The piggy nursery is housed in a brick and tile roof building.
There are five sows with their young, around 8-12 each in individual pens.
A red heat lamp keeps the temperature uncomfortable hot for us, wonderfully cozy if you are a hairless little thin-skinned pink piglet.
Bruno Chapolard acts as the nursery ‘dad’ and keeps an eye on the new moms and the little ones; feeding and watering them as needed. They stay here about 3 weeks before they are moved out into more temperate pens and are weaned from the mothers. Weaners, not wieners .
Bruno shushes us to be quiet and not upset the nursing sows. They like it quiet.
But the minute we tiptoe into the hot and very fragrant shelter, and Bruno reaches over to grab a little one for our petting pleasure-- all hell breaks loose. Such little things can make a huge noise!
It’s worth it. To hold the hot squiggling body close to your chest, smell the warmth and not unpleasant baby smell and feel the naked pink critter start to quiet and calm is to begin to understand just how much work all this food making is. As we passed her around, one of my students, a big strong guy from
We place the babe back with the litter and after a bit of scurrying around she dived into the space left for her at the four-legged milk bar. Backing out into the much fresher air, and after very deep breaths all around, we talk about how cool it is to hold the life force soon to be nourished to mature meat. Bruno et frères take their work seriously and the breeding of a good line of healthy pigs is the first stand in producing quality tasty meat. With a very small breeding stock of 30 sows, they maintain enough pigs throughout the year to sell directly to consumer. A healthier stock means less treatment and although not organic, they ascribed to reasonable agriculture practices.
So we want to begin these same careful practices when making sausage. Like the three most important lessons in cooking:
- Buy good quality product.
- Season carefully with high quality ingredients.
- Pay attention to what you are doing.
It’s pretty easy after that. This is the most basic traditional recipe for Saucisse de Toulouse as made in these Gascon parts by butchers and farmers. I have translated the recipe that the Chapolards use to make just a small batch of fresh sausage. Be sure and taste a pinch of sausage to see if you have the salt and pepper to your liking. Some neighbor make their sausage and pates on the flat side, I like mine where the freshly ground pepper is a pungent foil for the salted sweet meat. If you don’t have casings,
Don’t worry, just make crepinettes- little patties the size of cookies, wrapped in caul fat, sometimes larded with a slice of truffle or a bay or sage leaf. After Tim Clinch took these pictures, we ate them with oysters.
#1- Saucisse de Toulouse: making a French country classic at home.
The essence of simplicity, Saucisse de Toulouse is nothing more than fresh pork sausage, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and placed in natural casings. The succulent flavor relies on the choice of good pork cuts and careful seasoning. This is the summer favorite for Barbeques or when making regional dishes like Cassoulet.
2 pounds pork shoulder meat (also called
.5 lbs fresh pork belly
16 grams (approx 2-1/2 tsp) sea salt
4 grams (approx – a scant 2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (8 oz) cold water.
1 meter natural sausage casing (soaked in cold water with a little vinegar added)
Use a manual or electric meat grinder to grind the meat and pork belly with a 10mm (3/8 inch) hole plate. It helps to start with the meat refrigerator cold. Use a clean bowl or pan to receive the ground sausage meat. (Alternately, you can cut this small of amount of meat with a sharp 10-12 inch chef’s knife, using a rocking motion to help break the meat fibers as well as cut them into small pieces. Place in a large clean bowl and work the cut meat with your hands until it begins to stick to itself before seasoning.)
Add salt and pepper to water and stir or shake until salt is partially dissolved. This facilitates the diffusion of salt and pepper throughout the meat. Add water to the meat and knead well until it is absorbed. Note the little flecks of black pepper in this sausage.
Replace the cutting plate with the stuffing accessory on the grinder. Place the entire wet casing over the tube (and this is where photographs help!) , tie the end with a length of twine, then ‘grind’ the sausage into the casing squeezing air out as you go. Remove from stuffer and tie the other end making sure to squeeze out any air. Then using a sausage pricker, ( I use a homemade one made with a champagne cork and some dressmaker pins) gentle pierce the casing to let out any surface air. The sausage benefits from drying slightly and resting covered with a kitchen towel. It can now be cooked or frozen.
Grilling sausage over hot coals must be the all time best way to get that smoky crisp skin and juicy meat. Do not cook too long! Think about a perfect pork roast- just slightly pink meat, juices running clear. A good method for pan cooking sausage is to start the sausage in a cold pan, turn on the heat to and let them come up to medium high temperature with the pan. The meat will be cooked inside by the slower growing heat and then the skins will be caramelized a golden brown by the high heat at the end.
Meat grinder, stuffing accessory, string, sausage pricker or pin prick cork