Fiery Moroccan Lamb Merguez

Hank Shaw likens sausage-making to jazz: "You have all these standards, but there's room for improvisation." With this spicy merguez from North Africa, adjust the seasonings to vary the flavor intensity and heat.


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  • Active:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: Makes 5 pounds
  • Time(Other): 45 min plus overnight rest
KEY: Barbecue/Cookout, Father's Day, Game Day, African, Moroccan, Make Ahead

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  • 4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3-by-1-inch strips
  • 1 pound lamb or pork fat, cut into 2-by-1-inch strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 cup harissa
  • 15 to 18 feet (about 1/2 ounce) salted pork or sheep casings

How to make this recipe

  1. Spread the meat and fat strips on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, dry seasonings and spices and sprinkle the seasoning mixture all over the meat and fat. Refrigerate the meat and fat for 15 minutes. Drizzle the liquid ingredients all over the meat and fat. Freeze the seasoned meat and fat until very firm, about 45 minutes.

  2. Chill the bowl of a stand mixer and the meat grinder's parts in the freezer. Set up the grinder with the coarse grinding plate; place the bowl below. With the machine at medium-high speed, gradually drop in the meat and fat. Add any liquid on the baking sheets to the ground meat.

  3. Put the ground meat in the freezer again to keep it at 32° to 40° (at 45°, the fat begins to melt, ruining the texture of the sausage). Using clean hands or the paddle of the stand mixer, knead or beat the meat until a sticky mass forms, about 50 seconds; be careful not to let the meat get too warm. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

  4. Meanwhile, soak the pork or sheep casings in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain the casings. Working over the sink, gently run warm water through each casing. Pinch both ends and lift up the water-filled casing. Look for any spots that leak and cut out those portions.

  5. Place the sausage stuffer in the freezer for 15 minutes. Set up the sausage stuffer and slip all but 6 inches of a casing onto the tube, leaving the trailing end untied. Tightly pack the sausage mixture into the canister. Start cranking the sausage stuffer very slowly until the meat emerges from the tube. Now tie a knot at the trailing end of the casing. Slowly crank the sausage into the casing, using your free hand to regulate how tightly the sausage is packed; make sure not to overstuff the casing. When the casing is nearly stuffed, tie off the end.

  6. Starting at one end, pinch off the first link by pinching your fingers around the sausage to separate the filling; 6 inches is a good average length. Then, roll the link toward you 3 to 5 times, creating a twist in the casing. Move down to form the next link, rolling 3 to 5 times in the opposite direction (this prevents unraveling). If the casing splits, remove the stuffing near the split and tie the casing closed before proceeding. Alternately, the links can be formed by sectioning them off with butcher's twine. Repeat with the remaining casings and sausage.

  7. Hang the sausages on wooden or metal racks over 2 rimmed baking sheets, making sure not to crowd them so that air can circulate around them. Sterilize a needle over a flame. Prick holes all over the sausages with the needle, especially where there are air pockets. Let the sausages hang to dry for 1 to 2 hours, then wrap in butcher's paper and refrigerate overnight before cooking.

Make Ahead

The sausages can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks.

Contributed By Photo © Antonis Achilleos Published December 2010

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