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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

John Morrell Little Smokies Review

John Morrell Little Smokies ReviewI continue my quest for the world’s tastiest Little Smokies.  So far, by a wide margin, Hillshire Farms Beef are my favorite….in the number two slot is the in-house brand at discount grocer Aldi.   It’s not a close second as far as the primary criteria, flavor and texture, no, Aldi places for value… regularly nearly half the price of the big brands.  (Hillshire Farm are usually $4.99, sometimes $4.49, and Aldi clock in at $2.99 always.

Today I tried out John Morrell; a product that the package promises “Plump Meaty Bites.” Morrell is a meat company that traces its roots back to 1827 England.  They sell products under a number of brand names that they have acquired over the years:  Ekrich,  Armour, Kretschmar,  Krakus.   Morrell itself is now owned by Smithfield, which of course, became a Chinese owned company recently.  (Not sure if it’s a good idea for US food companies to sell out to Chinese, just sayin’).

There can be some confusion between “little smokies” and “cocktail franks.”  Cocktail franks taste like mini wieners and are most often found floating in a chafing dish full of barbecue sauce at a party or event you wished you hadn’t attended.  Little smokies are more “sausage-like” in both texture and flavor.

I grabbed the Morrell package because it was substantially discounted compared to Hillshire, maybe $3.49.  Although the package says ‘little smokies,”  these are clearly cocktail franks, an extruded type sausage with the same fine grind and ingredients, and seasonings of one of Morrell’s hot dog products, I am sure.  Not only do they taste and feel like a frank, they are a much lighter color than the Hillshire Farm beef products.

What is an extruded sausage?   A slurry of ingredients is produced, and squirted into a collagen casing, which can be edible or non-edible.  If the latter, it is stripped off in the last state of manufacturing (fascinating to watch).  Newer technologies offer ‘spray on’ collagen casings, the operator can designate different thicknesses, in order to emulate the feel of a natural casing (intestines).

Morrell’s product is pork and mechanically separated chicken.  Hillshire Farms, ain’t.

Does the Morrell product place on my ‘consider regularly’ list?  Nope.  If I wanted little wieners, I’d buy wieners and chop them.  My taste in Little Smokies requires a resemblance in flavor and taste akin to “real sausage”, so I’ll suck up on the purchase price and stay with Hillshire Farms.

The Morrell package does not indicate a USDA plant number.  I don’t understand why some packages must have it, others don’t.  I asked the USDA and got pawned off from one department to another – ultimately not receiving an answer.

I generally don’t care for any ‘sausage’ product that contains chicken or turkey.  Yeah, I know they are supposed to be better for you, but the taste and texture just doesn’t appeal to me.

Speaking of confusing?  The regulators could help me out by coming up with definitions for “franks,”  “wieners,”  and “hot dogs.”

John Morrell Little Smokies Review

In the pan,, unheated

 

 

John Morrell Little Smokies Review

 

Bridgford Thick Sliced Pepperoni

Bridgford Thick Pepperoni

Anaheim HQ

Bridgford Thick Sliced Pepperoni was on sale this week, and I try and stock up when those little delightful discs of processed pork are discounted.

Bridgford started about 80 years ago in Southern California; its still a family business and headquartered in Anaheim.  They were primarily in the bread dough for consumers business (dough, heat and serve) until diversifying through the acquisition of a meat snack plant in Chicago.  In addition to those two facilities, the company has plants in Dallas and North Carolina.

In addition to the pepperoni, the meat portion of the company makes jerky, beef sticks, and salami.   Products are available nationwide.

But back to the subject.  I’m always sampling pepperoni, as I make pizza at home often.  I look at the ingredients, flavor, and texture.  I  most want to avoid pepperoni that cups and chars on top of a pie, tho some people find that a positive attribute.

At our house, the flavor has to be raw, as Mrs. Burgerdogboy prefers her pepperoni right out of the package as a snack – she doesn’t go for it “cooked.”

We like this one for the ingredients:  pork, beef, salt, paprika and just the usual sodium based preservatives.  No corn syrup, powdered milk or other fillers.  Plus it’s got a little “kick.”

It’s made in the Chicago plant, pictured below, which is just a few blocks west of the loop, on Green, right below the Green/Pink lines.

Buy recommendation:  Hell, yes! 

