The Cuban sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches, and ever since I started getting creative with sausage flavors I’ve wanted to make one based on the delicious Cubano. I came up with the idea after eating a ‘gyro sausage’ for lunch one day and thought the Cubano’s flavors (pork, ham, cheese, and pickles) would be pretty easy to incorporate in tubular form. I’m sure someone somewhere has come up with this already, but since I’ve never seen one I decided it was time to give it a go.
My original concept was to add solid bits of ham and cheese to the ground pork then serve the sausage on a roll with some pickle relish and mustard. While prepping for it this week Cheryl asked if the pickles were also going to be diced and incorporated with the ham and cheese. At first I was hesitant (friends and family might say ‘resistant’) but after thinking about it I decided she was right (see? I’m open to ideas!). The Cubano would be better with the pickles inside; added texture and hopefully if I mixed everything correctly, lots of balanced flavor.
The Cubano sausage wasn’t a very tricky sausage to make but it did require a little different technique than a normal sausage. I started out seasoning the pork and fat with some cumin like I normally do, but kept the other ingredients separate so they would retain their own flavor and not pick up any of the cumin while the pork was marinating overnight. Now of course, being the pork curing machine I am, I didn’t use just any old ham.
Remember that country ham experiment? Yup, that’s what went into the Cubano. I diced it very fine and then threw it into a pan on the stove in order to give the cured, dried ham a quick cook to firm it up a little since I didn’t want to bite into a mushy, chewy piece of ham. Not quite crunchy but solid enough to let you know it’s in there, and with a burst of salty ham-i-ness contrasting the cumin flavored pork in which the bits are enveloped. Lusciously enveloped.
For the most part I’m very pleased with the way the Cubano sausage turned out. Does it taste like a Cuban sandwich? Of course not, but that wasn’t the point of making this sausage. If I wanted a Cuban sandwich I’d make one. But, for a sausage, I think it does capture the Cuban sandwich flavors well, which was the point. My only quibble is with the distribution of the bits, and that’s just technique. I thought I mixed them in well enough but I have a feeling there may be a couple of links with some barren spots it them. Most people probably won’t notice them but I know they’re there! I’m not sure if I work on this by adding more bits or cutting back on the pork shoulder by a pound. Either way that’s a fun part of sausage making: eating the results, finding a miniscule flaw, and trying again!
The Cubano Sausage (makes almost 6 pounds, about 23-24 links)
- 4 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1 lb fat back
- 40 grams Kosher salt (2 Tbs plus a good pinch)
- 3 Tbs ground cumin
- 2 C diced ham
- 2 C diced swiss cheese (a little more than 8 oz)
- 1 ½ C diced dill pickles (a 16 oz jar of mini-dill pickles)
- 12 feet of hog casings
Combine and mix the pork pieces, fat, cumin, and salt. Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Run water through the casings and let soak in a small bowl of water for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to stuff them.
Using the medium holed grind plate, grind the seasoned pork and fat into a mixing bowl set in ice.
When done grinding all of the meat, mix in the diced ham, cheese, and pickles. Add the water and mix until it is absorbed and the sausage mix gets “sticky.” If using a stand mixer it will take about 1 minute with the paddle attachment.
Make a small patty and cook to check the seasonings.
Stretch and push the hog casing onto the stuffer tube attachment, leaving an inch or two hanging off the end of the tube.
Stuff the sausage keeping one hand on the end of the tube where the casing is getting stuffed and help it along if it gets stuck.
Twist the sausage into 4-6 inch links.