As my parents have related to me on many occasions, the family pig would get slaughtered just a few days before Christmas and the ritual of butchering the pig and using everything but the squeal. Chops, loins for the Christmas dinners, pigs feet, ears, tail & head would be kept outside until the Epiphany whereby those parts would be made in an aspic and a Patsa (soup) would be made from the head.
Odds & ends and fat would be used to make Kavourma – a dish of preserved meat that’s marinated, slow cooked then preserved in its own fat to hold for the winter. Ever used Crisco, buy shortenings from the supermarket? Before those products existed, animal fat was used. Nothing got wasted and although many of these labour-intensive traditions have waned over time, the ritual of sausage making still exists and our family enjoys sausages, making them, giving some way and ultimately eating them.
My parents come from towns in the region of Florina, about a 90 minute drive west of Thessaloniki. This region is colder than much of Greece in the winter yet thet still enjoy hot & dry summers like much of Greece. There are both mountains and farm-worthy valleys in this area and my parents’ area of Amynteo produces excellent red wine, sparkling rose wines with the indigenous Xinomavro grape.
Travel west to both Florina and beyond to Kastoria and one will find Macedonian (Makedonika) sausages (loukanika) in many homes and most tavernas in the area. The Macedonian sausage is a contrast to the southern sausage of Laconia, with its pronounced flavourings of savory and orange peel. Our sausage (Macedonian) is spicy with the use of Boukovo, a dried and slow-roasted hot red pepper that takes on slight smoky flavour from the wood. The Boukovo is ground into what you and I know as chilli flakes and used in cooking.
The second prominent ingredient in Macedonian sausages are leeks…an oft’ used winter ingredient throughout Europe and they seem to lift any dish that includes them. Macedonian sausages…Boukovo (chilli flakes) and leeks. The ingredients in between are seasonings and spices and up to interpretation from family to family, town to town. I’ve rounded out the flavours with garlic, paprika, dried Greek oregano, ground allspice and salt & pepper.
After the sausage filling is mixed, taste-tested before actually being made into sausage, the flavours are allowed to marry overnight and after the sausages are made, a period of air-drying occurs. The sausages would hang outside in the cool, breezy air or an airy cellar or shed. The sausage colour transforms from a grey to a warm brown colour during this drying stage, with the casings developing into a skin.
The sausages are now in their prime, ready to be cooked on a grill, over the fireplace, on your stove-top or in the oven. Have you made sausages before? These are the sausages from my family and you’ll have a taste of northern Greece if you make these.
For those that haven’t made sausages before, you’ll need a meat grinder, a sausage maker, seek out the right cuts of pork and use the correct ratio of lean meat and fat. Every good sausage contains a percentage of fat, these Macedonian sausages contain 25% fat with the remainder being made-up of the “leaner” pork (the butt) and the leeks.
Macedonian Sausages (Μακεδονικα Λουκανικα)
(recipe updated from January 2008)
15 lbs. pork butt, coarse grind
(from pork shoulder)
5lbs. pork fat, ground
5 lbs. of leeks, cleaned, chopped and blanched
1/4 cup black pepper
1/3 cup Boukovo (red chilli flakes)
1/2 cup fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. ground allspice
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 little tubs of hog casings
- Mix all the above ingredients in a large Rubbermaid container and mix well with your hands.
- Take a handful and fry it off on your stove to taste test. Adjust seasoning. Cover and place the container with sausage filling in a cool place (our garage is as cold as a fridge). over night to allow the ingredients to marry.
- The next day, soak the hog casings in warm water for 30 minutes and then rinse. Replenish the cold water and leave them in a bowl of water. Take a hog casing and place it on the nozzle where your sausage mix will come out.
- Place the sausage mix on the top entry point of the sausage maker and start pumping out sausages (I have an electric sausage maker). Plunge the meat down and with your other hand, ensure the sausage filling is fully filling the casing as the sausages are being formed. Twist the sausages into links of your desired size.
- Replenish hog casings on the nozzle of the sausage maker as they run out. Repeat until all of your sausage mix has been made into links.
- Hang your sausages for a 3 to 5 days (until the casings have slightly hardened to a skin) in a cool, dry place like a cellar, garage or if you have a spare fridge.
- Freeze the sausages in zip lock bags and take and take out and defrost for cooking as desired (grill, fry, bake). They are good for one year (beyond that you’re tempting freezer burn). Serve as a meze or main protein along with an Alpha Estate Xinomavro .
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