Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How To Make Boerewors

Boerewors... Yes, boerewors is definitely one of the South African foods that South African expats miss the most.

In many ways, there's nothing special about boerewors. It's basically spiced, ground meat stuffed into casings. In other ways, there is a lot that is special about it, especially if you can't simply go buy it at the local grocery store!

It becomes part of an age-old South African ritual... the opening of the first beer... the lighting of the fire... the drinking of the second beer while staring nostalgically into the flames... placing the braai (barbeque) grid over the coals, and putting the "boerie" where it was born to be... opening the fourth beer... braai-ing the boerewors to perfection (at least in your mind)... and then that magic flavor... you can taste the coriander and nutmeg in the juices... you wonder, "why has it been so long?"

Some South African expats learn very quickly how to make their own boerewors. Others yearn for it, or try to buy it online. For those who haven't learnt how to do it yet, here's how to make your own boerewors...

You're going to need a meat grinder with a sausage-stuffing attachment. We bought ours at Linens & Things for around $100. It has a metal casing (better quality) and comes with 3 grinding plates. We use the grinding plate with the biggest holes (quarter inch or 6 mm) because you don't want to grind the meat too finely. It also came with two sausage-stuffing attachments. We usually use the bigger one of the two to prevent the meat from becoming too compacted.

Next you're going to need a boerewors recipe. Here is a good boerewors recipe to get you going... Our recipe differs slightly from that one because we used it as a starting point and then modified it each time we made another batch until we got the taste that we love. (We don't add the bacon, and we've increased the amount of coriander by about 20%.)

The recipe calls for beef and pork. We found that trimmed brisket works best for the beef. It's cheap and already contains a lot of fat, so you don't have to add extra fat. Get the trimmed brisket because the untrimmed brisket simply contains too much fat that you end up throwing away anyway. We buy any lean-ish pork we can find.

You're also going to need sausage casings to stuff the meat into. Living in Texas, we buy hog casings at HEB, our local grocery store. That works fine. There are also several places where you can buy casings online.

The spices in the boerewors recipe that I mentioned above, are all available at our local grocery store, so I would imagine yours will have it too. The recipe calls for vinegar. We use a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and regular white vinegar, but I believe white vinegar alone works fine if you can't find malt vinegar. Mix all your dry spices beforehand and set it aside until later.

At this point you should have everything you're going to need, including a sharp knife. Put all the meat in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Cold meat is much easier to cut than room-temperature meat.

Prepare the casings. Casings packed in salt need to be thoroughly soaked and rinsed. We let ours soak in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes, and then rinse with cold water. We also run water through the casings to rinse the inside.

Now you're ready to go...
  1. Cut all your meat into cubes of about 1 inch by 1 inch.
  2. Mix the beef and pork cubes thoroughly.
  3. Let the meat cubes stand for a while, preferably in a container with holes in the bottom. This allows excess blood to drain away. I sometimes run cold water through the meat to help drain away the last bit.
  4. Mix all the dry spices and vinegar into the meat. We find that it helps to spread the meat out in a large, flat container and then adding the spices and vinegar little by little while mixing it.
  5. Grind all the meat using a large grinding plate to get a coarse grind. We use our quarter inch plate. Cold meat also grinds easier than room-temperature meat, so you may want to put the meat cubes in the refrigerator for a while before grinding. This is not critical though.
  6. Grind all the meat.
  7. Remove the cutting blade and grinding plate from the grinder and fit the sausage-stuffing attachment. Pull one length of casing over the attachment. If it's difficult to slide the casing over the attachment, wet the attachment with a little water. We also sometimes blow in the casing to fill it with air. This removes any kinks in the casing and makes it slide over easier.
  8. Stuff the ground meat into the casing. Be careful not to over-stuff the casing. This will cause the casing to burst while braai-ing, and with that, a lot of flavor is lost. This is a two-person job. One feeds the ground meat into the stuffer, and the other controls the speed with which the casing comes off the attachment.
The next part is critical...

Go light a fire, open a beer, and reward yourself with a freshly-braaied piece of boerewors...


Kairn said...

Thanx a million for this description. My son usually helps my husband to make boerewors. He is going to use this in an oral for school. It helped a lot with the translation of the Afrikaans words!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe.Turned out great.Ex Saffer in Aus

Anonymous said...

it all sounds so good but i cant find a grinder and stuffer the island of Antigua in the caribbean please help !!!!! Wayne

JohnE said...

