Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nothing says the 4th of July like Hot Dogs!

For home sausage makers, hot dogs are a challenge. They require more equipment, greater temperature control and have a much higher likely hood of going wrong than regular sausages. While hot dogs are sometimes looked down upon compared to many of their fellow sausages, they actually take a great deal of skill to pull off. I'm always up for a challenge, so in honor of the holiday, I decided to take a crack at America's favorite food.

I started out with 100% grass fed beef chuck from Marin Sun Farms and some Oregon pork (The name of the farm escapes me), both of which I purchased at the new Berkeley Bowl West. As I said before, temperature control is very important with hot dogs, so after cutting the meat into chunks I stuck it in the freezer for a while to cool off. After that I ground it and mixed it with seasonings like a regular sausage, and again stuck it back in the freezer. Here's where it gets interesting. Hot dogs have the smooth texture that we know and love because they are emulsified by blending the meat with water and an emulsifying agent, in this case whole milk powder. I did by blending the meat with ice water and the milk powder in my CuisinArt food processors. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this step, but you can see the before and after shots of the meat in the third and fourth photo. After emulsifying it, the meat is smooth, homogeneous paste. After emulsifying, it went back in the freezer again (Temperature control!) while I set up my stuffer. As you can s, my stuffer is an old cast iron monstrosity. Its really better for than it is for stuffing sausages, but it gets the job done.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

After stuffing and linking the sausages, I smoked them to add flavor and raise the internal temperature, then steamed them to finish cooking. (Internal temperature between 152 and 155) Finally, I gave them a shower in cold water to bring the temperature down and avoid wrinkling. Presto! We have hot dogs.

I followed Ryan Farr's sagely advice and made Beans & Weenies. Unfortunately, we ate them so fast no one got a picture...

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