Merguez Sausage

What You'll Need

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • good kitchen knife and clean cutting surface
  • mortar and pestle
  • meat grinder and sausage stuffer
  • 2 mixing bowls that can nest inside one another
  • cast iron skillet
  • mixing spoon
  • grill
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb
  • 1 pound lamb, beef, or pork fat
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup harissa
  • 1/3 cup iced water
  • lamb casings, rinsed and soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to stuffing

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. merguez ingredients


Prepare the casings, and allow them to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

Toast the cumin seed, coriander, and fennel in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, for about 3 minutes, or until they become browned and fragrant. toast spicesTransfer the spices to a mortar and pestle, and grind them to a fine powder. To this mixture, add the ground paprika, sumac, cayenne, and salt, and mix well.
grind spices
Prepare the meat. Cube the lamb and the fat into rough cubes, about an inch square, removing any veins or gristle that you encounter.
cube meat
Toss the cubed meat and spices together in a large bowl until all are evenly coated. toss with spicesAdd the minced garlic and the harissa, and mix well.
add minced garlic
mix wellGrind the meat mixture through a grinder fitted with a fine grinding plate, into a bowl set over ice.
grind over ice bath
Add the iced water to the ground sausage, and mix well, for about 2 minutes, so that the water is fully incorporated, and the spices are well distributed throughout. add ice waterTo test the sausage, fry up a small amount, and taste the flavoring; this is the last chance to add additional spices before stuffing. Add additional spicing, as necessary.
test sausage
Prepare a sausage stuffer, or the stuffing attachment on a grinder or Kitchen Aid. Pull the soaked casings over the stuffing tube, and tie off the end. Set a bowl over ice below the stuffing attachment, to catch the sausage as it comes off the tube.
stuff sausage
Stuff the sausage into the lamb casing, supporting the casing and gently advancing it as the casing becomes full. If the casing breaks, stop the grinding, and twist the casing so that the meat is not splitting out the sides.

Continue stuffing until all the meat is in casings. Gently twist the links to the desired length, ideally about 6” long.

To cook the sausages, prepare a charcoal grill and grill over medium-high heat, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 155° F.
grill sausages
Remove the links from the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Over to You

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