Over the past two weeks, I’ve immersed myself in sausage and beer. OK that sounds like I’ve been taking a bath in it. Not exactly. But, because of a the 5th annual Sausage and Beer Dinner, and a master class that preceded it, I’ve been learning about both, making and eating sausage, and drinking plenty of beer for two weekends now.
Here’s Adam Kaye, chef and kitchen director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, showing me — and Tom Burns on the left and Kris Burns on the right — how to measure salt in grams on a tiny scale:
I was reporting for the story that ran in last week’s paper: Savoring Local Sausage and Beer. These links expire, so I’m also posting the story below. Here’s another look at Adam teaching the class:
I’ll be posting photos from the dinner later this week, too, so keep an eye out for those. Meantime, here’s everything you wanted to know about Adam, sausage and the dinner:
Adam Kaye, the chef and kitchen director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has this romantic image in his head: An old man walks through a French village with a baguette under his arm. He opens the creaky door of his farmhouse and puts the bread down on a stained wooden table. He pours a short glass of Bordeaux, breaks off a chunk of crusty bread and sits down to a simple supper of his own house-cured sausage.
That’s a lot different from the way most of us see sausage, packaged in plastic at the grocery store. Plus, most of us likely agree with the quote about laws and sausages: We’d rather not see how they’re made.”Sausages have gotten a bad rap because of poorly made hot dogs and nasty spicy Italian sausage,” says Kaye. “You don’t want to know what goes into them. But I love eating sausage, because I make them with good things.”
Since it opened in 2004, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the restaurant on the grounds of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, has made serious inroads in teaching people where their food comes from. The annual Sausage and Beer Dinner, coming up Sunday evening, is another of those lessons. And this one, like many that chef-owner Dan Barber and his crew teach, is really easy to swallow. It’s taught with delicious food and drink.
Kaye, the sausage-maker at Blue Hill, is the driving force behind the dinner, which pairs his sausage dishes with local beers, such as those from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Pleasantville and Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River.
“Sausages, to me, really fit with everything we do at Blue Hill and are as much a part of the story here as the head of incredible lettuce that (four-season farmer) Jack (Algiere) grows in the greenhouse with his incredible compost,” says Kaye. “It’s how we treat our food. It’s how we pay respect to an entire animal. So I’m quite happy to tell people exactly what’s in the sausage.”
On Saturday, a few of us got to learn that first-hand.
For the first time, on the occasion of the fifth annual dinner, Kaye taught a Sausage and Beer Master Class, giving nine diners an inside look at the planning, prepping and process that go into it. We learned the history and culture of sausage-making. We learned about the anatomy of the pig. We learned about ratios of lean meat and fat, and the right and wrong way to grind the meat and stuff the casings. And then we went over to Captain Lawrence Brewing Company for a lesson on what goes into brewing all different styles of beer. It was as if Kaye and Scott Vaccaro, the owner and brewmaster at Captain Lawrence, were training a bunch of docents to help lead a tour of the meal on Sunday.
And indeed, when I’m sitting at that table Sunday, I’ll bet that’s just what I’ll do.
The Sausage and Beer Dinner started out small.
“In 2005 it was a quirky idea for a fine dining restaurant, and some 30 people showed up to try it,” says David Barber, who with his wife, Laureen, and his brother, Dan, the chef, owns Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
The inaugural year, the tables took up half the private dining room, and the guests were served five courses featuring Stone Barns pigs and venison from farmers the restaurant was just getting to know. The dinner was served with beers from the now-defunct Saw Mill River Brewery in Yonkers.
The second year, it more than doubled in size and took over the entire restaurant, including the private dining room. Last year, the dinner outgrew even that and moved into the Hay Loft at Stone Barns, Stone Barns Center’s programs and event space, which has gorgeous stone walls, oak floors, walnut trim and 40-foot ceilings.
The meal, which has evolved over the years, always includes a selection of charcuterie, and it’s a good bet you’ll find a farm-fresh egg in there somewhere. On Sunday, about 250 people are expected.
“It’s like going to the best wedding ever,” says Amanda Prost of Hoboken, N.J., who attended last year. “It’s the best cocktail reception ever, the best food ever — and you don’t have to sit through a ceremony.”
This year’s dinner will likely be even more special for the group of us who attended the class last weekend — and those of you who share our tables. Kaye’s enthusiasm for all things sausage rubs off on you.
“I get such a kick out of it,” he says. “There’s such tradition in this stuff.”
