Howdy Sausage Wranglers! It’s time to press on. I know some of you learned some neat things in Part A. For instance, a few of you wrote in about the effects of soy protein concentrate and non-fat dry, powdered milk used in the primary bind. Many of you learned how to develop the proteins in a simple hamburger for the grill. By the way, now you know the secret of keeping meat balls together in sauces etc. Simply “develop” their proteins by agitating them, form “sticky peaks” when pulled apart, and roll ‘em up, allowing the “binder” to work its magic.
The next portion will answer a lot of questions you may have about the texture and flavor of many sausages you are already familiar with, but don’t quite know what makes them unique and different from one another. First, let’s compare “Cased Fresh Sausage” (such as “brats” for grilling), with “Cased Cured-Smoked Sausage” (such as Summer Sausage). We’ll make TWO different sausages from the same recipe – Polish Kielbasa for grilling, and Kielbasa Baltycka, for stowing away in your saddlebags with a pocketknife! You’ll be amazed as you learn sausages differ because of “how” they are made, rather than “what” they contain. There’s a bit to learn about casings, and some important info concerning nitrate/nitrite cures. We’ll even start smoking sausages in this section.
Quick links to the topics within Project B (Part B) Smoking and Curing Sausages:
— —Cure #1
And the next parts,
Then, we present “Smoking Your Sausage,” in which we cover
- — Smoker Operation: Introduction
- — Cooking Regimes – How smoker operation fits into the overall process of cooking.
- — The Objectives (The Steps)- A “Twelve Step (minus one)” Program on what to do for proper smoker operation.
- — SIDEBAR: Process Control
- — Notes on Smokers – Miscellaneous items
- — My Smoker Rigs- el Ducko’s “toys”
- — Conclusion (of sorts) – in which the ongoing development ball is passed to you
Project B (Part B) Cured-Cooked-Smoked Sausage
Learning how to “cure”, case, and smoke sausage. Comparing Cased Fresh Sausage with Cased Cured-Smoked Sausage – Two variations of the same recipe. Learning about Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite Cures and “Pink Salt”.
Here’s the outline for the next part:
(4.) 5 Lbs. (2.25 kg.) Polish Kielbasa (fresh type). “Cased” sausages – are never smoked… we’ll discuss the reasons why! (same recipe as this next one, but no cure #1, so don’t smoke it!)
(5.) 5 Lbs. (2.25 kg.) Polish Kielbasa Baltycka (cured-cooked-smoked) “These “cased” sausages – are smoked safely! http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Polish-Kielbasa.pdf Learning how to “smoke” sausage.
Please note that the original recipes in the index specified 10 pounds of meat each. In project B, the recipe below is for 5 pounds of meat. The following recipe will also contain this amount. This was done for economical purposes for participants. However, it is important to note if you are using the recipe from the main index, the amount of Cure #1 will be doubled. If you are making only 5 lbs., you will have to cut the amount of cure in half!
Hey! It’s not brain surgery. You can do it easily if you just put forth a little effort and understand what you are reading. We are here to answer any and all questions you may have, so please… do not hesitate to ASK questions! That how we all learn. Okay pards, let’s hear that….. Yeeee Hawwww! Here we go.
Commercially made sausages are nearly always stuffed into synthetic, collagen, plastic, or other man-made casings by motorized and geared stuffers. Most often, natural casings are not used commercially since they vary in diameter and volume, making it difficult for companies to provide a consistently uniform product. Regardless of the type stuffer you choose, you should be aware that meat mixed with salt, especially combined with soy protein concentrate, will set up like cement if you don’t expedite the process a bit and get the meat into casings immediately.
Small batches of homemade sausage are best stuffed into natural hog or lamb casings being completely rinsed of packing salt inside and out. Soaked casings are placed upon the nozzle of your kitchen tap then flushed with water to remove the salt inside them. Natural casings used for your favorite sausages, are made from the submucosa collagen layers inside the intestines of sheep, hogs, and cattle. Flushed, cleaned, turned inside out and scraped with knives, they are finally salted and shipped in a saturated salt solution. However, due to their very nature, until you flush the salt from them, they will continue to have a strong odor. Many folks question their “freshness” when they arrive because their natural “aroma” may appear to be more of an odor. Rest assured, they are not spoiled, and packed in saturated saltwater, natural casings will last almost indefinitely when refrigerated. Once the casing has been flushed, the odor will no longer be a concern and stuffing them with comminuted meat is not an unpleasant task. In fact, it has become a great pastime and hobby of many people.
Natural intestine casings have historically been the ideal container for the world’s first “convenience food”. Moisture and heat make casing more porous and tend to soften them, explaining why smoking, cooking, and humidity must be carefully controlled. The secrets of the old mom-and-pop “wurstmachers” over hundreds of years, have been developed into a most efficient and safely consumed product today, although now, there aren’t enough to go around! As a consequence, commercial sausage makers now use plastic, cellulose, and collagen casings almost exclusively.
Hog casings (upper intestines) are sold in 91-meter lengths cut into “hanks” 1 to 2 meters long and gathered into bundles called “shorts”. Their average diameter is about 35 millimeters and may be used for cooked sausages, pepperoni, Italian sausage, Kielbasa, Kishka, larger franks, and a host of other stuffed sausages. Hog middles (middle intestines called “chitterlings”) are curly in appearance and cut into one-meter lengths, sold in bundles of nine or ten. They are available in wide, medium, or narrow calibers, determined by the location of the item within the animal. Middles are ideal for Braunschweiger, liver sausages, dry salami, and Italian salami. Hog bungs (called “fat ends”) are the intestine’s extreme southern end of a north-bound pig. Bungs are sold individually and are used primarily for liver sausage and Branschweiger, Genoa salami, Thuringer, and summer sausage. Diameters vary from 55 to 90 millimeters.
Measured by diameter in millimeters, small breakfast sausages require 29-35 mm. casings. Use 35-38 mm. casings for Polish sausage, and 38-42 mm. for summer sausage and larger Polish or liverwurst sausages. For small batches of sausage, use a partial “hank”, replacing leftover casings inside their salt solution in an airtight refrigerated container. Sheep casings are more delicate, used for the best sausages, are smaller in diameter, and high in quality. Available in 18-28 millimeter diameters, they are often used for frankfurters, fresh pork sausages, cabanosa, Bockwurst, Chipolata, and slim-jim beer sticks.
