Our First Attempt at Making HomeMade Beef Sausage

  Over the years we have occasionally made our own home made sausage, and if you have read our blog you've probably seen several posts about our various attempts. Lately, as the cost of store bought sausage has gone up and the quality and quantity of the sausage has gone down, we decided to just go ahead and make our own more often.
   It's a fun project for us to do together, and also, because of Peggy's celiac condition, we can have control over the ingredients we use, making sure no wheat or gluten is included that can make her very sick.  
  With this in mind, we went out to Cabelas and bought us a 5 lb. sausage stuffer. Then, while shopping at the "Pig", (Piggly Wiggly) just down the street a few days ago, I saw they had 80-20% ground meat for less than $2.00 per lb. ! Well, alrighty then. 5 lbs. sounded just right for our sausage stuffer's first project.
We brought it home, and I dumped it into a stainless steel bowl,
 then added some creole chopped veggies consisting of onion, shallots, celery, bell peppers, parsley, and garlic.
To this I added 1/4 cup of our own Cajun seasoning spice and 1 teaspoon of pink curing salt. I added a li'l over a cup of water to help the seasoning permeate through the mix evenly, plus, the moisture helps the ground meat slide down and through the stuffer easier into the pork casings.
Our dear friend, Melissa stopped by to visit and kept us company while we stuffed the sausage into natural casings. This is something her family has done for generations, so Peggy appreciated her tidbits of helpful hints, as she is still relatively new to the process, but she's trying to learn how to do it without messing up too bad, while I was at the helm feeding in the meat and operating the stuffing part of the mechanism. Peggy always says, "There's always an angel when you need one," and today it was our cutie-pie, Melissa.
We had so much fun stuffing the casings with our mix and swapping stories with Melissa that, sadly the camera, which was sitting at the ready there on the kitchen island, got forgotten.  When Melissa left, later Peggy and I noticed the camera and were disappointed that we hadn't take more pictures of the stuffing process. 
So, I went out and took these two pictures of the sausage that we had made and bagged, in the freezer.

    Sighhh...oh well, maybe next time. 
    There was a little meat left in the stuffer that didn't get into casings, so we fried it up for a sample and no picture of that, either. But, anyhow, based on the taste of that, and in the opinion of our little dawg, too, it won't be long before we are making some more sausages!!  I expect in the next few posts, our meat creations of today's post will star center stage in our pots and pans, complete with seductive photos aka 'food porn', inspiring you to give it a try.
  And, we promise to have the camera filming all the details the next time we are operating the sausage stuffer, no hiding the sausage, 'cuz despite what people are saying nowadays, you DO want to see how the sausage is made...right?


Cappy's Whiskey "Research Project"


  "Ya see, the game of golf is from the Scots, as is fine whiskey and their love for it.  Those ol' guys played golf in fields and celebrated every completed hole with a sip of whiskey from their flasks. Since Scottish drinking flasks hold 18 sips, when they ran out of whiskey, they quit... and it turned out to be 18 holes for 18 sips."
   "Hmmmm," I said, "that's interesting" and forgot about it for a week or so. 
     Back here at home, sitting at my laptop, drinking coffee I recalled Mark's whiskey trivia and figured it might be fun to investigate the theory; give it good "scientific looking into", so I went to "Googling". 
   First, I had to find out how much a "sip" is.  After poring over several documents, taking notes and such, I learned a 'sip' is roughly half an ounce, a 'swallow' is a full ounce, and a 'gulp' is 2 whole ounces.  Some claimed there were 2.5 sips to a "shot"-- a "shot" being an ounce, so I figured the next logical  step was "experimentation". (Said he, with a warm smile.)
  This is one 'shot' (ounce of whiskey). After trying it a few times, I discovered that, for me, there was a li'l left over after 2 sips. I musta took bigger sips than the average Scottish sipper. Ya think?
This is 2 ounces of whiskey, and after several more tries at practicing my 'sipping', I came out with 4, 5, or 6 sips. ...anyways, after several more tries at sipping my way through this experiment, I got an average of around 5, so I decided the last pour was indeed a gulp. So now, then...where did that leave me? And where was I?
      A few days later, my mind went back to thoughts of my whiskey experiment, so I started investigating drinking flask capacities, and it seems that a man's drinking flask is 8 ounces and a ladies is 6 oz.  Don't get mad at me, gals, I didn't make up these facts, I'm just reporting them. 
     So, I kinda forgot about my project for a while, until I found myself standing in a liquor store in West Virginia. My future son-in-law, David and I were checking out, when I noticed all the small bottles behind the counter, so asked the gal for a half pint of the whiskey.  I figured what with New Years a couple days away, it would be a good time to continue my flask research.
    I had asked her for a half a pint, and this is what I got. 
Back at David's house, while I sipped on it, he helped me count, and we came up with 14 sips.......twice. What The Heck?!!  I thought it's 'posed to be 18!!
  Soooo...I filled it up again and as we sat outside bbqing and such, we counted again and dang it 14 again!

