I told you that I never get to use my knives- that’s not entirely true. Our Church is throwing their annual charity bazaar/garage-rummage sale, and since my wife is chairwoman of the, well, whatever it is that she is in charge of, I got volunteered to provide the sausage for their BBQ. Oh, boy!
See, one of the things you don’t know about me is that my Uncle Bob was a butcher, and on occasion, when I was a youngster, he let me cut meat with him in his store. And, my Dad was a farm boy and sometime backyard meat-cutter, and the reason I have knives, and keep them ‘Sweeny Todd’ murdering sharp, is because of them.
“A knife that isn’t sharp; is dangerous!” My Dad always says, and he’s right. He also advises, “All real men carry a good sharp pocketknife.” And, he is right about that, too. And, I do: carry a good, sharp pocketknife, I mean.
In part four of the chapters titled: 1,000 REASONS TO CARRY A POCKETKNIFE- rule 828 concludes, “…because that sissy little serrated plastic ‘thingy’ they sell at Safeway™ in October is useless for carving a real pumpkin!”
In the Doghouse, to the left of the kitchen door, I have an old fashioned ceramic apron farm-sink with a sloped, grooved draining surface, and right next to that, I have an extra wide cross-block butcher’s table and next to that, an aging, electric Kitchen Standard ® meat grinder with an attachable sausage stuffing tube. I know, I know, she doesn’t let me eat meat- well, mostly, but when I am the Butcher, and I get volunteered to make sausage for our church’s annual charity bazaar/garage-rummage sale, then I get to eat what I prepare and cook; and anyway, it’s only once a year, and if my doctor can live with it, then so can she! Besides, there’s a verse in the bible, somewhere- Ecclesiastes, I think- that says something like, “Don’t muzzle the Ox that tramples the oats.”
That’s not a direct quote you understand, but it’s certainly close enough for homemade sausage!
Nancy brought little Timmy the ‘Missionary’ over, and then the girls hit the road to the local Grocery Industri-Mart to get supplies. I had already been there the day before to buy the meat. (I already hid the receipts for all the stuff I bought but didn’t need.)
Timmy stood transfixed in awe in the cool summer gloom of the Doghouse. He was eyeing my knives, and the meat, and the grinder and everything! I knew just how he felt. It was the same way I felt at Uncle Bob’s Meat Counter. This was a man’s world, there were no women to be found and the boys were in charge! Woo-hoo!
“What are we doing, grandpa?” he asked excitedly.
I already had my apron tied; my newspaper hat folded and tilted at a raffish angle over one brow, and was steeling one of my boning knives.
“Do you like sausage?” I asked him?
He pulled the shop-stool over and crawled up onto it.
“You mean like, ‘Jimmy Dean?’” he asked.
I wrinkled my nose and kept honing my blade.
“Not exactly. This is better.” I corrected him.
“Why?” he asked.
I made a show of pulling a hair from my head and expertly cutting it with my knife.
“’Cuz, we’re gonna make it ourselves! And, then we’re going to eat it!” I winked at him.
Timmy was so happy he almost fell of the stool.
“Do I get a hat, too?”
I folded him a newsprint ‘Chevron’ hat; got him an apron that I had to wrap around him twice, and we set about our task.
First we had to bone the two slabs of pork ribs- ‘cuz, let’s face it- like Chef Emeril Laggasse says;
“It’s a pork-fat thing!”
For more on the wonders, the simple beauty, the ambrosia of flavor, and culinary carnival of taste that is pork-fat; see chapter 26 of the DHMF, (the Doghouse Manifesto) titled: PORK FAT- THE MASON/DIXON LINE- where the age old argument of Dry-Rub and wet ingredients will be visited, but not even remotely resolved; however, some compelling points will be made for ingredients such as, brown sugar, molasses and mustard- both wet and dry varieties, as well as spicy and mild- and somewhere mixed in there with a questionable racy Parisian picture postcard, is an errant recipe from my very proper German great grandfather for homemade horseradish, and something unintelligible about good Rhinelander Head Cheese, and big broad shouldered men in lederhosen slapping the hell out of each other to accordion music…
Uhm… where was I? Accordions, big shouldered men, leather shorts, Head Cheese-
Oh, yeah- sausage… (I know. That’s all really wrong, isn’t it?)
Anyway, I had already pre-soaked my casings, and put my dry spices in a pan of cold water to hydrate over night- fresh spices are better, and if this was going to be a batch of sausage for my table, I would have used them, and then the whole lot would have been tube’d, cased and hung on hooks in a Cold Cure Smoke House for a couple of weeks, and then aged to perfection in a humidity controlled, climate chilled Meat Locker for about six months, but this all had to be ready for Saturday- all that was left to do was, bone the pork, and cut and slice the beef, mutton and the two-pound side of hickory smoked bacon; add the onion and the garlic, grind the whole thing up, and case it.
“Okay, Timmy: pay attention, ‘cuz I’m going to show you how to SAFELY use a knife.” I cautioned him. I didn’t want any accidents, or errant fingers, or ears ending up in the sausage- his or mine!
As it turns out, little Timmy is a natural with a blade. He held it perfectly, thumb and forefinger above the shank, just at the hilt, and he learned to curl his ‘off’ hand fingers under to avoid the sharp edge, as if he were an old-time pro. He’s either going to grow up to be a Master Butcher, or a Surgeon. Without a butt-load of Demerol™ and an intravenous Valium™ drip, I doubt I could tell you the difference, the point is, Timmy didn’t cut himself, and he had the time of his life boning out all that pork, and then slicing the rest for grinding. I was proud of him.
On the other hand, I needed two band-aids before the afternoon was over- but I don’t really want to talk about it, if you don’t mind.
While I was washing everything up, and putting away my knives, Timmy wandered over to my 8-track, selected a tape and shoved it in. Turns out, instead of Sinatra, or Tony Bennett, he mistakenly grabbed my Kansas: “Leftoverture” album.
We both fell into a sound sleep in our bloodied aprons and newsprint hats, on the Doghouse chaise lounge as, Kerry Livgren began to sing:
“Carry on my Wayward Son…”
I would introduce Timmy to Lynyrd Skynyrd another day…
The complete manuscript of A DogHouse Manifesto has been accepted for publish, and will be available for purchase very soon! Stay tuned to this column for details…