Antipasto Sausage Skewers

Inspired by Skagit Valley Co-op’s great success in making homemade sausage, our Meat departments have perfected their own sausage blends.  We’re using whole pork shoulder from Salmon Creek Farms and a blend of herbs and spices (never any preservatives) to create our mild Italian, Breakfast, and Chorizo sausages – available as links or in bulk packages.  All three varieties are available at both of our locations, plus you can also purchase hot Italian sausage at our Downtown store.

Photo © Sassy Sampler 2013

Photo © Sassy Sampler 2013

For my recipe demo yesterday, I decided to feature the mild Italian sausage.  After searching the web for a fun way to serve it, I ran across a recipe for antipasto (Italian for “before the meal”) skewers and thought I’d put my own spin on it.  Not only are these easy to make, but they look great on a plate and make a fantastic appetizer since you can serve them hot or cold.

I started with a specially made 18″ link of sausage (talk to our Meat department if you’d like make a request like this) and paired it with bocconcini mozzarella (those little balls of fresh mozzarella), Mediterranean Organics sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, and some organic local basil from the Growing Garden.  I pre-sliced the sausage (with a really sharp knife) before cooking it in a frying pan over medium heat, and I let the slices drain and cool slightly before assembling my skewers.  They came together very quickly, and flew off the plate equally fast!  They smell divine and are very eye pleasing – a great combination in any dish!

Antipasto Sausage Skewers © Sassy Sampler 2013

Antipasto Sausage Skewers © Sassy Sampler 2013

Antipasto Sausage Skewers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Co-op house made Italian Sausage, cut into ~1/2” chunks
  • sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into quarters—you won’t need the whole jar, just a piece for each skewer
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and dried
  • Fresh mozzarella—either bocconcini or a log that has been cut into small chunks
  • Toothpicks or short skewers

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a skillet, cook sausage chunks until browned and fully cooked, about 8 minutes total.  Use a very sharp knife to make the cutting easier.  You can also cook the whole sausage and slice it afterwards.
  2. Drain sausage on a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Slide a basil leaf onto your skewer/toothpick.
  4. Slide a sun-dried tomato onto the skewer/toothpick until it almost touches the basil.
  5. Add the mozzarella to the skewer/toothpick.
  6. Finish by setting a flat side of sausage on the plate and skewering it so everything sits up vertically.
  7. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  8. Serve immediately, or chill and serve at room temperature.

Variations:
Try substituting one or more of these items:

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Smoked goat cheese
  • Spicy sausage
  • Fresh Roma tomatoes

Antipasto Sausage Skewers PDF

Homemade Mozzarella..sometimes you win, sometimes you gain experience!to

Almost every Spring I read Barbara Kingslover’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  If you are unfamiliar with the book, Barbara and her family decided to eat locally and seasonally for one full year by growing their own vegetables and fruits, preserving, freezing, and utilizing their local resources. The only things they made exceptions for were olive oil, spices, and the fact that the wheat for their flour was not grown in their county (but it was milled there!).  I love to read it because it is so inspiring, and it has some great seasonal recipes.  Both her oldest daughter and husband also wrote for the book: Camille provided the recipes and related commentary, and Steven supplied background information on various food issues.  I have always wanted to try making cheese, and the mozzarella recipe they offer (from Ricki Carroll of Home Cheese Making) seemed really simple for a cheese novice!

I decided that for my recipe demo this week I would try my hand at their 30-Minutes Mozzarella recipe.  I have never made cheese before, and this seemed like a good place to start.  I have talked to a couple of shoppers who make mozzarella regularly, and they also said how simple it was.  I figured I was up to the challenge.

I armed myself with the recipe, and got to shopping.  We only carry one kind of rennet, and we have citric acid in bulk, so those were no-brainers.  I waffled back and forth between which local milk to use (isn’t it great that we have a choice!), and settled on the Fresh Breeze Organic 2%, mostly because it is the organic option and I always try to go that route.

After citric acid addition.

After I had made what turned out to be my first batch, I couldn’t figure out why the milk was not curdling like it was supposed to.  I assumed it had something to do with the temperature of the milk when I added the citric acid (the recipe indicated to add it at 55 degrees, and it heated up a lot faster than I thought it would and I ended up adding it at 66 degrees), so I went and bought another gallon and tried it again.

Testing for a clean break.

The same thing happened!  I got online and started to look and see which of my ingredients was the culprit, because I had followed the recipe to a tee this time.  I finally figured out that the Junket rennet was the issue – the recipe called for liquid rennet, and we only carry the Junket tablets at the Co-op, so that is what I used.  I did do a little sleuthing before starting and found many recipes that used tablets that were very similar to the recipe I was using, so I figured I was all good.  I wasn’t all good.  Apparently when you use the Junket, you have to let the milk sit for 1-2 hours to form a “clean break“, which coincidentally was turning my 30 minute cheese into four-hour cheese!

I realized that I shouldn’t sample the cheese at this point because it was taking way too long and I wasn’t satisfied with the rennet that was available to me (I will be looking into the Co-op carrying a more-cheese making friendly rennet option!), but I was still going to finish the cheese!

Oh my curd!

After achieving what I supposed was a close-enough clean break, I continued with the process.  I spooned out the curd with a slotted spoon, but that proved to be very time-consuming as well, so I got a very fine metal colander and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the pot into it.  The above photo is what I was left with.  I know that I lost a decent amount of usable curd by doing it this way, but I just had to finish what I started and figured that as long as I had some cheese to try at the end, I didn’t care how much I lost!

After the microwave portion was finished, this is what I had!

After collecting my curd, I dumped it into a glass dish and stuck it in the microwave for one minute.  I squeezed and kneaded the curd briefly and poured out the whey that was extracted, then microwaved it again for about 25 more seconds.  By this time, I knew I was actually going to get some cheese out my experiment, so I was getting excited!

Cheese!

At this point I needed to add some salt and stretch the cheese until it was like taffy (shiny, smooth, and rope-like).  This happened very quickly.  All of a sudden I had cheese!  I had about the amount you would buy pre-made in the specialty cheese section, but doggone it, I had made this all by myself and was pretty happy (so happy I forgot to take a photo of the little mozza balls I formed with the finished product!).

If you are adventurous, I do recommend trying this recipe (although I hate to say this, but try to find some liquid rennet to use unless you have some time on your hands!  Like I said earlier, I’ll see what I can do to get some cheese-making rennet on the shelves at the Co-op!).  I’m definitely not going to give up myself – once I master this, I really would love to try my hand at making some cheddar!

Fresh Mozzarella PDF

FYI – I’m still working on a GF chocolate butter cake recipe…once I’m happy I’ll let everyone know!

Bocconcini (Mozzarella) and Tomato Salad Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Also, here is the recipe that I ended up demoing yesterday (with fresh mozzarella from the specialty cheese case!).  It is a super simple recipe that people loved sampling (I asked one young shopper what she thought, and she said it was delicious and promptly brought her father and brother over to try it!).  Enjoy! Bocconcini and Tomato Salad PDF