Christmas Tree Sausage
Photographs by Daniel Vaughn

This time of year can get a little too sweet, with pies, fruitcakes, and plates piled high with cookies crowding the tables at most parties. What the holidays need more of is meat, and I’m not talking mincemeat. Can you really create lasting memories with thumbprint cookies? Instead, give your guests something to remember with a platter of savory sausage Christmas trees.

All you need to build a forest of forcemeat is a few wooden skewers, pickled onions and hot sauce for decorating, beef sticks for the trunks, and a very large coil of sausage. I stopped in at Jimmy’s Food Store in Dallas for its house recipe Italian sausage, but any sausage in a continuous casing will work. You can coil the sausage inside your smoker and smoke it, or use a cast iron skillet to contain as shown in the photo below. Pack it in as tightly as you can, but hold off on the skewers until after the sausage is cooked. You don’t want all the good fat to leak out.

The rain was relentless when I cooked these up this week, so I roasted them in the oven. I put just a bit of oil in the pan so the sausage wouldn’t stick. I started slow at 350 so the meat wouldn’t burst and, after fifteen minutes, raised the temperature to 425 for another ten minutes. The sausage coil came out nicely browned and plump. Let the pan cool for a bit, and then transfer the coil to a large cutting board.

Take wooden skewers and pierce them through the outside edge of the coil and through all the layers until the skewer tip reaches the center of the coil. Do this with eight evenly spaced skewers. Cut the coil with a sharp knife in between each of the skewers, just like you would a pizza. Pull the wedges apart, and you’ve got the beginnings of a sausage Christmas tree.

Push the skewer through enough so a pickled pearl onion can be slid on top for the star. Cut the bottom of the skewer to whatever length you’d like for the trunk, and then slide a section of beef stick or Slim Jim over the bottom of the skewer to complete the trunk. Now take some red and green Sriracha (or any thick red and green sauces) and dab on a few ornaments onto the surface of the sausage. Set them the trees on a platter, and be prepared to have your cookies ignored. In Texas, it’s hard to compete with a Christmas tree made of sausage.