Country Sausage

About Sausage and Weenies

I have to correct misimpressions about our encased meats about once a year as new customers come on board and are learning the rules of the road to good and wholesome eating. Some are surprised that JVF, a clean, wholesome and local farm would offer sausage and weenies. That’s understandable since these products have a deserved reputation that is less than savory.

Let’s start with the easiest one, link sausage, usually found in your cooler as bratwurst, andouille or Italian. What is the problem with commercially produced sausages? The answer is twofold. Long time manufacturers add all of the organ meats to their links. Organ meats are good but are also the quickest to spoil especially when being handled in huge quantities and then shipped all over the planet. Secondly, nitrate preservatives must be added to act as a failsafe against bad bacteria. Both of these hazards can be triggered by any number of intermittent failures. E.G., the coolers at the plant, on the truck, on the plane or in the grocery can rise above safe temperatures and trigger an outburst of bacteria. Not good.

How is our sausage different? We do not use organs, only meat and the animal fats and since we do not cook or even smoke the sausages, there is no regulation requiring the addition of preservatives. So what you have is meat and fat with seasonings in a pure protein wrapper. Clean and wholesome meat like everything else in your cooler from JVF. End of story.

Weenies are a bit different because they are a cooked product. All weenies wherever found are emulsified, explaining the more homogenized texture. The process of emulsification also cooks the meat simultaneously and this is when the big bad USDA steps in, mandating that all cooked meat products shall contain nitrates. No matter that we are not Oscar Meyer and our weenies only travel from Schulenberg to Houston. So, our weenies contain the minimum dose of nitrates considering how close they are to our eaters.

So what about the alternative to nitrates, substituting garlic powder and celery seed? Turns out the combo of natural ingredients form exactly the same result – nitrates. Molecularly indistinguishable. Same result in the weenie and in your body. So what’s the point? There is none.

Our last analysis involved researching the alleged harm of nitrates. The short answer is this: don’t eat 10 of our weenies a day, year after year. If you did, there could be a correlation but no demonstrable causative effect from consuming our weenies. We think you are fine, we eat them, our children and grandchildren eat them and they are very popular with our customers. We only send a 4-pack about 7 months of the year. You’ll be fine and you will enjoy an unadulterated weenie occasionally. Hot dogs almost define us as a nation! Teddy Roosevelt served them to world leaders visiting the White House for goodness sake! How could Teddy be wrong?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Recipe: Bean Pot

We have included some budget-stretching tips in our last 2 deliveries but left one off - beans and summer peas, fortified, enhanced and flavored with our meats. Whether you like pintos, black beans, purple hull, blackeyes, navy or Great Northern beans and peas, making a big pot of beans and meats is a crowd pleaser, economical and a multi-meal treat that is good for you in so many ways. And there appears to be no significant drop-off in taste or nutrition if you choose fresh, dry, or fresh frozen. Here’s how I do it.

Back to the Bean Pot

In your bean pot, add enough olive oil and butter to keep things from sticking. Brown your meat, be that ground pork or beef, or any of our sausages cut into slices. Remove meats when cooked, and add a mirepoix (see our cooking book if that term is strange to you). I suggest diced onion, celery and bell pepper. Fresh jalapeno if you like a little fire. When the vegetables are softened, add beans or peas and stock or water. Cook at slow simmer until beans are softened. Season as you go until your liking. Pop it further with some Tabasco if you like. Enjoy as a 1 piece meal. Make a lot and cover more than one dinner. Delicious and nutritious. While it is “Carby”, these are all complex carbs so much better than pasta, white rice or other processed carbs.

