Baking With The Pig – Sage and Onion Beer Bread

This is a guest post from liz545

While Jon’s been making sausages, I’m usually behind the camera, playing sous-chef and chief sub editor. But I’m also a keen baker, making everything from bread and cakes to pastry for sausage rolls.

Finished loaf

If you’ve been inspired to make some delicious sausages, or cure your own bacon, the next logical step is a sandwich, right? And there’s nothing better than a sandwich on home-made bread. I love a good sourdough loaf, but if you’re pushed for time, beer bread is the answer.

If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great place to start, because it’s fast, easy, and you’ll probably already have everything you need to make it. It relies on baking powder instead of yeast as the main leavening agent, with the yeast in the beer giving it a little extra lift and flavour. It doesn’t really matter what beer you used – I used a dubiously named ale that Jon had knocking around, but most lighter beers would work. (It may have been a dubious beer but I’d still have liked to drink it. Grrr. – Jon) Stout or porter might be a bit heavy, though.

The mix of wholemeal and white flour means it’s robust enough to stand up to a hearty sausage, and the sage emphasises the flavours nicely. This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to play around with the flavourings. Cheese, fresh herbs, or some sautéed bacon would all work well mixed in here.

A note on measurements
I’ve used a standard American measuring cup that holds 250ml. If you don’t have one, you can use any teacup or mug, so long as you keep the proportions the same (i.e. two parts flour to one part beer).

Sage and onion beer bread
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1½ cups wholemeal flour (I used spelt, but you could use rye, or whatever brown flour you have on hand)
1½ cups plain white flour
1tbsp sugar
1tsp salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. dried sage
1½ cups beer

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease your loaf tin. Sauté the onion in a little oil until it’s translucent and a nice golden colour, then leave it to cool down a bit before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

Combine the flour, sage, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the onion mixture and the beer and mix just until combined. With quick breads you don’t want to over-mix it, so it’s ok if it looks lumpy, as long as there aren’t any pockets of dry flour.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin, brush with egg or melted butter if you want, and bake for about 45 minutes or until it’s golden brown and a skewer/knife comes out clean.

Finished sliced loaf

Let the bread cool in the tin for ten minutes, then finish cooling on a rack before slicing.

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Breakfast Chipolatas

Social media is a very good thing. The ability to communicate with people you’d never otherwise get to speak to through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. is great. It’s also great to be exposed to a wide variety of different of different opinions. Aoafoodie reminded me of this when he expressed his passionate dislike of chipolatas via Twitter. Much as I disagree, I’m very grateful as it gave me the impetus and the excuse to make some!

Ingredients for breakfast chipolatas

I’ve been wanting to try a recipe using sheep casings for a while now. These are the  thinner and more delicate brothers to regular hog casings and make a sausage that, when cooked, gives you a greater proportion of unctuous, gooey outer to meaty inner than regular bangers. Precisely the reason I love them.

I wanted to make a fairly unadorned sausage that wouldn’t be too challenging for breakfast time. Highly spiced sausages are great but they can be a bit much first thing in the morning. My breakfast chipolatas have a bit of sage and thyme for herbiness and a few good twists of black pepper for a gentle kick. The recipe is below.

Sage, Mace Pepper, Thyme, Salt,

Jon’s Breakfast Chipolatas
600g pork shoulder
120g belly pork
100g breadcrumbs
1 onion, grated or finely chopped.
12g salt
5g celery salt
7g black pepper
1.5g sage
1.5g thyme
1.5g mace
Water, to bind.
Sheep casings – about 12 feet.

First, soak your casings in exactly the same way as you would with hog casings. A couple of hours in clean fresh water will remove most of the salt.

Next, de-rind and chop the pork shoulder and belly into cubes large enough to fit through the mincer, and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to chill. You don’t want it completely frozen but the firmer it is, the easier it will mince.

While this is chilling, weigh and combine the salt, pepper and spices and set aside. Remove your meat and fat from the freezer, and fit the mincer with a medium grinding plate. Slowly feed the chilled pork and fat through until it’s all thoroughly minced. You want a slightly finer mince than I would normally use for sausages as this will make it easier to stuff the delicate casings.

