I once had a bad experience with lamb. I don’t remember the particular occasion; I just know I’ve spent all the years since professing a strong dislike for any food involving this animal.

For this month’s charcutepalooza challenge, we were asked to make pork link sausages. Since I’ve been feeling a little “porked out” (sorry Cathy and Kim!), I decided to confront my hatred of lamb and challenge myself to stuff the North African fresh lamb sausage known as merguez instead.

Last month’s homemade breakfast sausage patties turned out to be super easy to make. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to have such a smooth experience getting sausage into casings all by myself, though, so I decided to persuade fellow local charcutepaloozer’s Julia and Peter to stuff sausages with me.

Beause making sausage is social. And because charcutepalooza rocks.

We planned the get-together quite spontaneously on twitter (this, my friends, is why I love twitter), so I ran out right away to buy lamb from the grass-fed meat market in my town. I was pretty taken aback by the price ($17/pound), but decided to go for it anyway. I ground up my lamb and mixed in the spices the next morning before heading out to Peter’s; you’ll find the lamb merguez recipe (which it turns out I loved) at the end of this post.

I’ve known Julia for years, since long before we both started blogging. Funny enough, neither of us realized the other had a blog until fairly recently…and then we both ended up joining charcutepalooza…wierd. Julia lives pretty near me. She’s so down to earth and an all-around fantastic person (plus she makes fantastic jams), so I love getting together with her to talk food and food blogging. With the hilariously funny Peter thrown into the mix, we had an absolute blast.

Peter is an incredible artist who also happens to be a terrific cook and food writer. I really can’t do justice to this guy’s awesomeness in words, but trust me…he’s awesome. He was our gracious host and teacher, and here are some photos of the day…

Peter fed us well: this is his homemade camembert:

More snacks: Peter’s homemade charcuterie:

Peter “dealing with” the casings:

Peter and Julia making the first batch of sausage:

Notice the sausages and ham hanging from the ceiling…told you Peter was awesome:

Julia contemplating her sausage:

More sausage contemplation:

Peter makes ceramics…here are some of his beautiful dishes:

Peter twisting his chorizo into links:

Some of our days’ work:

Sorry there aren’t any photos of me stuffing my links, but here they are all done:

I served my merguez grilled, alongside a salad of homegrown lettuce, parsley, cilantro, and sliced grilled peaches. I mixed up some harissa with yogurt and olive oil to use as a salad dressing/dipping sauce for the merguez. I no longer hate lamb, and will be making these sausages again, for sure.

Recipe for Homemade Merguez

Adapted from The New York Times, Cathy and Lynda

Ingredients:

*1 teaspoon cumin seeds
*1 teaspoon fennel seeds
*1 teaspoon ground coriander
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1 teaspoon sumac
*2-3 teaspoons paprika
*2-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or even more for a spicier sausage)
*2 pounds lamb shoulder (pastured, if possible), ground and chilled (I used my food processor, but you can also use a Kitchen Aid attachment to grind the meat)
*1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
*4 medium-large garlic cloves, minced
*1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Directions:

1. In a cast-iron skillet over low heat, toast cumin and fennel seeds until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer warm spices to a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to pound them until fine. Combine with the ground coriander, cinnamon, sumac, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the chilled ground lamb with the spices, cilantro, and salt. Pinch off a little of the mixture, form into a patty, and fry in olive oil to see if you like the sausage. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

3. Form sausages into patties to cook immediately or for storing in the refrigerator or freezer, or proceed to stuff the mixture into casings. Chill well before stuffing into casings if going that route (see Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
for a thorough discussion of stuffing sausage if you've never done it before).

To see what’s in store next month, check out the July challenge over at Mrs. Wheelbarrow.