Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
stuart_s

Bacon peanut brittle

Recommended Posts

I found this recipe for bacon peanut brittle:

Bacon Brittle – courtesy of “Everything Tastes Better With Bacon.”

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (~2 ounces) chopped pecans

1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked bacon bits (6 to 8 ounces uncooked)

Grease or butter a large nonstick baking sheet.

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees F. Immmediately remove from heat.

Stir in the butter, vanilla, baking soda, pecans, and bacon bits. Watch out, the mixture will foam. When the foam subsides, pour the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheet as thinly as possible. Do not use a spatula. Cool for at least 10 minutes before breaking into pieces. Store in a covered container for as long it lasts. (Not long enough.)

Everyone claims that it produces great results but I'd like some trustworthy advice. Did they just take a mediocre brittle recipe and add bacon? My main issue is the corn syrup. I'm embarrassed to even ask but is corn syrup a legitimate ingredient? I don't cook much and I don't ever cook sweets. The only time that I ever hear the words corn syrup they're invariably prefaced by the words "high fructose" and generally located near words like "decline of civilization as we know it." Imagine a restaurant whose recipe for steak calls for jus de bœuf which in turn calls for fond blanc de veau and bouillon de pot-au-feu (read this but please come back). Do they have corn syrup in their pantry and do they put it in their peanut brittle?

I've searched for peanut brittle recipes but I can't seem to find an authoritative one. Almost all the recipes I've read have corn syrup. This include Jacques Torres but not Alton Brown. I've seen cane syrup, light corn syrup, brown sugar, dark corn syrup. I've seen butter and no butter. So, aside from my corn syrup question, I'd be interested in hearing all about your time-tested recipes for the world's best peanut brittle.

Does anyone have any experience with bacon brittle? Does it present any particular concerns?

Here's a recipe from the Timeline of Food dated to 1847. And here's Martha Stewart's recipe. She also uses corn syrup which for whatever reasons I find very comforting.

Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stuart, my friend, yes I have concerns. I want to get this straight, you are dancing around the use of corn syrup like Superman* would dance around a lead container that might contain kryptonite but you are fine with putting bacon in peanut brittle. Do I have that correct?? :raz:

*all similarities to Superman end there--unless you're wearing your red cape today.

:laugh:

It really does sound intriguing though--no need to worry about the corn syrup!!! I feel like I would want to add some salt though for some reason. Maybe the baking soda adds the saltiness.

And yes I keep corn syrup in my cupboard. It's every bit as scary and close to 'decline of civilization as we know it' as our highly refined sugar and nitrate laden bacon is.

But don't let tooth deacy or a slow painful death deter you. Make it anyway & let us know how it goes. :raz: Maybe Santa will bring you one of these.

~Many thinks to, Curlz, for posting that link in another thread.~


Edited by K8memphis (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Corn syrup helps keep the sugar mixture from recrystalizing. I think you could use all sugar, but I'm sure the real experts will be here in no time. Or you could search the pastry forum. I'm sure it's been discussed there somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Corn syrup helps keep the sugar mixture from recrystalizing.  I think you could use all sugar, but I'm sure the real experts will be here in no time.  Or you could search the pastry forum.  I'm sure it's been discussed there somewhere.

I did search but I hadn't realized that you could search this specific forum. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything. I did find one eGulleter who actually made the stuff but there wasn't any advice. Using the search feature on eGullet is actually rather cumbersome. The "peanut brittle" query turned up 14 pages of results but scanning the titles of the threads suggests that the threads are almost all irrelevant. Those that actually mention peanut brittle seem to do only that and nothing more. There's just to much too filter out before you can find anything useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Stuart, my friend, yes I have concerns. I want to get this straight, you are dancing around the use of corn syrup like Superman* would dance around a lead container that might contain kryptonite but you are fine with putting bacon in peanut brittle. Do I have that correct??  :raz:

*all similarities to Superman end there--unless you're wearing your red cape today.

