Here's a special treat for any family that enjoys truly hearty meat-and-potato meals. It's called potato bologna, and it's one of the most economical — yet filling — old-timey foods I know of. It's also a lot of fun to make!
We cook up a big batch of these bolognas once a year — in November — to serve with holiday meals, give away to friends, or just to have handy for those chilly winter nights when the ole taste buds water for this savory dish. You can make potato bologna any time of the year, though. It's easy:
First, round up some natural, 100 percent hog-intestine sausage casings. Check all the local meat markets...and if that fails to reward you with any of the "bologna wrappers", try a slaughterhouse. One pound of casings will be enough to make 12 to 15 individual bolognas.
And you do want pork casings, not beef. The latter are simply too large in diameter for this use.
OK. Once you've brought the casings home, it's time to wash them to remove the salt cure (which they'll probably have if you bought them in a store). Begin by soaking the skins in cold water to cleanse them outside...then — in order to clean them inside — pull one end of each casing over the mouth of a water faucet, gently turn the cold water on, and — to avoid a blowout — carefully unkink the delicate tubing by hand as it fills. (If you're working with fresh pig innards, you'll want to be sure to boil the washed viscera, to kill harmful micro-organisms.)
When you've finished washing it, cut the long tube into a number of 15-to-20 inch segments. (True, you could've done this before you began the washing operation . . . but — in my experience — it's more fun for everyone if the casing is left in just one slippery, flexible piece as long as possible.)
Now you're ready to make bologna!
10 pounds of raw potatoes
1 medium onion
3 pounds of ground beef
3 pounds of pork sausage
3 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of pepper
Peel the potatoes, cover them with water in a large pot, boil for 1 minute, and drain. This parboiling will keep the spuds from dripping profusely during the next step...which is to put the taters through the meat grinder, using a coarse blade setting. (While you're at it, grind up the onion as well. You can — if you want — grind up two onions...but remember that the onion flavor will become noticeably stronger after you freeze the bologna.)
Now combine the meats, potatoes, onion, and spices. Mix thoroughly. (Note: You can substitute marjoram, sage, and/or rose mary for the allspice...however, you might want to make up a small "trial" bologna and taste it before deciding which spices — and how much of them — to use in your own personal recipe.)
The next step is to — somehow — stuff the meat-and-potatoes mixture into the 15 inch lengths of casing. Some kitchen mixers and grinders come with sausage-stuffing aids...but if yours (like mine) doesn't, you'll have to improvise. What I do is fit the end of a short piece of 1inch-diameter pipe into the end of a casing, then pack the meat-and-potatoes mix into the pipe with my fingers. (This can be a mite messy...which is why I limit my bologna making to one grand slam per year!)
Regardless of how you do it, pack each casing until it's almost full, but not taut. (It'll swell as it cooks.)
At this point, you can do either of two things: store your uncooked bolognas in the freezer until they're needed, or cook them, then freeze them. I usually take the first route.
Cooking the bolognas is simple. Just cover one (or more) with water in a pan and boil , without a lid, gently for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on the size of the bologna)...then lift the big sausage or sausages out of the water, set them on a plate to cool for a few minutes, and serve.
I should mention that some folks like to tie their bolognas' ends shut with string prior to cooking . . . in which case it's necessary to prick the casings (to release trapped steam during cooking) before the sausages are simmered. I prefer simply to cook each portion with the ends loose, however. The steam seeps out through the ends...and the filling — for reasons I don't understand — stays right where it should.
To eat the bologna, just fork the steaming-hot meat,potato and onion spice mixture out of the skin one bite at a time. (Afterwards, discard the casing.) You'll find that the bologna's subtle, distinctive flavor makes it equally enjoyable as a snack, appetizer, side dish, or main dish.
Once you've tried it, I'm sure you'll agree: There's nothing quite like good, old-fashioned potato bologna!
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