Mirqaz or mirkas
Category: Sausage, Grilled Sausage, Mixed
Difficulty: Labor Intensive
Merguez, the French transliteration of the Arabic word mirqāz or mirkās, is a spicy small lamb or beef sausage used in Tunisia and Algeria. It is served alone as a meze or sometimes with couscous or other foods such as the braised dishes known as tagines. They can be sun-dried too by leaving them in hot, dry, direct sunlight for 48 hours, protected against insects and animals, puncturing the sausage with a skewer so they dry better. Once they are dried, heat some olive oil, turn the heat off, and submerge the dried merguez in the oil for 20 minutes. Store them in glass or earthenware jars filled with the same olive oil.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 3 pounds sausage
Preparation Time: 1 1/2 days
1. In a large bowl, toss together thoroughly the lamb shoulder, lamb fat, garlic, fennel seeds, harīsa, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
2. Open one end of the casing, fit it over the faucet in your kitchen sink, and place the remainder of the casing in a medium-size bowl in the sink. Turn the water on gently to wash out the casings. The casings are sold cleaned; you are merely washing away preserving salts and residue. Now you are ready to start stuffing.
3. Affix one end of the casing over the funnel attached to the sausage stuffing attachment of a stand mixer or meat grinder. Push the entirety of the casing onto the length of the funnel (it will contract and fit fine), leaving about 2 inches dangling from the end. Tie this end in a double knot.
4. Turn the grinder or mixer on and as the sausage stuffing begins to flow into the casing, it will push the casing off the funnel. Have a large bowl or platter ready to catch the sausages. Twist or tie off the sausage with kitchen twine to make links at 4-inch intervals, or leave to make several very long sausages. Do not overstuff the sausage otherwise it will burst, either then and there, or during cooking. Also be careful that the sausage stuffing enters the casing continuously and evenly and that no air bubbles develop. If air bubbles do occur, it is better either to cut the sausage at that point and start a new one, by tying the end off, or to prick the air bubbles with a toothpick.
5. The sausages can be divided into portions of different or the same weights and frozen for later use in freezer bags for 2 to 4 months or you can cook them immediately. Refrigerate for not more than 2 days. If cooking them, place the sausages in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and, just as the water begins to bubble, reduce the heat to below a boil and poach the sausages for 10 minutes, if grilling or frying, or 40 minutes if serving them boiled.