:laugh:

It really does sound intriguing though--no need to worry about the corn syrup!!! I feel like I would want to add some salt though for some reason. Maybe the baking soda adds the saltiness.

And yes I keep corn syrup in my cupboard. It's every bit as scary and close to 'decline of civilization as we know it' as our highly refined sugar and nitrate laden bacon is.

But don't let tooth deacy or a slow painful death deter you. Make it anyway & let us know how it goes.  :raz: Maybe Santa will bring you one of these.

~Many thinks to, Curlz, for posting that link in another thread.~

Thanks for the assurance. I think I'm ready to accept corn syrup. Unfortunately, the people that I might ordinarily go to for advice on this matter will be getting some of the end result and I'd like it to be a surprise. Anyway, James Beard's American Cookery, The Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker all use corn syrup in their brittle recipes. I guess the question now becomes, "Why doesn't Alton Brown use corn syrup in his peanut brittle?"

I'd still be happy to hear any other advice. I'm now fully committed to this project. I've got 5 1lb+ packages of bacon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Corn syrup helps keep the sugar mixture from recrystalizing.  I think you could use all sugar, but I'm sure the real experts will be here in no time.  Or you could search the pastry forum.  I'm sure it's been discussed there somewhere.

I did search but I hadn't realized that you could search this specific forum. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything. I did find one eGulleter who actually made the stuff but there wasn't any advice. Using the search feature on eGullet is actually rather cumbersome. The "peanut brittle" query turned up 14 pages of results but scanning the titles of the threads suggests that the threads are almost all irrelevant. Those that actually mention peanut brittle seem to do only that and nothing more. There's just to much too filter out before you can find anything useful.

Stuart~

you'll find that using the search fx at the top of the page (btwn help and members) will let you enter your keywords and search BY TITLE, not post......that is the key. (at the bottom where it asks "search where", search titles only). Helps narrow it down. :wink:

BTW, I think bacon peanut brittle sounds delicious........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are making one batch to test this right? I do not recommend multiplying this out and letting it rip until you try it once.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You are making one batch to test this right? I do not recommend multiplying this out and letting it rip until you try it once.

I think that I'll just cook all of it in little batches until I get sick of it. Thanks for pointing that out though.

I can't get corn syrup out of my head so I did some googling. Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller each have published recipes (not peanut brittle recipes, though) which call for corn syrup. But there are still some people who don't seem to accept it.

I also found a recipe for peanut brittle from Chanterelle and I read that their peanut brittle is amazing. This recipe is one of the very few that does not involve corn syrup. So I'm convinced that I'll try at least one batch without. I may do other with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also found a recipe for peanut brittle from Chanterelle and I read that their peanut brittle is amazing. This recipe is one of the very few that does not involve corn syrup. So I'm convinced that I'll try at least one batch without.

I'd love to hear what you think about this recipe. I want to make it myself but don't currently have time. I especially like the fact that the nuts are GROUND, as I really don't like peanuts but think the idea of them with bacon is inspired......... :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So any news to report on the bacon brittle front???

Progress is slow but steady. Well, mostly slow. I think I'll leave the Chanterelle recipe for another adventure. I'm going to use the original recipe from Everything Tastes Better With Bacon with several modifications. First, I'll use real vanilla. I'll also swap out the corn syrup and use sugar. According to The Cook's Thesaurus, 1.5 cups of corn syrup = 1 cup sugar + .25 cups liquid.

The Everything Tastes Better With Bacon recipe also calls for pecans. Alton Brown says that raw peanuts are traditional. So I'm torn between the various combinations: raw peanuts, lightly roasted peanuts, raw pecans, lightly roasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds... Currently, I'm leaning towards raw peanuts. Now I just have to figure out where to buy them.

