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DIY types can learn to make bacon and sausage

Blood sausage was so beloved of Lynn Coffman that he faithfully purchased it from a Medford butcher before learning to make his own.

“I thought, ‘I could do that,’ ” says the 69-year-old Medford resident. “I make all my breakfast sausage.”

Sausage making and curing bacon are among Coffman’s culinary pastimes since he gained certification as a Master Food Preserver. He’s joined by DIY types everywhere who are making the link between sausage and other techniques for preserving food. The ins and outs of sausage was a topic that the public most requested of Jackson County Master Food Preservers within the past year.

“They want to know what goes into that food,” says Janice Gregg, formerly on the faculty of Oregon State University Extension in Linn and Benton counties.

“It’s easy to make fresh sausages.”

Preserving fresh meats for the pantry requires the right time and temperature, says Gregg. So the recurring pressure-canning class is a natural pairing with Master Food Preservers’ first sausage-making session open to the public in Jackson County.

“This is kind of a special occasion,” says Gregg, who founded Jackson County Master Food Preservers more than 30 years ago and plans to teach Saturday’s class with Coffman.

“It’s one of those fun, extra perks.”

Among the primary perks of homemade sausage is health, says Gregg, who touts her low-fat, turkey-apple sausage.

“You can control the amount of fat that’s in it,” she says. “Most sausage has lots of fat in it to make it good.”

When sausage is lower in fat, it should be cooked low and slow, says Gregg. In lieu of fat, ingredients such as dry milk can help the sausage bind together.

Keeping both meat and fat icy cold encourages emulsification of the sausage mixture. Test for proper emulsification by pressing a large pinch of mixture into your palm. Turn your hand over, and the patty should stay put for at least 10 seconds.

Grinding meat will be demonstrated, although Gregg usually begins her recipe with ground meat purchased at the grocery store.

“If you can get that meat ground, then it’s just adding all those seasonings.”

Marjoram and fennel seed are the common seasoning combination for Italian sausage. Sage, parsley and thyme provide the familiar flavor of breakfast sausage. Highly seasoned chorizo is a sausage finding more and more favor amid the country’s fondness for Mexican food, says Gregg.

“All chorizos have vinegar in them,” she says. “It has lots of paprika and ground pepper.”

Emulsification with vinegar breaks up chorizo’s fat and makes the final product more crumbly. Cooked chorizo should crumble, not hold together in a patty.

Chorizo also benefits from resting in the refrigerator before cooking. The chili peppers become more intense, and the flavors meld after a day or two. Serve chorizo over scrambled eggs, in a taco or burrito or as a garnish over beans and rice.

Because tuna is most prized for home canning in Oregon, where venison and elk also are popular, pressure canning is the main focus of Saturday’s class, says Gregg. The points of raw packing versus hot packing will be highlighted, along with testing a pressure canner’s dial gauge.

“You just have to know how to use your canner,” says Gregg, of pressure canning’s straightforward instructions.

Pressure canning also renders bone broths shelf-stable, says Gregg, acknowledging that more people are preparing their own mineral-rich liquid billed as a health tonic.

“It’s simpler and less expensive,” she says. “That’s a good way to have some in your cupboards ready to use.”

DIY Mexican Chorizo

1-1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt (with fat)

2 dried ancho chili peppers

1 dried chipotle chili pepper

1 dried guajillo chili pepper

1 medium white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon

Pinch powdered ginger

Pinch ground cloves

Pinch ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon powdered annatto (for color; optional)

3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

Chill meat grinder parts, including worm (spiral insert in feed tube), chopping blade and large die, in freezer for at least 1 hour. If using a food processor, chill just chopping blade.

Cut the meat into long strips that will fit easily into feed tube of grinder. If using a food processor, cut meat into 2-inch cubes.

In a dry skillet, toast the dried ancho, chipotle and guajillo chilies quickly just until they are fragrant and more pliable. Remove stems and seeds, reserving latter. Hold seeds aside until taste-testing.

Tear chilies into a few pieces, letting them fall into a bowl; cover with 1 cup just-boiled water and let them soak for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving soaking liquid.

In a blender jar, combine the chopped onion, rehydrated chilies, the chipotle and the adobo sauce. Add the salt, oregano, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cumin. If using, add the annatto. Blend until smooth, then add the vinegar. Chill this puree while you grind meat.

Set up grinder and grind chilled meat into a bowl, then combine meat with puree.

Use your hands or a stand mixer to combine everything well at a low speed. (If you mix with your hands, wear gloves. Chilies can burn.) Use some chili-pepper soaking liquid to moisten sausage, as needed. If possible, let chorizo rest for a day or two before cooking with it.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little chorizo; cook for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat until well-browned, using 2 wooden spoons to break it up into a crumble.

Taste for salt, pepper and spices, adjusting those to your liking. If sausage is not spicy enough, add chili seeds 1 tablespoon at a time to increase zing. Taste and test until sausage is sufficiently spicy.

Pack chorizo in packages sized for your household, typically 8-ounce and 1-pound packages. It can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes 6 servings (makes 1-1/2 pounds).

— Recipe from Cathy Barrow, the author of "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton, 2014).

DIY Breakfast Sausage

1-1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt

8 ounces fatback, pork belly or unsmoked bacon

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, or more as needed

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon dry, rubbed sage

1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Chill meat grinder parts, including worm (spiral insert in feed tube), chopping blade and large die in freezer, for at least 1 hour. If using a food processor, chill just chopping blade. Sausage ingredients need to be refrigerated for at least 1-1/2 hours, then transferred to freezer for 30 minutes.

Cut the meat into long strips that will fit easily into feed tube of grinder. If using a food processor, cut meat into 2-inch cubes.

In a metal, glass or ceramic bowl, combine meat; the fatback, pork belly or unsmoked bacon; the parsley; thyme; salt, herbes de Provence; black pepper and sage; mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, then transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.

Run mixture through grinder, feeding strips of meat and all flavorings into grinder. If using a food processor, work in very small batches; pulse meat and herbs until mixture is chopped small but not pulverized. Mixture should remain very cold. If it has warmed, place it back in freezer for 15 minutes to chill thoroughly before final mix.

Mix sausage components well using your hands, a broad, firm spatula or a stand mixer. Goal is to combine meat and fat, lightly emulsifying but not liquefying. That reduces amount of air in mixture, which will begin to hold together in no time at all.

Test emulsification by placing a meatball-size amount of sausage mixture in palm of your hand, then holding your hand upside down. If mixture sticks — which is the goal — proceed to next (test-patty) step. If it does not stick, add 1 tablespoon of the cream, combine well and thoroughly, then test for sticking again. Add some or all of remaining tablespoon of cream to achieve correct consistency.

Form a small test patty. Cook it in a saute pan over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until patty has browned, turning once. Taste thoughtfully, then correct mixture for seasoning. Test again as needed.

Wrap sausage in a way that makes sense for your family. An average serving size is 4 ounces, or two 2-ounce patties. Make 2-ounce patties and freeze them on a baking sheet, then pile frozen disks into a zip-close bag for easy portioning. Or wrap sausage in a log that can be defrosted all at once and sliced before cooking.

Ground sausage can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for 3 months. Cook thoroughly before serving.

Makes 8 servings (makes 2 pounds).

— Recipe from Cathy Barrow, the author of "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton, 2014).

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

DIY Mexican Chorizo uses dried chili peppers that still have some flex, indicating they are newly dried. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman