When we first began to embrace the idea of making sausage at home, we were very excited, in an almost superior-toned, We Were Meant To Do This kind of way, because we already had a grinder. A lovely, old-school, made-in-America grinder. Made, in fact, by Universal, a company out of Connecticut who, unfortunately, doesn’t make everything in America any more, but still, they made THIS grinder. It had belonged to Bill’s mom, and while to the best of Bill’s knowledge she had never made sausage with it, I, at least, had seen it in use around Christmas time when she used it to grind nuts for some of the cookies.
The idea of using this inherited piece of Americana to make our sausages was like a nod of approval from the Meat Gods. Yes, my children, go forth, ye, and sausage-make.
And, thus ordered, we set forth on our journey.
I posted pictures and a little commentary back when we had our first Sausage Making Day with our friend, John. You can see pictures from the meat-grinding on this post. Go ahead. Take a look. Then come back.
We put our chopped and chilled pork through that grinder, and when we had issues – the meat would sometimes smear rather than flow through the grinder in appealing Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop-like wormy things – we put it down to inexperience. Maybe we let the pork get too warm. Maybe there was still too much silver skin left on the meat when we trimmed it. Maybe maybe maybe.
Our sausages that day turned out great – they looked and tasted like sausage! We were off and running.
We shouldn’t have had so many issues.
So at some point after that day, Bill discovered that the grinder we had wasn’t meant to grind raw meat at all. According to one of the websites that offers the Universal #2 for sale, that particular grinder (or Food Chopper, as it is more correctly called) is “Perfect for fruits, vegetables, nuts, cooked meats or cooked fish.”
And so it was. Bill used it shortly after Thanksgiving to grind up leftover turkey…
It worked like a dream. No clogging, no smearing, no swearing.
And we made little turkey sliders with the ground meat. (I should have added an egg to the mixture – my version of the burgers were a little loose. Sloppy Toms, I guess you could call them.)
But apart from my burger-making faux pas, we were quite pleased with the ground meat. Universal #2 will still play a role in our food-making around here.
And all that certainly explained why Bill’s mom used it for nuts at Christmas. And why he never saw her grinding up meat for burgers or anything. Ever. She had the grinder she needed for her purposes.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t suited for ours.
So Bill went shopping, and Santa brought us an early gift.
The Universal No. 333 Gourmet Meat Chopper!
(I sort of feel like Ralphie Parker…good thing our grinder has a compass in the stock…)
Okay, maybe not a compass, but this grinder comes with five different die plates for different sizes and types of grinding/chopping, and we bought the one that included a sausage stuffer, although we already have a whole separate Universal sausage stuffer.
Oh, the fun of new toys!
OH – almost forgot – the grinder also came with a book of recipes! Bonus!
The cool thing about this little manual is that it is, first of all, NOT really a tutorial on HOW to make sausage. The pamphlet, or, rather, the writers of the pamphlet, assume that the reader already has a good working knowledge of how to make sausage. The writers simply provide ingredient lists and, figuratively, give the rest of us a little shove into the kitchen.
We – me, Bill, and John – love that. Love the fact that this Do-It-Yourself Guide assumes THAT WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING! Love the fact that we are expected to be hardy, pig-raising, pig-slaughtering farmers who routinely kill a pig every fall, but might be interested in branching out a little from our customary family versions of sausage and hams and head cheese.
We have arrived! Or, at least, we can pretend we belong.
Now that we had this new, burly, serious meat grinder, we needed to take it for a spin.
So Bill made bratwurst one evening.
And I photographed the inaugural grind….
That was the largest die. Time to try a smaller one.
The Universal #333 is capable (so the description tells us) of grinding 3 lbs of meat per minute. So if we’re ever in some sort of meat-grinding race, we should be able to handle ourselves respectably.
Now, like I said, this one also came with a sausage-stuffing attachment, which simply amounted to a plastic tube and a little funnel that fits inside the ring where the ground meat comes out.
We tested it out, and it seemed to work just fine. And it was certainly nice to be able to use one piece of equipment for the sausage-making, rather than this AND the sausage stuffer we’d purchased earlier. Less to clean up, right?
Well, turns out, as we discovered yesterday, during our second team-effort Sausage Making Day, that the Universal #333 will stuff sausages, but it changes the texture of the meat in the process. While our sausage stuffer is, as Alton Brown would say, a uni-tasker, it does that one job very well. You just put the meat in and stuff it through the horn, into the casing. Yeah, there’s some muss and fuss, but sausage making isn’t for wimps.
The main thing is, the sausage stuffer doesn’t change the texture of the already-ground meat. You may want little discernable chunks in your sausage, for instance, and you don’t want your equipment mashing those chunks into a paste. The sausage stuffer doesn’t smear. It just stuffs.
And that’s my piece for today. It’s always important to know your equipment, and to use the right tool for the job.
We think we’re there now.