Hank Shaw Spanish Sausage Making Tips

1. Chop the meat.

2. Add the spices.

3. Mix the ingredients.

4. Grind the ingredients.

5. Add remaining ingredients. Grind.

6. Stuff the casings.

7. Twist off links.

8. Enjoy the finished product.

Lilydale, Minn. — Hank Shaw, the former political reporter turned blogging forager, returned to Minnesota last week to promote his new book.

Shaw, a former investigative reporter at St. Paul’s Pioneer Press, taught the finer points of sausage-making at Chefs Abode cooking school in an event held by Minnesota-based Angler & Hunter.

It was Shaw’s time working in St. Paul where his career took a turn in its current direction, which has culminated in two books, as well as this year’s James Beard award for best food blog.

Shaw, now a California resident, has carved out a niche blogging about cooking wild game, fish, and edibles with culinary flair.

“I’m a cook who hunts, not a hunter that cooks,” Shaw puts it. “It’s a different perspective.”

His passion is gathering and cooking what the earth gives seasonally, and sharing that with his readers.

“There’s something going on every week,” Shaw said. “I’m trying to push the boundaries of what you can do with wild food.”

He prides himself on rarely purchasing meat from a grocer, gathering most of what he eats from the wild, and admitted his last meat purchase was for octopus in the middle of summer.

“I have a soft spot for octopus, but they’re hard to catch,” he said.

He started his blog in 2007, while he was covering gubernatorial politics in California’s state capitol (yes, covering Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger), and was able to quit his day job and focus full time on his food blog in 2010.

“I started to get really good at covering politics, but I didn’t love it anymore,” Shaw said.

While Shaw, an East Coast native, has always been an angler and forager of wild edibles, such as mushrooms, he didn’t start hunting until his time in Minnesota from 2002 to 2004.

Minnesota DNR communications director Chris Niskanen, the outdoors editor at the Pioneer Press at the time, turned Shaw onto hunting (their first hunting trip was a foray for pheasant in South Dakota), and the two have remained friends, with Shaw returning to hunt ruffed grouse and woodcock in northern Minnesota most years.

Shaw’s love of waterfowl is the inspiration for his latest book, “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and Shaw said the biggest mistake people make cooking waterfowl is treating it like a bird.

“In the kitchen, a duck is not a bird,” Shaw said. “In the kitchen, a duck is beef.”

Hank Shaw’s Spanish Sausage

5 pounds of fatty venison plus 1 pound of pork fat (preferably fat back, but pork shoulder will also work)
40 grams kosher salt
3 minced green onions
25 grams chopped fresh rosemary
12 grams cracked black pepper
4 grams ground allspice
40 grams sweet paprika
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup red wine
Hog casings (from local butcher)

  • Chill meat for an hour in the freezer until it is almost frozen.
  • Place hog casings in a bowl of very warm water.
  • Chop meat and pork fat into 1-inch chunks.
  • Take out half the black pepper.
  • Mix the salt, rest of black pepper, herbs, spices and green onions with the meat and then let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Grind through meat grinder (a food processor can also be used, though it won’t produce as fine a texture) using the course die. If your room temperature is higher than 69 degrees, set the bowl for the ground meat into another bowl of ice to keep it cold.
  • Put the mixture back in the freezer for another 30 minutes and then grind again with the fine die on the meat grinder.
  • Add the rest of the black pepper, the wine and vinegar, then mix thoroughly with a mixer on low for 60 to 90 seconds, or with your (very clean) hands. This is important to get the sausage to bind properly. Once it is mixed well, put it back in the fridge.
  • Stuff the sausage into the casings. Twist off links by pinching the sausage down and twisting it, first in one direction, and then with the next link, the other direction. Or they can be tied off with butcher’s string.
  • Hang the sausages in a cool place for up to four hours (the colder it is, the longer you can hang them). If it is warm out, hang for one hour. Once they have dried a bit, put in the fridge until needed. They will keep for at least a week in the fridge.

If you are freezing sausages, wait a day before doing so. This will tighten up the sausages and help them keep their shape in the deep freeze.

Shaw’s general tips for making sausage

  • Temperature is vital. The colder the better. If the meat gets too warm, the binding will be ruined, so Shaw always limits the amount of exposure his ingredients receive, and keeps the die and other metal parts of the sausage grinder in the freezer until he is ready to use them. He limits the amount of time he touches the mixture, since the body’s temperature is around 98 degrees.
  • Especially when working with venison, do a good job removing all silver skin because it can otherwise clog up your meat grinder. “Never grind a shank,” Shaw says. “It’s nothing but sinew.”
  • If you are using the freshest and highest quality meat, spices can be dialed back.
  • When measuring ingredients like salt, nothing beats a scale, since there can be variance among the different sizes of various salt grains.
  • When grinding meat, have your hand near the shutoff button, especially if you are using waterfowl or anything that might have shot in it. “You have about a second to shut it off before ruining the machine.”
  • While making sausage, always clean equipment immediately after each step or cleanup becomes much more of a chore.
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