Family tradition moving from one generation to the next
It's a big deal, this sausage making, not because the process is laborious, though it is, and not because it's touchy, because it can be - it's a big deal because it is tradition times three generations.
I first witnessed the whole sausage-making process more than 30 years ago. My husband and his cousin, plus a couple of friends, took over the basement in our former home. A meat-cutter by trade back then, he directed the well-oiled, or should I say very lean, series of steps creating one of our family's favorites.
Knowing what goes into your food is a big deal nowadays. It was back then, too, until an evening of sausage-making ended with one of the sausage-makers minus a Band-Aid and no way of knowing which batch it went in. The mini-patch was never found and the four families involved some 20 years ago all survived. Now the makers remove rings and scrub to the elbows like a specialist prepping for surgery.
The meat grinder is a microwave-sized piece of machinery weighing well over 100 pounds. Now that the sausage making takes place in our kitchen, the grinding behemoth has to be carried upstairs from the basement, and that's what the young son-in-laws are for. Those strong young men, both cognizant of the importance of tradition, watch and participate, and get sausage, because they know they are the ones who will eventually carry on the ritual.
My daughters and I use the sausage in a myriad of sauces, stir fries and stuffings. On its own, or slathered with onions, peppers and mushrooms, it makes a grinder like no other. We give some away, when the ties to the receiver are close. Like a fire built with wood you've cut, hauled, split and stacked, there is nothing quite as wonderful as consuming something you have worked so hard to create.
The batch this time, (the guys usually do this three times a year), was so large it had to be split into two sessions. So on a recent evening, the process started with the first grind. Everything was stored in the old beer fridge downstairs until the serious making of the meat began the next night. As each batch was spiced, one of the men cooked a sample to see if the ratio of salt to garlic to fennel and wine was right. That's what the women-folk are for, the tasting of the sausage, the drinking of some wine and for reminiscing and solving the problems of life.
We sat at the table watching the men and suggested step-saving procedures, which were not acknowledged, and advised techniques, which were ignored, and we laughed, a lot, because that's how it's done.
For a few minutes I sat in my rocker with my mouth shut, which is unusual, just observing the next generation learning the process of carrying on the tradition. The older guys talked about how when the time comes, they will sit back and watch the young guys do all the heavy work. They're almost there. What makes me grateful is that our daughters have chosen men who genuinely appreciate the importance of sustaining tradition.
As the evening deepened and the ropes of sausage in natural casings filled huge containers waiting to be packaged, and as patties sizzled on the stove, a friend tipped his glass to me and said, "I smell an article."
"That's garlic you smell," I answered.