 

Bridgford Thick Pepperoni

 

Bridgford Thick Pepperoni Review

Chicago Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Bridgford Thick Sliced Pepperoni

Duluth, MN – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewing

Carmody Irish Pub Duluth Review

Owner Ed & Brewmaster Mike

Comes a time in many men’s lives when they hears the call of the old home town, and feel the passion of his ancestors start to well up inside him. Thus began the latest chapter in the life of Ed Carmody, born in Duluth,  world traveler, grandson of some  former scions of the early hospitality industry in Duluth.   Ed’s Irish immigrant grandparents built a mini-empire in Duluth in the late 1800s, starting a restaurant, acquiring hotels, and being a part of People’s Brewing Co. a rather long-lived post prohibition beer company that lasted until 1957.

Ed’s genetic ambitions led him to create Carmody Irish Pub in Duluth, five years ago, add a Northshore branch, Carmody 61, and finally to add micro-brewing capability on site.

Carmody’s, at 308 East Superior Street in the heart of the “new” old downtown, opens daily at 3PM,  has live music six nights a week, with 32 beers and 21 Irish whiskeys on hand in addition to his own micro-brews.  Demand for the latter is causing him to double brewing output capacity this year.

A believer in supporting local businesses as well as the locavore movement, Ed sources as much product locally as he is able to, and estimates that over 80% of the food products come from establishments within an hour of the Twin Ports.

Carmody’s food offerings include their takes on traditional bar food, with the addition of some Chicago favorites (one of Ed’s major life stopping points),  as well as an homage or two to  Irish / UK specialties.

Chicago style dishes include the “Maxwell Street Chicago Dog,”  dressed as one would find at  hundreds of Chicago eateries, with mustard, cucumber, relish, peppers, tomato,  and a dash of  celery salt.  Another Chicago legend on the  menu is the Italian Beef sandwich, thin sliced roast beef slowly marinaded in a flavorful au jus, served on a fresh bakery roll and topped with mild or spicy giardiniera.  Beef for the sandwich is sourced from Fraboni’s on the range,  and cooked at Carmody 61, which enjoys a larger kitchen and prep area than the Duluth outlet. 

A tribute to the cuisine of  the UK and Ireland can be found in the bangers and mash,  and his version of the Cornish pasty.  If you’re not familiar with the pasty, its a crimped, baked meat and vegetable pie, popularized by miners from the British Isles and Eastern Europe, who settled in the mining communities of Northern Michigan and Minnesota.  The hand-held pie provided hearty fare for miner lunches. Ed says his version of the pasty has “Slavic” influences, rather than Cornish or Finnish.  The pasty has become widely associated with the Finnish culture in Minnesota.

Sausages at Carmody’s are made from Ed’s secret family recipes, built to the pub’s specifications at Wrazidlo’s Old World Meats in Duluth. Bread and rolls are an exclusive Carmody recipe baked by Duluth’s Johnson’s Bakery.

Additional menu items include starters, sandwiches, wraps, pizza with some vegetarian friendly choices.  The menu at the Two Harbors branch has different menu choices, including entrees and burgers.

Taste experiences  this visit included the pretzel appetizer with house made mustard, Italian Beef sandwich, and bangers with garlic mash. All were excellent. We look forward to grazing our way through the rest of the menu in the near future.

Here’s the complete Duluth menu.

Carmody Irish Pub Duluth Review

Exterior

Carmody Irish Pub Duluth Review

Bar Back – 21 Irish Whiskeys!

 

Carmody Irish Pub Duluth Review

Bangers and Mash

 

Carmody Irish Pub Duluth Review

Italian Beef

Carmody Irish Pub on Urbanspoon
Carmody Irish Pub

 

 

Elgin, IL – Elgin Pit BBQ Review

Elgin Pit BBQ ReviewBarbecue isn’t at the top of my list of cravings, but once and awhile, I appreciate some good ‘cue, especially whole hog pulled pork. Mrs. BurgerDogBoy loves it, so we do seek it out from time to time.

Probably the best we’ve ever had was in the ‘barbecue capital’ of Texas, a town called Lockhart, between Houston and Austin. If you enjoy Texas style barbecue, and haven’t been there, go! A close second or tie for first was navigating our way down the North Carolina barbecue trail last year. Many think that our modern style of barbecue was first introduced in North Carolina, and there are a good couple dozen places dating back a hundred years that will try and convince you of that fact.

I’ve had ‘passable’ barbecue here in Portland, at a place that was owned by “Snoop Dog’s” uncle.