Count and sip, count and sip... both times it came to 14.  As the day turned into night, we sat visiting and sipping I filled it up again... but for shome reashon, I losht count....
   A week or so later, when we got back home here to South Louisiana, the darned whiskey experiment and failure stilled kinda bugged me. Then!!! Then, somehow, I noticed that, like many things these days, the half pint of whiskey had been down-sized!  Much like the 14 oz. "pound" of bacon, (a pound=lb. is supposed to be 16 oz.) the half pint of whiskey I had purchased was only 6 oz! and not the usual 8 oz. sooo... the plot thickened!   
   A few days later, Peggy and I were at Walmart and as we were checking out, I spied a shiny flask sitting by itself, out of place, where someone had "chucked" it, in amongst the potato chips and candy bars...impulse items. It was 8 ounce flask!  Well-l-l-l, I snatched it right up and brought it home, where I filled it up with the whiskey my Dad dad used to drink and there it sits ready for the experiment to begin afresh with honest measures this time.
And now, here it is, a nice quiet Friday, and no better time to break out the flask while watching tv.  I sipped myself all the way to the bottom of the flask with 17 sips. 
(Peggy here: I cannot figure out how to edit this next part, so will just let it lay as Cappy wrote it. Shaking my head. He may or may not have come to some 'scientific' conclusion... I'll find out tomorrow morning after he has had time to 'digest his findings' :-D  He wrote this before he tumbled into bed, satisfied with the results, I think, of his whiskey experiment:  )
He wrote:
"Now fore wall say so I realize several factors come into play like the size of the sippy hole etc.  To be honest if in the company of several sippers give or take a couple sips can be adjusted as ya near the bottom   I just sipped and counted as I watched tv and am pretty sure of my count.  I refilled the flask looking forwards to seeing cousin Mark at Mardi 
Gras and discussing my finds.  I will call him and maybe we can compare sips from or flask like those old Scottish Golfers."
  Peggy again here--In the words of "Mrs. Needlebutt", as Cappy sometimes calls me, as I stand here with my arms folded and tapping one foot, I say, "I think we can all take a lesson from this!!"
...So, here it is the next morning and I am not sure how Peg edited and such, but here is what I came up with, as far as my research:
I counted 17 sips, which kinda agrees with the "18 sip theory" but it's only one data point, so I feel I need more data to come up with a definite average. And also, my sipping technique could use some refining.  Alls I can say is grab up ya flasks, count ya sips and let me know your findings, so we can settle this matter (and have fun doing it).



As the song goes..."And so this is Christmas, and what have you (we) done?" Another year older and still havin' fun!
   Merry Christmas and hopes for a WONDERFUL, joyous New Year to you and your loved ones! And with that being said with heartfelt wishes, we give you this year's Christmas card:
  (One note first. We included a string of numbers and letters on the inside of our card for you to "Google". It may be long, but we felt it was worth it.
 --Someone let us know that when they typed it into their computer, it was said to not be working. [thank you, Mary] I think we have found the problem: what appears to be a zero is really an upper case "O". We tried it again, typing in an  upper case "O" and it works!
--The link will then take you to Youtube.
--The short video we'd like you to visit is the one at the top of the list.
--Click on it, relax and enjoy.
--We love you!!! Cappy and Peggy) 


It BeauxBear's Repeating!