The three most used beef casings are “bung caps”, “beef rounds”, and ‘beef middles”. The caps are used with capicola, large Bologna, and cooked salami. Beef “rounds” derive their name from their characteristic “ring” shape, and are used for stuffing ring Bologna, ring liver sausage, Mettwurst, Polish sausage, blood sausages, and Polish Kishka and German Holsteiner. Beef “middles” are used for Leona sausage, all types of Bologna, Cervelats, cooked salami, and veal sausage. Beef middles are sold in “sets” of 9 and measure 18 meters in length (30 feet). Beef bladders are the largest diameter casings acquired from cattle, are oval and used for Mortadella and other specialty sausage.
Whenever using fresh hog or lamb casings, prepare them by soaking and flushing them with fresh cold water. As they soak, rinse the packing salt from their insides by placing only one at a time, inside a bowl of water beneath the tap in your sink. Open one end of the processed, cleaned, and salted intestine, slipping an inch or more of it over the water tap. Flush cold water through the casing for a few minutes, to remove any remaining salt. As you remove the casing from the tap, allow a bubble of water to remain inside then gather the full length of the casing over a stuffing tube first lubricated with water. Never attempt to lubricate the stuffer with butter or any other lubricant other than water, as this will affect the cooking-smoking of the skin later on. Stuff the entire casing firmly before linking uniform lengths by pinching off a desired amount, holding each end using both hands, then twisting each new link by flipping it forward in a circular motion twice. Many folks tie lengths using 100% cotton string although fingers become sore if there is much sausage to be linked. It is important to immediately remove any air pockets in the sausages by pricking the links with sterile needles in multiple locations along the entire length of the sausage. I use a piano tuner’s “voicing tool” with a spiffy hardwood handle and four needles. Trapped air, if not removed, becomes the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Don’t be concerned about the small holes made in the sausage. The tiny holes will seal themselves almost immediately and natural casings will shrink equally with the meat while being cooked or dried.
A neat little sausage pricker may be made using a ¼” dowel about two inches long. Find a suitable, larger, sewing needle and cut or grind the eye off, then grind the cut end of the needle into a blunt vee shape. Chucke the needle into a drill press and mount the dowel into the cross-vise. “Drill” the end of the dowel about ½” deep with the blunt vee shaped needle “drill”. Mix a little epoxy, smear it on the cut off end of the needle, and force it into the ½” deep hole in the end of the dowel. When it sets up, you’ll have a handle on a sharp needle. Another nifty needle sausage-pricker may be made by sharpening the two needles protruding from one of those cute little plastic “hot corn cob holders” found in the dime store for under a buck.
Generally, smaller casings allow only about half the volume of meat to be stuffed into them as those of a little larger diameter. There is now a trend for sausage makers to stuff even simple breakfast sausage into 32-35 mm. hog casings instead of the traditionally smaller lamb casings. Following cooking inside a smokehouse, sausages stuffed into natural casings should immediately be showered with cold water, hung at room temperature for an hour, then removed to a cooler overnight.
As with all natural casings, unused portions may be replaced into their original containers of saturated salt solution and may be stored for an indefinite period of time when refrigerated.
Synthetic And Fibrous Casings
Each year, in the United States alone, there are billions of pounds of sausage produced. Livestock simply cannot produce enough casings to wrap all the luncheon meats and sausages we devour annually. Today, about 80% of the sausage sold in your local market is stuffed into synthetic casings. Thank goodness for cellulose and plastic! There is an array of colors – red for Bologna, white for liverwurst, and clear-colored for salami and an assortment of other favorites. Some have a coating of protein inside which causes the casing to shrink along with the meat as it dries. Fibrous casings have the added strength of fibers running lengthwise through them, giving them added strength, allowing packers to stuff them more tightly eliminating air pockets. This casing is actually porous enough to allow the absorption of smoke.
Where was this stuff fifty years ago? Collagen is not synthetic, as most people seem to believe. It is the insoluble fibrous protein in connective tissue in cattle and other vertebrates. You know… the stuff Jell-O is made of! Upon prolonged heating, it yields gelatin and glue used in many products. In the sausage-casing industry, it is simply the flesh-side, corium layer of cattle hides, swelled in an acid, then sieved and filtered before being extruded into sausage casings. It’s wonderful stuff, fully digestible, not erratic in size, doesn’t need to be cleaned, flushed, or even pre-soaked, and remains fairly strong for stuffing, yet is most tender to the tooth. It is shipped to you inside sanitary containers, ready to be stuffed onto the horn without additional washing, soaking, or handling. The only single drawback with using collagen casings is they cannot be twisted into links and must be tied with string. Collagen casings are ideal for smoked or dry-cured sausages. In smaller diameters, breakfast sausages don’t even have to be linked; simply cut them to length with scissors after stuffing. Whenever making 19 m.m. snak-stix, collagen casings can’t be beat.
Natural casings are shipped packed in a salt solution inside sealed containers. It is most unlikely they will decay. However, infrequently gas builds up and its odor will cause you to believe either the contents have spoiled, or that someone has buried a body in the basement! Simply wash and use the casings, packing any leftover in saturated, uniodized, kosher salt solution.
Casings on fresh sausage may be tough if the product is cooked at too high a temperature for too short a period of time. Casings may also be tough if not soaked long enough before being stuffed. If smoke will not penetrate casings, they have not dried properly. In some cases, smoke may penetrate the casing but will be deposited on the meat’s surface, permitting separation. On the other hand, if casings are over dried, smoke will be deposited upon the surface with very little flavor penetration.
If casings wrinkle, they may have been too dry before stuffing, under stuffed, or improperly cooled. Collagen casings must dry a bit before they are able to handle the weight of their contents while hanging them in your smoker. If the humidity is too high in the smokehouse, they may fail and fall. For these reasons, I like to place collagen-cased sausages on stainless steel smoking screens inside a smokehouse.
Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite Cures
Man discovered anciently that when salt was added to meat it improved its flavor, color, and shelf life. Then somewhere in time, sodium nitrate came into use as a naturally occurring contaminant of salt. Chile and Peru have massive deposits of sodium nitrate (NaNO3). Not to be confused with sodium nitrite (NaNO2), the substance is also found in leafy green vegetables. Acting as powerful antioxidants, nitrates and nitrites reduce oxidative rancidity. However, when added directly to meats, sodium nitrite is primarily responsible for the inhibition of pathogen growth including that of clostridium botulinum – the bacteria causing botulism poisoning. Nitrate in itself is not successful in producing the curing reaction. Sodium nitrate must be reduced by lactic acid bacteria (micrococcaceae [kocuria] species) or other natural means to be effective. In other words, nitrate breaks down into nitrite – and nitrite breaks down into nitric oxide – (not to be confused with nitrous oxide which is “laughing gas”), Nitric oxide is the substance that actually cures meat. Modern science has not produced a substitute for sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite used as agents to preserve meat and destroy clostridium botulinum. As these salts are poisonous used in proportionately greater amounts, companies have continually tried to improve upon them though their efforts have been futile.
