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Friday, July 15, 2016

How John Lewis gets his Texas Hot Guts sausages to snap

Building a Casing

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 12:57 PM

click to enlarge It takes four days to make a single hot gut sausage - KINSEY GIDICK
  • Kinsey Gidick
  • It takes four days to make a single hot gut sausage
I don’t want to see you messing around with a fork and knife when served one of Lewis Barbecue’s Texas hot guts sausages. The stuff of tube meat legend, pitmaster John Lewis’ hot guts deserve a more animalistic approach. I’m talking hands on, rip that sucker apart with your teeth consumption. The pay-off? A rubberband snap of casing splitting beneath your teeth as cured meat spills out. Yes, it looks naughty. No, I don’t care. This is the only way to eat these sausages. But, come to find out, the secret to the hot guts' satisfying snap has nothing to do with Lewis' choice in casings.

“It’s all about the way you cook them,” he says. I’d presumed hot guts creation began with a careful selection of hog intestines. Like a wine list, I pictured Lewis poring over a butcher’s book of pig parts. “I’ll take three meters of heirloom Daruc intestine and a meter of Tamworth, please.” But that’s not the case. 

“We use natural hog casings. Not Ossobow or whatever. They come in a giant bucket salted,” he says. “Your choices are a 30-millimeter all the way up to 40. That indicates the diameter. Sometimes the casings are thicker than others. They’re all different, just like people.” For his purposes Which means those little breakfast sausages you enjoy at Denny’s? Those are made with sheep intestine. And bologna? Beef intestine. Isn’t biology fun?

But back to those hot guts. Lewis says the key to his snap is his three-day curing process, a technique he perfected his while living in Denver of all places.

“I was there with a girlfriend who was going to fashion design school,” Lewis says. Longing for the tastes of his Texas home, Lewis began working on learning the barbecue holy trinity — brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. “I wasn’t thinking about starting a barbecue restaurant,” he says. “I was thinking about what I wanted to eat.”

Using Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie cookbook as a guide, Lewis embarked on a series of sausage-making trial and error. But the obsession paid off. Colorado ended up being the place where Lewis got serious about barbecue.

“I started competing,” he says. And when he moved back to Austin he helped get the Franklin BBQ trailer — the restaurant’s original food truck — started before opening his own successful La Barbecue restaurant. Lewis has since sold his stake in La Barbecue and is now officially a full-time Charleston resident. Which means so are his secret recipe hot guts. And their cozy abode? A specially made sausage smoker in Lewis Barbecue.

“Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have that smoker at max capacity,” Lewis says. That’s 1,600 hundred hot guts just waiting to be snapped. 

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