HELENA – A group in Helena is working to educate people on their food and where it comes from in Montana.
Eleven participants gathered at the Mountain Ranch House restaurant on Sunday for a basic sausage-making class. There, they prepared dozens of links of Italian sausage, bratwurst and chorizo.
The class is organized by the Montana Meat Collective, a group aimed at encouraging people to learn more about where their food comes from.
Alan Michaud created the collective in 2014, inspired by the Portland Meat Collective in Oregon.
“I mainly got it going to learn more about butchery and sausage-making,” he said. “I’m always learning.”
The collective began holding classes in 2016, at a variety of locations. When Michaud purchased the Mountain Ranch House last year, the classes moved there.
On Sunday, Dennis Corbett, who spent around 35 years as a meat cutter in Helena, took students through the entire process of making their own sausage – from grinding pounds of pork shoulder meat, to mixing the specific blends of spices, to stuffing the natural hog casings and twisting the sausage into individual links.
Some of the students, like Walt Lovell and his wife Connie, already had some experience.
“We’ve made our own sausage in the past, but found it invariably exploded the casings or it was too dry or the consistency of the mix just was never right,” Lovell said. “So we thought this would be a chance to up our skills.”
Lovell said, with the tips they learned, they now plan to make sausage more often.
“I thought it also just took some of the mystery out of it,” he said.
When the class was over, each student got to take home a bag of the sausages they made. Michaud also cooked up several of the sausages for the class’s lunch.
One of Sunday’s students came from Bozeman, and Michaud said he has also had people come in from places like Billings and Stevensville.
He said many of the people who take part in the collective’s classes are interested in the chance to know exactly what ingredients are going into their food.
“It’s a clean product,” he said.
Michaud said he hopes the people who go through the class will take what they learned and go further.
“It’s your choice on what you do with it,” he said. “You can get a recipe anywhere for a product, but that’s just a guideline to me. You can change it up however you want it.”
Corbett echoed that sentiment by telling the class that, “there’s 200 ways to make sausage, and all of them are right.”
The Montana Meat Collective is set to hold another set of classes on butchering a pig and on making sausage later in the spring.
They are currently set for April 20 and 21, but Michaud said they may be rescheduled.
Click here to learn more about the upcoming classes.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News