I'm not criticizing, just noticing how much our diet is affected by the ability to make foods that can remain on a shelf in a safe state.
Anyway, enough of the sermon. Let's get on with today's little project - pickled sausage!
Full disclosure - I've never made it before, and if you do much research online, you'll soon discover that there is a multitude of recipes and reviews, but these are all for basic refrigerated pickled sausage. Well, that's fine for people who are just dipping their toes in the water when it comes to self-sufficiency, but we're here to learn the nuts and bolts of living well, but being prepared to do so without depending on so many modern conveniences. What we're going to make today is pickled sausage, canned.
I started out with a pound of smoked Oktoberfest sausage, purchased and produced locally in St. Jacobs. That worked out to four, 1/4lb sausages. That's about the amount I can eat in a single sitting by myself!
Cut them up into segments of about 1" length, perfect for skewering with a fork (or toothpick for you hoity toity types).
I wanted to use jam jars for this batch, as they are easier to get to the bottom of. I always get annoyed trying to fish the last pickle or egg or whatever out of the bottom of a litre/quart jar. You have to hold onto your fork with your fingertips, and get your fingers wet or messy. A 250mL jam jar has no neck, and is plenty shallow enough to be able to easily reach in with a fork and still be in full control. I was able to cram in about 5 segments into each of six jars in this manner, which was fine for me.
Next, I mixed vinegar and water in a 1:1 or 50/50 ratio. This seems to be the widely accepted safe amount nowadays. If I had any hot peppers, I probably would have added one to each jar, but, as it was, they are still all out in the garden heating up for later projects. I'll just savour the taste of the vinegar soaked sausage when the time comes.
It took me 3 cups of the mix to just about perfectly top off the jars, which was a bit of a surprise. That means that logically, the sausage took up almost no volume in the jars. I guess I will just have to let my mind wrap around that. Technically a cup is only 236mL, and the jars are rated for 250mL, and I assume that that measurement still allows for a generous head space, so that's how I'm going to reconcile this cosmic mystery.
I had poured a small amount of boiling water into a bowl with the lids, to soften up their seals, and then placed the lids on each jar, screwed down the bands to just finger tight, and then placed them into the pressure cooker on a small rack. I added two more litres of boiling water to the cooker, as well as a splash of vinegar (to help prevent the inside of the cooker from getting too many mineral deposits), and snapped on the lid.
With the burner at max, it took about ten to fifteen minutes for the steam to start to come out of the release nozzle. Once I saw a steady stream of steam, I set the timer for an additional ten minutes. After which time, I put on the weight. The pressure indicator dohickey popped up immediately, but I had to wait ANOTHER ten minutes before the weight started to rock. You can hear the change immediately and easily. I was actually downstairs on the computer when I heard the difference, so I rushed upstairs, turned the heat down to between medium and medium-high (I've canned other things before, so I know that this temperature is the lowest that can keep the pressure up), and set the timer for 75 minutes - the minimum time to treat food containing meat in quantities of 500mL or less.
After the 75 minutes, I turned off the burner, and went back to my movie to allow the pressure cooker to cool off on its own. It took about a half hour, but then when I lifted the weight (using a chopstick), no steam escaped, so I removed the weight altogether, and carefully undid the lid. Using a jar lifter, I lifted out my nearly finished product and placed it on another nearby rack to cool.
Few things are as delightful as the "click" or "ping" of your lids being sucked down tightly onto the jars. After waiting overnight, I removed the bands so that I could wash and dry both them, and the jars. It's optional to replace the bands. Many people don't, but I find it to be a handy place to store them, and figure that it helps to protect the seal as well. So when I'm sure they are clean and dry, I finger tighten them back on. Not too hard! Just until they touch the lid again - you don't want to accidentally break the seal and be forced to eat the contents right away ;).
It's up to you how long you'd like to wait before breaking into your own stock - they'll keep for years in a cool, dark, dry place, but they probably peak in flavour after just a few weeks of soaking.