Here's another question. Alton says that peanut brittle is simple enough that you don't need a candy thermometer but that if you have one you're looking for 350F. Everything Tastes Better With Bacon says 290F. That seems like a pretty big discrepancy.

Also, if I keep worrying about every little detail, my bacon brittle will be trite and overdone before I even make it. Apparently, bacon desserts are going to be big in 2007: bacon baklava.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is your phobia about corn syrup?

When you use the real vanilla, add it when things have cooled off a bit so it doesn't boil up & fizz out on yah.

And while the proportions of sugar and liquid equal whatever you said it does in corn syrup, making candy is a precise adventure that I would only recommend for you to use a specifically written formula for. Like if you have one that already does not use corn syrup then use that formula. But I don't suggest you just alter things to your liking because the chances of failure are greater. It's not like cooking. It's very exact.

Hurry up and make some.

:biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't get the corn syrup thing either, if you're ok with the cup of sugar then a half cup of corn syrup shouldn't be so frightening. I'd never try to substitute for it in say, divinity.......mmm.......divinity.....mmm

Oh, pardon me!

It was my intention to make a suggestion or 2 about the peanuts. Trader Joe's has a product they call 'blister peanuts'. They're roasted, no skin, and come salted or not. They have great snap and clean flavor. Something I often do to make boiled peanuts from raw peanuts in the shell is buy them from a feed store. Seems they put the better ones aside for the non-humans. (We have a large bird who is fond of his peanuts.)

There is something in the fridge called gypsy bacon that is new to me and I may try it on the brittle and beat ya to it!!!

It's all fun, and some is yum :raz:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, I made some of this today. Since I'm not a veteran dessert cook, I followed the recipe to the letter with one exception: I didn't realize my candy thermometer didn't work (it's only about 50 years old and hasn't been used for 25 . . . who knew?). So I had to guess at the temp; apart from that, I went strictly by the book. Oh, except I put more bacon in it.

It's really not bad, considering. I wish it were thinner (I think that was a function of being either too hot or not hot enough when I took it off of the heat) and I wish I hadn't put in more bacon than called for (it's enough - really - trust me). All in all, I rather like it. I think I'll give it another go after I've procured a reliable thermometer and dial-back the bacon a tad.

I DID use the dreaded, world-threatening corn syrup (no fatalities as yet) and chopped pecans. I'm thinking cashews might be good as well, now that I've tried it.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So any news to report on the bacon brittle front???

Success! And failure. But, success. I made two batches. The first was with pecans. It looked perfect and it tasted quite good. The second was with peanuts and it had several problems. It certainly looked much less pretty and it didn't really taste great either. I didn't get any decent pictures of the failed batch.

322686509_c335e735f9_m.jpg

I can speculate about several potential problems. First of all, the peanuts didn't cook sufficiently. Alton Brown's recipe calls for lightly roasted peanuts. But on his show he says that raw peanuts are traditional and that they cook in the caramel. These peanuts still tasted raw. Also, there was a lot of confusion about the target temperature. I saw 290, 293... I think my thermometer says "hard crack" is 300. The Chanterelle cookbook say 325 and I decided to follow their advice. For the first batch I panicked and took it off early. About 310? The second batch I took off even a few degrees earlier. I think I read in several recipes that you shouldn't handle the syrup. Either when it's boiling or when you're spreading it out to cool. I think I may have handled the second batch too much as I was spreading it. It looked and felt like there was a lot of crystalization. Unfortunately, I didn't get any decent pictures of the peanut batch. The first batch came out glassy smooth. Honestly, I thought I was pretty careful with both batches but I guess not.

I enjoyed making mine and I'm glad someone else tried it. It seems like the stars were aligned in favor of bacon this last week. All these links are just things that I came across in my regular web surfing. I wasn't specifically looking for bacon information.