Nitrates and nitrites have gotten a bad rap. During the mid 1970’s, I remember a series of articles published by an attention-seeking reporter trying to establish a name for himself – he was a sensationalist. Indeed, he stirred up and excited the American public, putting fear of nitrates and nitrites into the average consumer. The fact remains, the National Academy of Sciences (Research Council) states that when used in proper concentration (established legal limits), sodium nitrite does nothing to directly harm consumers. Did you know that vegetables contain more nitrites than sausage? In fact, vegetables contain higher concentrations of nitrate than any other foods in our diet. Spinach, lettuce, and beets, are full of the stuff. However, nitrates and nitrites must be used with caution. Both are considered toxic in larger amounts and for that reason, strict limits on their use have been established by the USDA. In the United States, the amount of added sodium nitrite lies within the range of 50-200 mg. per kilogram, and sodium nitrate in the range of 200 to 600 mg. per kg. How much is lethal? A fatal dose of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), is about 30 grams (two tablespoons). Merely 1 gram of sodium nitrite (about 22 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) will cancel your clock! That’s only about 1/3 of a teaspoon! It takes a little more for sodium nitrate to keep you permanently horizontal – one full teaspoon will do the trick!
There are two types of sodium nitrate/nitrite cures and it is important for us to be familiar with each. Mr. C.L. Griffith of Griffith Laboratories, initially invented the substance he called “Prague Powder” by combining sodium nitrite with salt in a safe, flaked form in which the nitrite would not settle to the bottom of the barrels in which it had been contained. He dyed the salt pink to make it highly visible and produced the compound on rollers, much like the freeze-dried products are made.
Cure #1 is used to cure all meats that require cooking, smoking, and canning. This includes poultry, fish, hams, bacon, luncheon meats, corned beef, pates, and many other products. It is also called Pink Salt #1, Instacure, Prague Powder Cure #1, or other names designated by private companies who supply the compound. Note that Prague Powder Cure #1 in the United States, contains 6.25% sodium nitrite (NaNO2), and 93.75% sodium chloride (salt). As this formula contains no sodium nitrate (NaNO3), there is no waiting for nitrate to be broken down into nitrite and it is effective immediately in curing meat. In the United States, Cure #1 is manufactured using one ounce of sodium nitrite added to each one pound of salt. When used in the curing process, only 4 ounces of cure is added to 100 pounds of sausage. Two level teaspoons will cure 10 lbs. of meat.
Cure #2 is used in dry-cured sausages and whole-muscle meats where curing time allows the nitrate to gradually break down into nitrite. Cure #2 in the United States, contains one-ounce (6.25%) sodium nitrite (NaNO2), with .64 ounce (4%) sodium nitrate (NaNO3), and 89.75 sodium chloride in 1 lb. of salt. Why so much nitrate? Remember, it is actually nitrite reducing to nitric oxide that cures meat. After two weeks dry-curing, only about a quarter of the 6.25 % sodium nitrite remains in the meat. Nitrite is simply too fast. In salamis requiring three or more months to cure, a certain amount of sodium nitrate must be added to the recipe to break down over time. Since micrococcaceae species are inhibited at low pH, sausages relying on nitrate reduction must be fermented by a traditional process. Therefore, nitrate is still used by many dry sausage manufacturers because sodium nitrate (NaNO3) serves as a long time “reservoir” of sodium nitrite (NaNO2).
Okay, listen up! This paragraph is vitally important! Please note: One curing agent must never be confused with the other within any recipe and one certainly must not be substituted for the other. Moreover, both cures are never used together in the same recipe. Notice that formula #1 contains only nitrite while formula #2 contains both nitrite and nitrate. If you mix, cure, and smoke sausage, it becomes your responsibility to follow directions mixing exactly four ounces of Prague Powder with one hundred pounds of meat, or for us home consumers, precisely two level teaspoons mixed with a little water for even distribution, for each ten pound batch of sausage. If you are mixing only five pounds of sausage, add just one level teaspoon of curing salt. For dry-curing whole pieces of meat muscle, we multiply the amount of cure by 4. This allows a “pick up” of about ten percent or approximately 156 parts per million in the final product. Please measure carefully and remember that any recklessness in mixing these salts may potentially injure someone.
Potassium Nitrate (Saltpeter)
Saltpeter is 100% potassium nitrate (KNO3). Although it is used in various cures throughout the world, it is no longer included in cures in the United States (with the exception of only a few applications) as it is thought to produce cancer-causing nitrosamines when cooked at higher temperatures. Commercially, with only a few exceptions, it has been banned by law since 1975. A fatal dose of potassium nitrate is merely 30 grams. Sodium nitrite will cancel your clock at only about 22 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. You can plainly see why these cures MUST be handled correctly.
Use meat cures with caution.
Nitrates and nitrites must be used with caution. Both are considered toxic in larger amounts and for that reason, strict limits on their use have been established. Usually, the amount of added sodium nitrite lies in the range of 50-200 mg. per kg and sodium nitrate in the range of 200 to 600 mg. per kg. Both cures have been formulated so that 1 (one) level U.S. teaspoon will cure 5 pounds of meat. It is always a good idea to weigh the cure for best accuracy. Dissolving the cure into a little water ensures adequate uniform dispersal throughout the meat
Measure twice – mix once! Incidentally, the product known as Tender Quick* contains 0.5 sodium nitrite, 0.5 sodium nitrate, salt, sugar, and propylene glycol (for brined meats). Propylene glycol is anti-freeze for your car’s radiator! Do you really want to put this into your body?
The strength of nitrates and nitrites themselves do not vary. It is the amount added to a sodium chloride (salt) carrier that makes a cure stronger or weaker in comparison to others. One MUST look at the label to be safe. It is important to note that in various countries, the formula for nitrate and nitrite cures vary. For instance, in the United Kingdom, Prague Powder # 1 (Cure #1) is popular, with 5.88% sodium nitrite, the remainder being salt. Prague Powder # 2 (Cure #2) is available with 5.67% sodium nitrite, 3.62 sodium nitrate, the remainder being salt. Note that in other countries, the formulas also vary. In Sweden, folks call their product Colorazo at 0.6% nitrite. In France, it’s Sel nitrite’ at 0.6% nitrite. In Poland, the nitrited salt cure Peklosol is available at 0.6% nitrite, and in Germany, it is Pokelsalz at 0.6% nitrite content in salt. As you can see, Prague Powder Cure #1 in America is ten and a half times stronger than European cures, with the exception of some of those in the UK.
