Meet my fourth musketeer Signor Domenico Dartagnan, and of course his super Mamma, who run our local butcher’s down in Tossicia. In Abruzzo, like most parts of Italy, the prominence & importance of the local butcher is, dare I whisper, more than the priest; this is the man who really will see you right in this world, in his hustle-bustle den of meaty delights. He knows his flesh inside out, and knows how to make a woman happy just by the action of his knives & cleavers and a thorough understanding of slow cooking! It’s beautiful watching some of the oldest girlies in town smile & simper whilst discussing what they will be having for dinner whilst the butcher’s banter abounds.
Italian butchers are a little different to the ones back in the UK; walk in and you see pieces of meat rather than cuts and expect snout-to-tail edibles that includes a large tray of frilly tripe, fortunately my Scottish partner wouldn’t succumb to despair in here if he was ever trying to find the stuffing for a haggis. I spend half my time my, head cocked, trying to guess what this or that could possibly be with such interesting & unusual textures!
I love being asked what I am thinking of cooking, and being given suggestions of what to consider using and perhaps adding to the pot. There’s something wonderful in knowing that a freshly sliced fillet, pounded scallop or chunky casserole piece is cut for your own taste and preferences, even down to whether you like a little a bit of fat or not, oh the joy of becoming an individual once more.
It’s a little bit tragic that being able to examine a piece of meat before it’s minced has become an uncommon occurrence in so many English-speaking countries, where life consists of standing anonymously over a chill-cabinet deciphering the label on a plastic plate of watery steak, fat and gristly pink worms, working out what does “standard”, “lean” or “extra lean” mince really mean. Rural Italy still takes the approach that ingredients are bought primarily for their taste and the qualities they bring to enrich a dish, rather than buying a tasteless filler whose labelling will make you believe no matter how much you eat, you won’t get fat. A local ragu up here in Teramo generally involves a minimum of 2 meats combined for their flavours and moisture-imbuing qualities; economical and prepared to feed your individual family. It’s surprising especially in these tough economic times that we don’t return a little more to this style of consumption that is just a little more earth-friendly.
Signor Dartagnan’s is locally famous because of his wonderful sausages, no nitrates in these beauties, that is part of the reason I went down to see him today. One of our Facebook fans enquired how to make the legendary salsiccia di fegato (liver sausages) for her Abruzzese husband, and I had the lovely notion that she’d present him with them for Valentine’s Day! Silly me! But here’s his delicious recipe to share with the world. If you don’t want to make them but try them, consider visiting his butcher’s shop in Tossicia’s main piazza to buy sausages for your picnic whilst climbing around the Corno Grande.
- Proportions per kilo of meat to be ground together
- ⅓ Liver & pig heart, tongue too is also good to add in if your butcher has some
- ⅔ pork which includes a very healthy amount of guanciale (pig cheek) and pancetta
- 25 g Salt
- 5 g Black Pepper
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- The zest from 2 Oranges (this can be increased according to personal taste)
- 4 Bay Leaves
- Pepperoncino according to your individual taste
- Grind the meat, then the liver, using a meat grinder, die number 2 or 3 depending on whether you prefer a fine-grained or chunky sausage.
- Spread the mixture on a clean surface and add the salt and pepper, orange zest and ground bay leaves. Knead well with your hands so that the different ingredients are blended together.
- At this point begin to prepare the sausage using the sausage machine to fill the skin.
- Decide if you want to prepare a classic long sausage called a luganega or doughnut called ciambella or, if you are making individual small ones, make sure you tie them with thin string and do not press or squeeze them too much. Make some small holes with a toothpick on the skin so that no air remains inside.
- Once you have prepared the sausage(s) to your desired shape, hang it up to dry for at least 2 days in a well-ventilated room.