Bacon toffee

bacon caramel

bacon baklava

bacon ice cream

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coming to Chicago from New Orleans 10yrs. ago I noticed a lot of adjustments I needed to make. Making fudge and divinity is a family thing from my mom to me. It's always been important to notice the weather, mainly humidity, making candy. For me the thermometers weren't as reliable as the drop in cold water method. My first batch of divinity here I believed to be a complete flop. After a day and a half it was perfect. Not grainy at all and beautiful presentation. Damn I'm glad I didn't throw it out! Even when I think I've done it all exactly the same way there are variable results. And sometimes the boo boos are better than the intended result.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stuart, did both batches have (shhh) c-o-r-n s-y-r-u-p???

Pecans & bacon sound better than peanuts & bacon anyday.

Awesome that you got a good batch!!!


Edited by K8memphis (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Stuart, did both batches have (shhh) c-o-r-n s-y-r-u-p???

Pecans & bacon sound better than peanuts & bacon anyday.

Awesome that you got a good batch!!!

Thank you.

Neither batch used corn syrup. If I had used it then maybe the botched batch would have come out well. In fact, maybe I was lucky that even one batch turned out well with so little effort on my part. On the other hand, maybe with a little experience under my belt I'll do even better in the future. In either case, I'm happy with my decision. The best anybody can say about corn syrup is that it's a good substitute or that it's cheaper or easier. I've never read or heard that it tastes better.

There's a restaurant nearby that currently has a brittle component in two dishes - a peanut brittle in a beet salad and a pumpkin seed brittle in an untraditional presentation of pumpkin pie. I had the pumpkin seed brittle and it was amazing. Four tiny shards of this brittle without the pumpkin pie would have been better than any dessert I've had at almost any other restaurant. I thought I chose super high quality ingredients and brittle seems like a recipe that needs careful measurement more than individual artistry so I'm very curious how there's such a big difference. My pecan brittle was good but this pumpkin seed brittle was incredible. I'm sure the chef will be happy to explain his recipe but I'm not sure the difference is something he'll be able to articulate.

308410357_7ae646bd80_m.jpg

pumpkin pie at Moxie (Cleveland, Oh)

-Stuart

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stuart, was the brittle I sampled from the "raw" batch? It didn't taste that way to me. It was pretty darn good, actually.

They ran out of the pumpkin pie dessert at Moxie Friday night, but I had some of the pumpkin seed brittle in another dish. It really is awesome.

I've been making nut brittle lately (peanut, pecan, and pine nut), but haven't tried using bacon yet. BTW, I don't like corn syrup either, though I wouldn't worry about it in small quantities. I've been using Steen's cane syrup instead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...On the other hand, maybe with a little experience under my belt I'll do even better in the future. In either case, I'm happy with my decision. The best anybody can say about corn syrup is that it's a good substitute or that it's cheaper or easier. I've never read or heard that it tastes better.

... BTW, I don't like corn syrup either, though I wouldn't worry about it in small quantities. I've been using  Steen's cane syrup  instead.

Yes of course each experience supports the next.

Ok, please help me out here. I'm so totally lost in the corn syrup quagmire. Corn syrup is a substitute for what??? It's supposed to taste better than what? Cheap and easy is bad because... No really, I've never heard of such a dislike, a shunning of an essential ingredient. It's in most of the brittle recipes because it works.

Edsel, you wouldn't worry about it in small quantities otherwise...what bad thing happens. It's sugar. It's an ingredient to help the sugar not crystalize again and it does it's brittle thing when you cook it up & stuff.

I've never drunk corn syrup, I mean I don't like it that way. I just don't get it. What?

If you all can't explain this, I'll ask Chef-boy.

Edited to ask: because corn syrup is metabolized by the liver???


Edited by K8memphis (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all, I wouldn't worry about corn syrup in any quantity. I don't think that any bad thing happens because of corn syrup consumption. At least, I haven't heard anything. What's this about liver?

