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    Tuesday, May 28, 2024

    Hit ’em with an ugly stick: Dried Sausages and 5 Spice Pork Jerky

    A selection of sausages for my jerk tests
    Ugly sticks - the final products from the sausage jerk tests

    Let me just say for the record that Day columnist Rick Koster is one of my favorite mammals. I have been sharing homemade treats from my kitchen with him for over 15 years, and without fail, he is one of the most appreciative and avid omnivores I have ever met. It might be more apt to call him a LaVida Locavore.

    Our symbiotic relationship within the Day animal kingdom goes like this: I leave a test sample of something I cooked on his desk, he devours it, and then an hour later, I will get an email singing my praises, which in turn, fattens my fevered ego. Think of a silent movie, where an actor is about to dig into something really delicious, and he delightedly holds up his hands and waggles his chubby fingers before picking up a knife and fork … that’s how I picture Rick eating anything. He deserves a segment in the next BBC David Attenborough series, sandwiched in between the Honey Badger and Komodo Dragon.

    Having said all that, I had to hit Rick with an ugly stick this week.

    Three ugly sticks, actually.

    Three leathery, wrinkled, sweaty sticks of dried kielbasa that looked like 7-Eleven hot dogs left on the rollers for a week. Rick is a big fan of my homemade jerky AND 7-Eleven. I knew that I had to test this out on him. A couple weeks ago, I got the idea while making some boneless pork chops into five spice jerky in my dehydrator. If you can take a plain cut of meat, marinate it and dry it out, why can’t you do the same thing to a pre-spiced, store bought sausage? Dry it out enough to make it a snack stick.

    And sure enough, along with the five spice dried pork, Rick loved those ugly kielbasa links. So I spent the last week testing out various store-bought sausages in my oven and smoker: Bellingar’s Ring Bologna, Costco Brats, Hebrew National Hot Dogs, Rosol’s Kielbasy Polish Easter Links, Bob Evans Maple Breakfast Links, Dietz & Watson Knockwurst & Black Forest Bratwurst and Gaspar’s Andouille.

    The method is pretty straightforward. Take a toothpick or skewer and prick each link all over to create little drainage holes for moisture and fat to escape during the heating. Place the sausages onto a rack in a half sheet pan or a rimmed cookie sheet and put it into an oven, smoker or dehydrator for 8 to 10 hours at 170°F (I did mine overnight). I also created a couple of quick glazes and brushed them onto the sausages in the last hour of cooking.

    Bests of the Tests: Rosol’s Kielbasa, Dietz & Watson Bratwurst , Gaspar’s Andouille

    All three of these passed with flying colors; spicy, meaty and chewy, with a snappy casing. A great keto snack that isn’t too greasy.

    Runners-up: Hebrew National hot dogs, Bellingar’s Ring Bologna, Dietz & Watson Knockwurst

    The hot dogs and bologna tasted very similar to a Slim Jim. Which is to say that they were fine but not distinctive. And the knockwurst just wasn’t a knockout.

    Don’t bother: Bob Evans Maple Breakfast Links & Costco Brats

    I’m not a fan of breakfast sausage, never have been. It’s just too sagey. The Costco brats are very good sausages when cooked properly, but very underwhelming for the long haul in my oven.

    If you decide to make any of these or experiment on your own, please remember that they should be refrigerated after cooking. There isn’t enough salt content to make them shelf stable. Properly sealed in an airtight container, they should be good for about two weeks in the fridge. Also, test your oven temperature controls. Most modern ovens with digital controls can go a lot lower than you think. 170°F is the lowest my oven goes, but that turns out to be perfect for making most cuts of beef and pork into jerky.

    Five Spice Pork Jerky

    1 cup soy sauce

    1/2 cup mirin

    1/2 cup orange juice

    1 tsp salt

    1/4 cup light brown sugar

    1 tsp five spice powder

    1/2 tsp onion powder

    1/2 tsp red pepper

    2 lbs pork sirloin cutlets or thin sliced boneless chops (1/4 inch thick)

    1. Mix the soy sauce, mirin and orange juice together with all the salt, sugar and spices.

    2. Pour the marinade into a gallon size zip bag and add the pork. Jumble the pork around to ensure that all pieces are fully coated and immersed in the marinade. Squeeze out any excess air and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

    3. Preheat oven to 170°F. Place a cooking rack into half sheet pan and place slices of the marinated meat from onto the rack. Place pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 hours.

    4. Glaze with some of the leftover marinade or a commercial teriyaki sauce, if desired, in the last hour of cooking.

    5. Cool and pack into an airtight container and refrigerate until snack time.

    Upcoming and ongoing projects

    I tested deep frying my bagel dough; it was definitely not kosher. But it did give me an inspiration for a potential clam fritter recipe.

    Last week, I bottled up two batches of home brewed ciders made with champagne yeast: Apple Ginger cider and a Hibiscus Punch. I think they're around 4% ABV, and both were tasty and refreshing.

    After putting it off for a couple years, I called Stonington Community Center and signed up for a pottery class so I can make some cookie molds and maybe a stoneware bread baker.

    Bale gardening: I've never heard of bale gardening before last month. And now the back side of my garden is lined with six bales of straw for planting potatoes, onions, garlic and beets.

    In spite of all the saturated fats and deep fried stuff I test, my Intermittent Fasting is going quite well. I'm down 18 lbs since 1/1/23; cumulative loss of 55 lbs since 1/1/20.

    Rich Swanson is a local cook who has had numerous wins in nationally sponsored recipe contests. He is also the layout specialist here at The Day.

    Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Rich Swanson can be reached at TheSurlyTable@gmail.com

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.