Friday, July 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #7


For the blending project I thought I give hot dogs another chance. I tried a long time ago (pretty sure it was pre-blog) and it was a disappointment. I had bought casings just for hot dogs, used some of our own beef, tried to keep everything as cold as possible, put in a lot of effort and ended up with a mediocre hot dog at best. Time to try again.

The earlier editions of Charcuterie had a sightly different version than later editions. The two recipes are similar. The newer version calls for the meat and fat off of short ribs. The earlier version just calls for beef and beef fat. The seasonings are pretty much the same. To make my life simpler, I used our home grown ground beef. The first grind was already done and if I partially thawed the ground beef, if would stay cold during the next grind. I was good to go.

The first snag: I had all the spices and just needed to pick up some corn syrup. The only corn syrup I found had vanilla in it. Price Chopper, Hannafords, Fresh Market and 2 health food stores turned up only vanilla flavored corn syrup. I probably shouldn't knock it 'till I try it, vanilla seems wrong in hot dogs. I have no idea why the corn syrup is in there.  I decided to skip the corn syrup but I think I had 2 hours lost in the search.

The plan was to make the hot dogs on Monday, then smoke and poach them on Tuesday. I had pulled a package of ground beef to start thawing in the morning. It was still partially frozen, but I knew I could cut it with a knife. I had almost exactly 3 pounds of ground beef. The recipe was 2 pounds. Scaling up, I weighed the spices. Then it was time bed time for the kids. I put some sheep casings in some water and was off to read stories.

After storytime, I went back to work. Cut the the ground beef into cubes...

Weighed out the right amount of ice and fed it into the Magic Hostess Ice Crusher. I love this thing. Wish you could hear it hum...

Got the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl set in an ice bath...

Mixed the ice, salt and pink salt with the ground beef cubes and ground...

Dextrose, garlic, Coleman's ground mustard, paprika, coriander and white pepper got added to the mix. The grinder attachment came off and the paddle went on. [Grinding attachment note: if you take the little black screw thing that holds the grinder in place completely off the mixer, the grinder attachment comes off easily. Only loosening the screw doesn't work very well. Ask me how I know.] Once the spices were in, I held a flexible gel pack against the bowl for a little extra cold. The mixer went on and there was a blur or meat-in-motion.

Everything stayed cold...

This is where I hit the next snag. All the sheep casings in the bowl of water were tangled. So I hunched over the sink and untangled them. Then I go to flush them. No problem there. Then I go to put them on the stuffer. They won't open to get on the tube. When they finally do open, they tear. I cut it back. Won't open again. Then tears. This goes on for awhile. I finally get a length of casing on the stuffer and get going. Sheep casings are much smaller than hog casings. Think hot dog diameter vs. Italian sausage diameter. The casing fills up pretty quickly. I begin another 20 minute battle to get a casing on the stuffer. That one fills up but also burst in one spot. I finally devised a method to get the casings on the stuffer in under 5 minutes. If the casing is still full of water, it went on easier. Opened up without breaking and actually slid on. Lesson learned. This was the first time I had wished for the stuffer to be empty. Here's a picture of the casings going on. You can see where the previous casing had burst.

I had a few more mini bursts twisting the casings into links. The casing battle was ugly. In the middle of the fight my wife asked if she could help. I wasn't sure how she could help so I muttered, "No," while thinking "Yes, go back in time and talk me out of making hot dogs."After she went to bed, this is what I had to show for the effort.

At this point, I pounded that beer I mentioned in the last post. Took a break and then spent half an hour cleaning up my mess. Tuesday's work was easy in comparison. I cleaned out the grill and set up the cold smoker with about 2 hours worth of sawdust.

Got the sawdust lit and loaded the grill. I tried the Weber kettle this time. I think the vertical smoker worked a little better. Puts a little more distance between the meat and the smoldering sawdust.

After two hours, I had run out of sawdust.

I brought the hot dogs inside and put them in a 165 degree pot of water.

About 10 minutes later, the dogs were fully cooked and got dropped into an ice bath. The ice bath is in my new super-awesome huge stainless steel bowl I bout at that restaurant supply shop on Broadway in Schenectady.

Tah-dah...finished hot dogs.

I grilled a few tonight, the rest got frozen. A significant improvement over first try. I thought they came out pretty good. Nice flavor. Good snap. The next Charcutepalooza challenge has to be easier, right?

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