On the other hand, Australian cures are stronger than those used in America. In Australia, Cure #1 is known as Glow #1. It contains 7.8% sodium nitrite and is used in cooked sausages. It is added to meat at the rate of 1.6 grams cure per one kilogram of meat OR one level metric teaspoon (5.6 grams) per 3.5 kilograms of meat. In Australia, Cure #2 is known as Glow #2. It contains 6.0% sodium nitrite PLUS 4.0% sodium nitrate and is used in dry-cured, fermented sausages at the rate of 4.5 grams cure per kilogram of meat OR one level metric teaspoon (5.6 grams) per 1.25 kilograms of meat. This cure is also used (in higher levels) in dry-curing whole muscle meats. (See specific recipes for instructions.) The use of saltpetre (potassium nitrate) in Australia is not recommended although its use is still legal.
Authentic Polish Kielbasa
(5 lb. Hot-smoked recipe for grilled sausages)
Did you know that Polish Kielbasa (smoked sausage) was an all-pork recipe until 1964? That’s the year the Polish government decided to allow 20% beef into the product. The only other ingredients in the traditional recipe are salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. Why does this sausage contain Cure #1? Because the casing cuts off oxygen, the filler is moist, and the smoke in the smokehouse cuts of oxygen as well. Many types of anaerobic pathogenic bacteria (such as clostridium botulinum), just love these conditions to grow and multiply. We’re going to stop ‘em in their tracks!
• Pork Butt…… 5 lbs. @ 32° F.
• Salt…… 2-1/4 Tbl.Spns.
• Cure #1…… 1 tspn.
• Pepper…… 1 Tbl.Spn.
• Sugar…… 1 tspns.
• Garlic…… 2 large or 3 medium cloves
• Marjoram…… 1-1/2 tspns.
• Water…… 1/2 cup
• 32-35 mm. hog casings
Again, please note that the original recipe in the index, specified 10 pounds of meat. In project B, the recipe is for 5 pounds of meat. The recipe above contains only 5 pounds of meat. This was done for economical purposes for participants. However, it is important to note if you are using the recipe from the main index, the amount of Cure #1 will appear doubled. If you are making only 5 lbs., you must use only 1 level teaspoon of Cure #1!
Place the grinder knife and plate into the freezer while you separate the fat from the lean meat using a sharp knife. Cut the meat into 1” cubes to keep long strands of sinew from wrapping around the auger behind the plate as the meat is ground. Grind the meat using a 3/8” plate and the pork fat using a 3/16” plate. Place the fat into the freezer while you mix the Cure #1 with a little water (for uniform distribution) and add it to the meat. Work with small batches, refrigerating the meat at every opportunity. Next, mix the meat with all the remaining ingredients (except the frozen fat), kneading the mixture to develop the proteins myosin and actin, creating a “sticky meat paste” (primary bind). Finally, fold in the frozen fat and distribute it equally throughout the mixture. Depending upon various recipes or preferences, the sausage may now be refrigerated several hours for maturing, or the sausage may be immediately stuffed into casings to avoid smearing while the fat remains frozen. Stuff the sausage into 32-36 mm. hog casings, allowing them to hang and dry at room temperature for an hour or place them into a smokehouse preheated to 130°F. (54°C.) for an hour with the damper fully open to assist with moisture elimination. When the sausages are dry to the touch, introduce hickory smoke and adjust the damper to only ¼ the way open. Gradually, only a couple of degrees at twenty minutes intervals, raise the smokehouse temperature until the internal meat temperature (IMT) registers 152°F. (67°C.). This procedure must be done slowly to avoid breaking the collagen and liquefying the fat. Remove the sausages, showering them with cold water until the IMT drops to less than 90°F. (32°C.). This sausage remains perishable and must be refrigerated.
Next, we will make a totally different type of sausage using the same ingredients as the kielbasa above. The difference is in HOW we make it. You’ll have to stay tuned to this same station to hear all about it. Good luck with your projects.
Check Yourself UP (Quiz – Section 6)
- T F We “develop” proteins in meat by agitating them until they become “sticky” binders.
- T F Soy Protein Concentrate is a pink salt that binds fat as well as lean.
- T F Soy Protein Concentrate helps bind comminuted sausage.
- T F Soy Protein Concentrate helps meat retain moisture.
- T F Soy Protein Concentrate is a sweetener used in place of sugar.
- T F You may substitute soy protein isolate for soy protein concentrate.
- T F Casing sausage cuts of oxygen and anaerobic bacteria thrive in oxygen-free, moist, comminuted meat.
7(b) T F NFDM (non-fat dry (powdered) milk may be used as a substitute for soy protein concentrate if you remember the lactose content in it.
- T F Fresh brats (bratwurst sausages) in casings, can be made safely without using sodium nitrite because they are grilled and used within three days.
- T F Fresh brats (bratwurst sausages) in casings, must contain sodium nitrate (Cure #2) to protect against anaerobic bacteria.
- T F It is possible to further cure a sausage containing Cure #1 by drying it. This is called Semi-Dry-Curing.
- T F If a sausage loses 30% moisture, we say it’s “yield” is 70%.
- T F If a sausage loses 30% moisture, we say it’s “drop” is 70%.
- T F If a sausage loses 30% moisture, we say it’s “consignment” is 70%.
- T F Sausages differ not only because of what they contain, but how they are made.
- T F Meat mixed with salt, especially combined with soy protein concentrate, will set up like cement if you don’t expedite the process.
- T F After the mixing step, It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get the meat into the casings.
- T F If natural casing stink like hell when they first arrive, they should be thrown out immediately.
- T F Natural casing normally stink because of their very nature and may be further flushed using salt water to reduce the odor.
- T T Natural casings have a definite odor, but it’s nothing compared to El DuckO’s dirty socks which may cause paralyzation!
- T F Natural casings will last almost indefinitely and not spoil when packed in salt and refrigerated.
- T F Natural intestine casings have historically been the ideal container for the world’s first “convenience food”.
