A Recipe in Prose
I want to talk about andouille. For those of you reading this sans serif, those are “L”s. Don’t worry, we’re not going to pronounce them. It’s ann-DOO-ee. We also won’t be calling it andouille sausage. This feels akin to putting in one’s PIN number into the ATM machine. More specifically, I want to talk about Cajun andouille as it is one of the key ingredients in a large and countable number of dishes.
A Brief History of Andouille
If you happen to live in the southern US near Louisiana you will likely be able to buy good Cajun andouille at many grocers. There are several brands that are fantastic: Savoie’s, Comeaux’s, Poche’s are a few examples. Growing up in rural Louisiana, my family always preferred Richard’s, pronounced ree-shar duhs. I have family with the Richard surname, because of course I do. Growing up I assumed given small worlds and large families that this family of mine owned and operated the Richard boucherie. As a youth I asked Madame Richard how the sausage was treating her. She stopped washing the dishes to look across the counter at me. Her eyes drew to a squint, and she tilted her head in the telltale sign of confusion. I realized immediately the ambiguity of the question. “I’m sorry, I mean at work,” I clarified. I was sternly told to leave the kitchen. I learned a valuable lesson that day: it is best not to discuss business with family.
For those of us who don’t live within driving distance of a southern grocer we might consider mail ordering; however, at the price per pound plus shipping costs it is potentially a financial decision one might never recover from. And so, you’ve come here to learn the secrets of making your own Cajun andouille. I’ll walk you through the necessary equipment and the steps it takes to make great Cajun andouille.
Purists will tell you that it isn’t andouille unless it comes from the Andouille region of France. French andouille involves stuffing chitlins and tripe with onion, garlic and wine. For those readers who do not recognize this as offal let me speak plainly: French andouille is large intestine and stomach stuffed into yet another intestine and finally smoked to preserve. I’ve never been served a gumbo with French style andouille; I would consider such an act as a threat.
Even amongst the Cajuns we have differing recipes for andouille. There are some who pay homage to the French origin. There are others who will smoke the pork prior to stuffing it into a casing. We will follow a simpler path that you will enjoy, I guarantee it.
A Farce in Two Parts
We will start with five pounds of pork butt plus another half pound of fat. Perhaps off the same butt, perhaps from a belly you’ve bought for some other purpose. What really matters is that your five pounds of pork butt, while fatty, is not fatty enough. We want a moist sausage full of flavor that holds the smoke we will eventually impart. To accomplish this we need fat along with the meat.
If you do not own a meat grinder you may chop the pork and fat into ¼ inch cubes. If you do own a meat grinder you will want a coarse plate, typically a four, ¼ inch hole plate. This grind will allow anyone admiring your andouille later to see the color texture of the meats within the sausage. A brief word on meat grinders: I owned the plastic meat grinding attachment for the KitchenAid. I bought something else, and the joy of my sausage making experience has grown tremendously. My memory of using the device was alternating between encouragement, beratement, and bereavement as the device would clog and overheat. One particular time the machine became constipated. No matter how much pressure I would place on the ingest tunnel no ground meat would come out. I will share with you, reader, what I learned that day: the flat blade of the turning star in the grinder must face the plate. Otherwise it operates as if scissors have been assembled backwards. If you, reader, have never had either of these experiences then I congratulate you on either your mechanical aptitude or your luck.
Now that we have chopped or ground our meat we need to add our cayenne, black pepper, salt, and minced garlic. I’ll give the exact measurements later. While useful information, I do fear that including the measurements here would break the narrative. If it will take you half an hour to find these ingredients and various measuring apparati then for health and safety place your ground meat into the fridge while you search or shop.
Now that you’ve gathered the remaining ingredients we need to mix them together into our farce meat and stuff them. Before we begin to mix the final ingredients I recommend that you now rinse and soak your casings in a bowl of warm water so they’ll be ready in a bit. This makes the casing more pliable and decreases the likelihood of the casing tearing.
Now, in a far-too-large vessel, mix all the ingredients together. An undersized bowl will lead to both ground meat and pockets of seasoning spilling out onto your counters. You may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to sponge cayenne off your kitchen counter with a handful of pork to get it back in the bowl. Better to opt for a larger bowl.
You will find that the contents of your bowl looks like a large, well beaten meatball. Early in my adventures in sausage making I, several times, stuffed this mixture into a casing. The resulting sausage had the texture of hamburger shoved into a casing. The flavor was fine, but texture was wrong for andouille. The secret hidden carefully in most recipes is adding a cold, water based liquid. For our andouille I recommend ice water or maybe a dry chardonnay. Our goal here is to emulsify the fat so that our meatball becomes something closer to a meat paste, called farce meat or farce. It will typically take on the order of half a cup of liquid in this recipe.
