A few years ago for his birthday, I got Jordan the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachment to our kitchen aid mixer. While the meat grinder has been put to use a few times for meatloaf, burgers and paté, the sausage stuffer had yet to make it’s debut. Until a few Saturdays ago…


We decided to team up with our friends, the ever-adventurous Russ and Kelly. The ladies would make pretzels, the men would make sausages, and then we’d eat it all in the grandest of all backyard bar-b-ques, Sausagefest! Now this was the real deal, there were natural pork intestine sausage casings, there was food-grade lye for legitimate pretzeling—we were not messing around.

And it was delicious. How could it not be? The sausages were beyond juicy and perfectly seasoned, cooked in a beer bath and then finished on the grill. A nice dip in lye gave our fluffy pretzels the characteristic flavor and deep brown color. There were even grilled peaches with whipped cream and macerated strawberries for dessert. Food heaven on earth.

The cookbook Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brain Polcyn was our guide for the sausages. I will not pretend to have internalized enough of the process to give accurate instructions, so I recommend you check out their book if you want to give this a go at home. We made the bratwurst and pork sausage with poblano and cilantro. Both were off the hook.

Generally the sausage-making process goes like this: cube and seasoned the meat the night before, grind the meat, mix the meat with additional flavorings like cream for bratwurst, or poblano and cilantro for the other sausage, soak and wash the casing, stuff the sausage, refrigerate the sausage, cook the sausage, and then eat the sausage!

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One top tip: while you’re stuffing the sausage, some air will get pushed into the casing. Obviously you want your sausage stuffed with meat, not air,but do not panic. Keep a safety pin handy and just prick the casing near the nozzle a few times and squeeze gently but firmly to push the air out. When you’ve filled the entire length of sausage with all of your meat, give yourself a few more inches of casing for slack and then cut the casing.

To portion out your sausage, we found it was easier to squeeze in between the two links and then push some of the filling one way and some the other. Then twist them off. If you just try and twist them straight away, the casing will burst open. After you’ve twisted them, put them on a plate in the fridge and let them sit for an hour. Then with scissors cut at the twist to portion the sausage into individual links.

We cooked ours in a beer bath (2 tall cans of PBR will do ya) on the stove for 10 – 15 minutes, then finished them on the grill. You want them mostly cooked in the beer, they’ll float when they’re ready, and then char them quickly on the grill. We did this for both the brats and poblano sausages and it turned out great.

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Now the recipe for gorgeous pretzels is from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook and like all things Thomas Keller, they are very delicious and the recipe behind them is rather intense. I can’t begin to consolidate TK bread recipes here, so please comment if you’d like me to send you the full recipe, I’m happy to oblige.

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It was a blast and we’re hoping to make Sausagefest an annual thing and get more folks involved next year. We’ve got enough pork casing for 200 lbs of sausage and now have a decent stuffing technique down, which begs the question, who’s in?

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baking therapy: sourdough soft pretzels

These pretzels are wonderful! Super easy (just one rise!) and added bonus: they make use of the cup of sourdough starter that you usually discard after feeding.

Sourdough Soft Pretzels, from King Arthur Flour 

For the Pretzels
1 cup sourdough starter, straight from the fridge
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup non-fat dried milk
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 T oil or butter
2 t yeast

In a kitchen aid, mix all of the ingredients together. Knead on low speed for 3 – 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour. Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Cut the dough into twelve pieces and shape into pretzels.  Place on a lined baking sheet. 

For the Topping
1 T sugar
2 T hot water
coarse salt or sea salt
1 T butter, melted

Mix the sugar with the water until dissolved. Brush the sugar water onto the shaped dough and then sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown.

After they come out of the oven, brush the hot pretzels with melted butter. Not like this will surprise you coming from me, but the butter makes these pretzels.