Mini Sausagebot update

Soldering station action shot

Had another sausageBot (curing fridge controller) build session with Spandex at the Nottingham Hackspace last night. We wanted to cut out the sides and  top and bottom panels but the laser cutter was occupied all night. We did manage to drill a hole in the back panel which was far too big for the remote sensor plug (thanks, Maplin advice person! 19mm, my arse!) – I guess we should have actually measured it to confirm, but hey. Ended up gluing that in the end – still looks OK, luckily:

Rear sensor DIN plug
Rear sensor DIN plug

Oh, and the front panel now also has the potentiometers fitted to the silver dials for altering the temperature and humidity set values, and coloured LEDs to show which relays are currently open: blue = fridge (cold), red = heater, green = humidifier, yellow = dehumidifier.

Front panel with status LEDs
Front panel with status LEDs

In the next build session we’ll try to get the remaining enclosure parts built and assembled 🙂

Soldering station action shot
Bonus soldering station action shot!

Kielbasa Wiejska

Kielbasa Wiejska
Kielbasa Wiejska
Kielbasa Wiejska

A fresh Polish sausage – heavy on the garlic and marjoram. Courtesy of Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie.

you need:

  • 1Kg Pork shoulder, diced.
  • 20g Sea salt (or other non-iodised salt)
  • 35g crushed garlic
  • 10g finely chopped fresh marjoram
  • 5g freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of cold water
  • a bag of ice
  • About 6ft of natural hog casings – I get mine from (they last for months if stored in their salty bag in the fridge)

Grab a big non-reactive mixing bowl and mix everything apart from the water together really well, then cover it with clingfilm and stick it in the fridge overnight. Your fridge will smell heavily of garlic in the morning, so maybe use double clingfilm, and remove any eggs you have in there 🙂

Get your mincer blades, the spiral thing and other metal mincer bits and put them in the freezer so they’re seriously cold when you come to mince / stuff it. It’s better to have everything almost freezing when you make sausages otherwise the fat can smear. It’s not so essential for a fine ground fresh sausage such as this, but it’s a good habit to get into nonetheless.

The next day, soak your hog casings in a bowl of warm water for about an hour or so, changing the water every now and then. Offer one end up to a tap and run some water through them to clean them out. Tip: Don’t let go, it’ll disappear down the plughole in about 2 seconds flat if you let it!

Open your garlicky fridge, take the mixture out and run it through the now ice-cold fine plate on your mincer – into a bowl which is in another same sized bowl with ice cubes in.

Put a splash of water in (really, just a very little bit), and mix like a madman with a wooden spoon while it’s still in the bowl above the iced-bowl. If you’ve got one, you can stick it in a food mixer with a paddle attachment for a minute or so, until it starts to get sticky and evenly mixed.

Cover the mixture with clingfilm again and stick it back in the fridge while you fry a piece – to check the seasoning. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Stuff the mixture into the hog casings (this is much easier and more fun with 2 people), then twist them into links. I made them into about 6″ links.

That’s it!

Fry a couple off and have them with sauerkraut, crusty bread, gherkins and mustard. Lovely.

They freeze really well, especially if you vacuum seal them.

Note: they’re very garlicky. I love garlic but I might tone it down a little next time 🙂

SausageBot progress

SausageBot panels
SausageBot panels
SausageBot panels  – just look at them!

Got the front and back panels of the Arduino meat curing chamber sorted today. After work I drove over to Matt Spandex’s house to continue on the sausageBot curing fridge project. We already had some of the main parts bought and assembled, and so after a delicious, unexpected fish supper (thanks, Frances!) we drove to Nottingham hackspace to use their laser cutter for the front and back panels. Spandy had already designed the layout of the panels to fit the components as you can see in this post

I hadn’t been to the hackspace before and it’s great. You pay a subscription (whatever amount you like actually), and you can use what you need, as and when you need it. It’s the first floor of an old Victorian warehouse, kitted out with all manner of tools from cnc machines, laser cutters, lathes, soldering stations, and so on. Pretty much everything. It was fairly busy when we got there, but there’s plenty of room and noone using the laser cutter – result! So after about an hour trying to figure out how to import the sketches of the panels into the laptop hooked up to the laser cutter, we were in business.

The laser cutter is magic. Did we place the acrylic in the right place not to screw it all up? You’re damn right we did.

Anyway, here are the results from tonight’s session. I’m seriously impressed with the accuracy of this thing. All the components just clipped right into the holes! Kudos to Spandy, again for the design work 🙂

Front and back panels laser cut
Front and back panels laser cut
rear panel with power sockets fitted
rear panel with power sockets fitted
Fitting various components
Fitting various components
Front panel with knobs and screen!
Front panel with knobs and screen!