I was worried about the quality. And I'm not even saying that corn syrup delivers an inferior flavor. I just don't know. I don't do much baking. The reason that I was initially suspicious is because I never heard it described as a basic ingredient. I've only heard of it as a convenience ingredient: "Substitute corn syrup for sugar if you're having problems with crystallization." And no one ever talks about the best corn syrup. People talk about the best flour, the best butter or the best sugar.

I did ask Chef Strizak at Parker's (one of my favorite restaurants). He said he wouldn't use it because it's a processed ingredient. I asked him if he thought corn syrup tasted as good and he made a noise. I think he meant "no." The conversation was too short for me to get a more definitive response.

In the plus column for corn syrup are the recipes that I referenced (but didn't link) above from Thomas Keller and Alain Ducasse. That doesn't necessarily give me complete peace of mind. Maybe corn syrup is acceptable in apple pie but not acceptable in most applications. Or maybe it's acceptable in their books but not acceptable in their restaurants.

The concerns I've articulated are clearly academic. I don't have any firm reason to judge corn syrup one way or the other. On the other hand, while I've almost certainly had many tasty corn syrup products, I'm absolutely positive that I've had stunning sugar masterpieces. Corn syrup just needs to prove its worth to me the way that sugar already has. If it's true that the entire baking world at all levels uses it, then that may happen when I'm a slightly more experienced baker. Of course, if I find out that Moxie uses sugar exclusively then corn syrup is dead to me.

-Stuart

...On the other hand, maybe with a little experience under my belt I'll do even better in the future. In either case, I'm happy with my decision. The best anybody can say about corn syrup is that it's a good substitute or that it's cheaper or easier. I've never read or heard that it tastes better.

... BTW, I don't like corn syrup either, though I wouldn't worry about it in small quantities. I've been using  Steen's cane syrup  instead.

Yes of course each experience supports the next.

Ok, please help me out here. I'm so totally lost in the corn syrup quagmire. Corn syrup is a substitute for what??? It's supposed to taste better than what? Cheap and easy is bad because... No really, I've never heard of such a dislike, a shunning of an essential ingredient. It's in most of the brittle recipes because it works.

Edsel, you wouldn't worry about it in small quantities otherwise...what bad thing happens. It's sugar. It's an ingredient to help the sugar not crystalize again and it does it's brittle thing when you cook it up & stuff.

I've never drunk corn syrup, I mean I don't like it that way. I just don't get it. What?

If you all can't explain this, I'll ask Chef-boy.

Edited to ask: because corn syrup is metabolized by the liver???

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Stuart, was the brittle I sampled from the "raw" batch? It didn't taste that way to me. It was pretty darn good, actually.

They ran out of the pumpkin pie dessert at Moxie Friday night, but I had some of the pumpkin seed brittle in another dish. It really is awesome.

I've been making nut brittle lately (peanut, pecan, and pine nut), but haven't tried using bacon yet. BTW, I don't like corn syrup either, though I wouldn't worry about it in small quantities. I've been using  Steen's cane syrup  instead.

Thanks. You're correct. That was not the botched raw peanut batch. It was the pecan batch.

I read good things about Stern's. I don't think I've ever actually seen a bottle of it though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I guess it's time to reconsider my suspicion of corn syrup. At least as far as brittle is concerned, it can definitely produce great results. The brittle at Moxie (hereafter to be referred to as "the ideal brittle") is made with corn syrup.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a good Chowhound thread, too.

As of now, we're up to cane syrup for the sweetener, plus brown sugar and guanciale. You'll die in a diabetic coma, but you'll experience a bit of heaven before you go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By devinp
      I just finished curing my first lomo, and all looks/smells/tastes great except a couple sections inside the lomo that could be black mold?  I kept the exterior clean from mold (I had mostly white and some green pop up during curing, but wiped with vinegar to keep clean).  This picture shows one of those spots closer to the edge in the fat, but there was a second near the middle of the loin that I cutout already.  Unless I find more substantial sections, I think I'm good just cutting away those parts, but would love second opinions..  Thanks.
       