Transfer the mince to a clean surface or large mixing bowl and add your onion, breadcrumbs, and spice mix and mix by hand until combined thoroughly, adding water as necessary to form a smooth mixture. It’s important to blend the spices thoroughly because you don’t want to end up playing Russian roulette with a load of bland sausages and one really peppery one.

Breadcrumbs, Pork, Onion

Fry off a little bit of your mixture to taste for seasoning. Add more spices as necessary and set aside in the fridge or freezer to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Remove the sheep casings from their soaking water and rinse them thoroughly inside and out. Next take your smallest stuffing tube and grease it lightly before carefully sliding the casing on. Sheep casings are the avantis of the sausage skin world, so you need to treat them with care. Attach the stuffing tube to your mincer or stuffer and slowly feed the meat mixture through until it reaches the end of the tube. Take the skin and tie the end off, pricking with a sterile pin if necessary to let any excess air escape.

Slowly feed the meat mixer through the mincer until you have used all of your meat and have a long coil of sausage in front of you. It’s particularly important not to overfill the casings as you don’t want them to split. If you do tear them (I did) don’t worry, just set aside and keep going.

Wrestling with a long sausage...

Remove the leftover casings from the tube and very carefully twist into links of 6″ or so alternating between twisting clockwise and anticlockwise to ensure the sausages don’t become unravelled. Tie off the other end of your casings and your sausages are done. It makes sense to leave them for 24 hours to let the flavours develop if you can wait that long but if you have to eat them immediately, I understand.

Four fat sausages sizzling in a pan.

These chipolatas are another classic British style sausage that are great at breakfast time, in a sandwich or as a winter’s dinner served with buttered swede, kale. and onion gravy.

Black Pudding

Finished black pudding. Ready for frying.

It all started so well.

I was idly browsing the internet, looking for new ingredients to try out. How then did it end at 2am on a Wednesday morning standing covered in blood, in a kitchen that looked like something out of CSI?

I’ve always really liked black pudding. I can appreciate that it’s not to everyone’s taste but for me, the combination of blood, fat and cereals is a heavenly one. I’d never really thought about making my own though. Never that is, until a combination of finding dried blood for sale and a friend lending me the River Cottage Cook Book led me down a dangerous path.

One fateful Tuesday evening, I thought, “Oh I don’t have much on tonight. I’ll make some black pudding. How hard can it be…” Skip forward 6 hours to me standing in my kitchen, tired, grumpy and looking like an extra from an early Peter Jackson film. Should you wish to join me on this particular (mis)adventure with the pig, the recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s British style Black Pudding
150g dried pigs blood
1 ltr water
25g salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
250g oatmeal soaked overnight
250g pearl barley, boiled until tender
500g pork back fat, derinded and cubed
500g onions, finely chopped
250 ml double cream
1g mace
1g ground coriander
1g cayenne pepper.
Hog casings – more than you think…. (maybe about 15 feet)

First soak your casings in the usual way.

Pork fat and onions. Cooking gently.

Next, take a handful of your back fat (perhaps 100g) and gently heat until it starts to render liquid. When a tablespoon or so of fat has run, add the onions and the rest of the back fat and cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and the fat has started to become translucent. You might want to cover the pan to encourage cooking.

In the meantime, slowly combine your dried pigs blood with the water to hydrate it.  You might need to beat it together for a while to ensure that you remove any lumps.

Keep stirring, adding your salt, pepper and spices until your blood mix is thoroughly combined.

Blood and spice. The kitchen is still clean at this point.

Take your soaked casings and cut into lengths depending on how long you want your puddings. I cut mine into pieces about 45 cm long which made roughly 30cm puddings. Tie your skins at one end, making sure the knot is secure. You don’t want them coming undone when you’re trying to fill them.

Take your oatmeal and cream and add it to the fat and onions before continuing to cook over a low heat for a minute or two.

Up until now it’s been a fairly clean task. This is where it starts to get messy…

Adding blood to the cream, fat, and oatmeal. Still fairly clean....

Take your pan off the heat and slowly pour in your seasoned blood, continuing to stir until it’s all combined. Add your oatmeal, stirring continuously to stop the fat and cereals sinking to the bottom. Put an apron on. You will spill some.

