Tum Tum’s Meats serves up locally-made sausages and Frankfurters, just in time for National Hotdog Day
*Please note that this story contains graphic descriptions and pictures of the butchering process, and those sensitive to such matters are advised to simply turn the page*
July 22 is National Hot Dog Day (which is, apparently, a thing) and why celebrate with just any ol’ meat on a bun when you could have one made with locally raised pork? Support a farmer, love your butcher. There’s more to hot dog’s, however, than just the Oscar Meyer Weiner song and oodles of ketchup; making a (quality, locally made, from hand) hot dog or sausage is actually a lot more complicated than you might think.
A quality sausage starts with quality meat, and Tum Tum’s Black Gilt Meats uses pork exclusively from either Can Do Farms or Fox Ridge Farms, says Simone Rudge, who, along with Graham and Tom Rudge, own and operate the shop. In addition to supporting local farmers and creating healthy working relationships with them, using these two farms as the basis for all their pork products means that they know not only the health and breed of the animals they’re using, but that the animals are well-cared for and happy, says Simone.
The Rudges know the pigs so well, in fact, that they use animals from one farm or another based on what they’re making, says Simone; pork from Can Do farms is best suited to high-fat products, such as Tum Tum’s Toulouse sausage, where as Fox Ridge pork tends to be leaner, and makes wonderful cured products. Fun fact: female pigs make better salami or other cured meats than male pigs, says Simone, as their flesh naturally has a higher acidity than male pigs.
Once a pig has been slaughtered, cleaned and halved, it gets broken into primals, and then into the fancier cuts (chops, tenderloin, roasts). Some parts of the animal make better sausage than others, says Graham, who does much of the butchering, including making the sausages, of which the shop produces about 60 Kg a week.
“You really want a nice mix of meat and fat,” says Graham.
After the animal is broken down and the sausage meats selected, they are put twice through the grinder; on the second run through, ice is added, which gets crushed along with the meat and adds in much-needed moisture, which prevents the sausage from going all crumbly and falling apart when you cook it, says Graham. Most sausages end up at about 10 per cent water, he adds, but hot dogs and other extra-soft, thick-textured products, such as liverwurst, are up to 30 per cent.
You can’t just jam any old meat and spices into a sausage casing and expect it to come out plump, delicious and juicy though; along with the water, salt is a key component in getting your sausages to have the proper texture (and taste) Graham notes. Similar to the way kneading bread helps gluten — a protein — development in bread, salt helps break down proteins in meat, altering and improving the texture of the finished product.
Hotdogs differ a little bit from sausages in the final stages, and get turned over into the bowl cutter, which looks and functions a little bit like a tremendous, topless Cuisinart.
“If you want any sort of sausage with a nice, creamy, smooth texture, you put it through the bowl cutter,” says Graham. “You can do it through the grinder – if you do it over and over and over – but it’s a pain, and very messy.”
“At the end it looks kind of like a pink pudding – a lovely, pink, Frankfurter pudding,” Graham laughs.
Once the meat is ground and seasoned — Tum Tums has a entire back room wall dedicated to individual spices, so that they can not only control exactly what goes into the product, but make up blends on the fly for custom orders, Graham notes — it gets put into another machine, which stuffs the selected casings. What happens from there depends on what kind of sausage is being made – sometimes they’re be smoked, or left to cure, for example. Frankfurters are the style of hot dogs Tum Tum’s makes, largely because it turns out making North American “hot dogs” is a wildly labour intensive process, says Graham (probably why it’s usually done in factories, and not in family-run butcher shops, where hands, time and space are all limited). Frankfurters are (slightly) less labour intensive, says Graham, as they don’t involve painstakingly hand-tying off the casings to make sure you don’t get “one long sausage coil” and then cutting the casing off each individual sausage, the way hot dogs do. Graham is a stickler for the details, one of the most important being control over a very important facet of hotdog consumption; bun to meat ratio.
“We make the Frankfurters seven inches long, so that — in real Frankfurter style — you should have, like, an inch of sausage sticking out either end of the bun. Getting the right sausage-to-bun ratio is important because there’s nothing worse than taking a bite out of a hotdog and just getting a mouthful of bread and condiments. That is, just, like unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable,” he says with a laugh.
Apparently, Tum Tum’s customers agree; their seven-inch dogs are so popular that they sell out almost as fast as they can make them. This interview took place shortly after Canada Day — prime BBQ season — and the shop was utterly bereft of even a single Frankfurter.
“We make a batch and within a week, they’re gone,” says Graham.
Tum Tum’s Black Gilt Meats is located next to the Takhini Hot Springs Rd cut off on the Klondike Highway. More information can be found at http://www.tumtumsmeats.yukonfood.com.