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Smokehowze’s Homemade Louisiana Smoked Andouille Sausage I have desired to enter the world of serious sausage making for some time. I had dabbled at it with my Kitchen Aid mixer’s grinder attachment in the past but never really did anything beyond an occasional basic breakfast sausage in small amounts. Sausage making is also part of just learning the wider world of charcuterie in general. Eventually, I will do fermented and dried sausage and meats after I gain more experience and build my humidity and temperature conditioned curing/drying chamber out of a refrigerator and some controllers. Note: This cook took place outdoors in my electric kitchen oven smoker conversion but was not done on a Kamado so I have posted it in this Forum as the closest sub-Forum for the type of cook. Homemade Smoked Andouille The Details So… the other day I bought a serious meat grinder as an early Christmas present .. an LEM Products #12 Big Bite ¾ hp beast. (http://www.lemproducts.com/product/lem-12-electric-grinder/butcher-meat-grinders). It will also probably get used by my brother in doing his own deer processing. The casings, cure, soy protein (in lieu of powdered milk) and such came from The Sausage Maker (http://www.sausagemaker.com) Being originally from south Louisiana it was a natural to do an Andouille as my first major sausage – one that requires filling casings and smoking – and all the associated process aspects. In other words, a complete sausage making experience. So, with the able and energetic assistance of my son, we made this 7+ lb batch of wonderful Andouille. Well seasoned, great pepper component and overall flavor, excellent texture and meat/fat balance and a great smoke element. Total success. I do not think I have had an Andouille as good as this has turned out. The recipe is a composite of a lot of reading and research of many recipes and this recipe is one of the more basic approaches and it is excellent. It is really picking and choosing the seasoning elements that we felt we would like in a good Andouille. Good Andouille recipes are really generational “family recipes” for the best sausage - this may be the start of a Smokehowze family recipe. I also have bought many books, done a lot of reading, study, and research in this whole field as part of my educational journey into charcuterie. My son is also enjoying the hands-on experience and learning along with me in this culinary journey – he is already planning the next sausages we will make. In my view he has already “earned the keys” to the grinder! The Meat 8.5 lb bone in pork butt. Trimmed out to 7.25 lbs after bone, connective tissue, and the grisly tough fat areas were removed. The Seasonings (for 7 lbs meat) for a Louisiana Andouille · 1 Tbs cayenne · 2 Tbs paprika · ¾ cup chopped fresh garlic · ¼ cup coarse black pepper · 5 Tbs kosher salt · 1 ½ Tbs dried thyme · 1 ½ tsp dried red pepper flakes · 1 ¼ cup concentrated soy protein – (as binder during smoking process to hold moisture and fat – in lieu of powdered milk) · 1 – 1 ½ cup of ice water · 1 ¼ tsp cure (pink salt) – for color and food safety reasons Note 1: I chose not to add any additional fat beyond that in/on the pork butt itself. Note 2: If doing this strictly as a fresh sausage (either bulk or cased) that will not be low temperature smoked, the pink cure salt could be eliminated and the soy protein binder could be cut back to 1/4 to 1/2 cup or even eliminated. The Grind ½ of meat ground with 3/8 hole plate – to give larger pieces in the final product ½ of meat ground with a ¼ hole plate (and a lot of the trimmed fat) I chose the two different grinds approach to promote the texture I was looking for in the final sausage. Ground meat was then placed in tub and all other ingredients added and well mixed with your hands except for pink salt cure. The pink salt gets added after the test patties are tried and the seasoning is at the final ratios. Mix the cure with say a ¼ cup of ice water and then add to the meat mixture and mix in well. Then proceed to the stuffing. Other approaches season the cubed up meat first and let it fridge rest/mature before grinding. Still others grind and season and then let it fridge rest and mature before stuffing. We chose to grind (using a mix of very coarse and medium grinding) then season and stuff and allow the maturation to take place in the cased sausage during the drying and resting phase. This approach, based on the result, certainly worked well. The Seasoned Meat Mixture Make sure to cook some test patties to check the seasoning and flavor – amend as needed. Everybody had to have one test patty to try as the meat mixture smelled really good. We did not amend the seasonings as the recipe amounts seemed to be “right” in the test patties. Test Patty in the Pan A Test Patty for Everyone to Try Stuffing the Casings Stuffed the meat mixture into 32 mm diameter fresh collagen casing. Stuffed to the full diameter because I choose not to twist links. I choose fresh collagen for this batch just to try it. I did not use the thicker “smoked” collagen product as I would be smoking the sausage lying flat on racks and not hanging. The thicker smoked casing is need if one hangs the sausage to smoke as it will not break under the weight of the sausage like the fresh thinner collagen. Smoked casing is just a terminology for the thick casing as it is the same as the fresh – just thicker. It has no smoke to it. Made eight 16 inch lengths in casing (approx. ½ of a casing tube length) and a bowl of uncased which will not be smoked (probably 2 more 16 inch lengths in the bowl) and will be used as a fresh Andouille. Set the cased sausage in fridge on mesh rack in sheet pan uncovered to air dry and let the cure and seasonings migrate and develop throughout the meat for 36 hours. 24 might have been sufficient for drying but the timing worked out for 36. Left in fridge covered for roughly and additional 24 hours to further mature the flavor - this is where reserving some uncased to fry up each day is very useful to monitor the flavor development. Was great with breakfast! The extra day of maturation really made a significant difference in the flavor. The total time of drying and resting also allows the curing salt to fully penetrate all the meat - which is a food safety aspect due to the smoking taking place over an extended period of time right in the food danger zone. Meat on the Grinder Tray Ready to Stuff Casing on the Stuffing Tube – Ready to Fill The Stuffed Casings The Smoking Step I utilized my homemade electric kitchen oven that has been converted to a smoker and equipped with a PID style temperature controller replacing the normal oven controls. (http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/5071-greetings-from-georgia/?p=46749) The controller is required in order to be able to control the oven heat to low temperatures as the normal oven thermostat will usually not go below 170 degrees. Used my A-Maze-N smoker matrix with pecan sawdust for the smoke generation. Smoked at 130 degrees with the sawdust maze burning from both ends for 3.5 hours to generate a “heavy” but not overwhelming or bitter smoke. Then increased temperature to 165 degrees in oven with no smoke for about 3.5 more hours until sausage was at 148-150 internal. Raised oven temperature again to 175 degrees for about 20 minutes until internal temp of sausage was 155 degrees. At this point the sausage is fully cooked and ready to eat. The smoker temperature needs to be at 165 or below for any extended period of time to avoid causing the fat in the sausage to melt. One does the initial smoke flavoring step at 130 degrees to avoid the sausage reaching the final temperature too soon before the smoke has reached the desired level in the sausage. During this phase the internal of the meat was about 115 degrees. You also want to smoke this in a humid smoker environment. So I added a water pan in the smoking oven with a shallow amount of water. The Andouille Right Out of the Smoker The Cooling and Drying Step After removal from the smoker the sausage needs to be immediately cooled to below 100-120 degrees internal in a cold water shower or bath. This prevents the casing from shriving up and getting excess wrinkles. This is more a visual appearance of the final product than a safety step. I used an ice water bath for a short while. The Ice Water Cooling Bath After the cooling, it is necessary to air dry the sausage for an hour or so at room temperature so the casing will set. There is a fan blowing over the sausage in the photo below. Air Drying the Product The Smoke Maturation Step After drying, the sausage is placed in the fridge covered for the smoke flavor to mature into the meat. UPDATE: After a day+ in the fridge wrapped up, the initial smoke flavor on first bite is somewhat less pronounced compared to shortly off the smoker but the overall flavor of the sausage and smoke is now more uniform and consistent. By no means has the smoke in this smoked sausage "gone away". Since the family enjoys a heavy but not bitter smoke profile, and given the fact that I used pecan smoke, next time I might extend the smoke for another hour on the pecan to see the difference. Had the smoke been hickory, I would recommend the current time for application of the smoke due to hickory being stronger than pecan. The Result and Verdict We ate some of the sausage, which is fully cooked following this type of smoking process, after a bit of the air drying – how could we not try it? It was excellent. In our view --- a perfect smoked Andouille. The aroma is so enticing. Three of us probably ate a pound just sampling it. We also tried some sliced and browned off in a skillet and it met every expectation and rendered very little fat. My Smokehowze Andouille What I liked was that fact that there was not an excess of fat nor any excess of salt. The texture was quite good. Firm and uniform and not excessively dense - what a good sausage should be. The smoke was on-target and fully complemented the flavor of the sausage itself. It was nice to be able to compare the smoked to the non-smoked Andouille. While both are good, the smoking takes it over the top. I like the pecan wood as it never really gets too harsh like hickory can if you get too much smoke in the meat. So… if you have been thinking about making sausage - just do it. The result is way superior to any of the store bought – even from some of the so called specialty shops. You do not need a fancy grinder to have good results.