The Making of a Big-Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

The Amis chef explains how he made a 200-pound mortadella—with a little help from Victory Brewing Company.

Photos: Brad Spence

Photos: Brad Spence

Brad Spence is a chef/partner with Philadelphia’s Vetri Family of restaurants. He was a 2013 and 2014 James Beard finalist for his work at Amis. This week, he served an insane 200-pound mortadella at an after-party for the Great Chefs Event. We asked him to give us a blow-by-blow of how he created the epic sausage. Take it away, chef…

So, the thing about me is I love making salumi. Mortadella—the base for what most of us have come to know as bologna—is one of my favorites. At Amis, we make and serve about three 18-pound mortadellas a month.

For the last nine years, the Vetri Family has hosted a huge charity event in Philly called the Great Chefs Event. We bring in chef friends from all over the country and we raise money and awareness for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Vetri Foundation for Children. We’ve had so much great support for the event over the years, and have been able to raised millions of dollars for a good cause.

Following the event itself, we always have a big after-party and four years ago, I had the idea of making a giant mortadella to help celebrate. The first year it was 70 pounds, the next was 110 pounds.,and last year’s was 175 pounds. This year we made it more than 200 pounds. Here’s how it went down:

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making a 200-lb. Mortadella

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella Rough Grind The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

D’Artagnan and Pat LaFrieda donated all the lean pork butt, and we set to grinding it. The grind itself took five days, each time making it smoother and smoother. The meat starts off super-cold, almost frozen, so the fats don’t melt away. Each time we ground it, we had to put it into the freezer to cool down before we could grind it again.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella Smooth Grind The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

Here’s the finished ground meat. It’s smooth, emulsified, and looks like what you find in bologna, or even a hot dog.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella Spices The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

Once the meat is ground, we season it. We mix in salt, black pepper, coriander, dextrose, cinnamon, garlic, a pink cure mix, plus internal garnishes, cubed fatback, and pistachios. The fatback alone makes up about five percent of the mortadella’s total weight.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella Stuffed Sausage The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

We stuff our mortadella in a natural beef bung casing. One casing can usually hold about 25 pounds. This one’s custom sewn by the Natural Casing Company. In total, the mortadella was about six feet long, and 1½ feet in diameter.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella The Cook The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

In years past, we’ve cooked the mortadella in a bathtub with an immersion circulator. This year, we realized we were going to need a bigger bathtub—a much bigger bathtub. We called our buddies at Victory Brewing, and they let use one of their massive fermentation tanks. Here the mortadella is being cooked in a mixture of water and Victory’s Dark Lager.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella The Extraction The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

We cooked the mortadella at 150 degrees for 27 hours. We used a forklift and net to get it out.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella The Slice The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

Here I am making the first slice.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella The Finished The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

And here’s a look at the inside.

Brad Spence 200 lb Mortadella The Grill The Making of a Big Ass Sausage, with Chef Brad Spence

For the party this past Tuesday, we served the mortadella a few ways. It was cubed and served with mustard; used as a topping on square pizza slices along with mushrooms and ricotta; and grilled for sandwiches topped with mayo, lettuce, raw onion, and hot peppers. We used about 60 pounds of it in one night.

The mortadella took us a week to make, and it will take us a few more weeks to eat. We gave a 50-pound chunk to the Victory guys, and we are dividing it up amongst our restaurants. We’ll give it away to guests because so many of them have heard about it and ask to try it, so it also gives us more opportunities to talk about Alex’s Lemonade and the Vetri Foundation.

I’m already starting to think about next year’s mortadella. We’re for sure going bigger.

RELATED: The Most Under-the-Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

RELATED: Sausages Around the World

Newsletter

Feed your inbox.

Subscribe