2.14.2013

Over At Smokin' Sam's

Early one morning my good friend Sam pulled into our driveway in his pickup and picked me up.  I threw an ice chest full of beer in the back, and myself and a thermos of coffee in the front and we set sail for his outdoor kitchen/smokehouse.
Ya know ya in a country boy "Cadillac" when in the back ya find 2 ice chests of beer, 2 five-gallon buckets, a few branches of pecan wood found along the road, a dip-net and 3 of the largest turnips I've ever seen.  When we got over to Sam's, our buddy Lance was already there getting ready to stuff a batch of sausage intended for the smoker.  And all this before the neighborhood rooster even started crowing. 
For you non-sausage stuffers I'll explain. The natural  sausage casing comes in a package called a "hank".  A hank is a whole lot of pork intestines that have been thoroughly cleaned and prepared for sausage making, and it comes in very long pieces. These pieces are soaked in a salt water solution or "brine" and invariably requires a lot of patient untangling. It works out best to use one extremely long casing  threaded onto the sausage maker tube, so ya don't have to stop and re-thread right in the middle of everything. 

I aint gonna give yall Sam's sausage recipe cause it aint mine for the givin'.  I will however share with yall a couple valuable sausage making tricks.  If ya look close at this pic ya will notice a lil ball of sausage meat protruding from the tube of the sausage-maker.  This rounds the edges off the sharp tube opening and allows the casing to slide onto the tube without tearing.  The balloon area is actually a few ounces of water.  The water in this "bubble" travels down inside the casing which helps to keep the casing untangled and moving smoothly as it's being loaded onto the tube, and the weight of the water also helps keep the casing open as it approaches the sausage making tube. 
So it's 3 cranks of the handle and tie it off, pinch, pull and cut, then tie it off.  Then tie the 2 ends together, then repeat.  The links come out at one lb. finished. One after another we piled 'em up in the bowl getting them ready for the smoker.

The finished loops of sausage are hung on angle irons then placed in the smoker, 3 racks deep, and 3 racks high.  After all the sausage is hung in the little smokehouse, Sam drags out sawdust, wood chips, smoking pellets and some secret liquid, and loads up the smoke box.  He uses 3 different kinds of wood in 3 different forms, and soaks them down with some kinda mysterious brown water.  I'd tell ya what his combination is but then he'd have to kill me. 
Sam owns what I refer to as the "Frankenstein" of smoke houses. 
The thing is made of plywood and spare parts he scrounged, and is prolly around 5 years old by now.  It's produced thousands of pounds of some of the best smoked meats around our area.  Over the years the wood walls have warped some from the heat, so to prevent too much smoke from escaping,  Sam keeps the thing sealed up with furniture clamps, a bungie cord and a few screen door latches.
After coffee led to beer, which led to sampling assorted homemade beverages, the sausage was finally ready.  Taken out of the smoker, it was dumped into an ice-chest of ice water to "set".  This is an important tip too: If ya prick a hole in this freshly smoked sausage it would squirt juice out, making them kinda deflate into a wrinkled, dry, not-nearly-as-tasty mess; not a good thing, but by shocking them in ice water, the juice 'sets' and allows ya to keep it in the casing, and when it eventually makes its way into a cooking pot it really brings a wonderful smokey flavor to what ya cooking, not to mention eatin' it on it's own.
  That's what we did that afternoon,  at Smokin' Sam's.
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