    • By CarsonWyler
      I'm looking for guanciale, preferably in the Sonoma County area but am willing to travel a bit or order online if necessary. Any ideas?
    • By Glen
      Looking to learn and ask questions about home curing meats.  I have an 11 lb batch of genoa salami going and it is my first batch.  Worried about the PH level not dropping as needed.  Need some advice.   I followed the Marianski recipe exactly.  I have a pH meter and the starting point was 6.15pH which I thought was unusually high.  2.5 months in, I am about 73% of starting weight yet my pH is only 5.88pH.  My curing chamber is consistently at 57deg. F. /80% humidity.  My pH tester seems calibrated properly using the calibration solutions.  I am using the meat probe adapter and just sticking it in the salami until the tip is submerged etc...Thanks in advance for any suggestions or reassurances. 
       
      Glen

    • By liuzhou
      It is possibly not well-known that China has some wonderful hams, up there with the best that Spain can offer. This lack of wide -knowledge, at least in the USA, is mainly down to regulations forbidding their importation. However, for travellers to China and those in  places with less restrictive policies, here are some of the best.
       
      This article from the WSJ is a good introduction to one of the best - Xuanwei Ham 宣威火腿  (xuān wēi huǒ tuǐ) from Yunnan province.
      This Ingredient Makes Everything Better
      I can usually obtain Xuanwei ham here around the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, but I also have a good friend who lives in Yunnan who sends me regular supplies. The article compares it very favourably with jamon iberico, a sentiment with which I heartily agree.



      Xuanwei Ham
       

      Xuanwei Ham
       
      more coming soon.
       
       
    • By Daily Gullet Staff
      by Chris Amirault

      Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like 'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?

      - Nora Ephron

      I attended a training last fall at which we were asked to share an object representing something important about mentoring, our focus for the week. I suspect that few in the workshop had difficulty coming up with their tape measures, baby photos, and flower pots, but I usually find this sort of assignment challenging, preferring simple denotations to forced connotations.

      On the drive home, I rolled down the windows, sensing that the air was turning slightly crisp and cool. I savored that harbinger of autumn in New England, when my thoughts turn to braises, stews and charcuterie. After a summer of keeping the oven off in my non-air-conditioned kitchen, I dreamed of daubes, considered new curries, and generally jonesed for the promise of meat to come.

      And then I realized that I had a perfect metaphor for mentoring: my 5 lb. vertical sausage stuffer from Grizzly Industrial, Inc. The next day, I lugged the apparatus to the training, hiding it behind a door for fear of ridicule. When my turn arrived, I hauled it out and clunked it down dramatically on the center table. "Good mentoring is like a sausage stuffer," I said, "for at least ten reasons:

      + + +

      That's the article as I started writing it. But over time, Nora's words came to haunt me. The whole shtick began to smell a bit fishy, and I began to fear that, like many tropes, this metaphor turned attention away from a trickier, worrisome truth hiding in plain view.

      But unlike many tropes, the worrisome truth I was hiding is in the object, and not the subject, of the metaphor. That is, the metaphor wasn't really about my relationship to mentoring. It was really about my relationship to sausage.

      Imagine the scene: I whip out my sausage maker and give ten reasons why my metaphor is bigger and better than everyone else's. (I did mention that I was the only man among three dozen women in that training, didn't I?) Laugh if you want, but one's sausage is important to many a man. A quick perusal of this topic reveals that I'm not alone. (You did notice the gender breakdown in that topic, didn't you?)

      Last weekend, while in the unfinished basement of a chef buddy, talk turned to our sausages, and before long we four charcuterie nuts were looking at our feet and commiserating about our failures. We shared a bond: our sausages had the better of us, and we knew it. Pathetic though it is, are you surprised that I felt a deep sense of relief, even of control, when I walked through my ten reasons? My metaphor afforded me a rare opportunity to feel superior to the process of sausage-making, and believe me, that doesn't happen often.