- T F Moisture and heat have no effect on casings, but they tend to soften from being packed in salt water.
- T F Chitterlings are hog middles.
- T F Sheep casings are more delicate than hog casing, and are used for the best sausages
- T F Sheep casings and are smaller in diameter than hog casings. They are high in quality and more expensive.
- T F Beef “rounds” derive their name from their characteristic “ring” shape, and are used for stuffing ring Bologna and English breakfast sausage.
- T F Hog casings are upper intestines and are sold in 91-meter lengths cut into “Henries”.
- T F Hanks are hog casings 1 to 2 meters long and are gathered into bundles called “sissy britches”.
- T F Shorts are bundles of hog casing “hanks” 7 or 8 meters long.
- T F Beef bladders are the largest diameter casings acquired from cattle.
- T F Links are made by stuffing the entire casing firmly, pinching off a desired amount, holding each end using both hands, then twisting each new link by flipping it forward in a circular motion twice.
- T F It is important to immediately remove any air pockets in sausages because they may explode when cooked.
- T F Although unused portions of casing have been flushed, they may be saved for later use by storing them in saturated salt water.
- T F Synthetic and fibrous casings are actually porous enough to allow for the absorption of smoke, but take twice as much time to do so.
- T F Collagen for casings, is a synthetic product.
- T F Collagen holds links well, if you remember to soak them in water first.
- T F Collagen casings are always soaked before using them.
- T F Casings on fresh sausage may be tough if the product is cooked at too high a temperature for too short a period of time.
- T F If casings wrinkle, they may have been too dry before stuffing, under stuffed, or improperly cooled.
- T F Sodium nitrate was discovered to be a naturally occurring contaminant of salt.
- T F Sodium nitrate is NaNO3 and Chile and Peru have massive deposits of it.
- T F Sodium nitrite is sodium nitrate that has been broken down into nitric oxide.
- T F It is nitrous oxide that actually cures meat.
- T F Sodium nitrate is reduced by lactic acid bacteria or other natural means to become sodium nitrite.
- T F Fermented sausage is not cooked.
- T F Fresh sausage is never smoked.
- T F Fresh sausage with the addition of Cure #1 (sodium nitrite), may become “Cured, Cooked, Smoked” type sausage.
- T F Sodium nitrate requires time to be broken down into sodium nitrite.
- T F Sodium nitrite cures meat almost instantly.
- T F Potassium nitrate is saltpeter and is used extensively in the United States as a meat cure because it requires no regulation.
1.T 2.F 3.T 4.T 5.F 6.F 7.T 8.F 9.F 10.T 11.T 12.F 13.F 14.T 15.T 16.F 17.F 18.T 19.T 20.T 21.T 22.F 23.T 24.T 25.T 26.F 27.F 28.F 29.F 30.T 31.T 32.F 33.T 34.F 35.F 36.F 37.F 38.T 39.T 40.T 41.T 42.T 43.F 44.T 45.T 46.T 47.T 48.T 49.T 50.F
“Drying, Smoking, and Cooking (Reading Material)”
Now, back to the fun part. CW sez:
“Hi Project B associates. It’s time to read and study just a little about drying, smoking, and cooking sausages. Please be sure to click on these links and brush up on the material.
“These are Stan’s articles and they’re very good.”
Taking Cured n’ Cooked Sausage A Step Further.
Semi-Dry-Curing Polish Kielbasa Baltycka
(Is it possible to make different “types” of sausages from the same recipe?)
Okay, all you salami slicin’ smoke addicts! You’ve made great Kielbasa “loose-meat” fresh-type sausage for meatballs in your Polish Klopsiki recipe, right? It’s terrific in any recipe as long as you remember to add a little garlic of course! Next, you made fine grillin’ sausages using the same recipe (with the addition of Cure #1). Shucks, now the folks from Johnsonville want your telephone number eh? Kielbasa is pretty hard to beat. The leftover grilled sausages are even great after being in the refrigerator a few hours after being cooked; a great cold snack for later on tonight eh? Did I mention that authentic Polish Kielbasa was an all-pork recipe until 1964? That’s the year the Polish government decided to allow 20% beef into the product. The only other ingredients in the traditional recipe are salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, and marjoram.
What if we took this sausage a step further? The addition of sodium nitrite cure #1 in the recipe protects us from clostridium botulinum. Then, as a sausage is prep-cooked past 137°F, it becomes safe as far as trichinella spiralis is concerned. But what if we took it a step further and DRIED it just to a point where most of the pathogenic bacteria is stopped? Hey, we’re on to something here! After all, the USDA has said, “A potentially hazardous food does not include a food with a water activity value of Aw 0.85 or less”. Can we dry a cooked bratwurst like we do when we make a semi-dry pepperoni? Of course YOU can!
If we add a bit of salt and emulsify the mixture, it should bind perfectly having a great texture for snack-slicing… just like pepperoni! While the semi-dry sausage is “eventually” perishable outside the refrigerator, it will have come a long way toward frustrating the effects of pathogenic bacteria. It’s perfect for tossin’ into your saddlebag on your way fishin’. Sit back in the shade with a brew and slice off a bit of the sausage with your pocketknife. Tuck a “chaw” of semi-dry-cured Polish Kielbasa Baltycka in your cheek and enjoy huntin’ or fishin’ on your terms. Life doesn’t get better than this!
Can you identify the signature spice in this Polish sausage? Yup, it’s marjoram. The Italians use fennel, and the English put sage in their breakfast sausage. Hungarians prefer paprika in their sausage, while the Mexicans enjoy the flavor of cumin. Shucks, the Irish even put potatoes in some of their sausages, and the Cajuns use rice in theirs. All these spices, herbs, and signature ingredients make great stuff eh? But… what about other “types” of sausage? Is it possible to make different “types” of sausages from the very same recipe?
For now, let’s make just 5 Lbs. (2.25 kg.) of sausage while you are learning how to do it. Later on, in “Project A”, we’ll learn all about fully-fermented sausages and how to make them. Be aware there are several different “types” of fermented sausages including:
1. Cold smoked, traditionally-made, slow-fermented, dry-cured sausages.
2. Not smoked, partially or fully cooked, semi-dry cured sausages.
3. Hot smoked semi-dry sausages
4. Cold smoked and dried but uncooked sausages – (Hungarian salami)
5. Spreadable raw sausages, cold smoked and uncooked
6. Not smoked, dried and uncooked.
One of these “types” of sausage is applicable to our purposes at this point in our current Project B. It’s so easily made from the same recipe, it would be “Duk nuts & crazy” not to explore #3 above – hot-smoked semi-dry sausages. First, let’s have another look at the ingredients. Once again, here is the basic recipe… but this time, we’ll change the METHOD in which it is made.
