Saturday, July 21, 2007

Newspaper Column - Sausage Fest

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 16 July 2007.

Pictured: Annie grills sausage purchased from a butcher in Yorkton.

A few years ago, my husband was feeling homesick for Wisconsin – the land of good sausage and better beer – so he invited some friends over and cooked up some bratwurst in the Wisconsin tradition: Heat a pot of water, pour in a bottle of beer, add a whole bunch of sliced onion and boil the brats. When cooked, grill the brats on the BBQ and serve in a bun with the onions and ketchup. His sausage ‘fix’ has became Sausage Fest, a summer sausage feast in our back yard. Sausage Fest has two rules: you bring the sausage and he provides the beer. And it better be a Saskatchewan-made sausage.

If I had to name a food that is quintessential Saskatchewan, a food that represents different geographies and ethnic traditions, a food with a long history and, I hope, an even longer future, I would have to name the sausage. I could design a bumper sticker that says “I brake for sausage” for all those people like myself who can’t resist pulling over at a farm or butcher sign advertising handmade sausage for sale.

I’d give one of those bumper stickers to Tim Ouellette, a bone fide sausage addict.
Tim works for Tourism Saskatchewan, a job which takes him around the province. I imagine he visits many museums, bed and breakfasts, tourist sites and the like, but the souvenir he always brings home is sausage. Tim is working on a project to advance farm and food tourism in Saskatchewan, and I hope his itinerary includes a few rural butchers.

Like many families, mine has a sausage tradition. Dad’s homemade sausage is always on the table at special family dinners, along with the turkey at Christmas and the ham at Easter.
But I had never made sausage myself until this spring when my husband and I got together with our friends Ralph and Lisa Bock. Ralph’s dad was a butcher so he knows sausage from a very early age. I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer over to their house. It has a special attachment for grinding meat and another for stuffing it into the sausage skins, which had never been used. The dough hook got a good workout mixing the meat. We made bratwurst, breakfast sausage and koubasa, which Ralph smoked in his back yard.

For Sausage Fest, Ralph and Lisa brought their homemade Italian chorizo; Tim brought a farmers’ sausage from the butcher in Lumsden. In fact, our BBQ looked like a mini sausage United Nations, from fat bison sausage to skinny pepperoni, from the Lebanese Aleppo kebob to French merguez, from curry sausage to koubasa, from venison to lamb. My husband put some Oom-Pa-Pa music on the stereo, donned his Green Bay Packer socks and felt right at home.

For dessert, Meringue Nests with Fresh Berries (recipe)

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