Set a large pan of water over a gentle heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.

Take your sausage casings and slide them over your medium sausage stuffing tube or a funnel. Now using a ladle, slowly start to fill your casings until you have a thick sausage. You will want something like a chopstick or skewer to push through any bits of fat or cereal that get stuck.

Poking fat through a funnel

Slide your skin off the funnel when you’re about 5-7cm off the open end of the skin and tie securely. This is quite tricky as your hands, your casings, and most of your kitchen are liable to be covered with blood at this stage. I can see why commercial producers use metal ties to seal them.

Filling puddings. Not having fun any more...

Repeat this until you have filled all your casings. The puddings will still be quite liquid at this stage. Lower the puddings into your pan of barely simmering water and cook for 20 minutes or so making sure the water doesn’t boil too fiercely. If your puddings swell up, prick them with a pin to ensure they don’t explode. No one wants to be showered with exploding pudding.

The horror. The horror.

After 20 minutes, remove your puddings from the simmering and drop them in a bowl of iced water for a couple of minutes. your puddings are now ready to eat or slice and fry.

Fried black pudding, rye bread, cornichons. Good times.

You can serve these as a quick supper with bread, salad, and fried apple slices or as part of a classic hangover cure fry up.  They are also good used to stuff a pork loin or mashed with potatoes as an accompaniment to sausages.

Next time I do them, (if the girlfriend will allow me back in the kitchen!) I think I will add more oatmeal to make them firmer. I’ll also try using larger artificial casings to make wider, more traditional puddings.

Only make as many as you will eat in a few days or slice and freeze them. The smell of gone off black pudding is the smell of undiluted evil as I discovered to my cost on my return from a weekend away.

Double Smoked Sweetcure Back Bacon With Juniper and Black Pepper

Home smoked sweetcure bacon....as part of a 'balanced' breakfast.

I was really pleased with my first attempt at bacon earlier in the year. It yielded a delicious mild tasting bacon with just a hint of smoke that came from the hickory smoke powder I used.

However, I did feel slightly like I was cheating by using smoke powder. Particularly when I realised how simple cold smoking was. I’m not going to go too deeply into the smoking process here because it really deserves its own post which I will write soon but I will say that immersing bacon in oak smoke is a a truly wonderful thing.

Because oak smoke is an intense flavour, any seasonings that go into the cure have to be equally robust if you want them to stand up to the smoke. I chose black pepper, juniper, and brown sugar which, when combined with salt, make a delicious, aromatic, salty sweet bacon which is perfect for breakfast.

I also wanted to use a different cut of pork. Streaky bacon is great (and supermarket streaky is usually British which for me is preferable from an ethical point of view) but back is my favourite when it comes to the breakfast plate.

The recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s Sweetcure Bacon with Juniper and Black Pepper.
1kg Pork loin
35g Salt
25g Dark brown sugar
2g Prague powder #1
4g Juniper
3g Black pepper

Juniper, Microscales,

Weighing juniper berries

Combine the sugar, salt and Prague powder in a bowl.  Roughly crush your juniper berries and peppercorns and add to the bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed through the cure. This is vital as it prevents the nitrites from the prague powder becoming too concentrated in one spot in your bacon.

Take your loin of pork and rub it all over with your cure, ensuring you work the cure into all the nooks and crannies of the meat.

Pork loin, Salt, Brown Sugar, Juniper, Prague Powder

The loin, rubbed with cure.

When your meat is well coated transfer it to a freezer bag and seal. Place it in the fridge for a minimum of a week, turning and massaging every other day to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. Don’t worry if any water leeches out of the meat. This will help to brine it and ensure that the cure penetrates right to the heart of the loin.

After 10 days or longer remove the meat from the bag and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and transfer to a rack before refrigerating for another 48 hours or so. This helps the smoke adhere to the outside of the bacon in the smoker.

Bacon, Cheese, Brie, Chicken Wings, Oak Smoke

Pork loin in the smoker alongside cheddar, brie and chicken wings.

