tricky though because if you over mix the sausage it will end up being tough and if you under mix the flavors are not properly distributed. That is why this job always goes to my father-in-law. Once the meat is properly mixed, it is time to stuff it into casings.
Let me just say, we love our stuffer. It seems counterintuitive, but we like the manual stuffer better than the fancy electric kind (not true with the meat grinder… my father-in-law cringes at memories of having to grind the meat by hand as a boy). With the manual stuffer, you have total control over how much you are putting into the casings at any given time and you are much less likely to tear or overstuff the finished product. My in-laws brought theirs over from Hungary and we’ve never found any in America that we like as well. As you can imagine, replacing broken parts can get a bit tricky. We had just finished our first sausage recipe (the kolbász) when one of the gears for the crank started slipping. Before long, we couldn’t get the handle to move at all. That is when things got really interesting.
Our electric backup wasn’t cutting it and we finally decided that we were going to have to try using the manual without the crank. This meant that one person would have to hold the machine while another (and at some points two people) would push on the other end. I wish I had video to show you exactly what I mean, but it was hugely entertaining.
In the end, everything turned out well and to celebrate we had a lovely dinner of hurka, kolbász, mashed potatoes and sour kraut. The best part of the meal was the fact that it was just a small taste of what is to come on Christmas Eve!