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Reading Unit #6
Choosing The Meat For Your Sausages
Very often, we consumers don’t have all that much choice of just what goes into our sausage. Many folks live in rural areas and are somewhat limited to using wild game meats, while others might raise animals such as sheep or cattle. For those folks in a city, the local grocery usually provides a pretty good assortment of pork and beef, with fowls such as chicken, turkey, and ducks, for making very good sausages, but with very limited wild game if any. Whatever you, as a home hobbyist, decide to stuff into casings, you may be assured you can always craft a better sausage than any available commercially, simply by being a little fussy about what goes into the hopper and following time-tested procedures.
Be a little selective when choosing meats for your sausages. If you were raised to believe that sausages were just a place for all the “leftover” cuts and odd n’ ends, you were deceived. Good sausage is made of quality cuts of usually one or two animals. If you are using wild game, it is most prudent to include pork with pork fat to “temper” the mixture. You will simply achieve better texture and flavor. For example, I grew up eating a lot of venison sausage even on a cattle ranch. It was tasty and just fine as long as we made it with a certain percentage of pork and pork fat. Venison has very little fat to begin with, but we eliminated any found (venison fat tastes “gamey”), while we were busy cutting chunks of meat ready for the grinder. We replaced any deer or elk fat using 25% (by volume) pork back-fat. We used pork fat in all sausages, including beef sausages.
It is a good idea to select pork by always shopping at a trusted retail facility. Have you ever heard of “PSE pork” and wondered what it meant? PSE stands for “pale, soft, exudative”, and characterizes meat which shows poor water-binding capacity due to a non-normal fast drop of the pH after slaughter. (See pH at this link: http://sausageswest.com/5-microbiology-technology-the-science-of-meat-cultures/comment-page-6/#comment-1886).
On the other hand, the term DFD refers to “dark, firm, dry”. Meat showing DFD properties can be identified by a pH-value above 6.2.
Meat cuts are characterized as being either “noble” or “less noble”. Noble cuts are made up of mostly highly suitable lean meat along with some bone (to keep the meat juicy as it cooks). Further, they have little connective tissue and contain “easy to remove” outside” fat. They come from the parts of an animal that exercise less frequently such as pork loin, ham, and belly, or beef round sirloin, and rump. These cuts are easy to cook and are very tasty. Can you think of a “less noble” cut? Consider the brisket on a steer – the muscular chest between the front legs. It gets regular exercise “on the hoof” and requires real cooking skill to prepare properly. This cut is not really suitable for making sausage, but just marinate and then barbecue it for eight hours at only 200 degrees F and see what happens! On the other hand, there are sausages that specify a particular cut of meat for its unique flavor. For instance, there is a type of mortadella called “lyoner” that requires pork jowls. Others specify the rear-leg ham, pork belly, or even the skin. Less noble cuts include parts of an animal that exercise more frequently and include pork shoulder, picnic (front upper leg), and hocks. On a steer, less noble cuts include the neck and shoulder. There are also innumerable smaller parts of an animal, both noble and less noble, used for making sausage. These are the “trimmings” from the kidneys and liver, the heart and even the tongue.
Unlike beef, having three primary cuts along it’s back, the hog has but one – the loin. The fore-end of the loin is called the “shoulder cut” or “shoulder chops”, while the center cut has “rib chops”. The south end of the loin on a northbound pig contains the tenderloin and the “sirloin chops”. Shoulder cuts have a lot of fat and connective tissue and are good for roasting or braising but not especially pan-frying. Center cuts have two types of connective muscle while loin chops have one.
In the United States pork is graded either “acceptable” or “utility”. Supermarkets stock only “acceptable” grade fresh pork. Meat graded “utility” pork goes into processed products and is not available as “fresh” pork.
A piggy has five principal cuts and include the (a.) shoulder (butt), the upper front leg below the butt called the (b.) “picnic”, the (c.) loin, the (d.) side, and the rear leg called the (e.) ham. These five parts contain all the specialty cuts and parts we use. To see how they are divided, click on the following interactive link from the University Of Nebraska. http://porcine.unl.edu/porcine2005/pages/index.jsp?
Pork and beef mix very well and many sausages are made using the combination. The pork butt (shoulder) and the beef chuck are all-around great choices. They have an ideal fat-to-lean meat ratio, making sausage tender and juicy. Without the fat, the sausage will be dry and difficult to chew.
Did you know that pork fat is unsaturated fat (good cholesterol), and pork lard (melted fatback) is much healthier than butter – which is saturated fat (bad cholesterol). Younger animals have less fat and veal is the leanest, although our ranch outfit never made or used veal products, protesting the inhumane treatment of the calves from which it is made. (Nor did we eat foie gras (force-fed duck liver), disputing the conditions to which these animals are subjected.)