      My name is Chris A., and I have sausage anxiety.

      Read that list up there about my sausage maker, the instrument that I describe with distanced assurance. It's a ruse, I tell you. No matter how often I try to buck up, no matter how definitive a recipe, no matter how wonderful a pork butt or a lamb shoulder, when it comes to making sausages, I go limp with worry.

      Can you blame me? Look at all the places you can screw up, where your sausage can fail you utterly and leave you in tears.

      You grab some wonderful meat, hold it in your hands, appreciate its glory. Chill. You grind it, add some fat, and sprinkle some seasoning, whatever the flesh requires. Chill again. Slow down, contemplate the moon or something. You paddle that meat to bind it, melding flavor and texture seamlessly. Chill some more. What's your hurry? Toss a bit into a skillet, ask: are we ready? and adjust as needed. Stuff away. Then relax. If you can.

      I can't. You need to keep things cool to take care of your sausage, and it's challenging to stay cool when I'm all a-flutter about the prospect of a culminating, perfect, harmonious bind. If you read the books and you watch the shows, everyone acts just about as cool as a cucumber. But that's not real life with my sausage.

      It's a frenzy, I tell you. I know I should chill and relax, but I get all hot and bothered, start hurrying things along, unable to let the meat chill sufficiently, to take things slowly. Hell, I'm sweating now just thinking about it.

      I have to admit that I don't have this sausage problem when I'm alone in the house, have a couple of hours to kill, and know I won't be disturbed. I just settle in, take it nice and slow, not a care in the world, and everything comes out fine. But with someone else around, forget about it.

      Despite this mishegas, my wife is as supportive as she can be. She humors me patiently about these things, gently chiding, "Slow down! The house isn't on fire. It's just your sausage." Though I know she loves me despite my foibles, that sort of talk just adds fuel to that fire -- I mean, she can speak so glibly because it's not her sausage we're worrying about.

      Even if I am I able to relax, the prospect of sudden, precipitous sausage humiliation comes crashing down upon me. Think of it. All seems to be going so well -- a little too well. I'm keeping things cool, making sure that I'm taking it easy, following the plan step-by-step, trusting my instincts. I smile. I get cocky.

      And then, the frying pan hits the fire, and within moments I'm hanging my head: instead of forming a perfect bind, my sausage breaks and I break down. I want a firm, solid mass, and I'm watching a crumbly, limp link ooze liquid with embarrassing rapidity.

      Given my gender, in the past I've tried to subdue sausage anxiety with predictable contrivances: machines, science, and technique. If there's a tool or a book useful for perfecting my sausage, I've bought or coveted it. I calculate ratios of meat, salt, cure, sugar, and seasonings past the decimal; I measure out ingredients to the gram on digital scales; I poke instant-read thermometers into piles of seasoned meat; I take the grinder blade to my local knife sharpener to get the perfect edge. (We've already covered the stuffer above, of course.) I've got a full supply of dextrose, Bactoferm, and DQ curing salts numbers 1 and 2. The broken binding of my copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie has xeroxes and print-outs from eight other sources, and the pages are filled with crossed-out and recalculated recipes.

      It's the sort of thing that I used to do when I was younger: arm myself with all things known to mankind and blast ahead. It hasn't helped. I've learned the hard way that my hysterical masculine attempt to master all knowledge and technology has led, simply, to more panic and collapse.

      There is, I think, hope. I'm older, and my approach to my sausage has matured. I'm in less of a hurry, I roll with the challenges, and when the house is on fire, I just find a hydrant for my hose.

      If things collapse, well, I try to take the long view, recall the successes of my youth, and keep my head up. I mean, it's just my sausage.

      * * *

      Chris Amirault (aka, well, chrisamirault) is Director of Operations, eG Forums. He also runs a preschool and teaches in Providence, RI.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...