Saturday, February 14, 2015

Boerewors spice recipe


A South African braaivleis (BRIGH [like high] - flayce, lit. 'roast meat,' but meaning barbecue) is nothing without boerewors [BOO-ruh-vawrs, farmers sausage].

But boerewors is close to impossible to find in New York, and when you do, it's a bizarre echo of something the maker never tasted themselves. In 2010, when I first started looking for recipes for boerewors online, it amazed me that this ubiquitous South African sausage, available in every supermarket and butchery and corner joint in South Africa, had very few recipe-references. One cut and paste job was everywhere. I dug deep, wrote to friends, received old family recipes, experimented, consulted my memory of countless coils of boerewors eaten over a lifetime, and at last came up with a spice blend.

Ivan Palma and Pedro Franco

I ground and mixed the spices and delivered them to Los Paisanos, our butcher on Smith Street, Brooklyn, and returned days later to pick up 6lbs of custom-made sausage. Pedro Franco - with whom I have been friends for years - mixed up the first batch for me, and later Ivan Palma took over operations.

It was the first of many boerewors orders.

For the first year, as we tested and tasted, we worked our way heroically through coils and coils of sausage, becoming neurotic in our analyses of texture and taste. Back in South Africa we chewed with squinty eyes on every variation of the delicious local sausages, comparing, judging, and fattening visibly.

One version of my recipe yielded sausage good enough to be given the seal of approval and published by Go (Weg)  Magazine (Media 24), the go-to publication for travellers in South Africa. And you don't travel in South Africa without braaing.


But I still felt something was missing, and I kept tweaking.

The difference, in the end? More salt, more coriander, and a tablespoon of baharat, a Middle Eastern spice mix I had left over from some Ottolenghi meatballs. Go figure. This surprising missing element contained many of the traditional boerewors spices - like nutmeg and allspice - plus some extras. So I isolated those, and now they are the optional additions for my favorite version of boerewors, which checks all boxes: nostalgia, tradition, deliciousness. 

If you omit the baharat (deconstructed in the form of the asterisked spices) you'll have the basic boerewors recipe. It's good. But with the cumin, cardamom, cinnamon? It's epic.  


You could use either just-beef or just-lamb, but you must use the fatty pork. This is a fine grind and we ask for lamb casings. If you make your own, marinate overnight.

For 6lbs of Sausage:

The Meat:

2lbs beef
2 lbs mutton or lamb
2lbs fatty pork belly 

Boerewors Spice Mix:

3 Tablespoons whole coriander seeds (once a year I use my own!)
2.5 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tsp cumin*
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/2 cup Malt vinegar

* omit for basic recipe

For the spices: 

In a hot pan singe the coriander very lightly and then grind into powder. Add the other dry spices, mix, and bag.

Hand this to your butcher, with the bottle of malt vinegar, and say, Please.


Los Paisanos will make this sausage for you, IF you commit to a minimum order of 6lbs and IF you bring your own spices and vinegar. Ask for "the South African Sausage," and for Ivan or Pedro.

Tell them Marie sent you.

31 comments:

  1. Any chance you remember how much they charge for this?

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  2. Anonymous - It was in the realm of $10 per lb.

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  3. This is not a traditional boerewors recipe. No plaasboer would dream of using garam masala or malt vinegar and the method is faulty.

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  4. So, grootbek Plaasjapie - what's a better recipe?

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  5. And what's a plaasjapie doing in Oz anyway? :-)

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  6. Since our dream of eternal white supremacy died on us, we plaasjapies are to be found everywhere. And believe me the world is not a better place for this diaspora.

    I will supply a recipe. For the moment, let me say that the clove/coriander ratio is crucial, toasting the coriander is heretical, and boerewors is not a fatty sausage. And then there is the matter of steeping the mixture.

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  7. OK, Plaasjapie - I await your recipe with baited breath.

    It was a real boer who told me to toast the coriander though, so your heresy is not his heresy! I think you'll find as many opinions on boerewors as people who make it. And I have eaten a lot of boerewors.

    Nog 'n ding - this does not yield fatty sausage. At all. If anything, it's a tad on the dry side - maybe because modern pigs have less fat?

    In the meantime, I have put in a request to Vereeniging for a very old wors recipe, and can't wait to see it.

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  8. Plaasjapie is all talk it would seem ..

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  9. So I can just walk in to Los Paisanos on any given day and they will have boerewors ready for me to buy? If so...dan is al my gebede verhoor. I've been in NY for 7 years and have not been able to come across boerewors.

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    1. Hi Lizanne - no, you either take this spice mix to them - which is easy to make; or you order ahead.

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  10. Hi Marie,

    What would you reccommend (weight) of an average piece for "first-timers" please ? I am introducing several Frencg friends to the joys of braiing.

    Baie Dankie van Jerry

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    1. Hi Jerry - this makes 6lbs and one coil is roughly 1lb. I would braai one coil for two hungry people. or if there are also chops and other goeters on the braai, one coil could be split amongst four.

