Stillman's Sausage-Making Party

Do you love sausage, the more (and more interesting) varieties the better? Adore the feeling of meat squishing between your fingers? Yearn to use commerical-quality equipment at your own dining room table? And have a few friends equally inclined? Clearly, you need to book a Stillman's Quality Meats (SQM) Home Sausage Party right away.

We've been members of the Stillman's CSA every summer since 2004, and when we heard a year or so later that our friendly farmer Glenn Stillman had a daughter, Kate, who had started a meat farm down the road, we were excited. We toured the farm a few years after that, back when Kate and I both had toddlers (this was memorable to me, though perhaps not to Kate, because we ended up in a conversation about human and animal nurslings, and human and animal weaning) and always got our Thanksgiving turkeys and other special meats from Kate, either at the Jamaica Plain Farmer's Market or at the Boston Public Market after it opened back in 2015. Last month, in the dull days of back-to-work, back-to-school January, one of my SQM newsletters mentioned a sausage-making party, and I was immediately intrigued. My friend Sarah must have clicked through to her newsletter at the exact same time and had the same reaction, because I'm not sure which of us was the first to email the other about it; at any rate, we very quickly decided this was something we needed to do, and I booked the party and contacted Kate by email to follow-up to decide on a date and time.

Our sausage-making party finally took place this past Saturday at 2:00 in the afternoon in our home in JP. Sarah and her husband, Sean, and our other friend Meg joined Robert and me, but we were really a multigenerational mix when Kate arrived a few minutes early for the party: Meg's five-year-old, Sarah's two-year-old, and our three- and eight-year-olds occasionally watched but mostly ran off to play, while our eleven-year-old got really into the sausage-making for part of the time and zoned out with a video game (shockingly...) for the rest of it.

Kate hauled in her cooler (immediately adopted as The Best Pull-Toy Ever by the toddler), bags of supplies, commercial-kitchen prep pans, and giant sausage press, and we set everything up on our dining room table. I had homemade bagels (Stella's yukone recipe) coming out of the oven, and everyhing bagel cream cheese on the counter ready to go; Kate brought a gorgeous charcuterie platter and a baguette, and we had plenty of snacks while we chatted. Kate herself is really part of the experience, to be honest: conversation ranged from snow days and school systems, to making your children do laundry, to the revitalization of Worcester (a novel topic to us Bostonians), to Dunkin' vs. McDonald's when choosing coffee out of the city. Eventually we managed to remember what we were here for and get down to the actual sausage-making process.

We had chosen, ahead of time, three different sausage varieties: a pork-based fennel and white wine; a lamb-based red wine; and a "hot honey" pork-based. Kate came with all the ingredients pre-measured out, and with beautiful chilled bags of her ground meat. She explained how to buy meat for sausage-making on your own--what to ask for, what to avoid, and what you're probably getting if you don't specify--and provided the recipes for these particular varieties typed up for us all to keep. We made a five-pound batch of each, but she noted that a batch size of 1-2 pounds would be much better if you were using a KitchenAid or other good-quality home mixer.

Mixing was one of the many fun parts. My son used the plastic gloves Kate provided, because (though he would not readily admit it) he was a bit too fastidious to stick his hands right into the meat, but the rest of us just washed our hands well and dove in up to (almost) our elbows. Sarah, by the time we were on our third batch, really mastered the "mix it until a patty sticks to the bottom of your hand and doesn't fall down" test that Kate showed us, and she was pretty satisfied with herself.

Robert and Sean mostly took charge of the sausage-stuffer, holding it in place on the table, tipping the stainless-steel vat back to fill it, and then working the lever, but nearly everyone took a turn at it just for the experience. Feeding the sausage casing onto the extruder was a finicky task that a couple of us tried and then gave up and left to Kate, but guiding the sausage out of the extruder into the casing was another satisfying tactile job. Kate talked a lot about how to buy sausage casings, where she sources hers, how to handle them, and how to make sure they don't dry out. People mentioned "intestines" (and alluded to their primary bodily function) a number of times--as you might imagine, perhaps, given the activity at hand--but I think it might go without saying that vegans and/or squeamish folk should not opt into a sausage-making party.

Kate kept reassuring us that it didn't matter what our (lumpy, air-pocketed) sausages looked like as they coiled up in the tray from the extruder; she said we'd soon get "to make them look pretty," and that's exactly what we did. When we tied one end of the long casing, she showed us how to work the meat mixture down and keep a good tension--not so loose we let the air bubbles hang around, but not so tight we popped the casing (ahem, Sean...), spinning the casing into links and just eyeballing it to the right length. It's true that our sausages did end up being slightly irregular due to multiple people and multiple eyeballs, but they really looked pretty darn delicious in the end. Kate bagged them up for us and labeled them, and took home all her pans and prep trays, so we didn't even have to wash any raw-meat things (other than our hands, many times).

When we were done, everyone stood around and talked some more, until finally Kate did have to go home to her other life, in which she doesn't just hang with us and talk sausage and everything else. Robert opted not to fire up the grill on a 25-degree day, but we roasted (and enjoyed!) some of each variety and ate them with an oven-baked risotto and a big spinach and avocado and bean salad, complete with make-your-own ice cream sundaes for dessert.

In short: very happy customers, unbiased review, no discounts or freebies provided in exchange, blah blah blah--basically, go book your own sausage-making party now!


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Created: 2/10/20. Last Modified: 2/10/20.