Happy Birthday to you…

…my adorable husband, you! :)

The poor man’s been through the medical mill in the last couple of weeks, and here today–on his birthday, when he was supposed to be back at work today–he’s still fevery (again … even on antibiotics) and feeling crappy, unable to sit for any amount of time without getting sore and miserable … so I decided he needed a great brunch to start his birthday off on a better footing … at least mouth-wise. I’d bought pork tenderloins on sale at Costco the other day, so I decided one of the things he needed for his birthday brunch was fresh homemade breakfast sausage :)

I started with about two pounds of my boneless pork, which I cut into chunks and placed in a bowl to sit aside for the moment.

In my food processor, I combined:

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
  • approx. 2 teaspoons dried sage (from my spice garden)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary (from a friend’s garden on my trip)
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

I took all the spices for a nice long ride in the food processor, making sure they were all nicely ground before adding them to my meat … then sitting the bowl aside for about 45 minutes or so to allow the spices to bloom against the dampness of the meat chunks.

Once I felt like my meat had absorbed some of the lovely flavors I’d wrapped it in, I proceeded to grind my sausage in my food processor, too.

In the FOOD PROCESSOR?!?!?” you ask :)

Yes, I have an electric meat grinder here in my well-stocked kitchen. I have a manual meat grinder, too … but–with both of them–it’s a big production to drag it out, set it up, in the case of the manual … do all that grinding by hand … and then, of course, to clean it all up afterward. And I do that when I’m making big batches of sausage for the freezer or destined for the canner … because having the right tool helps to do the job better and faster. However, I was only planning to make sausage for basically one meal this time–with a bit of leftovers, of course–not a huge batch … so I decided I’d use my food processor instead.

For anyone who’s tried grinding meat in a food processor before, you know instantly why people cringed when I said that. You probably cringed yourself … because it’s very easy to overgrind meat in a food processor. If you overprocess it–even the slightest amount–you can easily turn it into paste. And pasty sausage is tough and, well, just not good!

The trick to making good sausage in the food processor is two part … and I already did the first part. I seasoned the meat chunks and let it sit a bit before grinding it, letting that flavor mingle into the meat first … rather than trying to use the food processor to evenly distribute the seasoning throughout the meat. If you try to use your food processor like a mixer in this case, all you’re going to do is end up with pasty, over-processed meat. DON’T DO IT! Season the meat first, and then do NOT use the seasoning as a way to determine if your meat is mixed properly or not. That’s the absolute worst way to approach it.

Instead, you want to use the size of the grind as an indication of how long you need to process the meat. And–to do this–you really want to approach it S-L-O-W-L-Y! Don’t turn your food processor “ON” and just let it run. Use your pulse. Pulse it a couple of times … then look at it. Pulse it a little more … and then look at it again. You’ll learn to get a feel for using a food processor if you do it often enough, like I did in the years before buying an electric meat grinder. If you’re working by visuals–and you should be, especially if this is your first time–this is the consistency you’re looking for:

As you’ll notice, it basically looks like what they call “chili grind” meat. It’s not ground into a paste. That would be nasty! Instead, it’s made up of a somewhat larger grind than regular hamburger … more like small-sized minced beef/meat than really what you’d call ground beef/meat:

From there, I needed cooking gear … and, as luck (or was that good planning?) would have it, I came home from my trip to The Dutchman’s Store with two spatulas I bought specifically to use with the stove-top griddle I bought on my last trip to Sur le Table, back when I spent my $50 prize from the dessert contest. This was the perfect opportunity to break all of those goodies out to give them a try :)

I worked in a couple of fast food establishments in my younger days, and I still remember their griddles fondly. They cook (especially sear) so much nicer than a non-stick electric griddle could ever imagine cooking/searing … and I say that as a person who’s developed pretty decent skills at searing meat on a non-stick electric griddle. They also clean up fairly easy, too: just turn off the heat, scrape off any loose food and oil, then take a hot wet kitchen towel, toss it down on the surface to steam off any cooked-on particles and then use it to scrub off the remaining food debris, too. Just like cast iron cooking utensils, don’t use soap on your steel griddle. You WANT to leave just a little bit of grease/oil behind when you clean them … in order to prevent rust during storage.

