I also have to say it's the hardest bit of charcuterie I've ever tried to pull off. I'm still not completely satisfied with the final product - although my second attempt seriously outstrips my first efforts (which I'll also detail here to show you how NOT to do it).
To begin with, here are the seasonings I use, straight from Michael Ruhlman's recipe. Some paprika, about twice as much dried mustard, a relatively modest amount of salt, good dose of white pepper, and a good deal of garlic. The garlic, mustard and paprika are the strongest flavor elements. Ruhlmans' recipe also called for a dash of mace, and some coriander. Sorry, I haven't got any on hand, so they're out. I put in a pinch of celery seed, for Chicagoness. Also a few tablespoons of corn syrup, as well as a cup of ice water for blending and texture
Here's how I did it the first time. This is some cubed chuck roast. Very nicely marbled. locally sourced, etc. Popped it into the cuisinart to grind it up. It needs to be ground twice, then semi-frozen with the seasoning mixed in, before the mixture is re-whizzed in the food processor in order to emulsify it.
Now, the first time through, after mixing in all the spices into the ground beef, I froze the sausage mixture to prepare it for the final emulsification. And after attempting to emulsify the mix, it looked like this:
And maybe this looks good to you, but it's really more of a purée. Very finely minced, and smooth all the way through, but as I would discover, not really emulsified. Of course, I didn't really figure that out until later - like, after I ate some of this batch. I'll show you side by side comparisons of Batch 1 (my brilliant mistake) and Batch 2 (my vast improvement in need of fine tuning).
II've got two different cuts of meat here, about a pound and a half each. More of that chuck roast . . . . . . . and also some "special trim" which looks like flanken to me. That's a cut from the breast, below the short ribs. It resembles brisket in its texture, so it's well marbled, but soft and tender, which I thought looked intriguing for grinding.
. . . here's the big change - a genuine meat grinder attachment to a genuine KitchenAid! Ya know, I heard Molly O'Neal recently tell a group of food scholars and aspiring writers that if you write about what you had for dinner, nobody's going to read that except maybe your mother. Well, thanks Mom! Somebody's reading the blog, it turns out, and it pays off. A welcome birthday present!
Grind the meat twice, and then mix it with all of the original spices shown above.
Here's the mince in two batches. I freeze it for half an hour to firm everything up before trying to emulsify it.
And here it goes, back into the cuisinart. This time, though, I take in smaller batches of the mince, and I added about a cup of crushed ice to each batch as it was being processed.
When you add the ice, it helps to aereate the mix, and produces the emulsion you see here. Note how it doesn't looked chopped at all. It looks like creamy peanut butter - and the consistency is sticky. The fat is suspended in the protein, not just finely ground throughout the mix. It should expand and fluff up once its smoked and heated, like - you guessed it - a hot dog!
Now this is what the sausages look liked once they're piped into hog casings. Compare them to Batch 1 . . .
. . . that looked like this. You can see the grind through the casing. Firm, and well ground, but, no, not emulsified. It made for a smoky, beefy, fat sausage. But not a hot dog.
These are the dogs after they've been smoked at 225º for an hour or so - you want the dogs completely firm, and reaching an internal temp of 140º. These are done.
After which they get an ice bath, to keep the skins from shrinking.
At this point, your hot dogs are fully cooked. Here, I crisped them up in a pan for dinner . . .
. . . and served them up three ways. One with kraut and mustard, one with kimchi. The kimchi dog is something of a Carrboro innovation, and demands a shout out to April McGreger and her Farmer's Daughter artisanal kimchi (and to the suggestion from Sam Suchoff of The Pig, who features this on his menu regularly).
Delicious as it is, it will never replace the Chicago Dog of my twenties. This is ALMOST one of those (if Bratislava Sausage is Pretty Close to Vienna Beef Sausage, I suppose this is a Skokie Dog, Pretty Close to a Chicago Dog). That's tomato, electric green relish (here, just plain green sweet relish), a pickle, mustard, and celery salt on a dog. I've added home-pickled Hungarian wax peppers, which are a poor, but close-enough substitute for sport peppers - good luck finding those (or a poppy seed bun, which should REALLY be housing this extravagance) outside of Chicagoland. But this will have to do.
There you have it. How to make a hot dog - and just as importantly, how not to. Emulsifying sausages is not for the faint of heart - in the eating or the processing. You need to keep everything as cold as you possibly can - freeze the blade and bowl of the processor while you freeze the meat in preparation for the emulsifying, that is crucial.
The KitchenAid grinding turned out to work quite well. I had my doubts, as the grinding- 2.5 lbs, twice through the small die - took longer than I would have thought (like 30 minutes). The meat turned out smeary and pasty, which I thought was a disaster. But smeary beef is par for the course with the small die. The trick, I think, was the ice cubes in the slurry as it emulsified. It fluffed up the meat batter - which piped into casings like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. Smooth and creamy.
Is it perfect? Not yet. It could be fluffier, a bit lighter, and the sausage casing could be tighter, with fewer air pockets. I think going a little slower with the piping, smaller batches for emulsifying, and tighter packing of the casings could all improve things. Also, sheep casings instead of these fat, knockwurst-like hot dogs in hog casings would probably be better. But, of course, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I've done it! Emulsified sausage and lived to tell the tale! Happy stuffing, charcuterie enthusiasts everywhere (or just my mom).