(5 lb. recipe)
• Pork Butt…… 5 lbs. @ 32° F.
• Salt…… 2-1/4 Tbl.Spns.
• Cure #1…… 1 tspn.
• Pepper…… 1 Tbl.Spn.
• Sugar…… 1 tspn.
• Garlic…… 2 large or 3 medium cloves (crushed)
• Marjoram…… 1-1/2 tspns.
• Water…… 1/2 cup
Use 32-35 mm. hog casings
Again, please note that the original recipe in the index, specified 10 pounds of meat. For economical purposes, in project B, the recipe is for 5 pounds of meat. It is important to note if you are using the ten-pound recipe from the main index, the amount of Cure #1 will appear doubled. If you are making only 5 lbs., you must use only 1 level teaspoon of Cure #1!
To make Semi-Dry-Cured Polish Kielbasa Baltycka, let’s change the instructions just a bit. First, place the grinder knife and plate into the freezer while you separate the fat from the lean meat using a sharp knife. Cut the meat into 1” cubes to keep long strands of sinew from wrapping around the auger behind the plate as the meat is ground. Grind the meat using a 3/8” plate and following the meat, grind the pork fat separately. Place the fat into the freezer while you mix the Cure #1 with a little water (for uniform distribution) and add it to the meat.
Next, let’s emulsify the meat mixture, working with small batches, refrigerating the meat at every opportunity. I use a Kitchen Aid food processor with blades I’ve sharpened (on one side only). Dull blades just rip and tear. Razor-sharp blades “shear” and cut fibers. With a little water added, the machine makes a smooth “paste” in no time at all. It’s important to use a processor having a “direct gear-driven” spindle rather than one with a belt drive. If emulsified sausage is overly mechanically-cut or tumbled, especially with the addition of salt or water, it may have the extraction of two of its myofibrillar proteins (myosin and actin) developed to a point where the structure of the final texture becomes more elastic than that in less-agitated processing. This elasticity may also be perceived as toughness or stiffness in texture. Most often an “insufficient amount of water” is bound to receive the blame for this elasticity or toughness when it is not.
As you gain experience, you will instinctively add just enough water to the mixture to form a meat “paste” with “peaks” remaining when the meat is pulled apart. Some have the experience to actually “hear” the load-bearing weight reduced from the motor of their processor as the correct amount of water is added at just the right point. My point is, please be careful not to over-agitate the mixture. When soft peaks barely begin to form in a “meat paste”, add the frozen fat and the remaining ingredients and blend into the mixture.
Note: Experienced sausagemakers may wish to add Bactoferm LHP at this point. This is a bacterial culture which will drop the pH to under 5.0 in only 2 days! It will produce acidification of relatively pronounced tangy or sour flavor. If you add Bactoferm LHP, do NOT cook this product. (Cooking will destroy the beneficial bacteria). Simply allow it to dry in its casings in a very warm environment of 95°F – 115°F.
If you do NOT use Bactoferm LHP, and wish to continue making a more bland semi-dry-cured product, continue by mixing all ingredients, developing the primary bind. Stuff the mixture into 32-35 mm. hog casings and tie off links in preferred lengths. Hang and dry the sausages at room temperature for an hour or place them into a smokehouse preheated to 130°F. (54°C.) for an hour with the damper fully open to assist with moisture elimination. When the sausages are dry to the touch, increase the SHT to 150°F., introduce hickory smoke, and adjust the damper to only ¼ the way open. Gradually, only a couple of degrees at twenty minutes intervals, raise the smokehouse temperature until the internal meat temperature (IMT) registers 138°F. (59°C.). This procedure must be done slowly to avoid breaking the collagen and liquefying the fat. Remove the sausages, showering them with cold water until the IMT drops to less than 90°F. (32°C.). Dry and bloom the sausages for three days or more. The texture is really nice when it finally dries out with a little less than 70% yield. This sausage remains perishable and must be refrigerated for storage. When ol’ timers wished to have a “tangy” flavor in this product (before Bactoferm was available), they would mix in a little spoiled “fermented” meat from a previous batch. This “backslopping” procedure had plenty of lactic acid bacteria producing that classic “sour” flavor.
Here’s what is going on…
All microorganisms must have water to survive. The amount of water available to them is called Aw or “water activity”. The Aw value of a product indicates how tightly moisture is bound. It doesn’t indicate how much water is actually there, rather it designates the amount of water available to support the growth of micro-organic bacteria, molds, and yeasts. When we add salt (or sugar) to meat, it “binds” some of the free water which lowers the amount of “available water” to bacteria. This is the reason many folks mistakenly believe that salt cures meat.
When I first started to study pathogenic bacteria, it didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps nature may be just a bit forgiving as it is truly a miracle that man has not completely wiped himself out somehow in his carelessness with food-borne bacteria. Just one look into a microscope and some of this stuff will have you shaking in your boots! However, incredibly, only a small number of pathogenic bacterial strains cause the millions of cases of food-borne illness each year and ironically, proper cooking or processing could prevent nearly all of them. The most dreadful is the notorious clostridium botulinum – the killer. Then there are campylobacter jejuni – the bacteria whose infection just makes us wish we were laid to rest. Clostridium perfringens is called the “cafeteria bug” because so many cases have been reported from foods left on steam tables or at room temperature for long periods. Did you know that there are over 1600 types of salmonella although we hear about salmonella enteritidis most of the time because it’s the bug found in some raw and undercooked eggs. Then there arestaphylococcus aureus, streptococcus A, (found in the ears, throat, nose, blood etc. of humans), and shigella of 30 types, transferred to food mostly through human contact. Listeria monocytogenes and escherichia coli 0157:H7 are two more nasty critters we could do without. There are also two non-bacterial, parasitic types of organisms causing us great concern, and knowing how to destroy cryptosporidium paryum and tricinella spiralis is imperative. Read about sub-zero temperatures for treating meat for these “nematode worms”.