That green switch on the right hand side is pretty sexy, and it will light up when it’s on. It’s so satisfying to click on and off that I might have to duct tape it on in case I get tempted when actually in production.

Anyway, the next job is to get all the relays glued (or fixed somehow) to the base of the enclosure, fit the status LEDs (those are the 4 holes on the front panel with nothing in at the moment), wire it all up, then plug everything else in (fridge, humidifier, heater, etc)

I really can’t wait! Stay tuned….

Building a dry curing chamber

My soon to be Curing fridge

I’m building a dry curing chamber out of a fridge – for fermented sausages and drying cured meats. This means I can make salami, guanciale, coppa and all the other really good stuff.

When you’re hanging meats to dry them (prosciutto, for example) you need the relative humidity to be about 70%RH, and the temperature in the region of 12-15C, warmer and wetter than most fridges are prepared to run, so you need some additional equipment to maintain these parameters. We don’t have ideal conditions in the UK to do this without a little gadgetry.

I won’t go over all the ins and outs of how to do this here – these guys have done it all before and are the authority on it as far as I can see:

Look at all that beautiful stuff they make. mmmmm.

Anyway, I bought a large fridge, here it is:

My soon to be Curing fridge
My soon to be Curing fridge

Should have enough room in there!

I also bought a reptile vivarium controller which monitors and controls temperature and humidity, and an ultrasonic humidifier. I plugged all this in to see how it would work without anything sausagey hanging in there. I set the temperature to 13C, and the variance to 2C. This means that the fridge compressor starts when the temperature gets up to 15C, and stops cooling when it hits 11C. Simple enough. But temperature control is the easy part.

Controlling relative humidity is far more tricky. When running empty, the humidity in the chamber was all over the place, going from too high, to far too low. Hardly ideal, and would have ended up ruining quite a lot of potentially tasty meat.

So I made a sacrificial batch of Mexican style chorizo to test out the chamber’s drying capabilities. This cold-smoked chorizo only needed to hang for about a week, long enough for me to work out how well / terribly it might behave.

I hung up the sausages and began monitoring. They hung  in there for a week and by that time they’d lost roughly 20% weight. But the humidity was still all over the place so for things which need much longer drying times this might not end well.

Here they are after being hung – I’ll make another post about how I made them at some point.

Cold smoked chorizo after hanging
Cold smoked chorizo after hanging

But I need more flexibility and control.

I was chatting all this through with my friend Spandex – (he is both tall and wise) –  and he said, “Someone must have done this with Arduino before”. I’d heard of Arduino before but never had experience with home electronics projects (other than building PCs), and the thought of wiring up mains appliances to relays is frankly pretty terrifying. He makes a lot of cool modular synth stuff so it’s right up his street.

So we hatched a plan to build a “sausageBot” – an Arduino-based controller which will monitor everything via sensors, and control all the equipment through relays. Spandex will be doing all the wiring and soldering and I’ll be asking daft questions and thinking about meat.

In return I have offered to pay him in cured meats. What a winner.

Here are a couple of mock-ups of how the case for sausageBot might look once finished:

Enclosure mockup - front
Enclosure mockup – front
Enclosure mockup - top
Enclosure mockup – top

last night we started to build the innards.

We went for a “let’s put something together and see what happens” approach. We’ve got a basic layout on breadboard, with the arduino reading temperature and humidity from the sensor, and we’ve also wired up the circuit for the first relay. Exciting stuff!

Sausagebot breadboard test
Sausagebot breadboard test
Temperature and humidity values being recorded
It’s alive!

It’s obviously very early days but exciting nonetheless. Will post more progress when there’s some to show 🙂

How to make a shooter’s sandwich

Shooter's sandwich - the perfect picnic food?
Shooter's sandwich - the perfect picnic food?
Shooter’s sandwich – the perfect picnic food?

I went fishing yesterday so I thought I’d make a shooter’s sandwich to take with me. Traditional fare for Edwardian hunters, it’s perfect to take with you when you’re hunting or fishing or just having a picnic. And it’s dead easy to make, like most things it just needs a  little time.

