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The Sausage Kings of St. Louis
By Pat Eby | Photo by Laura Miller
Posted On: 04/01/2011   


The farm-fresh breakfast sausage sputtered and spat as I hovered near the stove, my hand wafting its delightful aroma towards my face. The scent of good pork, black pepper and salt came on clean and strong. A few well-browned bits jumped onto my spoon. Pared down to the basics, the salt and pepper sausage Karlios Hinkebein learned to make from his grandfather tastes so simple it’s pork-perfect.

“Salt and pepper sausage was the only sausage I ate growing up,” said Hinkebein. “It’s not a big seller at the St. Louis markets, but in southern Missouri, folks still want it.” When St. Louis cooks discover this simple sausage with the big taste, that could change.
The jumbo breakfast links go down easy with scrambled eggs. Frizzled bits removed from the casings cook up a dynamite gravy to top potatoes, biscuits or fried mush. Try browned chunks in quiches, egg casseroles and stratas, too. Combine cooked sausage bites with uncooked diced potatoes, julienned onions and green peppers. Toss with olive oil and sea salt, spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast a terrific sandwich filling for pitas, flat breads or hoagie rolls.

This month, Hinkebein offers a new beef and pork kielbasa with cheese. My hometown of Cincinnati, once known as Porkopolis, reveres all things pork, in a traditional way. Cheese in a sausage comes close to heresy for me. Throw that bias out the window. This cheese kielbasa is so good it nearly polkas. Hinkebein uses a mix of meats weighted more towards beef than pork. He spices with a sure hand. The grind he’s developed bites perfectly. The casing snaps just so.

Hinkebein suggested slicing the fully cooked sausage to eat with crackers or bread. Great idea, but don’t stop there. Grill these babies, wrap chunks in pastry dough with a dab of mustard and bake for a great appetizer, throw them in soups or casseroles for can’t-miss easy dinners. Find Hinkebein sausages at Local Harvest Grocery.

For a different sausage experience, try fully cooked fresh liver sausage from Live Springs Farm, which sells at the Tower Grove, Maplewood and Ferguson farmers’ markets. The creamy, fine-grained sausage loops big-boned and fat in a whitish natural casing. I hadn’t seen this old-style German sausage since I left Cincinnati. My father cooked it in a pot with a little water to spoon over pan-fried cornmeal mush. He called it liver pudding, and we kids loved every stinky, nasty-looking bite.

Slice fresh liver sausage, slather some Champagne mustard on pumpernickel and add onions for a very German lunch. Chop the sausage fine, mix minced onion, Dijon country-style mustard and cream cheese to make a cracker spread. I cooked my dad’s liver pudding and mush with great trepidation. It looked terrible, but the taste brought back sweet memories and surprised me: I liked it.

New to the market last year, Lucian Matoushek and his mother, Anne Matoushek, of The Farmers’ Larder wrangled a new business model to deliver charcuterie fresh from the farms. In addition to raising animals at their home farm, this mother and son buy humanely raised animals from neighboring farms.

The two took time to develop their charcuterie recipes as well, tweaking and tinkering over the winter. Their mild kielbasa, Polish-style, remains a top seller. You’ll find them at the Tower Grove, Ferguson and Webster Groves markets; shop early, though, because they tend to sell out quickly most market Saturdays.
Jeremy Parker of Missouri Grass Fed Beef makes an all-beef knockwurst once a year, usually in April, for sale in May. “The texture is firmer, because we use beef in a sausage that’s typically a blend of pork and beef.”

Colby Jones of Farrar Out Farm sells sage sausage patties, chorizo, Italian hot and regular breakfast sausages made from his Berkshire hogs; look for them at the Kirkwood and Maplewood markets. “My sausage tastes clean and fresh,” he said.

Good enough reason to sample the farm-fresh offerings these conscientious farmers bring to market.


Salt and Pepper Sausage Quiche
Makes 8

INGREDIENTS

6 Hinkebein Hills Farm salt and pepper sausage links
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper
1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

PREPARATION

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Remove the casing from each sausage and divide the meat into 1-inch chunks. Cook the sausage pieces in a large skillet until browned and cooked through. Remove to a paper plate or towels and reserve.
• Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent.
• Roast a whole red pepper, remove the charred skin, seed and cut into ½-inch slices.
• Sprinkle the pie shell evenly with the sautéed onions. Add the roasted peppers and top evenly with the cooked sausage pieces. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.
• Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the half-and-half and stir to mix. Add the salt and pepper and stir.
• Pour half of the egg mixture over the quiche and allow the liquid to settle. Add the remaining liquid, but don’t overfill the shell.
• Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center doesn’t jiggle. If the crust is browning too much after 20 minutes, cover the crust edge with aluminum foil strips.
• Cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm.

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