I thought I'd start this thread to give people a place to post or look for specialty items used in recipes, such as sausage casings and hand meat grinders, which I recently needed to source. Anything that one might need in a recipe's completion, from ingredients to appliances to cookware.
I'm sure there are many readers of these forums who have sought out an item for a recipe only to find they had really no idea where to look. To those people, as well as to those who have found items they looked high and low for, and to those who just know about these things and like to share their knowledge, I post this thread.
My search for sausage casings and an affordable meat grinder started with a conversation with a friend about making artisan sausage. I realized I had no idea where to find casings. It was suggested that a local high-end market in Santa Rosa, Pacific Market, might have them. I called, and they did. I was told they sold them by the pound in lengths roughly twenty five feet long and at a per-pound price roughly equivalent to fillet mignon. (!)
I thanked them and said I might try shopping around. I called another high-end food store nearby, Whole Foods, and asked the same question and was given the same answer. The good news is that a 25' length of sausage casings don't weigh much. And one length is more than enough for a five pound sausage recipe.
Next, I needed to find a cheap meat grinder. I looked through many Google Shopping pages for electric grinders but, after reading reviews, found that you get what you pay for with electric meat grinders and that hand-crank grinders are not only still around, but are very affordable. Your basic Weston #10 meat grinder, with sausage attachments, sells for about $40-45 and can be bought at Ace Hardwares all over.
I bought my grinder and ingredients for a pork recipe I got online and made some excellent pork and Asiago sausage. Next up-homemade linguica!
I should also say that I was previously unaware of the awesome bulk spice counter at my nearby Whole Foods. What a great way to get the spices you need without having to buy an expensive bottle full. Savory Spice Shop on D St. in Santa Rosa has opened and, from all the positive feedback from customers (as of today, 10 Yelp reviews, all 5 star!), supplies great variety and great advice from friendly people. There's also a Penzey's spice shop in town. Both have websites.
In the process, I also remembered a gem of a store in my old hometown of Petaluma, Rex Hardware, which was the town's main hardware store for many decades and which, after a fire destroyed it, came back even better than it was originally, having a great supply of modern hardware needs while keeping its old-time atmosphere and stock of classic, country kitchen items and cookware. Many of the things one might look for to replace an antique kitchen item or useful cooking item that can't be found elsewhere might just be in stock there.
Please feel free to add your favorite sources for hard-to-find cooking items or recipe ingredients here. Anything cooking related and hard to find will be on topic.
It seems some people just don't recognize good old fashioned quality anymore
Man, is that right! It can be a good thing, too, for those who frequent garage sales and flea markets. The old-school kitchen tools for sale cheap are often far better than anything being manufactured today and will last a good time longer than their modern counterparts.
Just look at toasters. Best example of planned obsolescence! Todays toasters are just crap, but go to a thrift store and get an old GE and it'll last you forever!
I mentioned in my first post in this thread the SAVORY SPICE company (Spices, Herbs and Seasonings - Savory Spice Shop, Inc.), new in Santa Rosa, CA. Well, an hour later I was in their shop buying spices for homemade linguica and a "Chamarita Beef" recipe. I needed some paprika, coriander, pickling spices and a few other things so I figured I'd give them a shot.
INCREDIBLE selection of things, neatly organized, each spice with a tasting bottle you can taste from and a water cooler to wash the palate.
I needed to have paprika for the linguica, and the recipe called for smoking the sausage, but when I arrived there I saw that they had a Smoked Hot Paprika! I thought, "Perfect!" When I told the woman behind the counter (one of three working in the small shop) what I needed and how the smoked paprika might be the ticket, she showed me a Hickory Smoke Flavoring which is a maltodextrin base with a smoky flavor that is so intense that 4 oz. of it will flavor 80-100 pounds of meat! For $1.30 I got enough smoke flavoring (1/2 oz.) to last me three years!
They had everything I could imagine needing, including a Bhut Jolokia hot sauce as well as the chiles themselves.
The people were extremely knowledgeable and friendly and the prices can't be beat! Shopping for spices can be very expensive when forced to buy full bottles, especially if you don't usually use the spice in your daily cooking. Buying a 1/2 oz. bag of something can be very handy!
It was a pleasure shopping there and I look forward to their expertise helping me become a better cook. I highly recommend this place...