“Experts” believe that barbecue is an art, and I have to say I might agree.  The US is home to many different styles of preparation, including Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis, Texas and more.  Some are sauced, some are dry rubbed.  Some in North Carolina have a mustard-based sauce, instead of a tomato one.  I do like that.

I admire anybody that starts a restaurant.  Hard, thankless work, for little chance of success.  Especially when they start a place in a geographical area not particularly known to be a hot bed of that genre, like the Elgin Pit BBQ in Elgin, IL.

They have all the usual offerings and sides, and it can all be ordered ala carte, as a plate dinner, or in combinations.  The “two meat combo,” comes with your choice of two meats (ribs, pork, brisket, sausage, chicken) and two sides.  I opted for take out, and went with chicken and pulled pork, fries and collard greens.   Collard greens ARE one of my top cravings.

Elgin’s are slightly sweet, which is a surprise, as I am used to a thick smoke flavor seasoned with garlic, processed pork, and onion.  Elgin’s are a-ok, not just my preparation preference.

The pulled pork and chicken were excellent.  Chicken was sauced, pork was not.  Both had benefited from hours in the in-house smoker.

Give them a try if you’re passing through the area, or take a drive and pick some up.   In a world of suburbs chock a block full of hot dog and pizza joints, Elgin BBQ Pit is an island of unique flavors.

Here’s their menu.

Elgin Pit Barbecue

 

 

 

Elgin BBQ Pit on Urbanspoon

Elgin Pit BBQ

Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy

Odom's Sausage Gravy ReviewPicked this frozen packet up on a whim.  Now part of the food giant ConAgra, which was started in Nebraska in 1919 by four farmers who merged a few small town grain elevators.  Today ConAgra does $14 billion a year, with oh so familiar brands:  Hebrew National, Hunts, PAM, Jiffy Pop, Peter Pan, Banquet, Bertolli, Parkay, Wesson, Libby’s, Marie Callenders, Slim Jims….. and Odom’s Tennessee Pride.

This frozen packed can be heated in the microwave in seconds, ready to use a side or ladle over your momma’s home made biscuit recipe.

Ingredients include water, flour, spices, corn syrup, milk, MSG,  pork. sugar and more stuff.

Hard to find the bits of sausage in this gravy, and it could use more pepper for my taste. It’s rather gelatinous in texture and kind of a funky color.  I guess it serves a purpose, fast and cheap if that’s what you’re looking for.   Fast and cheap doesn’t suit me for gravy.  Wives, yes. Gravy, no.  I’d rather take the time to make it.

Pick some of this up if you’re desperate.  (I added the black pepper here).

Odom's Sausage Gravy Review

 

 

 

Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy Review

Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review

I’ve previously puked out a lot of words on the Jack Link company, which went from a teeny tiny country butcher shop in a teeny tiny Wisconsin town to a global powerhouse manufacturers and distributor of meat snacks.   I even stopped by their outlet store, near their original factory in Minong, Wisconsin last year.  It’s about 30 miles south of Duluth-Superior on U.S. 53.

The company has prospered and prospered, and grown despite all the odds against them, their small town origin and the usual family in-fighting and lawsuits that often occur in a closely held company.

Jack Link’s has come out with a line of smoked sausages in different flavors.  They’re pretty good-sized, four to a 12 ounce package and sell for around $4.00.  So they are about a buck apiece, which is also about what I pay for my favorite natural casing wieners.

I picked up the ‘regular flavor’ rolled a couple in the cast iron to heat them up.  (Smoked products are generally full cooked, as are these).

I have an opinion or two about the sausages.  They are made for Jack Link by a contract manufacturer near Green Bay called Salm Partners; the company was started by four brothers and a co-hort in 2004, to take advantage of ultra-new technology in the sausage and wiener business, including ‘spray out’ collagen casings and cooking in the package technology.  In a video on their website, Salm says these processes make a product preferred by customers and that have a longer shelf life.   The factory is located at 70 Woodrow Street, Denmark, WI .

Sidebar:  the package makes a couple of claims:  “no fillers” and “hardwood smoke.”   These are some of the undoubtedly unregulated terms in the food industry,

To me, some of the stated ingredients (corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed corn protein) ARE fillers.   Hydrolyzed corn protein is a kind of MSG, but to my understanding is rarely used in foods, due to its strong fermented flavor. As for “hardwood smoked?”  The manufacturer’s video clearly shows the ‘smoking process’ at their plant is a shower of liquid smoke, which to me, isn’t “hardwood smoked.” There are plenty of manufacturers out there still smoking with wood.

