Feels very familiar

The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards claimed a small rancher was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate him.
GOV’T AGENT:  “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.” 
RANCHER:  ”Well, there’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years.  I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. 
Then there’s the mentally challenged guy.  He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here.  He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life.  He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”
GOV’T AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to – the mentally challenged one.” 
RANCHER: “That would be me.”


Something we have always wanted to get into was making sausages, ham and the like. For years we have been making dried beef, which is an excellent snack made from lightly salt cured and smoked, beef top round.  We just wanted to expand on this and when my brother, Kim and his son, Jake recommended the book Charcuterie by Polcyn and Ruhlman, that was just the impetus we needed.

We built a smoke house about the size of an outhouse (4x4x7) and started making all sorts of things:

  • bacon
  • Italian salami
  • summer sausage
  • thuringer
  • snack sticks (we call them Mohels – if you want to know why you’ll have to ask)
  • mortadella
  • pancetta
  • prosciutto
  • pepperoni
  • smoked salmon
  • smoked cheese
  • and of course, dried beef

Making the sausages can become quite a marathon since we do a bunch of them in a row so they can all go into the smoker at once.  We have an old crank sausage press that I inherited from my family.  The gearing on it is not very user-friendly so it takes a lot of force to press the meat into the casing and after a day of pressing, I am usaually sore the next day.

During the last sausage making marathon we made Mohels and pepperoni (in addition to other items), both of which are difficult to extrude.  The Mohels are difficult because they are extruded out of a 1/2″ nozzle and the pepperoni is difficult because it is so lean and it is just thick. Anyway, whenever I press these type of materials I am pulling so hard on the press crank that I envision the handle breaking off and me punching myself in the mouth. Well, fortunately, it didn’t happen while pressing Mohels… but it did happen while pressing the pepperoni.  The handle broke off and I hit myself in the mouth! Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and since I got ice on it right of way, the swelling was minimal.  Needless to say, we are looking for a better sausage press!