You’ll recall that I made two types of sausage, one from my own recipe and one using Penzey’s Italian Sausage Seasoning.
I left it at the cliffhanger where I used both sausages in “Sausage and Peppers,” a classic at Italian-American festivals and fairs.
I make damn good sausage and peppers. The secret to my sausage and peppers is to cook the peppers and onions separate from the sausage and then to marry everything at the end.
I use a mixture of red bell peppers, cubanelle peppers, and sweet onions. This gives an interesting mix of textures the way I cook it, because the red peppers are slightly thicker and don’t cook as far down as the cubanelles, and the onions cook down to the point where they’re providing little texture and all sweet flavor.
So the peppers and onions cook down in some olive oil with a good bit of salt and pepper and some oregano. Nothing else.
I’ve been a real fan of braising the sausages with some stock on the stove top after browning. So that’s what I did with about a pound of each sausage.
I know what you’re thinking: either sausage would be amazing with those peppers on a nice sub roll.
Well, I decided to do things a little differently.
I picked up a nice loaf of fire bread from the Mrs. Londons Troy Farmers Market stand, and I served the sausage and peppers over a nice slice of the bread. Open faced, so to speak.
What I had in front of me was a pretty giant plate of sausage and peppers, and it was my job to assess which recipe yielded better sausage.
This wasn’t easy, and I actually don’t think I have arrived at result of which one is better. I like both for different reasons.
The Penzey recipe came out very good. The level of salt and pepper in the prescribed proportions is actually perfect. Their sausages are well seasoned. The fennel level is also very good. I am not a fan of lots of fennel in sausage; in fact, I substituted anise seed for fennel seed in my own recipe as an experiment. Penzey’s sausage has enough fennel to know it was there but not to overpower the other flavors. The sugar in Penzey’s mix doesn’t really do much to the flavor (that I could tell). The one thing I could say is definitely missing was some heat. Also, the meat gets pretty gluey while making the bulk sausage; this made it difficult to stuff the sausage. Next time, I’m going to add some liquid (probably water); I think about 1/3 cup per pound is plenty to avoid this issue. Despite these minor complaints, Penzey’s Italian Sausage Seasoning yields a very good sweet sausage.
Between the cayenne and crushed red peppers in my recipe, my sausages have the heat that I enjoy. They also have a deep anise flavor due to the fairly significant amount of anise that I added to the spice mixture as well as the Ouzo that I used while mixing. The salt and pepper level is great. The garlic adds a unique kind of heat to the sausage. It’s a flavor that would have you guessing if you didn’t know it was there, which I really like about it. This sausage is easier to stuff because of the liquids added; the liquids also helped to distribute the spices easily throughout the meat.
So I’ll say that I’m impressed by Penzey’s spice mixture. I personally like mixing the spices myself and tweaking things here and there, but the Penzey spice is certainly a formidable backup.