   Saturday evening my dawg, in his New Orleans Saints shirt, and I decided to 'honor' the winning streak of our beloved team with a Sunday football BBQ. (Not that a Cajun needs any excuse to fire up the bbq pit again.)
   So, I took a pack of country-style ribs out to thaw, and Sunday morning I washed the bonemeal off of them and began the seasoning process. (Ever notice butcher's "sawdust" on the meat? It's from when they cut through the meat and bones, and most likely, apparently, they leave it up to the customer to wash it off.) So I did.
The first thing I do is get out the jug of Steen's syrup.

I pour enough syrup on the ribs 'til I think it looks about right, like in the picture below, then I rub it all in with my hands 'til they are shiney and sticky (and yeah, so are my hands--worth it!)
The syrup makes a nice sticky surface for our Cajun seasoning.
I shake on some Chrystal hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. ('bout four or so shakes of each) and a bunch of our spice.
I let it sit and "think about that" for several hours.
Sometime later in the afternoon I got the pit ready.
My trick is to put all the coals on the side by the lower air intake, with a pan of water on the "cool" side under the smoke stack. The heat flows from left to right and on up the stack, keeping the "cool" side a moist 225 to 250 Fahrenheit. That's where I place the seasoned pork, on the cooler side, so it's not sitting directly over the heat.
Once the ribs were on the pit, I got the music fired up too, then I went to the shed for an ol' tradition passed on down to me by the men in my family.
Since way back, I always have kept a jug of whisky in my shed.  'Til very recently I had the bottle my Dad had hidden in there years and years ago (God rest his soul).  I can tell you, I shed a tear when it fell and broke. I replaced it with his brand and continue the custom by giving a him toast and giving Thanks for the life of the animal who has graced our dinner table.
Here is to you Daddy I sure miss ya.
The ribs kept a-cookin', music playing and an air of pre-game excitement fill our yard.
After an hour of being on the pit, I basted the meat  with leftover marinating juices mixed with about 1/2 cup of wine and a stick butter, warmed to melt the butter.
Beaux (pronounced Bo) my BBQ buddy looked on happily and intently every time I opened the pit. (He knew what was coming.)
We had a wonderful afternoon. Peg was busy doing her thing in the house, but managed to come out and sit with us on occasion. Just before the game, she to hooked us up with some corn and pork and beans. Not a bad meal for a football game.
The food was wonderful,
                                                    And the Saints won(!)  
                                            Another Fall BBQ,
                                                          And the "company" was fun.


Fire Pit Season! (FINALLY.)