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  11. Dear Marie

    After living in Australia for 7 years and some one making a killing from real badly manufacturer wors , which I refuse to waste my monies on , I took your recipe to my butcher who so kindly minced my meat and then sent me on my way to make my own sausages .

    Tonight I will be stuffing the sausages through my machine - I left them to marinate for 24 hours, now I might not be able to wait until tomorrow to taste the wors and taste testing will have to happen tonight between making rolls and frying (Braai'ing)

    But as I am happy to eat wors raw , the taste was as I remeber from RSA and I was never a big eaters.

    So maybe after tonight there will be a bunch of happy South Africans in my suburb. I already supply them with Biltong on demand.

    Regards

    Happy Wors maker

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    1. And as you know Marie, I continue to make my own here, albeit with more coriander than the original recipe I sent to you.

      I share the above Saffa's problem with Oz wors. But even worse, it is made by "The British Sausage Company". Kan jy dit glo??? This alone was insult enough for me to start making my own.

      Trust you are well,

      Vissie

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  12. Looks good Marie, thanks for tips. However, as this Canadian sits quite full of boereworse in his Cape Town condo, I need to suggest caraway seeds. I really am no expert, but the sausage i just pounded back (fortunately nobody was here to watch) was both delicious - AND full of caraway seeds.

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    1. Caraway...interesting. Sounds quite like 'Italian' sausage here in Brooklyn.

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  13. Inspired by your recipe I attempted boerewors flavoured meetballs. Think it would have been great if I didn't mistake my cardamon seeds for coriander seeds. Interesting flavour, but used WAY TOO much. Oh well, no one tell my husband please ☺️😎

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    1. Woah - cardamom is powerful. How funny. Did you like the result?

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  14. With oodles of tomato sauce and krummel pap, let's just say it was...er..interesting. Still have 6 meatballs left coz husband couldnt stand it so will try to mash it into some tomato-pasta-bake of some sorts.

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    1. Ag, shame. Well, it was a valiant effort, but I can imagine the cardamom would be overpowering, Why don't you turn it into a curry or Middle Eastern dish, instead?

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  15. We talk about "classic" and "traditional" boerewors, yet what we each mostly look for is what we got used to from our own local supplier back home - and they didn't all supply the same thing. Remembering from my grandpa's butchery some 40 years ago, which he inherited from his father, he was appalled that in the 1970s pork was becoming a staple in SA biltong. In the times before, pigs were not abundant and the main livestock was cattle - mostly cows and occasionally sheep or goats. So! to begin with, "classic" or "traditional" boerewors would be either beef only or beef with some mutton added. As for the spices, you have to remember who were the people making the original boerewors and under what conditions they lived and in what period of history... In other words, if it wasn't a spice readily available locally, it probably wasn't used much or at all. It could be imported but then it would have to be a low priced imported spice... In South Africa 100 years ago, that was pretty much salt, pepper, sugar, coriander seeds and cloves. Maybe even allspice... Malt vinegar? possible, but more likely apple cider vinegar - use the pure, unfiltered, raw stuff. At least for me, that's as close as I have got to the boerewors from my local butchery back in SA - my Grandpa's butchery. As for the making? I found that by buying a meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachment and sausage casing (again - beef or sheep) and making it myself, my cost is cut down to the actual cost of the ingredients and some of my spare time...

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    1. Hello Anonymous - where do you live?

      That is why it is such fun to come up with recipes. 100 years ago (1915) the East Indian spices were easily available (and long before, as the spice route is the reason colonial South Africa exists) and the basic spices you mention are in the recipe above.

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  16. Hi Marie, Thanks for the recipe. I'm going to try it this weekend...hoping my butcher has pork belly. (Found you off Hank's site)

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    1. Hi Sue - if no pork belly substitute 1/2 pork fat and 1/2 lean pork. Most recipes just call for pork fat, but I find that too fatty for my taste (and I like fat).

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  17. Hi Marie
    I have used your recipe now a couple of times and have made about 10kgs of Boerewors. The real test was feeding it to my wife's extended family in the UK all of whom are ex Rhodesians. Thumbs up all round. Thanks again for posting it. Chris.

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    1. Hi Chris - I am so glad to hear that! Thank you for coming back to let me know.

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  18. This is completely wrong. I could smell I as was compiling my spices. Boerewors is a distinct flavour and your variations take the Boerewors taste out of the sausage. Why not just call it something else? This is not Boerewors, I’m a South African who makes and eats it regularly. Try calling it “Dukkah coarse sausage”. That way you aren’t confusing continents, cultures or cuisines.

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    1. I have eaten beyond my body weight in boerewors and am confident that this one holds its own, well within the (quite wide) traditional range. As suggested, you could omit the asterisked spices. Do you know much about the origins of boerewors?

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