It’s the same problem I have with restaurants who have “Kobe Hamburgers” on their menu, or that call California sparkling wines “Champagne.”  Bullshit.

The collagen casing on this sausage is very light, not much snap, which is why I prefer natural casings.  The flavor?  Kinda weird, to me.  In my opinion, smoked sausages should be ‘smokier’ and have a distinctive flavor from spices.  The biggest flavor I get out of this sausage comes from the soy sauce powder ingredient.  Just doesn’t fit.

There are dozens of choices for smoked sausage buyers;  this one (nor Guy Fieri’s) shouldn’t show up on your shopping list.

Jack Link Sausage Review

Jack Link Sausage Review

 

Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review

“Boy Scout” Pepperoni Snack Stick Review

Country Meats Snack SticksWhen I was in Boy Scouts, we had two fund raising events per year; in the summer we went door to door and sold packs of light bulbs, in winter we sold Christmas wreaths.  I have no idea if we raised any significant amount of money, but if we did, it was supposed to support the troop and summer camping programs.

The last few years, pretty much everywhere I see scouts hocking goodies on the sidewalk, it’s been tubs of popcorn. (unpopped).  I remember the brand as being “Trail’s End” and I see that’s a division or subsidiary of Pop Weaver Popcorn, out of Indiana.

I think Scouting is a good thing, and I try and buy the popcorn when I see it available.  Besides, I like Pop Weaver corn.  They have it at Wal-Mart, and the microwave one is a bargain compared to say, Pop Secret.

Today I saw Scouts selling jerky and pepperoni snack sticks, loaded up on a few, glanced at the package and see they are made in Ocala, FL by a company called Country Meats, who appears to only be in the fundraising segment, offering many different flavors of snack sticks.

The pepperoni ones have an impressive list of ingredient:  pork, salt, spices, and natural smoke flavoring.  That’s substantially it.  And they are damned tasty. I like Slim Jim’s and Jack Links, but they are mostly beef sticks, so to have a pepperoni pork one suits me fine. The snack has great flavor and a nice grind, the collagen casing gives a nice snap reminiscent of a natural casing.

Apparently, you can do business with Country Meats if you want to have a fundraising deal for your organization. A case contains 144 snack sticks and is yours for $89, with a suggestion you sell them for a buck apiece. You can order online.  Country Meats operates a USDA inspected facility at 7650 SW 75th Avenue, Ocala FL.    They even have a YouTube video to show you how they are made (below).  I like transparency, especially in the food industry.

Snack Stick Review

Orv’s Pizza Review

Orv's Frozen Pizza ReviewOrv’s Pizza was originally from Kaukauna, WI, and may still be produced there, but it’s now under the ownership of Minneapolis pizza company Bernatellos, that also makes and sells  Roma and Brew Pub  brands.

I wonder if Kaukauna Cheese is still made in Kaukauna?   Hold on.  OK, seems like its still made nearby, but now owned by a cheese brand collecting company from Chicago.  (BTW, cheese company, I see you also hold Merkt’s, which I prefer, especially for burgers.

Wow, talk about careening wildly off track!

This Orv’s “Tasty Toppings”  Sausage & Pepperoni Think Crust weighs in at a hair over one pound, and they were on sale today at 2 $8.00.  That’s about the right price-point for the weight.   I’m having a hard time seeing any quantity of  sausage, and they may have missed a few spots with the “Real Cheese,” (as is noted on the front of the package.

BTW, before I tell you what I thought of the experience, I give the company props for the ‘real’ ingredients.   Sausage is pork and seasonings, pepperoni is pork, beef, and seasonings, and tomato sauce is just….tomato sauce.  So they got that going for them.

The pepperoni slice was paper thin.  Say have you seen Jack Link’s is making thick “crinkle cut” pepperoni?  Ain’t that interesting?  Saw it at that store that John Boy and Mary Ellen started….you know, the Waltons?  Right.

So how is Orv’s pizza?  The thin crust is crispy, the tomato sauces leans towards being more sweet than savory and I think they shouldn’t be so stingy with the cheese.   I’d say this pizza belongs at the top end of the budget lines like Totino’s, Jeno’s, and no-name brands, but even at this sale price, is pretty spendy for that category.   I tried the parent company’s premium pie, Bellatoria Ultra Thin Sausage Italia, about six months ago, and it was pretty ok. 