Sunday, October 21 marked this year's official beginning of fire pit season at our house. First thing in the morning I knew that was it! 
   Actually BeauxBear figured it out before we did. He got up early, went outside through his doggy-door and came back in, jumped up on the bed, sat there at the foot of it and began 'talking'. He wasn't barking or all excited; just in his deep little doggy voice, he sounded like a person talking--in another language. Peggy says all her bichon frises were 'talkers'. SparkyBear only 'talked' when he was mad, and if you didn't know better, you'd swear he was cussing,(!) that dawg. So anyhow, BeauxBear sat there apparently telling us that it was nice out, followed by, "hmmm??" We'd wake up enough to roll over and pull up the blankets. He asked if he'd mentioned that the cold front had passed and that it was nice and cool and crisp out, "hmmm?"
   Finally, he got Peg's attention, "mom...mom...mom...hmmm?"
   She staggered out of bed wondering what in the world he wanted that he didn't already have access to. Seeing that he'd gotten somebody up, he was so exited, jumping around, wagging his tail and wanting her to follow him. So she did...out the back door, where the brisk air and bright sunshine woke her right up! The hot, muggy, sticky, clingy air was gone. Fall must have officially arrived while we were asleep. YAY!!
  She tromped back into the bedroom, followed by BeauxBear, and quietly said, "The cold front has finally gotten here...ya hear me...hmmm?"
  I guess I did, cuz I got up.
  They were right. The temp and humidity were both in the mid 50's and the humidity stayed there while the temp warmed to the mid 70's... a picture-perfect day, the first in a long while. It marks the beginning of camping season(!) and play in the yard time(!) --a real holiday, to me. 
  And the whole thing that made it even better was the New Orleans Saints victory, despite an excited announcer's "jinx". (You could just tell whose side he was on... not 'ours'.) He said, "In a seven year career, this guy has never missed an extra point!!!"
   Aha.......Till now! Geaux Saints!!
   So, it was a double celebration Fall day. I went outside and lit my pit; the first fire of the season. With a nice cold beer and a rehash of the ballgame on the radio, I told my sidekick, BeauxBear, "It doesn't get any better than this, Buddy, does it...hmmm?"
Thank God for the first fire of the season.


Cappy's Take On What They're Calling, "Opelousas Chicken"

   I've been hearing folks refer to "Opelousas-style" baked chicken for quite some time now, so it finally made me curious enough to investigate their recipes. 
   I was born in Opelousas, Louisiana and spent my early years just down the road from Opelousas, so ya'd think I'd know more about this "style" of chicken before I turned 60 years old.
   "Opelousas" chicken, indeed:  after reading several different versions of the recipe, I realized that "Opelousas-style" chicken is just what my family, friends and neighbors always called our basted  or roasted chicken. It was served as plate lunches, or church functions, and even showed up in our school cafeterias, kinda often. 
   When they serve it professionally, like for plate lunches, it's cut in halves or quarters. If you're really hungry, ya go for the half, with the "sides" that go along with it, like beans, corn, greens, salad, etc. 
 When it's cooked for family at home, we usually cut the chicken in smaller pieces, like legs or breasts, (Mama used to use a 'whole fryer' that she'd cut into portions) and slow bake it,  basting every 15 minutes. 
   Lemme show you how my family did it:
    Here's a pack of chicken thighs that I got on sale at "the Pig" down the street last week. (Piggly Wiggly)  I highly seasoned it with our own blend of Cajun seasoning, worcestershire sauce, and Crystal hot sauce. I don't measure, I just dump and sprinkle 'til it looks about right. This step is hard to go wrong.   

   I laid out the pieces in this baking dish, leaving a basting hole open. Too much butter goes on top... like I said, "too much butter goes on top!" 
 Make an aluminum foil tent and cover the chicken, then stick the chicken in a preheated slow 275 F oven for half an hour. 
  --Take the chicken out of the oven, remove the foil, dip a big spoon into the hole and baste the chicken over and over. Looks good already, doesn't it?
  --Put the chicken back into the oven, for another 15 minutes and savor the wonderful smells filling the house.
After the 15 minutes, take 'er out of the oven and baste it good again, then back in the oven she goes. Repeat this basting process every 15 minutes for about 2 hours, or 'til golden brown, and I use my meat thermometer to check and make sure the internal temperature is 165 degrees, Fahrenheit.
You might think it sounds kinda labor intensive, taking the chicken out of the oven and basting it every 15 minutes. The reason I take it out of the oven is because it needs to be basted very, very well, and trying to do this while it's in the oven could be awkward and sloppy. I dose each and every thigh with a big spoonful of the butter sauce, and then, I dump a few extra spoonfuls on anything that doesn't look shiny. After 7 bastings, I checked the temp of  a piece of chicken that I thought looked done. 167 F, almost perfect for chicken. 
   Mmmm-mmmm!! Tasting it, I knew that all the work was more than worth it.
  A bowl of beet salad, that didn't make the photo, was the starter for this meal. Black-eyed peas accompanied the chicken to dinner.
   The chicken was very moist and tender, Cajun seasoning all the way down to the bone.
  If you take the time and baste your chicken this way and set a timer, you will be amazed at the best dang baked chicken you have ever tasted.
 --An added bonus when ya remove the chicken, you are left with this amazing chicken butter sauce.
   I could have thickened it with cornstarch, roux, or gravy mix and used it as an amazing gravy, but, instead, this time, I poured the sauce into a jar and saved it in the fridge to use for other meals.
  Make ya some and let us know how ya love it.  It will make ya chicken a star. 
   Now, since I was born in Opelousas, and raised in the Opelousas area, and this being one of the wonderful chicken dishes from Opelousas family homes, and even though, to us, it was just our regular basted or roasted chicken, next time I hear it called Opelousas-style chicken, I can take pride in my heritage and brag all about it with obvious knowledge and experience of the dish.


