The title of this year’s Foodways Texas symposium — “Our Barbecue, Ourselves” — tells you a lot about the kind of discussion that happened last week during the yearly gathering of the Foodways Texas organization.
This year’s theme is a spinoff of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” the 1971 book on women’s anatomy and health that has become cultural shorthand for learning more about something we thought we knew well.
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Beer Joint Sausage
Vencil Mares of the Taylor Café learned how to make sausage at Southside Market in Elgin. This is a Bohemian Czech sausage recipe from Central Texas.
If you cook sausage too quickly, you render the fat out of the “batter” of meat and fat inside the casing. This causes the sausage to squirt out all its fat. For best results, set the batter by cooking the sausage very slowly at first. Once the batter is set, you can cook the sausage over high heat.
6 lbs. beef rump roast or beef trimmings
4 lbs. fatty Boston butt pork roast
1/4 cup salt
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
Medium hog casings (available at butcher shops)
Coarsely grind the beef rump and pork butt together through the 1/4-inch plate of a meat grinder. In a large bowl, mix the ground meat with the salt, garlic, pepper and cayenne. Knead the mixture with your hands until everything is well blended. Don’t rush the mixing — it takes a long time.
In a small skillet, heat a little oil. Form a meatball-size piece of the mixture into a small patty and fry it. Taste for seasonings, and adjust to your taste.
Soak the hog casings in lukewarm water. Stuff the meat mixture into the hog casings with a sausage stuffer or a pastry bag, and tie into 4- to 6-inch links. The sausage will keep for 3–4 days refrigerated and up to 2 months frozen.
When you’re ready to cook the sausages, place them in a pan of warm water on the stove and slowly bring the heat up to 140 degrees to set the “batter.” Set up your smoker for indirect heat with a water pan. Sear the links over hot coals for 3 minutes on each side, or until nicely brown. Move them to indirect heat over a drip pan and smoke for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Makes 10 pounds.
Variation: To make Vencil’s Turkey Sausage, grind 8 pounds of boneless turkey and 2 pounds of fatty pork, and proceed with the recipe for Beer Joint Sausage.
— From “Barbecue Crossroads: Notes & Recipes From A Southern Odyssey” (University of Texas Press, $45)