I wanted to make some hotdogs, but I was minus a grinder. So I decided to experiment with using store bought ground beef. Let's take a look at the replay!
Step 1: Inspiration
Charcuterie is the closest thing I have to a bible. And Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn are my high priests. This is a variation on their hotdog recipe.
And Ruhlman's book Ratio is my co-bible.
Now for needless backslapping of myself. I can claim that I helped with 0.00001% of the research for their follow up book Salumi.
Interacting with commenters on an article on Mr. Ruhlman's blog about the hysteria over sodium nitrate and nitrite I explained and did some of the math concerning how very little sodium nitrite/nitrite is actually in some of his recipes. Pink salt is a little over 6% nitrite, and curing salt #2 (or pink salt #2) is about 9% mix of nitrite and nitrate, the rest is regular salt. Apparently Mr. Ruhlman was having difficulty figuring out the LDlo (minimum lethal dose) of sodium nitrite. It is 71 milligrams/kilogram. Milligrams/kilogram is common dosage units. The trouble he was having was he didn't know that the kilograms part meant "per kilogram of body weight". He saw this interaction the the blog and emailed me. I explained it and pointed him to an Oxford University MSDS sheet on sodium nitrite. It's footnoted at the bottom of page 63 in Salumi and the paragraph right above it is basically the explanation I laid out to Mr. R on calculating dosage. So every time I see the book I chuckle in my head and think, "I helped!" My claim to unnamed fame.
The Oxford site is now defunct though. The same info is on the sodium nitrite wikipedia page now. They better update that in a new version!
Step 2: Needed Food Stuffs
1 Tb Mustard Powder
1 Tb Paprika
1 tsp Coriander
2 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Pepper
2 Tb Sugar
1/2 oz (about 1 Tb) Salt
1 tsp Pink salt
3lbs Ground beef
10 feet of Sheep Casings
Step 3: Hardware
A food processor
You really need a stuffer like the one pictured for paste-type sausage stuffings. A kitchenaid stuffing attachment is okay for some things, but not this. And it's not really the best I've used. The stainless ones like the type pictured are easy to use and clean and will last you forever.
Step 4: Mix
Add your spices to the beef and mix it up.
Now park it in the fridge for a day or two.
Step 5: Don't Eat the Paste
After a day or two it looks like . . . unpleasant stuff. But it's just oxidized and perfectly fine. And it smells wonderful with the spices.
Toss it into the blender and turn it to paste. Add a little water if needed and do it in a few batches.
Step 6: Casing the Joint
People get weirded out by the thought of natural casings. In my limited experience I'd have to say the far worse thing is edible cellulose casings. I bought some to try and they were tough and just generally blah. A good natural casing blends in with the sausage so you don't really know it's there. The cellulose ones didn't in my one experience using them. Maybe it was the brand, but I'll stick with natural. I may try collagen ones someday. Maybe they behave more like natural casings.
Soak your casings in water for a bit to extract some of the salt they are packed in. Maybe 15 to 30 minutes.
Start the casing on the horn (that's what that thing's called . . . honk) and then run water through the casing. This will help lube up the casing to make it slip easily onto the horn and help you find any holes or knots in your casing.
Slip the casing over the horn by bunching it up on it.
Step 7: Stuff
I like to clamp my stuffer down to the table so it doesn't move as I work.
Fill the stuffer with meat.
Put the horn on and crank down until a little meat protrudes from the end.
Pull the casing over the protruded meat and tie a knot in it to close the casing.
You want to avoid getting a lot of air in the sausage. I had more than I liked in this one because I used a smaller horn (stuffers usually come with a few different sizes) than I should have. I did this because it's easier to get the casing on, but really it would have been just as easy with a slightly larger one. Laziness I guess.
Slowly crank the meat into the casing. You don't want to fill the casing too much and you don't want to fill it too little. It's a trial and error thing. Fill it too much and you'll rupture your sausage. Too little and you get a limp wiener. And no one likes a limp wiener in their mouth.
Making your links. After having made sausages a dozen times or so I think I've come to the conclusion that it's best to twist your links as it comes out of the stuffer. This will give you a little wiggle room for adjusting the pressure of the filling inside so you can avoid ruptures. Or you can fill the whole casing and twist the links in the filled casing.
Oh, and each time you make a link you have to alternate the direction you twist otherwise the last twist will just unravel.
Step 8: Smoke It If You Got It
I suppose you could avoid smoking the hotdogs if you used smoked paprika and a smoked salt. You'd just have to guess about how much of the smoked salt to use. Too much and your dogs might come out smelling like chimney soot.
Smoke them until they come up to 150F or somehow bring them up to 150F. Sous vide might be nice for this.
Step 9: Finish Up
To stop the cooking process get the dogs out of the smoker and give them a dip in cold, ice water.
Now you're done. Pack them up and freeze them or use them right away. Cook them however you normally cook your hotdogs.
How did these turn out? How did the great hamburger to hotdog experiment go? I don't fully know yet. I cooked one--pre-smoke--in a little water and I thought it was a bit tough and dry. Probably the quality of the store bought ground beef was thhhhhhhpt! It was worth trying, and I'm sure they'll be fine. If they're tough and dry I'll use them in a long, slow braise with kraut or onions and peppers.
If you want to do it right though, get a grinder and grind up 2.5 to 3lbs of some fatty beef like short ribs as Mr. Ruhlman and Mr. Polcyn advise in their recipe.
Would I do hotdogs again? Maybe not. I've done three or four batches now to varying degrees of success. They were all decent, but I didn't think I'd eat them as often as a Nathan's famous hotdog if I had to pay for them. But perhaps practice makes perfect and I should strive on. Oh, very well. Yes, I'll do it again.
Now go stuff something.