Kaye, who cooked at La Panetiere in Rye, Vidalia in Washington, D.C., and Chanterelle in Manhattan and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, joined the kitchen at the Barbers’ first restaurant, Blue Hill in Manhattan, just short of 10 years ago. When the Barbers were planning to open in Westchester, Dan gave Kaye a special assignment: Learn about charcuterie.
“There was a very specific reason I picked up sausage-making,” laughs Kaye. “Dan told me to.
“It was the year before we opened Stone Barns, and Dan said to me: ‘I want you to go out there and learn as much as you can about sausage-making. We’re going to be raising animals and we’re on a farm.’ ”
It was an assignment Kaye, a history major in college, relished. He dived into the culture of sausages and the the art of charcuterie — char is French for meat and cuir means cooked — learning from recipes and traditions from China to Spain to the Middle East and, of course, Europe and America.
He studied books (he likes “The Art of Charcuterie” by Jane Grisgon and “Cooking by Hand” by Paul Bertolli). He broke down a whole pig with Mario Batali, learned from chef Barbara Lynch at The Butcher Shop in Boston, and spent a few days making sausage with Greg Higgins in Portland, Ore.
But his biggest mentor has been Francois Vecchio, a Swiss-born charcutiere and salumiere who has lived in the U.S. since the 1980s. Kaye met him while Vecchio was working for Niman Ranch, the natural meats company.
“We have become quite close, and he often visits Blue Hill when he is in New York so we can make sausage together,” says Kaye. “He has been an amazingly generous teacher and mentor to me and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the art of sausage-making.”
Through all his studies and teachers, Kaye learned what the people in the cultures he’d been studying had known for years: Sausage-making is a common-sense way to use the entire animal over time. Certain parts can cure, so those can wait. Others you eat fresh. After you have the tenderloin to grill or the shoulder to braise, you can use the scraps to make sausage.
“It’s not the primo stuff on the animal,” says Kaye. “There’s this whole range of products, all of which are great, with incredible diversity. You’re able to constantly generate more, and ultimately nothing goes to waste.”
In his genes
An astute observer might have seen Kaye’s newfound expertise coming. Where Kaye grew up in Durban, South Africa, his maternal grandfather, Ash Israelite, owned Ash Casing, which sold natural sausage casings to butchers and sausage-makers. The smell of them stored in plastic buckets in the garage is one of Kaye’s most vivid childhood memories.
“There was this beautiful house with a swimming pool and a three-car garage with two cars,” he says. “And the one garage has such a distinct smell because it had all these samples of casings in plastic buckets. It’s not that pleasant a smell, but you get used to it. And every time I open a new package of sheep or hog casings, I’m 8 years old running around in my grandparents’ driveway, kicking the soccer ball against the wall.”
Funny that now, Kaye’s 3ÿ-year-old son, Jonah, seems to have somewhat of an aversion to exactly that: sausage casings.
“I’ll buy him Applegate Farms organic hot dogs, and what does he do? He’ll only eat them if I take the skin off,” laughs Kaye. “I spend my whole life fitting things into casings and I go home and he’ll only eat sausages without them.”
Sausage casings weren’t Kaye’s only connection to the food world growing up. His parents owned a kosher catering company in Westchester (and he worked there for a while). And that same grandfather, Ash Israelite, had another business that focused on meat. Before Ash Casings, he owned Crown Mills Spiceworks, a butcher-supply company that sold saws, meat grinders and other equipment. Included in the product line were spice blends, such as curry powders and barbecue seasoning blends, that Israelite made himself. Kaye still has the recipes, but they’re for industrial-size quantities.
“I’ve messed around with some of the recipes, but they’re kind of hard to translate for a restaurant kitchen.”
Kaye has, of course, been able to develop his own recipes for sausage. He currently has a repertoire of more than two dozen styles (not all of which will be on the menu at any given time). On Saturday, during the master class, he showed us how to make an assertive red wine-sage pork sausage and a lamb mergeuz, spiced with Moroccan flavors such as cumin, coriander and harissa.
It was as if Kaye had taken the flavors of Italy and Africa and brought them into the kitchen. And — keeping that romantic image of the old French man and his bread in mind — that’s what he strives for every day.
“It’s learning — how do we take those traditions, respect them, master them and find a context in the world of Blue Hill?” he says.
