My dad had been making his own sausage for about 5 years around the time my brother and I moved to South Slope, Brooklyn and promptly discovered Jubilat Provisions in 2006. They make and smoke their own Kielbasa, which has became a staple in many of our meals on 23rd street. Jacob and I still argue over who found it first, but we both agree we found it before dad did. (I found it first.) Unpacking a suitcase full of clothes riddled with the smell of smoke and meat upon arrival to our parent’s house has become part of the ritual of going home to

Home for the holidays now means Jacob and my dad (and my brother Andy, who joins in when he has the time) turning out a batch or two of sausage, usually with Jubilat’s kielbasa to make a side-by-side comparison. Their first batches were awkward—short and lumpy links that didn’t taste anything like the ones we brought from Brooklyn, but those guys have dad have progressed from just trying to figure out how it all works to the guys you call for advice for if you have any questions about stuffing pig intestines with ground meat and spices. Dad has perfected his method with friends in Odessa, creating his own version of classics like smoked kielbasa and Italian sausage, while Jacob and his buddy, Dan, are always spicing things up with their sausage here in Brooklyn. 

Aside from proving my mama right when she says sausage makes the most horrendous mess, the video I made with Jason Kelley probably won't teach you much about the ins and outs of making sausage, but it will give you a tiny glimpse of what its like to hang out with my family. If I were on their side of the camera, you would have seen me quizzing my dad about what he's doing in the kitchen, acting just like my mother (being in complete denial about it) and probably making dessert (a mess). If we would have waited for my brother Andy to show up, I probably would have captured him elbow-deep in ground meat and casings with Jacob and my dad.

Special thanks to little sister, Michaele, who did an excellent job at keeping those rowdy dogs at bay and offering up her expert opinion during the test batch. The music you're hearing is made by Jason Kelley.

See below for the recipes. Nostrovia!

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The first time you make sausage it will probably be ugly. I have seen both my brother and my dad in various stages of expertise and the links they made 6 years ago were a lumpy mess compared to the ones they make today. Not to worry. As long as you do not add too much salt, your mess will still be delicious if you follow these basic instructions. If you do it again and again, your sausage will start to look smoother and more phallic. Which is exactly what you want out of a good sausage, right? The recipes are from my dad, Jon Smith. If you've ever asked him for a recipe, he generally replies with a vague remark and something a bit coy, but never an actual recipe. He would encourage you to interpret his guidance loosely, follow your taste buds after the first test batch and go from there. 

Hot Italian Sausage

4 pounds pork shoulder
1 pound beef tallow (can substitute fatback)
4 tablespoons salt
granulated garlic
1 to 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1-inch sausage casings (you should be able to get these from your local butcher)
½ cup water

Slice pork and tallow into chunks before placing in freezer for about 30 minutes. This allows the meat to “soft freeze” before grinding, preventing an emulsion. Both Italian and Kielbasa-style sausages are rough-cut like this before being forced into casing, unlike frankfurters or hot dog wieners (emulsion based fillings), which are typically ground very finely before casing.- It’s best to grind the meat in 2 different stages— first on the “chili” setting— or the most course, then again on the “sausage” setting for a finer grind. Grind the pork shoulder and the tallow separately the first time around, and then blend them together for a second trip through the grinder. Now add salt and seasonings. If you are going through the trouble (adventure!) of making your own sausage, there is a good chance you are the type of cook who wants to have some control over what goes into your tubes. This is where practice and experimentation come into play. Considering each spice and how they dance together should help dictate the amount you decide to use. The palm of my dad’s hand happens to have a built in measurement system, but if you’re not into taking chances with red pepper flakes in your hand, use the measurements he gave me as a place to get started and adjust after the next step.- Once you have salted and spiced your meat, its time see if the measurements in this recipe and/or your spiceclinations are working the way you want them to. Make a small patty with the spiced meat and cook it in a skillet on low-medium heat. You should avoid searing in this step, because once the meat reaches that nice, dark caramely color that we love to see when we are cooking meat, you’ve added a new element of flavor that will not be present in the sausage you are making. After you have enjoyed your mid-sausage making snack, tailor the spices to your preference before stirring in half a cup of water to the mixture. Stuff the sausages according to the directions on the contraption you are using. My dad waits until the entire link is loaded before sectioning them off by twisting into 4 or 5 inch links, a technique he picked up in Argentina after spotting a carnicero do the same. My brother tends to twist each link at 4 or 5-inch intervals as they are coming out of the stuffer, a technique he and his friends in Brooklyn practice with ease. Leave the sausage to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, if not more, before cooking. This encourages all of the ingredients in the link to settle into their new role as
“Hot Italian Sausage” by mingling some time before being cooked. Bake sausages in an oven preheated to 300˚F for one hour, or poach the links in lightly boiling water for 20 minutes. Links can be kept in the freezer for 2-3 months.

Texas-Style Smoked Kielbasa

4 pounds pork shoulder
3 pounds lean pork shoulder cubed into ¾-inch pieces
1 pound ground beef tallow or pork fat
4 tablespoons Morton’s Tender Quick Curing Salt
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons marjoram
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1-inch sausage casings
¾ cup of water

Cut the 4 pounds of pork shoulder and tallow into one inch cubes and place in the freezer. If possible, the meat should be ground in two stages, first on the coarsest setting and again on the finer grind. Mix together all of the meat in a large stainless bowl, including the 3 pounds of the cubed lean pork shoulder. Add the curing salt, then initial amounts of the seasonings. Start with the amounts listed, and plan on adding more of what you like after the first round of testing. Remember, you can always add more spices later—don’t overdo it the first time around. Test the seasonings by cooking a sample of the blend in a frying pan on medium heat. Avoid searing. Make adjustments by increasing spices to your preference. If necessary, repeat. Once you are satisfied with your spice blend, add the water to the mixture. Stuff the casings, forming 4-5 inch links according to the sausage making contraption you are using. Place the links in a covered bowl and refrigerate overnight. After the links have cooled overnight, hang the sausages outdoors to air dry at 60˚F or less, for about an hour. As the sausage is drying, prepare your smoker using a mild alderwood such as oak, pecan or apple. Smoke the links in indirect environment at no more than 175˚F for 2 to 2.5 hours. Remove from smoker, cool. Links can then be reheated, served at room temperature or dried over a 2-3 day period at room temperature.

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