It needs:

  • A nice round crusty loaf
  • A couple of steaks
  • Shallots
  • Mushrooms (about twice the amount of shallots you have)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Mustard and horseradish
  • A bunch of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • A clove of garlic (optional)
  • Butter (definitely not optional)
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Tinfoil
  • String

To make it:

  • Finely dice all the mushrooms and shallots (and garlic, if using), add a big knob of butter and gently fry in a large pan, until the mushrooms have lost most of their moisture.
  • Season the mixture with salt, loads of black pepper and the Worcestershire sauce. Add the chopped parsley, mix it up nicely and set aside for now.
  • Cut the top off the loaf to make a lid, and scoop out most of the inside (save the rest to make breadcrumbs, or just nibble on it as you do the rest, or take it fishing)
  • Season and fry the steaks until (at most) medium rare (if you like your steaks well done you can show yourself out now).
  • Tuck one freshly cooked steak into the bottom of the hollowed out loaf, and cover it with the mushroom mixture.
  • Put the other steak on top of this.
  • Spread loads of mustard (I use Dijon) and horseradish onto the top steak and on the inside of the lid.
  • Pop the lid back onto the loaf,
  • Wrap the loaf up in the grease proof paper and tie it up tightly with string.
  • Wrap it all in tinfoil
  • Get a chopping board, or a baking tray (basically something flat), put that on top of the filled loaf and weigh it down with lots of weight. Food tins, books, whatever you can find.
  • Put it somewhere cool and leave it for about 4 or 5 hours, or preferably overnight, until it’s compressed.
  • Unwrap from the foil, and cut through the grease proof paper.
  • Tuck in!

Is it the best sandwich in the world? I have no idea, but it’s one of my favourite foods to take fishing. I could live off one of these for a weekend 🙂

Shooter's sandwich mise en place
Shooter’s sandwich mise en place
Frying the mushroom and shallot mixture
Frying the mushroom and shallot mixture
Hollowing out the loaf
Hollowing out the loaf
With the first steak and the mushroom mixture in
With the first steak and the mushroom mixture in
Smearing horseradish on the second steak, mustard on the inside of the lid
Smearing horseradish on the second steak, mustard on the inside of the lid
Wrapped in paper and tied
Wrapped in paper and tied
Added the weights
Added the weights
After pressing
After pressing
Shooter's sandwich - the perfect picnic food?

Beetroot pickled eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs
Beetroot pickled eggs
Beetroot pickled eggs

I like pickled eggs anyway but these were a bit of a revelation. Sweet and delicious.

They don’t taste anything like those sad looking pickled eggs you see on the chip shop shelf, drowned in pure acetic acid. I wish I had a shot of these sliced up. They’re pink all the way through apart from the middle of the yolk. I was too busy mmm’ing to take a picture at that point I think.

Anyway here’s how you make them. You need:

  • Half a dozen or so free range eggs
  • A fresh beetroot or two
  • A couple of shallots, sliced
  • Cider vinegar – about 125ml
  • White wine vinegar  – about 125ml
  • Castor sugar – about 50 grams
  • A teaspoon of sea salt
  • A sterilised Kilner jar (or other vinegar safe jam jar)

Sterilise the jar (wash it well in hot soapy water, rinse, and pop into the oven to dry out at about 180C, OR put them through the dishwasher, then dry in a low oven) If you’re using a Kilner jar, don’t put the rubber seal in the oven 🙂

  • Hard boil the eggs. If you’re anything like me, you’ll ruin a few trying to peel them. Boil a few extra, and eat the ones you don’t like the look of, while you’re getting on with the rest of it.
  • Peel and dice the beetroot, then boil in a little water until tender. Save the water.
  • Put the eggs, beetroot chunks, and shallots into the jar (or jars).
  • Put the vinegars, sugar and salt in with the saved beetroot water and bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar and salt have dissolved. A couple of minutes or so.
  • Pour the vinegar solution over the eggs, beetroot and shallots in the jar, allow it to cool to room temperature and seal it.

Pop the jar into the fridge for a week before eating (if you can last that long!)

That’s it!

You could add other things to the brine if you like. Garlic, mustard seeds, whatever. Up to you, but I like them just like this.

Pain d’epi

Pain d'epi - fresh out of the oven
Pain d'epi - fresh out of the oven
Pain d’epi – fresh out of the oven

Or wheatstalk bread – because it looks like a wheat plant’s stalk. It’s a lovely looking, and super easy baguette recipe which takes a little over 2 hours in total, including proving and baking time. Originally from Lorraine Pascal’s book.

