Merguez: three painful hours

The last time I endured 3 hours of French-related agony was in grad school when, in an attempt to convince my girlfriend I was all that, I sat through Germinal.  It was the longest, darkest movie I never understood.

Lucky enough to still have that woman in my life, I tried to make something she and I would enjoy to relive a past adventure to Paris.  I tried my hand at merguez.  A spicy, really red, greasy link sausage most perfectly served with couscous.  Despite SaucissonMAC's expertise and directed readings, I was overwhelmed  trying to find a recipe.  Having had it in Paris once long ago, I believed I could recall enough to alter a recipe that would reproduce what we ate so long ago.  I'm recording this less than successful episode because I'd like to try again.

Here's some details:

  • Lamb, 2000 g, from a 9 lb halal shoulder from Mediterranean Food Imports, cut by the butcher into pieces, ground twice using a small die (yield about 3 kg, kept some for later)
  • Pork fat, 250 g, (so much for the halal thing)
  • Salt, 30 g (only 6 g/lb, but I was relying on getting some additional  salt from the harissa)
  • Garlic, 25 g finely minced
  • Paprika, Spanish sweet, 2T
  • Paprika, spicy, 2T
  • Cumin, 2T ground
  • Coriander, 2T ground
  • Cinnamon, 1t
  • harissa, 60 g, a commercial preparation from the same market (this is where SaucissonMAC may yell at me), this was the brand I used.
  • water, 60 g

See a few pics below of the process.  Should've been more images, but my hands were busy trying to muffle the f-bomb attack.

After mixing until slightly sticky, I fried a sample patty.  With $45 dollars of lamb on the line, I feared too much salt or too much hot (harissa) and I fell content too quickly.  The salt was perfect but (in hindsight) it lacked heat and it wasn't red enough.  I really, really wanted the blazing red color.  I now realize the signature of this sausage is harissa and I should've made my own, but the stuff I bought tasted good and  was smokin' hot; I think I was simply too light on it.

To this point, the prep was a delightful walk through the kitchen.  Then came stuffing into the sheep casings and I was immediately transported to the mines with Depardieu choking with black lung.  The casings were tough to thread on the stuffing funnel, they tore, etc.  I forged ahead for a few hours. I manged about 3 lbs of links and saved the rest as bulk.

While not a total flop, it's a darn good lamb sausage, but definitely room for improvement.