“Battling Bugs By Restricting Their Available Water”
“Cure” the meat? Is it sick? If the world were depending upon you to eliminate pathogenic bacterial microorganisms, just how would you go about it? Can you think of the cheapest effective means to snuff ‘em out? You could starve ‘em out couldn’t you? If you dried up their food, they would expire… right? You know that bacteria cannot survive in an environment without moisture, so might it be possible to limit the amount of water available to bacteria in order to destroy them? And, what about salt? What does it do and how much would you use? All good questions! However, contrary to popular certainty, salt does not destroy bacteria. It doesn’t even force water to evaporate. It does, however, immediately immobilize or bind a specific, large amount of free water, preventing it from interacting with bacteria (or anything else). The measurement of “bound” water (not available to bacteria) is called “water activity”, and is abbreviated Aw. Water Activity is measured on a scale from 0.00 (called “bone dry”) to 1.00 – the measurement of pure water. So, how about serving a bacterium a dose of salt at first, while we deprive it of moisture? It works. For thousands of years it has worked! Bacon, hams, sausages, and all sorts of meat have been cured with salt, smoked, and dried safely for centuries. Your grandparents certainly knew that salting, drying, and par-cooking meats were positive steps adverse to microorganism survival! They were also aware that if they smoked meat, it not only tasted better but it was not likely to develop mold on its surface.
There are certainly other ways to make meat safe to eat by killing the pathogenic bacteria. We’ll learn about more methods later on as we learn to make other sausages. Have patience and take a step at a time. We can’t run until we learn to walk!
The Newfangled Wrangler
Smoking Your Sausage
By El DuckO – Chief Waterfowl Officer And Smokin’ Authority!
Introduction: We should get this straight at the outset. I am NOT the “Earliest Risin’ Wrangler” described on SausagesWest.com. That’s a position of great responsibility and, frankly, at my age, I forget that I’m getting forgetful. But making sausage is something that (CW may disagree) keeps me sane. It’s a great, detail-filled hobby if you want it to be. …or, it can be relatively detail-free. Everything except, it seems, the FSIS temperature/time guidelines, is relatively rule-free. The FSIS guidelines are hard numbers, but you can usually slide your sausage type into an adjacent one with guidelines that cover YOUR production. So relax, Bunkie, while we cover one man’s version of how to smoke sausages.
Remember the old television ad, pharmaceutical-related, where the guy in the medical scrubs starts with “I’m not a medical doctor, although I play one on TV”? …seems like it was the old “Marcus Welby, MD” show, but I’m probably wrong. At any rate, that goes for me too- – I’m not formally trained as a sausage expert, but I was an engineer for 43 years and I know a bit about how to process everything from hydrogen to tar, monomer to polymer to… uh… tar, food-grade material from raw ingredient to… that damned tar. …or char, if you will. We’ve high-pressure hydroblasted a number of my experiments from the cracking furnaces, distillation towers, vessels, and reactors of the world. It costs money to operate that way, but overall, my employers came out ahead.
And that’s how you learn- – have an idea, try it, clean up the mess, and sooner or later (actual R&D statistics peg it about 10% for research, 40% for development), one of your ideas actually makes it to the real world. People who follow in your footsteps have a much greater chance of success, so you out there, whoever you are, for goodness sake share your ideas. …or like Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” you’ll be hauled away in a long-sleeve white coat, saying “Whoever you are… I’ve always been dependent on the kindness of strangers.”
Cooking Regimes: There are many ways to cook meat. A few indirect methods are listed below. We will be interested in the sausage version, which walks the line between botulism on the lower end and rendering fat at the upper end.
• Sausages: Dry at 130 degF, smoke at 130 degF, gradually raise temperature to give 154 degF IMT
Another smoker regime, used for most hobby-style smokers, is geared toward barbecue.
• Barbecue: Set temperature to 250 -275 degF stack temperature, baste, cook to 175-195 IMT
The oven version, used for centuries to cook all types of meat, is often simpler.
• Roast: Set temperature to 325 degF. (Optional preheat to 425.) Baste, cook until 175 – 185 IMT.
We attempt, here, to control within those sausage process limits with equipment that is usually designed for barbecue process. This can be done, but requires a bit of watchfulness and understanding. Hopefully the following commentary will be of use.
The Objectives (The Steps): There are several things which need to be accomplished in order to convert your sausage from “fresh” to “smoked” or its several varieties. They include (along with the steps to accomplish them):
1. Botulism prevention: This is a must. Ensure against botulism by formulating your sausages to contain 150 to 200 ppm of nitrite (depending on FSIS guidelines). Without this, don’t bother to smoke your sausages. You could seriously injure or kill somebody, most likely yourself, if you try. If you forgot to add nitrite, cook your sausage, don’t smoke it.
2. Mellow: Condition your sausage by allowing it to “mellow” in refrigeration overnight or up to 24 hours.
3. Dry: Dry your sausage, first at room temperature (and shielded from insects, if that is an issue where you live), then in the smoker. I tie them and hang them from one of the cooking grates from my smoker. Some people suspend their sausage from smoking sticks. (You can do this with a cooking grate, too. Tie a loop of cotton string, secure it to a sausage or pair of sausages, run the loop up through the grate, then slip a bamboo skewer through the loop.) The objective is to allow free air circulation, so the surface of each sausage is dry. (See below for drying in the smoker.)
4. Pre-Heat: Meanwhile, pre-heat your smoker. Mine is a Masterbuilt bottom-of-the-line model. I open the vent to 100% and turn it on with a setpoint to give an actual stack temperature just above 130 degrees F. This “magic” number is the temperature that you would like not to go below, because botulism is a risk at temperatures between 40 degrees F and 130 degrees F (4.4 and 54 degC).
You’ll need to use a good thermometer to measure stack temperature. The reason- – temperature controllers in nearly all smokers are notoriously bad. (Those cheap dial thermometers built into smoker doors are just as bad. Disregard them.) Mine reads anywhere from 18 degrees F low to two or three degrees high. The reasons for that are several:
–the thing only protrudes an inch into the smoker box and is surrounded by metal. All this metal is guaranteed to throw it off, usually low.
–As drying progresses, water evaporates from the sausage, cooling the surrounding gas. As the evaporation rate decreases (the amount of water in the sausages declines), the cooling rate decreasesand the heat capacity of the gas decreases, so the gas temperature increases.
–There are wide swings in temperature, caused by the cycling on-and-off of the electric heating element. This type of control (we called it “bang-bang” control, off or on) is subject to delays in the gas heating, due to the metal heating, and due to the fact that having off temperature and on temperature separated by any amount will naturally result in a gap. My Masterbuilt has about a two-degree gap in the controller setpoint between ON and OFF. The much wider swing in stack temperature is caused by the amount of gas, water composition, and metal wall temperature, plus the heat capacity of the metal heating element. I’ve stripped out most of the extraneous metal (the goofy chip addition hopper was a prime candidate), and that helped, but the problem is still there. For a given hardware setup, temperature cycling can be reduced by reducing the vent opening (reducing cool inlet gas quantity), and by the drying process which goes on. Stack temperature will naturally rise during smoking, especially at the end. …but more about that elsewhere.