Did you know that meat is up to 75% water and that the age of the animal is the most important factor in choosing a cut for its fat content? Quite simply, the older a hog is, the fatter it is. Is man able to control the flavor of pork? Partially, yes – by controlling their diets. For instance the Smithfield Hams were produced by feeding hogs peanuts. In Spain, home of the famous Serrano Ham, the hogs have been raised on acorns, and the Italian “Parma Hams” are from hogs having eaten chestnuts and whey from the parmesan cheese-making process.
Sausages made entirely from beef will have a harder texture and will be drier than those made of either all or partial pork. Polish sausages are made mostly of pork only, as are Hungarian, Italian and Spanish sausages. On the other hand, German sausages are often made from equal amounts of pork and beef.
When you go shopping, forget someone else’s “description” of the pork contained in a package. Study the classifications below and then inspect the pork at the counter yourself.
Pork Class I has no bone and is very lean with no more than 15% fat. It contains no tendons. Pork loin is the leanest cut of all and is certainly Class I. Some Class I pork is located in the ham (rear leg), although meat grades of all classes may be found in the leg. Fat between muscles is less than 2 mm.
Pork Class II has no bone, but has some medium fat and some tendons. Fat between muscles may be up to 10 mm. Class II has no more than 30 % fat. Pork butt, also known as Boston butt is a great source of Class II although all meat grades may be obtained from the shoulder. Note that Class II (B) contains no more than 45 % fat.
Pork Class III, is lean or medium lean, with no bone, but much sinew and no more than 25 % fat. Class III is found in picnics, legs, and other cuts.
Pork Class IV, has no bone, but contains traces of blood, tendons, and glands. It has no more than 36 % fat.
Beef, especially finely comminuted, has excellent binding properties. As some sausages are made entirely of beef, finely ground it can hold up to 30% water; excellent for making sausage. However, most recipes require some amount of added pork for enhanced flavor. Beef, being a little tougher with a dark-colored blood, may not be the best choice for certain sausages. Beef liver, for instance, is not well-suited for making liver sausages unless it contains at least half pork liver. Those folks making blood sausages, consistently prefer hog blood to beef blood because of its lighter color. And sausages made using lamb, (having a very strong flavor), are usually made with a much higher percentage of pork.
The Three Basic Grades Of Beef
The Meat Inspection Division of the United States Department of Agriculture grades beef quality by estimating the age of the animal, the amount of fat marbling (determined by looking at the rib eye at the 12th rib), and by the texture, color, and appearance of the rib eye. U.S.D.A. “quality grading” is optional and according to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association only about 2% of all the beef carcasses produced in this country, submitted for grading, are quality-graded as “Prime”.
• Prime beef cuts are generally the most tender, flavorful, and delicious steaks and roasts and contain less meat due to a higher fat content (marbling). This grade is the most expensive beef and usually only found in meat markets – as opposed to supermarkets. Unless you butcher your own, the best cuts of beef will come from meat markets supplying restaurants and are always Prime or Choice cuts of meat.
• Choice beef is juicy and tender, producing excellent steaks and roasts. About 44% of the beef submitted for quality grading is “Choice” grade, (the next grade down from Prime), and is usually available to and selected by, shoppers in retail markets. There is nothing wrong with cuts of this grade and they will save careful shoppers money.
• Select beef is generally the most popular grade of beef containing the “average cuts” needing tenderizing occasionally. They are mostly used for grilling or in slow-cooking recipes. Usually marinated, these cuts are found in the supermarket and save the consumer even more money than by purchasing choice grade.
When beef is purchased in vacuum packages, it appears dark reddish-purple. When the package is opened, exposure to oxygen causes the meat to turn bright red, and after a few days, the surface will change to brown. Other grades of beef, sometimes found in supermarkets, are referred to as:
These are usually tough cuts and require a little talent to “render tender”, but that’s not to say they can’t be made into very tasty meals. There is no clearly cut definition of these categories and some care should be exercised when making selections. Many people don’t realize that the very best cuts of beef are not available in supermarkets, as they are sold only to restaurants and retailers. Fine restaurants often utilize a process called “aging”, a term used to describe the holding of various meats at a temperature of 34 to 36 degrees F. (1 to 2 degrees C.) for a specified period of time while tough connective tissues break down through the action of enzymes, increasing tenderness. Often, mold will develop upon a carcass (a sure sign of aging), and will simply be washed away with vinegar or cut away before the tenderized meat lying beneath, is cut, cooked, and served. And what about cuts from older steers? Quite often they end up in discount stores.