“And I feel like the sausage and beer night is a way we can really explore that in ways that we can’t otherwise. We can’t run a sausage menu every night at Blue Hill, so there’s this opportunity.”
And, says owner David Barber, the farmers, cooks and beer masters will be ready.
Sage and Red Wine Sausage
Adam Kaye prefers to measure in the metric system because it’s easier to convert ratios that way. Any scale should have both Imperial and metric weights on it. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time before starting sausage making. A meat grinder and sausage-stuffer (available as attachments for Kitchen Aid stand mixers) are essential.
1.5 kilograms lean pork shoulder
0.5 kilograms fat back
30 grams salt (1.5 percent)
2 grams finely ground black pepper (0.1 percent)
10 grams sugar (.5 percent)
7 grams minced garlic (.35 percent)
7 grams chopped fresh sage (.35 percent)
1/2 cup red wine
About 7 feet of 29-32 millimeter hog casings
Cut lean pork shoulder and fat back into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread onto a tray and freeze for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, measure your spices and mix them together in a small bowl.
Pass the lean and the fat through the 1/4-inch plate of a grinder into a large mixing bowl.
Add the spice mixture and the red wine to the pork and mix thoroughly by hand. Return to the refrigerator to chill until ready to stuff.
Prepare the hog casings by rinsing and flushing with cool water.
Load the sausage stuffer with the pork mixture and attach an appropriate size stuffing tube.
Slide casings onto stuffer and tie off at one end.
Stuff forcemeat into casings. Take it slowly and evenly so they do not break, but not so slowly that there are huge air pockets in the casings.
Twist off sausage into 5-inch links and prick links with a casing pricker to remove any air pockets.
Lay sausages, uncovered, on a draining rack over a sheet pan for at least 24 hours before using.
Pan fry in a little olive oil over a medium-low flame. Serve just pink for maximum juiciness.
At the Sausage and Beer Dinner
As far as a meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns goes, the Sausage and Beer Dinner is rather atypical.
First, there’s the obvious: no wine. Then, there’s the menu, which revels in meats of all sorts. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to compare the setting to rowdy Oktoberfest in an outdoor beer garden, let’s just say there are communal tables, happy diners and plenty of beer. People let loose a little.
“Everyone at our table was really fun,” says Amanda Prost of Hoboken, N.J., who attended last year’s dinner. “We were all really jovial and having a good time. By the end we were laughing and saying: ‘Table 48! We’re the best table! Yeah, man!’ Now I’m Facebook friends with one of the guys from our table.”
The beermakers sit at the tables, too. Scott Vaccaro, the owner and brewmaster at Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Pleasantville, says he gets peppered with “as many beer questions as you can come up with: ‘What is the difference between ales and lagers? How long has the brewery been there?’ ”
And as the evening goes on, diners have asked specific questions about the beers being enjoyed: What makes this alcohol content stronger? Why does it pair so well?
The evening starts with passed hors d’oeuvres. In the past, they have included such tastes as Testa Croquette with Sauerkraut, Polenta with Lardo, and a Chocolate Cracker with Pork Liver Terrine. This year, Vaccaro is bringing a special cask of beer flavored with orange and lemon thyme from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the farm and education center on whose grounds Blue Hill sits.
A few of the stand-out courses I remember from over the years include the cotechino, a fresh sausage flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper, served with a soft-cooked egg and black beluga lentils. The clove from the sausage matched great with the orange flavor of the Southampton Grand Cru it was paired with. That same year, I loved a trio of tender, smoky pork belly; sultry boudin blanc; and a pushy, assertive garlic sausage. They were served with braised red cabbage, smoked lady apple puree and lardo, and the acidity of Kelso Brewery’s Hop Lager was a welcome foil.
And last year, I loved the bold venison link and loin with rutabaga-date purée, brussels sprouts and cranberries, which was paired with a deep and intense Southampton Imperial Porter.
Adam Kaye likes to keep the menu a surprise, but I heard through the grapevine about one dish: fried bologna.
— Liz Johnson
Here are some of the different styles of sausages and charcuterie that Adam Kaye, chef and kitchen director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, may have on the menu at any given time, not just at Sunday’s dinner:
• Venison bratwurst
• Garlic sausage
• Red wine and sage sausage
• Fresh chorizo
• Venison and Beer sausage
• Boudin blanc
• Boudin noir
• Testa (head cheese)
• Smoked coppa ham
• Smoked pork loin
• Jambon royale
• Pork liver terrine