Garlic Ring Bologna

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Here’s a recipe that combines three of the running themes of Tim’s Food Obsession: a familiar taste from my childhood, my love of experimentation, and garlic. Ring bologna is a common snack in Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and has made its way across much of the Midwest in various forms, too. Every meat processor in Pennsylvania Dutch country has their own spin on it, and they typically have a regular type and garlic ring bologna. Given the choice, I go for the garlic, naturally.

Ring bologna is stuffed into round casings, hence the “ring.” I bought 43mm beef rounds that were pre-tied on one end for ease of use. It is smoked. I was ready for this with The Porkulator and a trash can full of chipped apple limbs from my home orchard. Some processors make a coarser grind and others chop the meat finely to have a texture more like regular bologna. I prefer the coarser grind, which is what this recipe will produce. Twice through the 3mm plate of my meat grinder. The spicing includes a combination of savory elements that you can shape to your own preferences. I started by looking at some recipes on line and then added my twists. And the last component that has to be right is the moisture content. Bologna needs to be moist and have a good bind. To achieve this, I added cooked pork skin (taking a lesson from my Weißwurst), soy protein powder (I limited this because I don’t like its flavor in larger amounts), egg whites, and sodium tripolyphosphate (which causes water to be bound in the meat mixture). Ring bologna is a cured meat, so it includes cure #1. I also added a small amount (1g) of sodium erythorbate which is structurally similar to Vitamin C and aids in speeding the curing process, improving the color of the final product, improving flavor stability, and preventing the development of nitrosamines.

With sausage casings on hand, spices and ingredients assembled, smoker at the ready, I prepared the meats. It is very important to weigh the meats to calculate how much salt and cure is used. This one has 1000g beef round. You can use any lean beef; I just happened to use bottom round. I took 1000g off the roast and then made the rest as chicken fried steak! 1700g of pork shoulder, about 20-30% fat. And finally, 150g pork skin. I had saved the pork skin in the freezer from another dish. Boil the skin in water until it is very soft an gelatinous. Chill the skin.

All set.

Garlic Ring Bologna

1000g beef bottom round (lean)
1700g pork shoulder (20-30% fat estimated)
150g pork skin cooked and chilled
51.3g salt (1.8% of the combined weight of the meats)
7.125g Cure #1 (0.25% of the combined weight of the meats)
5.13g sodium tripolyphosphate (0.18% of the combined weight of the meats)
1T homemade red onion powder
1T granulated garlic
4T minced fresh garlic
1T smoked Spanish sweet paprika
1T freshly ground mace
1T freshly ground white pepper
1T brown sugar
1t freshly ground coriander
1-1/2t Coleman’s mustard powder
1t celery seed
1t dried Mexican oregano
1/4 cup soy protein powder
2 egg whites
1/2t roasted jalapeno powder (roasted, peeled, dried and ground)
1g sodium erythorbate

Grind the meats and the pork skin through a 3mm grinder plate. Mix in the remaining ingredients and grind again. Mix thoroughly until the mixture is very sticky and uniform. A little ice water can be added if needed (I did not add water, but if you add water, you need to adjust the salt and cure by adding the weight of the water).

Pack the meat paste into a zip top bag and squeeze out all of the air. Refrigerate overnight. This helps with the bind in stuffing.

Rinse and soak the beef casings for about 20 minutes in warm water. Stuff them and tie off each link.

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Prepare the smoker for cold smoking. I use my homemade trailer barbecue for cold smoking. Inside the main chamber (old oil tank) are steel plates that serve as baffles to manage the smoke flow. You want a steady stream of cool blue smoke. The temperature in the smoker will not exceed 60F.

I light a small fire in the fire box and get one small log burning. This will sustain the cold smoke for days as needed. I used a chipper to make a trash can full of chips and dust from apple prunings from my home orchard. Shovel a load of the chips onto the burning log. I keep adding chips until the smoke level looks right. Every 6-8 hours, the chips need to be replenished. As long as there are small embers, this is simple to maintain for days. If the weather gets above 60F, I may take a pause and bring the meat into the fridge until the next cold snap. About 30 hours total smoke will give a nice flavor and color.

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Remove from the smoker. The ring bologna still needs to be cooked. I use the sous vide for this step. Vacuum seal each link in a bag. Using the sous vide device, heat the water bath to 141F. Place the sausages in the water bath for 2 hours. This will serve to cook the sausage and to reduce any bacteria to a safe level.

Chill the ring bologna, slice, and enjoy! Ring bologna is great with pretzels, on a sandwich, dipped into horseradish cheese dip, or just by itself.

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