A sausage fest with local buffalo and Funkwerks' Dark Prophet

When I bumped into my neighbor the other day, we got to talking about sausage. He'd recently acquired a beautiful new meat grinder and has been having a great time with it. I, coincidentally, have always wanted to make my own sausage, and asked if he'd show me how. "Of course!" he said. "I have some wonderful, grass-fed buffalo in the fridge I've been meaning to use, and it helps to have an extra pair of hands -- and some beers, of course."

So I showed up at his place the following afternoon with beers in hand -- namely Funkwerks' Dark Prophet, a barrel-aged dark saison recommended to me by the co-owner of Mr. B's (who also happened to set a bottle of Odell's Foot Print aside for me to grab at my leisure. Truly a great spot for a beer nerd).

Turns out that making sausage is quite a process. It's easily a four-hour task, longer if you're drinking, but you will be rewarded accordingly. I'll never forget my first taste of fresh sausage. I had read that it was an entirely different experience, but didn't quite understand what that meant until a friend made some for me. Like fresh pasta, it has a completely new mouthfeel, one that I can only describe as "delicate." And it delicately paired with the dark saison, a subtle beer that could easily be overwhelmed. It was just right alongside the buffalo brats, though, which we boiled in beer and seared on the grill. The sweet spice mixture we used made perfect sense with the unique, wood-aged ale.

Here's the recipe (a variation of one my neighbor found online). I'd imagine sausage recipes vary quite a bit, especially the spices, but I can say with certainty that this one is good:

5 to 6 feet natural sausage casing 3 pounds lean buffalo meat (ours was from Sweetwater Bison Ranch, which my neighbor got from Edwards Meats in Wheat Ridge, and it was badass) 2 pounds pork butt (if you happen to have half a pound of additional pork fat on hand like my neighbor did, even better) 1 cup breadcrumbs 1/2 cup cold milk 2 tablespoons seasoned salt 1 tablespoon rubbed sage 2 teaspoons ground ginger 2 teaspoons dry mustard 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground mace 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg Ice water as needed Meat grinder

1. Place grinder parts in freezer. It's imperative that everything, meat included, remain cool throughout the entire process. Even friction and heat from your hands can result in gumming up the grinder and bacterial growth. When in doubt, pop everything in the freezer for a bit.

2. Soak the casing in water (for at least an hour).

3. Cut meat into 1 inch cubes, place in metal bowl and put in the freezer.

4. Assemble grinder.

5. Following the machine's instructions, grind meat through the first blade setting and put back in the freezer. 6. Disassemble grinder and wash parts.

7. Grind the meat through the second blade setting, put back in the freezer and disassemble grinder.

8. Combine breadcrumbs and milk and set aside.

9. Combine spices and mix thoroughly. (If you're buzzed, take your time with this step; it's an important one, and I'm ashamed to say I messed up my first attempt).

10. On a clean surface, combine breadcrumbs and meat with your hands, making sure not to overwork (overheat) the meat, focusing more on breaking up the milk-soaked bread clumps.

11. Sprinkle with spices and continue to combine, adding ice water not only to keep the meat cool, but to pull the mixture together as well, like a dough -- in fact, very much like a dough. Throw it back in the freezer.

12. Rinse sausage casing by finding the opening, filling it with trickling water and pushing it through with your fingertips. Repeat 3-4 times.

13. Fully fit casing onto filling attachment. If it starts to dry, rub it with water.

14. Fill casing, making sure to push away any air pockets, to desired link length and twist in opposing directions (left for one, right for the next: the motion will tighten each preceding link).and for beer brats:

1/2 onion, sliced Good brats and enough lager to cover them in a pot

Combine onion and beer and bring to a boil. Add brats and cook until plump. Remove brats, sear them on a grill for 5 to 10 minutes, let rest and serve with mustard.

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