If you like food, cooking, or learning things, then maybe a cooking class is for you. The Two Girls tick all those boxes and we jumped at the chance to enrol in a class at the Sally Wise Cooking School. The school is on the Wise’s property in the green lush of Molesworth. Separate from the main residence, they have a second building with a large commercial kitchen and dining room. Four or five participants line each of the two long stainless steel work benches with thick cutting boards, boning knives and there are appliances in every corner.
There are plenty of different classes at the Wise School. We chose sausage making, the topic we had least experience in. This Girl has poached Malouf’s Middle Eastern chicken, pistachio and ginger sausage in plastic wrap. The Other Girl has a sausage making attachment to her Kitchen Aid. We took Ms Former Chef and headed to the hills early one recent Saturday morning to find out what we didn’t know about sausage making and what we like about cooking schools. Here are 5 things on both.
Getting to know you
Meeting people from different walks of life and discovering what brings them to class is an interesting part of the cooking school experience. What you learn from the other participants can be as interesting as the course itself. New to country life, I quickly identified the cockies and wannabes and so began our living off the land discussions. If there are no formal introductions, do it yourself and learn something unexpected from the class.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
A cooking class is one in all in. We were given a collection of tried and true sausage recipes and collectively made five different sausages. There was a lot of meat cutting, grinding and encasing and a lot of other people’s hands on the samples that were later packed for everyone to take home. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly and at regular intervals. Whether you’re asked to or not.
Value for money
It’s important to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth after a cooking class with new skills and eat-in or take home goodies. As novices there was a lot to learn in the art of sausage making. They were extremely generous with coffee, cake, scones and rolls. Sally introduced us to the delicious combination of porchetta, coleslaw and home-made sweet chilli sauce. She also fried up their home-made bacon and sausage meat off cuts so we could taste the fresh mixture. We took home five sausages for our sausage making efforts.
It’s fun to learn
This isn’t like going back to school, there is no sitting back and taking notes. Everyone got in and cut up the meat for the grinder (chicken, beef, pork and lamb) some minced the meat, others ground up spices and some got elbow deep in hand mixing up the final batches. Everyone got to have a go at filling the casings and linking the sausages like your butcher does. Hands on is a fun way to learn.
The Wise’s were generous with their doggy bag fillers so make sure you bring some plastic containers and something to carry them in when you go to a cooking class. We had little hamburgers of beef and peppercorn sausage mince, Sally’s plum jelly, bacon, egg and coleslaw rolls and leftover scones with greengage jam and date and pumpkin scones. We carried them off in foil and plastic bags but containers would have made it easier.
It’s all about the bass
You can’t sugar coat this – sausages mixture contains about 30% fat. Pork fat to be precise and if you’re going to make sausages you have to buy and add extra fat. They’re a heart attack on a plate. Of course, commercially produced sausages can be any part of the animal from nose to tail, so making your own means you control what else goes in them.
On the plate and in the casing
If there’s a combination you like with your meat, it will probably taste good in a sausage. Apple, chardonnay and chicken or beef and black pepper for example. The fun thing about sausage making is that it allows you to experiment.
Tip – if you’re trying a new recipe, fry up a piece of the sausage meat before you stuff your casing to check the seasoning and flavour combination. There will be some variation in flavour since the packed sausage needs to sit a couple of days before you eat and the flavours will change a bit but you definitely need to make sure you’ve added enough salt.
A couple of words on casings
There’s two types – intestine or collagen. The intestine you buy in a mass, soak in brine and separate for use. We’re told they last for ages. They look like noodles. Collagen comes all processed and packaged. They look like condoms. Whichever you choose, don’t over stuff them with meat. They need a little room to move.
Keep things cold and add moisture
Keeping the meat really cold is not just important for food safety. The cold gives the sausage meat the right texture ensuring the fat doesn’t melt into the meat. Sausages also need moisture so you can easily fill the casings. You can just simply add water to get the correct consistency, or you can experiment with added flavours such as wine, stock or even tomato puree.
And finally, barbeque does not mean incinerate
Charcoal is not a selling point. Sausages need to be cooked slowly and not on the high heat of the great Aussie barbeque. A gentle heat reduces the likelihood you’ll split the sausage and lose its fat and flavours.
Here are some classes we’ve attended –