425 at 10-12 minutes brought the result shown below.

Orv's Frozen Pizza Review

“Tasty Toppings”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernatellos, Bellatoria, Roma, Brew Pub

 

Orv’s Pizza Review

Algonquin, IL – Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Back in Chicagoland for the last time this year, had a craving for Mexican food since Mrs. Burgerdogboy has been on a cooking strike lately and she makes some fine Mexican platos.

I was out in the NW burbs, some areas of which are increasingly populated with people of various Latin heritages, and mercados and taquerias are popping up like pop-ups.

Not wanting to cause confusion among any potential customers, one entrepreneur labeled his restaurant as plain as plain could be: “Algonquin Mexican Restaurant.” (AMR)

With tables that will accommodate thirty and a counter with room for eight more, the AMX serves breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday with hours from 10A – 8 PM. They were doing a brisk take-out business, but I was in the mood to be waited on, so I took a seat a booth looking out at the Algonquin intersection the corners of “Road Construction” and “Needs Road Construction.” The gajillion dollar downtown bypass appears that it will take another generation of works before it is actually finished, and from where I sit, will do little do alleviate the REAL area traffic problems, which are East – West, while the bypass is north-south. DOH!

The menu is straight forward and straight Mexican. Order ala carte or a plate which includes beans and rice.  (Me and the Mrs were forever spoiled by the refried beans in Aberdeen, WA one day).   Turns out tho that these were pretty tasty.  I wish I had ordered an additional side of them. (The ones in Aberdeen were so tasty we ate two orders at the table and got an order to go).

Polished off the complimentary chips and pico, and then  I ordered three tacos, chorizo, shredded beef, and ground beef.  Chicken, steak, pork, and pork skin were other options.  No tongue here.  I thoroughly enjoyed the tacos, even tho I had them with the gringo flour tortilla.  They come loaded with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. A second “filling” option is straight chopped onion and cilantro.  Should have tried that.

In order of favorite – chorizo one, then shredded beef, and lastly ground beef.  The accompanying rice was nothing to write home (or here about) so i won’t.  I rarely eat rice as a side anymore. Can’t say why and sure you don’t care.

Circumstances were such that I spent a fair amount of time in Mexico this year, and of course little North of the border can match local street food in Juarez or TJ,  just like after living in China I was spoiled to that type of food in the US.

But in any case, if you happen to be driving around the NW burbs, or live in Algonquin, Dundee, Lake in the Hills or Crystal Lake, the Algonquin Mexican Restaurant is worth a stop with freshly prepared food at great prices.   I’ve posted there menu over in our menu section, check it out.

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Pico

 

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

3 Taco Plate

 

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Storefront

 

 

 

 

 
Algonquin Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Making Hot Dog Recipes at Home – From Scratch!

Stuff it!  (Your own sausages).  It’s not that hard, I do it a couple times a year, though it is definitely an easier task if you have a partner or two helping.

I’m not going to go through the whole process here, you’ll have to decide whether to use all beef, beef and pork, or poultry as a meat base, and whether to grind it at home or purchase pre-ground meat.  There are simple manual stuffing tools (I sometimes use a modified caulking gun), or attachments for devices like KitchenAid mixers.  You’ll have to learn about and purchase casings, natural or made from collagen.

This article is just focused on the seasoning mix, a very traditional hot dog flavor.  Here are the ingredients for 20 pounds of franks, cut down the recipe proportionately for less meat.

Ingredients

4 Level tsp. INSTACURE #1 (add only if smoking the sausages) 
8 Tb. Paprika
12 Tb. Ground Mustard
2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp. Ground White Pepper 
2 tsp. Ground Celery Seeds
2 Tb. Mace
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
8 Tb. Salt
4 Cups Non-Fat Dry Milk or Soy Protein Concentrate
8 Tb. Powdered Dextrose
4 Cups of Ice Water

Mix the dry ingredients and crush as needed with a mortar and pestle, and then  you’re going to blend these ingredients into your meat mixture making sure it is thoroughly distributed throughout the slurry. You’ll be much happier if you allow the mix to sit in the frig overnight so that all the flavors fully take, but it’s not absolutely essential.

From there, you’ll embark on the stuffing part of the task, and either refrigerate the finished franks, freeze some, or put them on the smoker before storage for additional old world flavor.

Home stuffed wieners

hot dog recipes

Buy Some Stuff



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