Wednesday, May 20, 2009

dn's Farmer's Sausage Casserole

Have you ever had farmer's sausage? If you haven't lived in or visited southern Manitoba then you may have missed out on this delicious specialty meat! It is most commonly eaten by the Mennonites in the area, but is also a favourite of almost anyone who tries it. If you speak with anyone who no longer lives in Manitoba, odds are one of the foods they miss the most is farmer's sausage! People have been known to buy hundreds of pounds to take with them for themselves and other former Manitobans when they travel.

This isn't your basic sausage! No way! This is a smoked pork sausage with a taste all its own. It's spicy but not overly spicy or hot. It is also a much coarser than a kielbasa. I've never tried anything that even comes close to the uniqueness of the farmer's sausage flavour.

There are several brands available in the province, but the two most popular are Winkler Farmer Sausage (made in Winkler) and Pioneer Farmer Sausage (made in Altona). The two towns and companies are only about a half hours drive apart and there is a bit of a friendly rivalry between the two brands. Both are excellent but given a choice, I'll take Winkler! The sausage is packaged in a number of ways, including links (with or without casing), mini links and patties - which are perfect for the grill. They even come in low sodium varieties!

I buy farmer's sausage when it goes on sale and divide it into smaller portions - about 4-5"/serving and wrap each in saran before freezing in a zippered storage bag. I freeze the individual patties between waxed paper so that they are easy to separate for later use.

The most common way to prepare it is to pan fry it and then make a cream gravy from the drippings. The gravy is traditionally made with onions (fried in the drippings), flour, cream, salt and pepper then served over homemade noodles and the sausage. On the off chance that there are left over's, the noodles are fried then topped with the gravy and served along side the reheated sausage. These aren't exactly cholesterol friendly BUT oh man every once in a while it really is worth the calories!!

There are, of course other less fattening ways to serve this yummy meat and one is to grill it on the bar-b-que (or any indoor grill) and serve it with some grilled onions, a slice of cheddar cheese and a little ketchup on a bun. A true Manitoban would be using New Bothwell cheddar cheese!

One of my favourite - and slightly healthier - ways to serve the farmer's sausage is the following recipe. A long time friend and former roommate used to make this recipe at least once a month. As always, I have modified it a bit by adding onions and red pepper but the basic concept remains the same. I really wouldn't substitute any other type of sausage in this recipe, as you just aren't going to get the same taste.

"dn's Farmer's Sausage Casserole"

2 medium potatoes
1 12 oz/340 ml can kernel corn (I use Green Giant Peaches and Cream or Niblets)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 8-10 inch link of farmer's sausage

- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Spray a 1 1/2 litre casserole dish with Pam or other non-stick cooking spray.
- Wash and pat dry the potatoes and remove any spots. Cut the potatoes into small pieces (about 1/4 to 1/3 inch cubes). Layer evenly in bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle with a bit of black pepper if desired.
- Evenly distribute the can of corn (and the liquid) over the potatoes. Note that the liquid is needed both for flavour and to help the potatoes cook faster.
- Layer the red pepper over the corn.
- Layer the onion over the red pepper.
- Skin the sausage (if you aren't using the skinless) and cut into discs about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Layer the farmer's sausage over the onion, overlapping slightly so that all the sausage fits in one layer. They will shrink considerably as they bake..
- Cover and bake in a 375F oven for about 60 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes to brown the sausage.

Serves 2



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