While I spend quite a bit of time making delicacies for our Big Fat Greek Parties, the mainstay of the party food is always this more or less traditional Greek loukaniko sausage.
Loukaniko is an ancient sausage, dating back to Classical times. Nowadays it is a roughly ground Greek country sausage that, like any country sausage, has lots of variation depending on the region and the cook.
The only constants I could find after researching these links is that they must include pork, garlic and citrus peel. Fennel is common, as are cinnamon and leeks. I skipped the fennel in this version and focused on lots of garlic, orange zest and oregano. I moistened it with Retsina wine, a cheap Greek white wine infused with pine resin that, to my taste, is fit only for cooking. I am certain I will be stoned by the Greeks in the audience for that.
And since I had bought a whole lamb for the party, I thought I’d use lamb in my loukaniko as well. My mixture is about two-thirds lamb trimmings with one-third pork shoulder. I cut off all the hard lamb fat I could find because it gunks up my sausage grinder — the stuff is literally tallow and is best used for candles. I kept the softer lamb fat underneath.
GREEK LOUKANIKO SAUSAGE
If you are wondering about the red color on the cooked one above it is because I added a pinch of Instacure No. 1, a nitrite that helps the flavor and protects the sausage from bacterial issues while it smokes at low temperatures: I smoked several pounds of these links for the party at about 110 degrees for several hours before finishing them with a kiss from the grill.
SOME SAUSAGE-MAKING NOTES:
- Make sure everything you deal with — meat, liquids, equipment — is very cold, as in close to freezing. This really matters, not so much for sanitation, although that’s important, but for the final texture of your sausage. Warm ingredients won’t bind well.
- If you don’t have a sausage-grinder and a sausage stuffer, I really don’t recommend you try this recipe. But if you must, you can pulse the meat in small batches in a food processor and stuff it through a wide funnel.
- You will need hog casings for this sausage, although I suppose if you kept kosher and wanted to skip the pork shoulder and use sheep casings, that’d work fine. Soak 5-6 lengths of hog casing in warm water for at least 30 minutes before you begin stuffing.
- You will need a rack to hang these links on while they are drying. A hand-wash drying rack works well.
- You may need string to tie off the links, if you need to hang them in a way that doesn’t allow your twisted links to stay twisted. Have this handy, along with scissors.
- You will also need a needle to prick your sausages once they are hanging — this is to release any trapped air. You will see air pockets on some of your sausages. Prick these with your needle. Sterilize it!
- Try not to eat them the same day. All sausages taste better the day after they’ve “cured” in the fridge overnight. These sausages will in fact cure a bit because of the Instacure, but even without it the link with firm up and hold its shape better after it rests.
NOTE: You can halve this recipe if you’d like.
Makes 9 pound of sausage, about 40 links
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 3 hours, if smoking
- 6 pounds lamb trimmings
- 3 pounds pork shoulder
- 4 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Instacure No. 1 (optional)
- Scant cup of dry milk powder (optional – helps moisture retention in sausages)
- 1 tablespoon ground red pepper
- 6 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
- 4 tablespoons crushed dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen (or grind fennel seeds to a powder)
- 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange zest
- 1 cup Retsina wine (or another Greek white wine)
- Mix all your dry spices (including the milk powder, the salt and the Instacure) except for 1/2 the black pepper.
- Chop your pork and lamb into rough, 1-inch chunks. On the lamb, be sure to cut out all the really hard fat — it will gum up your sausage grinder. Leave the softer fat.
- In a large bowl, mix the dry spices with the meat. Put in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Attach the coarse die to your sausage grinder. Grind the meat into a bowl. Set the bowl in another bowl full of ice if your room is warmer than 70 degrees. Put the meat back in the freezer and clean up.
- Get out your stand mixer and find the heavy paddle to it (not the dough hook). If you don’t have one, get a stout wooden spoon ready and clean your hands. Put the cold ground meat into the mixer bowl and stick the paddle into it. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit the paddle to the mixer. Trust me. It works better this way.
- Add the Retsina and the orange zest. Mix on low speed for 60-90 seconds. Remove the bowl, put it back in the freezer and clean up. Again. Yes, I know. But it is important to work clean when making sausages.
- Get out your sausage stuffer, which if you’ve been smart has been living in your fridge or freezer for the past few hours. Fit it with the appropriate tube and stuff the sausage. Do it all at once before you twist it into links.
- To twist into links, start at one end and compress the meat into the casing, then tie off the casing. Measure out a good-sized link, then pinch with your fingers. Do the same another good-sized link down the coil. Once you have them both pinched, twist several times to tighten the link well. Repeat on down the line of the coil, then tie off the final link after compressing it, too.
- Once you’ve finished, hang the links so your twisting does not come undone, or tie off each link with string and then hang them. Allow to hang dry for about 2 hours, less if the room is warmer than 75 degrees.
- Put in the fridge overnight, then enjoy!