Our Anniversary Eve Eve

   We always celebrate The eve of our anniversary eve.  It is a very special day.  It's Peggy's mother's birthday and my boyhood best friend David's birthday.  Since it's 2 days from our anniversary, we figure it's a great excuse to kick off the party.  Peggy loves good fried chicken, but sadly, due to her celiac disease she can't just pop in to the local chicken joint for it.  So, good southern fried chicken, for us, is a special treat.  Sure, I occasionally buy some for me, and share it with my dawg, but always feel guilty, us eating it in front of Peggy.  
  This time I fried the chicken like my daddy usta do it, in corn flour aka Fish Fry. At the family camp we only used Fish Fry flour to fry chicken in our big black iron pot. 
  So, I fried Peggy up a batch, and as a surprise, I fried her some kosher dill pickle spears to go along with it. I really hate to admit that this is a "yankee" trick I learned at an upstate New York Blues bar. The bar claimed to cook Cajun food so naturally, I opted for a burger.  (If I want Cajun food, I'll cook it myself and not have some yankee try their hand at it.)  I must admit though, the burger came with fries and a fried pickle spear, and they were "prit dang good".  I bit into the deep-fried pickle spear thinking it was a potato log, like we have down here in South Louisiana, but was pleasantly surprised to find a kosher dill taste in that crunch.  I've always made them from pickle slices, but I've gotta say, it was a trick I didn't mind stealing from that danged yankee bar. 
 You oughta give it a try; I think you'll love 'em, too.  
Couple this , couple that , some of those and the other and a few too many beers.  Truly an epic eve for our anniversary eve.  Happy birthday Peggy's Mother in heaven.  Hope ya had a great day ol' friend of mine.  Not a bad day and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Hi, Peggy here! One thing I'm hoping tomorrow will bring is getting my beloved old computer fixed. With all the issues the house has been going through during this last five or so months, my video and photo editing capabilities have been kaput due to the computer suffering some kind of malady that may or may not have been brought on by whatever the house was suffering...with, or, well, who "nose" what. Sooo...whatcha see here, in the photo Cappy insists on posting, is a fine example of what I cannot do to make the wonderful meal Cappy cooked, look as delicious as it really was.  And believe me, delicious it was! 
Cappy and my Mom (May God rest her sweet soul) had a lot in common when it comes to cooking projects. She'd get this almost electric excitement before and during. Cappy is the same way. I just thought we were going to simply fry some chicken. He said, "Nooo...this is going to be an adventure, like my family used to do at the camp out on the bayou."
He hauled out the big ol' 50 lb. black iron pot...well, mebbe it's not that heavy, but I, myself, can hardly lift the thing. I was going to use the small black iron frying pan and use maybe an inch or so of oil. I think Cappy used about a quart or more. He had me take the chicken out of the fridge where it had been marinating overnight...more like hiding out, I'm thinking. He ordered a sundry number of bowls and plates and pans, one to be double lined with brown wrapping paper, plus an assortment of tongs, forks, an onion to be cut into 'sticks', and I don't know what all. More bowls were called in, as I hadn't gotten out enough in the first place. I just couldn't imagine what was about to take place, so I busied myself making coleslaw and whatever else I could think of to stay out of his way. Well, that didn't work. The first thing I knew, corn flour was flying everywhere, I was elbow deep in raw chicken, cornstarch, egg-wash and highly spiced corn flour, while Cappy merrily tended to his pot. When his onion 'sticks' were cooking away just right in the ton of hot oil, letting him know the temp was perfect, he began gingerly laying the chicken pieces (which by now looked like fat dough boys) into his caldron, only three at a time, lest one more piece make the oil cool down. 
He had music blaring on the stereo, having a ball. Once or twice we ended up dancing with our chubby heavily flour dusted bellies bouncing to the beat of some old Johnny Cash song. We had fun.
We finally ate around nine...at night! Cappy apologized for the mess in the kitchen. I told him it was worth it and that I'd have it cleaned up in no time. Twenty minutes later, all of his accoutrement was in the dishwasher and the leftovers in the fridge.
 Stowing it all away, I had to laugh to myself because Cappy is always telling me that I always make a mess when I cook. He sez, "It takes two knives, one spoon, three pans and a cutting board just for you to boil water." That's a good one, Cappy, but alas...I think my Mom used to say the same thing, (God rest her sweet soul.)


