There was a sausage shop in the lower Haight that Tom used to go to, when he lived in the city. Their Merguez sausage was the bomb, and while the other links came as a single sausage, the Merguez, in the thinner lamb casing, came as a pair. Bonus sausage! When Tom got word that the shop was going out of business, he went right on over and bought out their entire stock of Merguez sausage, pounds and pounds of it, because he just didn’t want to be without it.
Fast forward a decade or so, and our friend Tom has left the city behind to raise goats, sheep and pigs on his Boulder Creek property. When he had to harvest a lamb early this year, he knew just what to make of it.
And when we had a taste of the Merguez sausage, cooked on a smoky grill at his place one evening recently, we knew what sausage to make for this issue of the barbecue-themed journal.
Of course, the history of this sausage goes further back than our buddy’s halcyon days in the city. Moroccan harissa paste brings a spicy North African element to the story, and the spices, fennel and paprika and cumin and coriander, weigh in with warm, earthy notes. Originating in Tunisia and Morocco, the Merguez sausage is also appreciated highly by the French, who like to serve it on bread, topped with French Fries.
Because of a cultural/religious proscription against eating pork, there aren’t many sausages originating from this part of the world. It’s a shame, because this one’s so good. But we don’t mind making and eating it, over and over again.
Make sure to keep the meat as cold as can be during all parts of the process. This means chilling it beforehand, and keeping it in the fridge even for short periods of time while you prepare equipment, and placing the ground meat and stuffed sausages in bowls over ice. This constant attention to temperature results in a finished sausage with a cohesive, rather than crumbly texture. Heat breaks down the bonds that form between fat and lean meat. Even the relatively mild heat created by grinding is best countered by a fastidious attention to chilling the sausage, whenever possible.
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