Monday, August 30, 2010

A country summer birthday lunch (1)

I have winter-itis.  It has rained almost every weekend for months now, which in our drought-stricken country I am grateful for.  But, I am so looking forward to sun and warm breeze. In honour of the turn of season, I thought that this week I would post some photographs from my country summer birthday lunch last November.

I spiffed up the house and the deck with flowers from the garden. Photographs by Nina. So handy to have a friend who is studying to be a professional photographer!

Monday, August 9, 2010

La sagra della salsiccia (2)

Back in December my friend Lizzie and I hatched a plan to have a Sagra della salsiccia (Italian for sausage making festival) at the country house.  Not so much a festival really, but a small weekend gathering.  I researched one possible provider of humanely and sustainably-raised pork (Fernleigh Farms) and Lizzie researched the best cut of meat (shoulder). Then we lapsed into inactivity until a couple of weekends ago when we met for a very long Sunday lunch at Lizzie's (pictured)  for a Sagra planning session with our fellow sausage makers-to be, Maria, Stuart, Matt and Jeanie.

While stuffing ourselves with eight courses of Lizzie's very fine cooking, we divvied up the tasks and are back in action.
I have found us a Gippsland pork supplier an hour away from the country house, The Gypsy Pig.  Michael and his wife raise heritage breeds of pigs humanely and sustainably. He is going to supply us shoulder meat off the bone with 80% meat and 20% fat, which he says is a good ratio for sausages. We are going to mince it ourselves to add to the sense of the occasion.

Michael's pigs range freely outside for the whole of their lives and the piglets stay with their mothers for a full eight to ten weeks.  This is different to the pigs labeled 'bred free range', which in Australia means that piglets are outside with their mothers for three weeks, then spend the rest of their lives inside. If the welfare of the animals that you eat is important to you, check the 'free range' versus 'bred free range' label carefully. Micheal does point out to me that bred free range is still a big step forward in welfare from intensive pork production.

Michael is also going to supply us with the natural casings, which will be lamb's intestines, although these don't come from his farm. Unless you have access to an organic farmer who has direct control over the slaughtering of his or her sheep and thus the by-products, you can't source organic intestines for sausages in Australia. So when you buy a commercial organic sausage it won't have an organic casing (this is allowable under the law which allows five percent of a certified organic product to be from non-organic ingredients).

I also found a great how-to book for home sausage making, which has supplied two of the three recipes we will use.
We will be steering away from the Squirrel Sausage, and the Moose Sausage in lieu of a classic Italian (coriander, black pepper, red pepper and garlic), Pistachio (black pepper, nutmeg, rosemary, and pistachios) and Fennel (black pepper, sweet paprika and fennel seeds).  The fennel recipe is from Mangia Mangia, a website dedicated to preserving traditional Italian recipes, that is well worth a look.

The Festa will be on August 21st, so not long to go!