Class I, is very lean with no bone, no tendons and no fat between mucsles. Overall it contains no more than 7% fat.
Class II, is very lean with no bone but some tendons. Fat between muscles measures up to 2 mm thick. Overall it contains no more than 16% fat.
Class III, is called fat beef and the fat between muscles measures up to 10 mm thick. Overall it contains no more than 45% fat.
Class IV, has no bone but has traces of blood, tendons, and glands. Contains no more than 40 % fat.
Check Yourself Up – Unit 6 (Selecting Meat)
1. T F Making sinew, gristle, and crushed bone into “home sausages” is what SausagesWest is all about because when it is comminuted, it contains a lot of calcium!
2. T F If you use quality lean meat of any acceptable animal and you add 25% pork fat to the mixture, you should have a pretty good sausage as long as you add ascorbic acid to “cure it”.
3. T F If you are using wild game, it is most prudent to include pork with pork fat to “temper” the mixture.
4. T F Venison means “deer” only.
5. T F PSE stands for “pale, soft, excellent”, and it is the first choice for sausage makers.
6. T F PSE meat has poor water-binding capacity due to an abnormally rapid drop of the pH following slaughter.
7. T F PSE meat has poor water-binding capacity due to an abnormally rapid rise of the pH following slaughter.
8. T F PSE meat has poor water-binding capacity due to an abnormally stability of the pH following slaughter.
9. T T DFD means “danged fake duck” and El DuckO is DFD because he is actually a cuckoo bird.
10. T F DFD is identified easily because its pH value is above 6.2.
11. T F “Noble” cuts contain highly suitable lean meat along with some bone (to keep the meat juicy as it cooks).
12. T F “Noble” cuts contain very little connective tissue.
13. T F “Less Noble” cuts include the loin, hams, and belly.
14. T F The brisket on a steer is naturally tough because it gets exercise regularly.
15. T F The brisket is a “less noble” cut.
16. T F “Trimmings” include less noble neck and shoulder, kidneys and liver, and jowel meat.
17. T F Unlike beef, having three primary cuts along its back, the hog has but one – the butt.
18. T F Shoulder cuts have a lot of fat and connective tissue and are best for pan-frying.
19. T F Meat graded “utility” pork is never sold in processed pork products.
20. T F Supermarkets stock only “acceptable” grade fresh pork.
21. T F A piggy has five principal cuts and include the shoulder, picnic, loin, side, and the front leg called the ham.
22. T F Pork and beef should never be mixed together in sausage.
23. T F Without fat, sausage would be dry and difficult to chew, even with a beak like El DuckO has.
24. T F Pork fat is unsaturated fat (good cholesterol).
25. T F Pork lard (melted fatback) is unsaturated and is much healthier than butter.
26. T F Butter contains saturated fat (bad cholesterol).
27. T F Younger animals have more fat than older animals.
28. T F Meat is about 93% water.
29. T F Meat is about 23% water.
30. T F A hog’s diet largely influences the pork’s flavor.
31. T F Sausages made entirely from beef have a softer texture and will be more moist than those made of either all or partial pork.
32. T F Polish sausages are made mostly of pork only, as are Hungarian, Italian and Spanish sausages.
33. T F Pork loin is the leanest cut of all and is certainly Class IV.
34. T F Pork loin is the leanest cut of all and contains no fat so it isn’t graded.
35. T F Pork Class I has no bone and is very lean with no more than 15% fat.
36. T F Pork Class I has no bone and is very lean with no less than 15% fat.
37. T F Pork Class I has no bone and is very lean, but it always come from a cut with more than 56% fat.
38. T F Pork Class IV, has no bone, but contains traces of blood, tendons, and glands. It has no more than 36 % fat.
39. T F Pork Class IV contains traces of blood and has tendons and glands. Large meat companies don’t even put this stuff in hot dogs.
40. T F Finely comminuted beef has excellent binding properties.
41. T F Dark-colored beef blood is the best for making blood sausages.
42. T F Beef liver is perfectly suited for making liver sausages as long as it contains nothing else.
43. T F It is illegal for commercial suppliers to sell pork blood to the public in the United States.
44. T F Beef with high fat “marbling” is the first choice of meats purchased at a butcher shop.
45. T F Prime beef always has more fat marbling than “choice” beef and is only sold in meat markets.
46. T F Choice beef can be purchased in a supermarket.
47. T F Prime beef can be purchased in a supermarket.
48. T F Select beef is only available in a butcher shop or meat market.
49. T F Class I beef contains no more than 7% fat.
50. T T El DuckO invented “aging” and was born during the 1700’s.
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