Most Italian families get together once a year to jar tomatoes for their fresh, secret marinara sauce recipe. We make sausages.
Every February when the weather gets super cold (the colder the better) everyone on my mom’s side of the family gets together for a day of eating, drinking, chatting, eating and making enough sausages to last the year.
As always Nana is at the helm, with each of us at attention, ready for our assignments. Our readiness diminishes over the course of the day as more wine is consumed, so Nana likes to push hard at the get go. The “assignments” are as follows:
Mixer, Stuffer, Cranker, Liner, Pincher, Tie-er, Hanger.
The process starts the night before with my parents, the mixers, and Nana seasoning the tubs of meat. We do a few hot and spicy tubs, but most are without any heat.
The Stuffer, usually my mom, stuffs the meat in the top of the old sausage maker my grandpa “built” back in the day. Apparently my grandparents bought one when they first started this tradition years ago but my grandpa didn’t like it so he put together his own. And that’s the one we use every year.
My uncle cranks the meat out and Nana is there to catch it with the pig intestine lining. She passes it over to the line of Pinchers who poke tiny holes throughout the sausage link to let the air out and prevent any from bursting down the line.
My aunt ties each end with string and then they are brought up to the attic where they will be hung to dry out in the cold for three weeks.
After the three weeks are up the sausages are boiled, cut up and stored in lard, preserving them for the year.
For the most part we tend to stick with the same spot in the assembly line year after year. Whether we like it or not. I say that because I am a pincher. Some years I would like to be a hanger since the hangers get to sit in the attic where all of the fun gossip and making fun of whatever 1960’s paraphernalia we happen to find from our parent’s youth, happens. For whatever reason it has now become a long standing joke that I am not allowed up in the attic. Each year I try…and each year I am “hilariously” denied full access. Sometimes they let me stand on the ladder and watch. That’s how I got that picture.
We ended the day at an extremely loud dinner table eating my mom’s incredible lasagna, arguing about how many weeks the sausages should hang this year – half the table wanting to experiment with a shorter time frame while the other half overreacts to the idea of change and desire to keep at least one thing in their life constant – and last but not least, feeling thankful for being part of a family that values tradition the way we do. Thank you Nana and mom not only for your hard work in organizing and making this happen logistically, but for instilling the values in all of us that make it a no brainer to spend Super Bowl Sunday making sausages.
pictures taken by myself and my sweet cousin Giana