I'm glad everyone's enjoying the boerewors!

Wayne, you may want to try one of the online stores that ship internationally. Amazon perhaps?

Berglund said...

Thanks for this. My dad back in SA suggested at least 10% fat. That's a good guideline, else it turns out too lean.

Clinton said...

Very good of you to post this very handy guide. For my very first attempt, managed to pull off some pretty neat boerie & was hilarious making it for the first time. It even tasted good but will tweak the recipe (probably less coriander and a wee bit of garlic). Question: the skin kept getting stuck to the nozzle and then broke off, so I put less skin on (not so compact), seemed to work better but then did'nt get such a long piece (1 metre), is this correct?
How long do the skins last? bought a whole heap to much
Sturg, Bucks, UK

JohnE said...

Clinton, glad your boerie came out good! About the skins (casing), since ours comes packed in salt to preserve it, we soak the casing in water for about 30 minutes. We also run water through the casing before using it. Each casing that we put onto the nozzle comes straight out of the water-filled bowl containing the soaked casings. Then we also wet the nozzle before pulling the soaked casing over it. Some people also say that the colder the water is, the easier the stuffing. We've never had problems with casing getting stuck to the nozzle.
I think if you freeze any unused casing in saltwater, it should last quite a while.

Clinton said...

Cheers John, getting everything colder & wetter seems to work better. I did over-load the nozzle, a little ambitious trying to make a moerse long boerie but there is really no need for home made stuff.1 metre is plenty long. Can't wait for the summer now. Fried is OK but nothing like a braai. Thanks again.

andrafaye said...

Hello! Thanks so much for the recipe and directions on how to make the boerewors! My husband is also from P.E. and I made boerewors today for our anniversary. It was a hit! Nothing like the taste of home...or the smell of them on the braai. A little bit of SA right here in Washington.

Tahiti said...

what a find! definitely going to give this a go in the summer...actually since it would normally be my summer.....will give it a try this weekend. can do boerie in the wet!
Tahiti van Rooyen, Sherston, UK

Nadia said...

Thanx sooooo much for this post & recipe. Got my grinder & stuffer on friday and going to attemps getting the correct "cuts of meat" to make us some Boerewors today! Can't wait for summer(here in Avondale,Pensylvania) have to have some Boerewors before the weekend is over! If this works out well I will start trying my hand at Droewors - any suggestions with that will be GREAT!!! ;)

JohnE said...

Thanks Nadia. The only thing we do differently when we make droëwors, is we don't use pork in the recipe. Use only beef. The reason for this is that the pork fat goes rancid after a while and then the wors tastes weird. If you're wondering how to dry the wors, you can simply use a cardboard box and a fan, as I describe in this article about making a biltong box: www.sa-austin.com/other.html (scroll down the page to get the cardboard box version of the drier.)

Anonymous said...

Howzit:-) Thanks for the detailed instructions it came out grrrrrrr8:0)
Saffa in Prague

Jeff said...

Learned this Afrikaaner "delicacy" while I was in Krugersdorp in the early 80's. I missed the fun of a good braii and am so glad to have the boerie to enjoy again. It is wunderlik!
Dankie Hoor!
Jeff in Arizona... hot like SA but never the same for food....

Sue said...

I've ordered my meat grinder and will hopefully be trying to make my first Wors next week. I've been reading this site and can't wait to try all the wonderful tips.

I noticed someone said they use different names for cuts of meat in different countries. A helpful site is http://www.askthemeatman.com/index.html Look through the site map, and you should find some answers.

I can almost smell that Wors now! Can't wait.

Nadia said...

We have made the wors 2 times now and the taste is AMAZING... It is a bit "dry" though. Don't think we are using the correct pork/beef cuts? Any advise?

JohnE said...

To everyone who read this article, made some boerewors and had a nice braai, and then came back to comment here, thanks so much! Your comments are making it well worth my while for writing the article. I am really happy that this article has added some value to your lives!

To Nadia (the comment above this one), if the wors is a little dry, I would add more fat. There are some traditionalists out there who will add up to 20% fat. That's a little much for me, but you could start off with 10% fat. Working with the recipe on my SA-Austin site, add about a half pound fat (250g). As I said in the article, some of it also depends on the cut of meat you are using. We use brisket for the beef component and it already contains a fair amount of fat in the meat. Experiment with the fat until you find a balance that works for you.

Ron H said...

Hi everyone, and thank you to John for starting this very helpful blog.

