Ever wonder what goes in those juicy, flavorful links of meat we call sausage?
Besides pork, flavors and binders (more on those in a bit), the main ingredient in jagerwursts, bangers, knatwurst and bratwurst is the elbow grease involved in the emulsification process.
At least according to charcutier Justin Weaver, who prepares all the sausage for Fish Tale Brew Pubs in Olympia and Everett.
"It's all about pain tolerance when emulsifying," he says while wrist-deep in ground sausage and spices. "Your hands hurt, then your arms hurt, by the time you get to your shoulders, you should be done."
Weaver finishes massaging 20 pounds of pork for an English favorite - bangers. Spices such as cayenne, nutmeg and lemon zest were added to the meat, as well as a handful of eggs and a few slices of rye bread, which Weaver describes as the binders, for texture and color.
Once the emulsification begins, it activates the myosin - the major structural protein of meat, and the most important of the proteins for fat emulsification and water holding capacity - and working with the binders, creates a more solid sausage. Different sausages require different binders.
Take bratwurst for example. A favorite this time of year, bratwurst uses a lot of binders, Weaver says.
"Bratwurst is really basic and uses a lot of heavy whipping cream and eggs for flavor and texture."
After emulsifying the meat just so, Weaver says it's time for the fun part - stuffing the sausage into the casing.
Weaver pulls out a metal apparatus for stuffing sausage and asks me how strong my stomach is before whipping out long trails of natural casing, or pig intestine.
He loads the casing onto a long tube that's attached to the stuffer then turns the hand crank to push the meat into the casing. For an added visual, imagine a playdough factory, cranking out long tubes of goo.
For the ambitious homemaker who wants to make sausage at home, Weaver suggests using a funnel, likening it to traditional Portuguese housewives that would use bullhorns to stuff their sausage.
Weaver carefully guides the sausage into one continuous trail of meat, stopping intermittingly to pop air bubbles in the surprisingly tough casing. He explains this is to prevent those unwanted sacs of fat that can explode into a hot grease bomb in the mouths unsuspecting noshers.
The final step is tying the sausage into Weaver's preferred method of a traditional butcher's tie. He explains that linking the sausage is too inconsistent. Watching him twist the meat reminds me of someone making balloon animals.
The result is very much like what you'd see in the grocery store or butcher's counter, except this sausage is made right in the kitchen of Fish Tale Brew Pub, one of the South Sound's favorite eateries.