Every homemade pizza is personal--and that's not about the size. Pizza is about the people in your life. (Plus, a sausage recipe.)
Here’s a warning: In this one, we’re going to be talking a lot about men making sausage.
Get all your snickering and Freudian sausage jokes out of the way now. And if you can’t do that, just leave. This is not that kind of blog. (Well not today, anyway. Probably.)
Today, the story is about Wayne. He’s been an enthusiastic pizzamaker since the beginning of Free The Pizza. He’s written fan mail about the book. He’s even sent along pizza pics.
Clearly, for him, making pizza is a joy.
But earlier this week, he sent over an entire series of photos along with a story. He says, “I know lots of people make sausage pizza. But in my case, I make the sausage, too!”
I thought, OK. Who can blame the guy? Pizza is the kind of thing that attracts enthusiasts, who also get enthusiastic about other things, right?
Oh, no. This is not the same as a dabbler like me saying, “Hey, I think I’ll dabble in sausage making.” This is much bigger than that.
Waye continues, “My grandparents were German-Russian immigrants who escaped the brutality of the Russians and made it to America in the 1920's.
“I had the good fortune to grow up with my maternal grandparents living with my parents and my older brother full time.
“My grandma made some wonderful German meals, and my grandpa had a sausage recipe (all in his head) that he made during special occasions (Christmas, Easter, etc.) when all my aunts, uncles and cousins would come to visit. I have many fond memories ‘helping’ grandpa make that sausage!”
OK, I admit I had to stop for a moment at the word “helping” in quotes. I assume that, at the time, Wayne was a pretty young kid. The helping was probably more like playing along. It’s a cute image that most folks can relate to. I remember “helping” my dad rake leaves when I was six. Anyway, back to Wayne…
“For some reason I got the bug to make sausage this weekend. I still have the sausage stuffer my grandfather used all those years ago and some handwritten notes my mom put together a long time ago. Those notes and my memories were all the recipe I had.”
The email is illustrated with several images of Wayne putting the sausage into casings and tying them off, and some beauty shots of the sausage itself. The main blog image up top is his final product. It’s some fine looking cased meat, for sure.
Of course, being the savvy pizza maker that he now is, Wayne did not put all of the meat into casings. Instead, he fried up some fairly substantial chunks of sausage to render out some of the fat, and put them onto a pizza along with a blend of lots of asiago and parmesan cheese.
“And, of course, the pizza dough and sauce recipes from your Free The Pizza book!” No, I did not pay him for the promotional mention. He did this of his own accord.
Wayne was making this pizza for his mate, who apparently likes “lots of meat and cheese on her pizza.”
But he also says, “I know, it breaks a lot of your rules.” And that comment is followed by a frowny emoticon. (Remember emoticons? We used them before emojis took all the skill out of silly non-verbal typed communication.)
This is where I say: There are no rules. I will steal Peter Reinhart’s go-to line in cases like this one: “The only flavor rule is flavor rules.” And while this is more of a situation about quantity over flavor, it still applies.
Yes, there are inviolable rules about dough. If you don’t have flour, water, salt and yeast, you don’t have dough. But my advice is that “less is more.”
And if your house believes that more is more, live it up! If that pizza with three pounds of fresh, homemade German sausage makes you happy, go nuts!
I’m just glad that Free The Pizza provides Wayne with a guide to make that pizza possible. I’ve had fan mail from several guys who were unable to make pizza in their little, outdoor pizza ovens until they read my book—which says very explicitly inside and implicitly on the front cover: You don’t need a pizza oven!
(I love that. And it’s part of the challenge with American culture: We often believe the tools are the solution. But without the skill to use the tool, the tool is useless. Even a hammer requires a degree of finesse to use it well. Sausage stuffers, too. But I digress.)
Wayne concludes his message by pointing out that his pizzas are becoming more round, then says:
“It was delicious and brought back some happy memories!”
This little episode underscores one of the challenges I have with Pizza Social. There are so many people out there telling everyone how they’re doing it wrong.
If your pizza makes you happy (and more importantly, keeps your significant pizza eaters happy), then it’s good pizza. It doesn’t matter how round it is. It doesn’t matter how heavily loaded with toppings it is. It doesn’t matter what cheese you do or don’t put on it. It doesn’t matter what flour you’re using as long as it develops enough of a gluten network to make a pizza stay together. (OK, if you’re trying to make a pizza with very low protein pastry flour, you’re probably doing it wrong. But now we’re talking about science.)
But most important is that like so many foods, pizza is a product of memories. I remember my first pizza. I think I was 4 years old. It was glorious. A take-out cheese pizza with some big, charred bubbles on it
And Wayne’s memories of his grandparents and their recipes are part of the fabric of Wayne’s personal pizza paradigm.
I make a pizza that’s topped with étouffée. I’m sure there are purists out there who find that barbaric and think I should burn in the woodfired oven of hell.
But that pizza always reminds me of my late Aunt Barbara, nickname Potsey. She was a proud Cajun woman from Louisiana who (like all Cajuns, it seems) loved her indigenous foods—despite being a seasoned world traveler who could tell you about cuisine from Moscow to Paris, from Singapore to San Francisco.
Interestingly, I never ate pizza with her. I’m not even sure we ever had étouffée together. Nonetheless, that one’s called Pizza For Potsey. Just because.
When my brothers and I were young, maybe 8, 10 and 12, we went to lunch with our great uncle Carl at a now long-gone Miami Beach landmark called Picciolo’s. Each of us insisted we could eat an entire pizza ourselves.
My uncle was fascinated. We each sat there with what must’ve been 18-inch pizzas in front of us and inhaled them. Mostly. (I think we each got down six of eight slices. Boys challenged food and food won.)
I remember that pizza very specifically for its cornicione, which was brushed with olive oil prior to baking. Any time I encounter an olive-brushed cornicione, I think of Carl.
Every pizza has a story. Your story. If you're still wondering about how to tell your once upon a pizza, one place to begin your tale is between the pages of Free The Pizza: A System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have by clicking here.
Want an easy sausage recipe? Here ya go. It’s not Wayne’s grandfather’s sausage, which was probably a German flavor profile. This is more Italian in its flavors. It’s also spicy. But change it up as you wish. Experimenting is part of the fun.
Italian bulk sausage recipe
3 pounds ground pork
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1.5 tablespoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon honey
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the pork and the vinegar. Knead everything together with your hands until it looks like sausage.
(That means until everything is evenly distributed.)
You can use the sausage immediately. You can freeze all or part of it. If freezing, I recommend dividing it up first. I make half-pound flats and store them in sandwich-sized zippered storage bags. (I find a half-pound is a convenient portion to have handy. And flats are a more practical shape in my small freezer than are logs or bricks.)
I use chunks of this sausage on pizza, often with mushrooms. (One of my favorite pizzas.) I also use it in pasta sauce. And you can grill sausage patties and serve them on burger rolls.
Just don’t serve it raw. Italian sausage sashimi is a crime against sausage, sashimi, and Italians and other humans.
And if you're interested in making a pizza that may or may not be covered in homemade sausage, check out the simple and silly pizzamaking manual, Free The Pizza: A System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have by clicking here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, pro-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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