Over time I’ve experimented with making wors, bumping my head here and there, and it still remains the best way to learn how to create the perfect Boerie to match your taste.
Reading the interesting comments, I’d like to add some tips to maybe help some folks.

For my wors I use Chuck Roast and Pork Boston Butt. Chuck here in the States is very different to what I knew in SA. I also do not buy the cheapest meat on the market, rather go for beter quality because I like a premium tasting wors.

As far as preventing the “dry tasting” wors, I have changed my method over time by doing the following:- I cut as much fat off the meat before grinding, then set the fat aside. That "flabby" Pork fat from the butt I discard and rather buy the packs of salted pork belly fat strips. If it has skin on I cut it off. I work on a ratio of 1/3 beef fat to 2/3 pork fat, then work on a ratio (equivalent) of 3 lbs Beef meat, 3 lbs Pork meat and 1 lb fat for the wors. I grind the Fat first on the fine disk, then mix it with the meat before grinding the meat on the course disc. In this way the fat is not too “chunky” in the wors yet still adds enough moisture so it is not dry. Just my preference to not see the pieces of fat, even cooked when cutting the wors after braaing it.

When I made my first batch of wors, I also used the meat grinder to grind the meat on the large disc, then stuff the wors with the grinder by removing the disc and adding the stuffing tube. To my own taste preference, I found the texture of the wors to be too fine. And as with all hobbies, we start with one item then add more, so I bought a sausage stuffer and prefered the texture. I have also invested in a vacuum packer and love this gadget!

Some advice on the casings after experimenting around:- To freeze does not work so well, I don’t know if they get freezer burn or if the freezing affects the casing, but if you store them in a plastic container (with lid) and very liberally add salt and if needed add very little distilled water to maintain moisture. The salt has to be so liberal that it will not dissolve further. Just refrigerate them and they will have an indefinite shelf live. Before using the casing, just rinse the salt off.
I buy my casings from www.sausagemaker.com , they may be a bit more expensive than your local butcher. But I just prefer their casings, they are very good quality and consistent in diameter.
They also sell Lamb casings and in time I would like to make my own lamb sausage and also some beef sausage on small diameter casings (3/4”) for dry wors.
This week I’m working on the German Bratwurst and Weisswurst. My Dad was German, and we used to buy these sausages from a German Butcher on the East Rand “Herti”.

Whising everyone happy braai times!

Ron said...

A few weeks ago I read on a sausage making site that they recommend to soak the casings in water with vinegar before stuffing. Since then I’ve tried this a few times, even asked friends and family who had some of my home made boerewors before to try the wors made with casings soaked in water / vinegar solution. They all agreed that the casing is “softer”, and preferred this.

The recipe I read recommended 1 cup water / 1 tablespoon white vinegar, then to wash the casing with clean water after soaking. The last time I made wors I did not rinse the water / vinegar solution off, and I thought the taste was fantastic. Besides that I felt most of the slight vinegar taste on the outside of the casings would be diminished during braaing. And so it did!

Try it and please let me know if any of you agree this is better?

Cliff & Pam said...

I am shortly going to get my equipment together to give this a go.
I have been looking at the 'Collagen' casings. What are your thoughts on using this type for boerewors.


JohnE said...

Hi Cliff & Pam. I don't have too much experience with collagen casings because we usually use hog casings for our boerewors. We did however once use it for making droëwors because we wanted a thinner casing for that. The collagen casing was strong and we had no breakages while stuffing. It also produces a very uniformly-stuffed sausage. I did notice that the drying time was a good 25% longer. I think this is due to the collagen casing being thicker than hog casing. I'd be interested to know your experience with collagen casing for boerewors.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, it was amazing! What I did differently was to grind the meat without spices using the large grinding plate, then added spices and grinded it again through the medium plate. A butcher from SA advised me to do so, because like that the spices mix better with the meat. Turned out great, and brought me the taste of home to Germany. Thanks a lot, Fabian

Elle said...

Hi! I am buying my husband a grinder for Father's Day but am confused as to what diameter the casings should be for boerewors. I've read all of the comments but possibly missed this. Could you clarify for me, please? Thanks!

JohnE said...

Hi Elle. The typical boerewors uses a casing of about 3/4 - 1 inch in diameter. You can get artificial casing that will follow that dimension exactly, but I find that casing to be a little chewy. I prefer hog casing that we buy at our local grocery store. If you're in Texas, we buy our hog casing at HEB.