For one loaf you need:

  • 275g strong white flour
  • 2tsp dried yeast
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 175ml warm water
  • 1tbsp olive oil


  • Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (you can start the dried yeast first if you like: just pop it in a small bowl with some warmish water for a few minutes)
  • mix it all up, adding water slowly until it comes together, then add the tbsp of olive oil
  • knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it’s nice and bouncy and elastic
  • form into a ball, then roll it into a long sausage shape
  • dust a baking sheet with flour and pop it on there
  • Cover with (lightly oiled) clingfilm, and put somewhere warm for an hour or so, until roughly doubled in size (got an airing cupboard? perfect!)
  • preheat the oven to 200-220C (your oven might be lying to you. Test it sometime with a probe thermometer to check)
  • Snip the sausage shaped baguette with scissors roughly every few inches, pushing the dough alternately left and right
  • Sprinkle with a bit of flour and sea salt. I added some sesame seeds too
  • Spray the inside of the oven with a plant sprayer (make sure it’s only had water in!) You can also put some water or ice cubes in a little bowl at the bottom of the oven. This helps with the “Oven spring”
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on it
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • rip a piece off whilst still warm, butter it and enjoy!

It’s really that easy. It looks “artisanal”, and it tastes really good. What’s not to like? This would be a great loaf to make with kids.

Some photos:

Pain d'epi - rolled into a sausage
Pain d’epi – rolled into a sausage
Pain d'epi - after provign for an hour or so
Pain d’epi – after provign for an hour or so
pain d'epi - broken
pain d’epi – broken
pain d'epi - crumb detail
pain d’epi – crumb detail

Breton bread

Breton bread

Breton bread is a French loaf, from Brittany. I made this a while back, the recipe is from Richard Bertinet’s “Crust” book. It’s still the best bread I’ve ever made. Really chewy crust, nice crumb, great flavour, and it stayed fresh for ages. Here’s how I made it:

Make 2 large loaves.

For the ferment:

  • 10g fresh yeast (if you can find any, I used about 4g dried)
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 350g water

Mix together (yeast into flour first), work the dough, return to your lightly floured mixing bowl and cover with a teatowel, or plastic bag, whatever.

Leave at room temp for 6 hours, or for up to 48 hours in the fridge. I left mine for 48 hours, it had a bit of a crusty top, but there was roughly double the amount I needed for the loaves.

Bread method:

  • 15g Sel-gris (Sel-gris is a French, unrefined mineral rich sea-salt, grey in colour. I couldn’t get any so I used coarse Maldon sea salt)
  • 700g water
  • 750g strong white flour
  • 200g buckwheat flour
  • 50g dark rye flour
  • 300g fermented white dough (above)
  • 10g fresh yeast (or about 4g dry/easybake in my case)
  • a little flour for dusting, semolina for your peels if using one

1.Stick oven on at 250C, pop your baking stones, or whatever in there to heat up. I finally got around to trying my large piece of larvikite[1] which was from a friend’s kitchen sink cutting out. It didn’t explode – yay!

Larvikite baking stone
Larvikite baking stone

2.Dissolve the salt in some of the water, then mix all the ingredients (including the salt) in a large mixing bowl. When it comes together in the bowl, use a scraper to turn it out onto the UNFLOURED work surface. Work the dough with the french method (or at least try – here’s Richard Bertinet doing it properly)

3.lightly flour the bowl, form the dough into a ball, and cover with a cloth, leave it for 45 minutes. I left it an hour or so.

4.lightly flour the work surface, turn dough out and fold, forming into a ball as before, then rest as before, about another hour.

5.Cut dough in half, shape into 2 round loaves. Flour proving baskets (or if like me you don’t have any, use mixing bowls lined with cloths). Cover with a baking cloth, and leave for about 2 hours at room temp. Should be roughly 1.5 – 2x the size.

6.Dust peels with semolina (i used a flat baking tray, with flour), turn a loaf out onto each one. Slash the tops with a lame (or fillet knife in my case, the sharper the better)

7.Quickly open the oven door and generously spray inside of the oven with water. Slide the loaves onto the baking stones, spray quickly again, then close door.

8.Give them about 5 minutes at 250C (my oven only goes to 230C), then turn down to about 210C, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. Mine took about 40 minutes before they sounded hollow when tapped underneath.

9.Take them out and cool on wire racks


Breton bread dough
Breton bread dough
Proving the dough
Proving the dough
The finished loaves
The finished loaves

Making demi glace

Demiglace ingredients
Demiglace ingredients
Demiglace ingredients

I love making stock.

So much so that I’m currently banned from making any more as I’ve run out of room. I tend to have a fairly decent stash of various types in the “overflow” freezer. Lamb, Beef, Pork, LOTS of chicken, duck, fish, and of course a nice stash of demi glace. That is something I can’t be without now, demiglace transforms lacklustre sauces into something else entirely, adding lots of depth of flavour. It’s a silver bullet for sauces and gravy. That, and butter of course.  It’s probably why restaurant sauces taste so good compared to home cooked versions, even if you follow the recipe to the letter.