Steel griddles don’t even try to claim they’re non-stick. In fact, anything you put anywhere near them is going to stick … which is part of how they make the most amazing sears on the planet, all that seriously hot metal charring the surface cells of the meat. That’s also why you use the sharp-edged metal tools on one, spatulas meant to scrape against the steel of the griddle to loosen burgers, pancakes, steaks, sausage, eggs, etc. That means–to keep things from sticking so bad you can’t scrape them loose … you also have to use an adequate amount of oil/fat when you cook on one. I knew that was going to mean potential splattering, so I decided to be proactive. I set the grill pan up with a cookie sheet positioned behind, protecting my counter space.

My griddle is designed to use with a outdoor gas grill, but I bought it to use indoor if I could, stretched across two burners of my electric stove. I know I’d probably get better overall heat with a gas stove … but I’ve got to work with what I’ve got :)

I preheated the griddle by turning both burners beneath it on high. I brushed some olive oil across the surface and then–once it started to smoke a tiny bit–I added my homemade sausage patties.

With the heat up that high, it didn’t take long for some of them to start browning.

As you can see in the picture–and, as I expected–the griddle cooks well … but it does have hot spots and cold spots, thanks to the two different sized burners underneath it. However, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t work with it. My non-stick electric griddle has hot and cold spots, too–so I have experience with that already–and that sort of varied temperature cooking surface can be useful when you’re cooking multiple elements with variable cooking needs on the same surface at the same time.

Once my homemade breakfast sausage was browned and resting on a warmed plate, I cleaned the surface of my griddle with a hot wet kitchen towel, re-oiled it, and then mixed up a batch of peach-walnut pancakes.

I made them just like I make most pancakes … without any sort of real recipe to speak of … chuckles! I’ve been making pancakes for so long–and in so many different ways–that I rarely even think about how I put them together … until I had a blog to write, that is :)

For this particular batch, I combined approximately:

  • 1.5 cups Bisquik baking mix
  • 1 cup freeze-dried peaches (from The Dutchman’s bulk section)
  • 1 cup English walnut pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, butter and nut extract

I mixed it well, then spooned it onto my oiled and pre-heated griddle.

I dropped a pat of butter on the top of each pancake as I flipped it, and–as I got ready to serve my husband his birthday breakfast–I grabbed the Sunbelt Plantation’s Sugar-free Maple Praline Syrup I bought on my trip (back at Adcock Pecans in Tifton, GA) to go with our pancakes and sausage.

OH MY GAWD!!! My husband agrees … this was the most amazing breakfast we’ve had in a long time … and we eat some pretty amazing breakfasts in this house! Every single bite of it was excellent–from the wonderfully browned and spicy homemade sausage … all the way up to those subtly peach-flavored and yet still nutty/crunchy pancakes–but that syrup just absolutely ROCKED the entire meal into OUTER SPACE! It was incredibly thick and tasty, and the absolute perfect thing to tie all of the other elements together. Across those pancakes and sausage, that praline and maple-flavored syrup made them absolute heaven! And–the funny part is–I almost didn’t buy it that day. I thought “$6.95 for 12 ounces of syrup? Sure, I mean … it’s Maple Praline, and sugar-free … but is really worth seven bucks a bottle?

The answer to that question is a rousing “YES!” :)

Adcock’s does ship … and now I can’t wait to try to bottle of Sugar-free Roasted Pecan Syrup I bought there, too!

My husband said that he wanted to give me a FINAL SCORE, too … just like I do with restaurants … so he said he gave me a AAA+

I think he might be a bit biased … but it is, after all, his birthday … so I won’t argue with him :)

About Lane

Just a canner ... on this food journey called life :)
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