Fire up your smoker and smoke the bacon over oak chips for a minimum of eight hours. My smoker runs for 11 hours which was long enough for me to go to the London Charcuterie Festival in the day time and go out for my mate Sam’s 30th birthday in the evening. On my return from the pub at some shameful hour of the morning I took the meat out of the smoker and transferred it to the refrigerator overnight.

The following day I fired up the smoker again and smoked the bacon for another 8 hours. The idea being to allow one layer of smoke to settle on the meat before giving it another smoke to really intensify the smokey flavour.

Bacon, Pork Loin, Cold Smoked. Oak Chips, Macs BBQ, ProQ

Finish smoked bacon. Lovely colour from two layers of oak smoke.

The bacon is now basically finished. All that remains is to slice it into rashers.  I left mine for another 24 hours after smoking to really make sure the smoke had settled on the meat.

You can slice it by hand but an electric slicer will ensure evenly sliced rashers and will allow you to slice a large amount of pork very quickly.

Slicing Bacon. A serious business.

Finished sliced bacon.

Your bacon is now finished. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or you can freeze the rashers individually and use them when you need a porky fix. They are sublime as part of a cooked breakfast and perfect for a late night emergency bacon sandwich.

A perfect Sunday breakfast. Home made bacon and smoked white pudding with fried egg, toast, and chilli sauce.

Lincolnshire Sausages

Pork Shoulder, Belly Pork, Salt, Herbs

Raw ingredients for Lincolnshire Sausages. Meat in front, spices behind.

Ok, back to sausages.

Recently my partner in music Sam Atki2 came up to London for the weekend, lured by the promise of making some tunes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) most of our weekend was spent in the production of bangers of a different kind. Under the influence of Batemans finest, Sam and I worked out a recipe for a coarse Lincolnshire style sausage using pork belly rather than the more usual back fat and lots of white pepper to give it a little kick. You can see some of the photos over on the adventures with the pig facebook page.

I’ve since gone back and tweaked the recipe and I’m pleased to report that it tastes amazing. Meaty, peppery, and like an authentic Lincolnshire sausage.

The recipe is below.

Lincolnshire sausages
600g pork shoulder
100g pork belly
150g breadcrumbs
16g salt
6g white pepper
2g ground coriander
1 1/2g sage
1 1/2g nutmeg
1g cornflour
water to bind. About 125 ml

Hog casings about 5/6 feet.

Firstly set your casings aside to soak for a couple of hours to remove excess salt.

Pork Shoulder, ham knife, Skinning

Using a jamon knife to skin pork shoulder

While these are soaking, skin your pork belly and shoulder and cut into pieces small enough to fit through the mincer.I find using a Spanish ham knife best to skin the meat, as I can run it under the skin very close to the rind whilst leaving the precious, lubricating fat in place. If you don’t have one, a filleting knife or similar thin-bladed, flexible knife would work well too.

Set aside your cubed meat and place in the freezer. Partly freezing the meat makes it much easier to feed through the mincer. Whilst the meat is chilling, weigh and combine all the other ingredients apart from the breadcrumbs.

Coarse minced pork

Next set up your mixer, fitting it with a coarse plate. You want the meat to remain fairly chunky to give the sausages some bite. Remove the meat from the freezer and feed through the mincer until you have a pile of coarse minced belly and shoulder in front of you. Transfer to a large mixing bowl or clean surface and combine with your breadcrumbs and seasonings. Mix well, adding water to help bind the ingredients together.

Combining the filling

You might want to fry a little bit of the sausage meat to check your seasoning at this point.

Fit your medium stuffing tube to your mincer (unless you have a dedicated stuffer in which case use that) and slowly stuff the mixture into your soaked hog casings until you’ve filled all of them. Twist the sausages into links and leave to rest for 24 hours before cooking or freezing. I left mine on a rack in the fridge to let any excess moisture drain off.

Finished sausages left to rest on a rack.

Grilled or fried and served with mash and a blob of mustard these sausages are some of my very favourites.

If you really can’t be bothered to make them then the Lincolnshire sausages produced by the Boston Sausage folk are also pretty damn fine.

I made double quantities of this recipe. The other half of the sausage meat will be making a star appearance in the next blog post.

White Pudding

White pudding, homemade bread, salad. Wonderful.