When Turnips Turn Up

    I took this pack of country-style pork ribs out of the freezer the other afternoon, but I had no idea what I was gonna do with them.  
  They are a wonderful versatile cut of pork from the Boston Butt Roast that our local grocer had on sale when we bought them. So then, what to do with ém? Ya not gonna b'lieve this: like a sign from heaven, when we opened our front door the next morning, there sat a bag of turnips, left by one of our neighbors.
I immediately thought of good ol'-fashion pork and turnip stew, that's been a long-time-favorite of my family. With that in mind, I whacked the ribs into stew pieces.
I seasoned the meat with our own blend of Cajun seasoning and some Worcestershire sauce, then let them sit and think about it while Peggy peeled the turnips.
If you look closely, you can see the layer of turnip under the skin that needs to be taken off too.
 Sometimes it can be lifted off with a fingernail, but trust me, it comes off faster with a paring knife. If you don't take this layer off, the turnips are bitter. It's the same with rutabega. A lot of folks don't like turnips or rutabega for just that reason. Taking this layer off is the secret to good mild flavored turnips.  If you don't like turnips chances, are its because this layer wasn't removed.
So then, the seasoned pork went into a big black iron pot with a splash of water to get it started and covered over a med-low heat. As it cooked, I occasionally gave it a good stirring 'til it looked like this: (half cooked)
   When making jambalaya, the pork is cooked uncovered, but when making stews or gravies its better to cook it covered to retain the natural juices. 
    So then, I took this half-cooked meat out of the pot and set it aside, then added a big ol' chopped onion and a bit of smoked sausage that I had sittin' around in the fridge, so I kind of diced it up and stuck it in the pot with the onions and the nice sauce that the pork and spices had made. 

While I was doing this, Peg was dicing the turnips.
    Once the onions were cooking along nicely, I added the turnipsto the pot with, a bit more seasoning, just cuz it looked like it could use a little more spice.
I let this all cooked down a little more then invited the pork back in,
 covered the pot and allowed to simmer (put the burner on simmer) for over an hour. The turnips cooked down, the pork got soft and I was able to removed as much of the grease as I could.  
Peggy is a celiac, as most of you know, which means she is wheat and gluten intolerant, so we often thicken stews like this with 
McCormick's gluten free brown gravy mix. It has a great taste and makes a good gravy. 
                          3 packages and some cornstarch
get mixed together to make a kind of "slurry" and poured into the pot.
When it comes to a nice gentle boil it is done. It's so thick, rich and so creamy, it doesn't need rice. It stands on it's own as one of our favorite stews.
 So, I guess you could say (if you had a mind to) that we turned up the turnips that turned, up a notch or two, with a sweet little piggy. Stew-w-w-eeeee!!