We are now ready to stuff this into the casing. I will assume your meat grinder has a stuffing attachment, or that you have a dedicated sausage stuffing device. I’m willing to believe that one could make this work with a spatula and a kitchen funnel, but am unwilling to perform this experiment myself.
I will leave the end of my casing open at the end, force the farce to the end of the stuffing tube, then finally tie a knot. Tying the knot immediately will leave an air pocket in your first link as the air becomes trapped with nowhere to go. I tend to roll my links, alternating the turn direction at each link, into ten inch links then cutting them after smoking makes the rolled joint stiff. Others will tie off each individual link with more casing or butcher’s twine.
Few things can go wrong at this point, but the most devastating event is a popped casing as you stuff. If the tear is near enough just close the link early, take the spilled farce, and put it back in the waiting area. Cut the end of the casing and prep for stuffing as if it were a fresh start on a new length of casing. If a length of casing were to pop on me a second time I would throw away the casing and grab a fresh one. If you find yourself popping every casing you attempt to stuff I have thoughts you may try. Try applying less pressure, make sure the farce is soft enough by adding more water or wine, make sure the casing is slipping off the stuffing tube easily. As you triage this issue please internalize that you are the problem.
If you have more farce than casing I recommend saving the remainder to make spicy breakfast patties. If you have more casing rinsed than farce throw away the remaining casing and measure better next time.
Let’s move our sausage to the fridge while we get our smoker prepared. I like to use pecan wood to smoke with. I love my electric smoker because I’m inherently lazy, and it is often cold outside. Smoke the sausage at approximately 175 ℉ for about 6 hours. Most smokers will fluctuate around 20 degrees of the target temp; this is fine. If you observe that you are under temp or over temp consistently then consider modifying the smoking time by as much as an hour. Make sure that you rotate sausage off of any hot spots and flip the sausage over periodically. The expectation is that the internal temperature of our andouille will reach 160 ℉. At this temperature the sausage is cooked and safe to eat. Freeze what you won’t use in the next few days.
And that, dear reader, is how the sausage is made.
I like to use this sausage in several ways. It’s fantastic in gumbos and red beans and rice. It’s great on a sandwich with onions, peppers and a spicy mustard. It’s fine in a cream based pasta sauce. It is a terrible ice cream topping.
How the Sausage is Really Made
- 1 Meat Grinder : Optional, but recommended – See Equipment Section at the bottom
- 1 Sausage Stuffer : Optional, required if you skipped the meat grinder
- 1 Smoker : Not replaceable with a meat grinder
- 5 lbs Pork butt
- 1/2 lbs pork fat potentially carved from the pork butt
- 1/2 cup minced garlic
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp cayenne
- 1/4 cup salt
- 6 ft hog casing I can never find this locally; affiliate link below
- 1/2 cup water or dry white wine as an emulsifier to bind the farce
- Rinse salt from dried casing if necessary, soak casings in warm water.
- Grind or chop your pork butt and fat into 1/4 inch cubes w/ 1/4 inch grind plate.
- Mix all seasonings into ground meat mixture.
- Mix in water or wine slowly to create the perfect farce.
- Stuff into casings and link as preferred.
- Smoke the sausage at 175 ℉ for 6 hours, until it measures 160 ℉ inside the andouille
- Use in gumbo, beans and rice, or serve as an hor d'oeuvres. Freeze what isn't used in the next few days.
Thoughts on Equipment
Sausage Casing – (Affiliate Link)
Meat Grinder – STX Turboforce 3000 Heavy Duty 5-In-1 (Affiliate Link) – Motorized grinder with sausage attachment, stainless steel design.
Meat Grinder – LHS Manual Meat Grinder (Affiliate Link) – A less expensive, manual solution. The plastic construction is better than cheap, rusty metal. Also, it come with a sausage stuffing attachment.
Sausage Stuffer – LEM 5-Pound Stainless Steel Vertical Sausage Stuffer (Affiliate Link) – I’ve never had good luck stuffing and cleaning with my grinder. I opted for a dedicated stuffer with this design. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Smoker – Masterbuilt (Affiliate Link) – I bought this model as a stop-gap when my Louisiana barrel smoker went out on me this past year. It has been great for everything that I’ve put it through. Note well! It has an analog heat dial. It isn’t digital; there is a thermometer, but no thermostat. There is an option for a dedicated cover. The cover will really extend the lifetime of the appliance if it will spend its life outdoors.