White pudding is a breakfast sausage made of pork, oatmeal and spices and is popular across Scotland, Ireland and the north of England. My personal favourite comes from the Barrowin Furness  fishmongers in Borough Market who make little individual puddings for frying. What I didn’t realise until reading the excellent sausagemaking.org forum was how easy they are to make. When I read johnfb’s recipe (who also advised on forming the sausages in cling film) I knew I had to have a go at it myself. I made a couple of tweaks to John’s original recipe both for personal taste and to try and match it more with the Borough Market puddings. After all, what can’t be improved by adding bacon?

The results are fantastic. Sliced and fried, the pudding makes a good friend to bacon and eggs on the breakfast plate or just mashed on toast like pate. The recipe is below.

Preparing the pudding mixture

Jon’s White Pudding
600g pork cubed and chilled
375g oatmeal soaked in a roughly similar amount of water
50g leek chopped
50g bacon (I used this) chopped
10g salt
5g celery salt
20g  cornflour
2 1/2g white pepper
2 1/2g ground coriander
2 1/2g ginger
2 1/2g sage
2 1/2g MSG
1 1/2g mace
1 1/2g nutmeg
1g allspice

First take your oatmeal and soak it in water for a few minutes. I left mine for twenty simply because that was how long it took me to weigh out the spices and cube and chill the meat.

The next step is to combine everything except the bacon in a large mixing bowl and stir until it’s all thoroughly mixed. Oatmeal may well be the stickiest substance known to man so be careful to ensure that it doesn’t drag you down into the bowl like some kind of porridgy kraken.

Pork, Oatmeal, Leek, Spices

The ingredients ready for mincing.

Slowly feed the mixture through your mincer, making sure that its fitted with the smallest mincing plate you have. Keep feeding the mixture through until all of your ingredients are minced before returning to your mixing bowl, adding the chopped bacon and giving it a final stir. Don’t worry if it looks a bit weird. Pork and porridge are not the most visually appealing bedfellows. Fortunately it tastes amazing!

White Pudding Mixture

Mixed oatmeal and pork. Looking slightly evil

Now you have your white pudding mix made up, the next step is turn it into sausages. You can stuff it into hog casings (in which case prepare and stuff them in the usual way) or do as I did and form them into skinless sausages by wrapping them in cling film.

The process for this is quite simple. People who have rolled their own should have no problem with it. Take a large square of clingfilm and put a few spoonfuls of your pudding mixture in the centre. Fold the clingfilm over and press it down to make a patty. Roll your patty back and forth until you have a decent sausage shape then twist off the ends. Keep twisting until both ends are really tight to force the meat down into a more compact pudding. Make sure the sausage is tightly sealed to prevent any mixture leaking out when you’re poaching the sausages.

Repeat this with the remaining mixture until you have several fully formed white puddings ready to poach. The recipe above left me with four big puddings but that’ll vary depending on how large your sausages are.

White Pudding wrapped in cling film to make a sausage

A white pudding skinless sausage

It’s probably a good idea to rest your pudding for a while before you poach them. I left mine for twenty four hours in the fridge to let the flavours develop.

When you’re ready to poach your puddings set a large covered pan of water on the stove and bring it to a gentle simmer. Poach your puddings for twenty to thirty minutes depending on their size then lift them out of the water and leave to cool.

Poaching white pudding for 2- mins in simmering water

Poaching the puddings

Your puddings are now ready to fry as part of an excellent breakfast or spread on toast with a caper and onion salad.

I wanted a bit of variety in the flavour of the puddings and as I’ve just built myself a cold smoker in my friend’s garden, these seemed like an ideal candidate for the inaugural run. I don’t want to write too much about the smoking process as I’m going to cover it in more detail in its own post but I left two puddings unsmoked, smoked one for four hours, and one for eight. You can see the last one in the smoke box (with other treats) below.

Cold smoking. White pudding on the left.

The puddings were then sliced and frozen but not before frying up a plate of them to try them. They’re all fabulous! Rich, creamy and intensely savoury. The pork adds a deeper level of flavour to them but to be honest, smoked or unsmoked, they’re both bloody tasty!


Finished puddings. Heavily smoked at the front, lightly smoked in the middle, unsmoked at the back