But it takes a long time to make demi glace, and lots of room, and patience. I make it about twice a year. I like having something cooking slowly all weekend, plus it makes the house smell great. Nice and Beefy.

I got this recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook. You will need some BIG stockpots for this. I bought a huge one precisely for this purpose from a shop in Leicester (Melton road to be precise) – it’s like an Aladdin’s cave – go down the stairs and it’s full of all sorts of wonderful stuff. More on that another time.

  • I order veal shin (or marrow bones) from JTBeedham butchers in Sherwood, Nottingham. I’ll call up a few days beforehand and ask him to keep some aside for me when he breaks down the cows. I get him to saw them up into more manageable pieces for me too.
  • Then I buy a shedload of carrots, onions and celery. And some tomato puree.
  • I smear the bones in tomato puree, sprinkle on some flour and swizz them all about to cover them in it.
  • Then I peel the veg, which totals about 30% volume of the bones, made up of 50% white onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery.
  • Roast the bones in a 180C (ish) oven, jiggle them about from time to time to get them nicely covered. Don’t burn them otherwise you’ve lost.
  • Pop the chopped and peeled veg into another oiled roasting pan (or two). Roast that lot until it’s nicely browned on the edges, but not burnt.
  • Once that’s done – your house should smell very beefy. Nice. Put everything into a huge stockpot (or two) and fill it with cold water. Add some Thyme sprigs, black peppercorns and a few bay leaves. Bring that lot up to a simmer, but DON’T LET IT BOIL.
  • Simmer it as slowly as you can lot for 10 or so hours. TEN HOURS. Occasionally skim off any scum from the top.
  • Then strain it all through a chinois, or through some muslin in a seive, as many times as you can be bothered. The more the better. Let it cool down. You now have a basic brown beef (or veal) stock. I tend to keep some of this back and freeze it. You never know when you need some beef stock. Mmm, beefy.
  • Then put red wine equal to about a quarter of the volume of stock there is into another stockpot, add a few finely chopped shallots and reduce it over high heat by half. Then add the stock you have left to it. bring it up to a simmer, again – don’t boil it!
  • Let that reduce down slowly for a few hours, until it’s super-reduced, but not really sticky. It’s normally Sunday afternoon by this point for me, if I start on a Saturday morning.
  • Once it’s nice and reduced, take it off the heat and run it through the chinois (or muslin) again a few times. Then store it. I put it into ice cube bags and freeze it. That way I can pop a beefy ice cube out of the freezer at any time.

I know it takes a while to make, but this stuff is great.

Here’s what I end up with after a weekend’s worth of reduction. Essence of beef. All those bones and veg (less about a pint or so of “normal stock” I pinched for the freezer) got me a litre of demi. Totally worth it.


Demiglace yield
Demiglace yield

All bagged up:


Ready to freeze
Ready to freeze

Making sauerkraut


I don’t know why I didn’t start doing this before. It’s about as easy as falling off a bike, but better for you. So here’s how I do it:

  • Get a food grade bucket, or if you’re really posh, get a sauerkraut fermentation vessel, or crock. I use a bucket which cost me about £3.
  • Thinly slice up some cabbage, with a mandolin if you’re not so keen on your fingers.
  • add some salt (For 2 cabbages I used about 2tbsp sea salt), mix it all up well  in the bucket, push it down flat. I like to add some caraway seeds in there too. I then put a couple of the outside leaves on top of the chopped cabbage.
  • put a plate, or other (sanitised) weight on top of the cabbage in the bucked to hold it down, make sure it’s all underneath the brine which will be produced after a few hours.
  • put the bucket in a coolish place , and wait. Check it the next day to make sure the cabbage is completely underwater. If there’s not enough natural brine created to submerge the cabbage, you can add a bit more brine.
  • taste it every now and then to see how it’s coming on. I leave mine for about 3 weeks so it’s nice and sour.
  • Once it tastes nice and sour – or how you like it (no hard and fast rules here) – put it into sterilised jars. You want the jars with a waxy inside lid. (how to sterilise jars)
  • optionally process the cans (with pop-up type lids) in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. This video gives a quick overview of the canning process.
  • let the jars cool.
  • If the lids don’t go “pop”, they haven;t sealed properly and they’re only safe to be kept in the fridge, otherwise keep them on the shelf in the pantry.
  • eat the delicious, tangy sauerkraut at your leisure. Great with sausages and mustard!

It really is very tasty, cheap, and good for you.

Do it.

Here’s a shot of my fermentation bucket ready to put the weight on.

Soon to be sauerkraut in fermentation bucket
Soon to be sauerkraut in fermentation bucket
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