The Eaters Write

We always appreciate hearing from you. It gives us a chance to explain our mission when your letters sometimes express misconceptions about our meats. We recently got a note that expressed a desire for more ground pork and beef but less sausage because, “I don’t know what sausage is made from.” The concern was understandable — sausage, including hot dog weenies, have had a deservedly bad rap sheet for a long time. The bad rap comes from the fact that otherwise unsellable (and often inedible) parts were blended in to add weight and avoid waste. On top of that, sausage factories were neither the cleanest places in the food world but also were dealing with meat that was well beyond its fresh state, always transported again from the point of original processing to the ‘junk yard’, the sausage maker. That was not so in every case but probably was the dominant process. So the only way to make that sausage work was to add bacteria killing bleaches and then injecting preservatives out the wazoo (in some cases in the wazoo). BUT that’s not us! Here are the differences:

  1. Sausage is ground pork or beef, the same fresh and balanced stuff you have in your package labeled as such. In most cases, these ground products come from the rear leg of the pig or beeve, in other words, the hams or the hindquarter respectively. Why? Because these are often the toughest part of the cuts and grinding them breaks the tendons that are causing the toughness.
  2. We never put inedibles in our sausage.
  3. Grinding and sausage making all happens simultaneously at our same butcher shop in La Grange.

These cuts are treated no differently than say a porterhouse chop or a ribeye steak. Bottom line: if you like our ground meats, then you must like our sausage. It’s just ground meat with spices added.

It’s good for us all.

The Frugal Chef

Farmers are frugal but not pound foolish, using their resources to their potential while also enhancing them for the next season.. We cannot afford to waste our grasses, our garden, or our orchard or woods. The goal is to use them wisely. You can and probably do, adopt the same attitude in the kitchen. Waste is a bad thing in all aspects of life - it’s just plain sinful. So let’s talk about how to make these clean, nutritious meats go a long way at your dinner table.

I’ll use a typical cooler of monthly meats and what you can do with them as our working example of how many individual servings can come from one box. My assumption about weights per serving come from my up bringing in the food business. Chefs assume 4 to 6 ounces of meat per individual serving - and chefs always want to have more food than they think they will need.

  • 1 big fat hen weighs 3 lbs. Roast it and yield 1 breast and 1 hind quarter the first night for 2 servings. Trim the other breast and hind quarter the second night for sandwiches, 4 servings. Simmer the wings and the remaining carcass into stock then scrape the attached meat off, toss the carcass, and make a chicken noodle and vegetable soup. At least 4 soup servings. Total servings from 1 big fat hen: 10.
  • 1 beef roast weighs 2 lbs. Make my favorite, the pot roast with plenty of vegetables included. 5 servings. Or use half of the roast for sandwiches the next night and get 7 or 8 servings from the roast (can you tell that I like sandwiches and soups? You can do so much with them in term of variety of taste and nutrients added). Total servings from one roast: 5 to 8
  • 1 pork roast weighs 2 lbs. Ditto the above. Total servings per roast: 5 to 8
  • 2 beef steaks weigh 28 ounces. Treat yourself and get only 2 (massive) servings from the steaks. Total: 2 servings
  • 1 pkg pork or beef shanks weigh 1 lb. Make Osso Bucco and serve 4 or make a pot of beans with the shanks as the compliment and serve 6. Total servings: 4 to 6.
  • 2 pkgs ground beef weighs 2 lbs. Use 1 to make spaghetti carbonara for 4 servings and the other to make quarter pound burgers for 4 more. Or make a beef vegetable soup and add 2 more servings. Total servings: 8-10
  • 2 pkgs ground pork weighs 2 lbs. Ditto above. Total servings: 8-10
  • 2 pkgs country sausage weighs 28 ounces. Grill and eat and get 7 servings or make a sausage and bean on rice dish and extend it to 10 hearty servings. Total servings: 7 to 10.
  • 1 pkg beef or pork cutlets weighs ½ pound: Bread it and fry in your pork lard and make 2 servings. Total servings: 2

As a frugal chef, you will yield at least 51 and as many as 66 generous servings from 1 cooler of meat. And I have no doubt that you will find even more ways to stretch it - these are the obvious ones.

Food is life, just as essential as  air, water and sunshine. We can have it all if we are frugal and wise.