SIDEBAR: Process Control: Here’s a little more about process control. (Please don’t doze off. Skip it if you must.) As I mentioned, “bang-bang” or “Off-On” control is a basic scheme for controlling, in our case, temperature. You enter a setpoint. You measure a temperature. If the temperature is below setpoint, the controller turns on, say, a heating element. When temperature goes above the setpoint, the controller turns it off. …sounds pretty good, eh? …except that you can never settle in at a constant temperature. Due to the heat capacity of the gas, the surrounding metal, the heating element, heat conduction convection out of the smoker cabinet, and the fact that the heating element doesn’t instantaneously turn on or off, there’s always overshoot and undershoot. My Masterbuilt undershoots by two or three degrees, and overshoots by ten or twelve. Yikes! You can improve control response by minimizing the amount of metal that has to be heated up, but that’s about it.
…or, you can change to a different type of controller. The industry standard, these days, is called a PID controller. (That stands for “Proportional/Integral/Differential.” Tell that to anyone and watch how fast their eyes glaze over.) The proportional part of the controller acts like this: the farther below the setpoint, the larger the signal and thus, the controlled property (say, electric current to the heating element). Likewise, the farther above the setpoint, the smaller the signal and thus the controlled property (the current). As the temperature rises toward setpoint, the current gradually decreases, so that at a certain set of conditions, there is a constant offset. The current never gets entirely shut off because there;’s always heat loss, so there’s always a certain amount of current required to produce heat, so there’s always an offset. If temperature ever matched setpoint, current would cut off and the temperature would fall, turning the heating element back on again. Thus it can never settle down exactly ON setpoint, always (in this case) BELOW it.
Depending on how fast the heating element gets hotter or colder or how slowly the metal cabinet heats up, the system can be over-damped, meaning that the temperature gradually approaches but never reaches setpoint. It can be under-damped, in which case the temperature will overshoot, oscillate about some value below setpoint, and gradually settle down.
You can live with that, since the offset is often smaller than the oscillations of “bang-bang” control. However, people took things a step or two further. Suppose we add an “integral” function, one that looks at the difference between actual and setpoint temperature and, over time, gradually increases the current to drive the difference to zero. …pretty neat solution, usually. Given an application such as our smoker temperature controller, where things don’t move very fast, this works quite well.
Interestingly, it also works well in an automobile speed control. But have you noticed that, when driving over a series of small hills, the speed controller sometimes loses control? Whoa! This is called “reset wind-up,” after the traditional name for integral control, “reset.” What happens is that the controller tries to drive that difference to zero, but the actual measurement changes rapidly, adding to the amount of correction needed, which makes the control action even stronger, which leads to bigger and bigger overshoot and under-shoot. Yikes again! These days, speed controllers have been modified so that reset windup cannot exceed a certain amount. If it does, the controller “kiscks off” into manual mode. This is fortunate- – in the early days of add-on speed controllers, my family nearly had a wreck while going over Raton Pass, New Mexico, due to reset windup. I still shudder to think how close we came to losing three generations of immediate family because of some stupid piece of add-on automotive equipment.
Fortunately, for our temperature control, this oscillation behavior is very unlikely. A PID controller with plenty of “P” gain and a small amount of “I” reset will settle in at setpoint quite nicely. It may oscillate when the setpoint is changed, depending on its tuning, but if tuned correctly, should respond quickly and settle down.
What is the Differential part, you may ask? Well, that part is used where rapid response must be made. I have only used it with flowrate controllers where the signal is noisy and a little bit of input signal change requires a large change in response. If you install a PID controller, do what we did in the chemical business- – start with “P,” then add in a bit of “I,” then leave the “D” at or near zero.
“…and there endeth the (controller) lesson.”
5. Load: Load the smoker with your sausages. Leave the vent at 100% for now. Give the sausages a half hour or more to dry. Note that this period does NOT subtract from the available time to smoke. Smoke absorption is best at lower temperatures, and most people say it does fine until the outer skin temperature of the sausage or meat reaches 150 degF or so. However, sausages are said to taste bitter if smoked wet. For smoke absorption reasons, most of my smoking is done at 130 degF or thereabouts. You’ll need to start raising the temperature, later, to reach an Internal Meat Temperature (IMT) target without overshooting it badly, but for now, we need to dry the sausage.
I like to hang my sausages vertically. I have modified the Masterbuilt by inserting a couple of “Flavor-Grate” slotted gratings from a gas grill which distribute the smoke pretty well. You may find that your equipment doesn’t distribute smoke very evenly within the box. Try my suggestion, but before you do, lay your sausages flat on the grate and move them around every hour or two. They’ll do just fine
6. Introduce Smoke: Assuming the surface of the sausages is no longer wet, you can now introduce smoke. Inspect visually. Ten minutes before you plan to introduce smoke, charge your smoke generator.
— I use an “Amazin’ “ brand tubular-style smoke generator. It’s a 1inch-or-so diameter mesh tube with a solid end cap on the bottom and an open cap on top. You fill the tube with wood pellets, use a blow torch to get the thing lit (at the top), and it smokes for as much as eight hours, depending on vent setting (oxygen availability).
–Venturi-type smoke generators are popular. A stream of air draws smoke from a smoldering quantity of pellets, and is directed into the smoke box. A small-volume air pump (I used an aquarium pump) can be used to generate the motive air. I have used a home-built venturi-type smoke generator in the past, but didn’t get the design right. Hopefully you’ll fare better.
–The Masterbuilt came with a built-in contraption used to dump wetted wood chips onto a pan just above the electric heating element. I found that the chips didn’t smolder for long. The moisture introduced from the chips was something I didn’t want (although for higher-temperature cooking, it’s not bad). It gave a high volume of smoke for a short time, cycled with the temperature controller, and didn’t last but fifteen or twenty minutes. Bear in mind that the Masterbuilt was designed for smoke cooking at 250 degrees F, and that I was attempting to control at 130 degrees. This far away from the original design, performance is bound to be different. I took out the chip loader, box, pan, and all related metal. This improved temperature response considerably.
–Load the smoke generator with the appropriate amount of wood chips or pellets. If it’s a multi-shot setup, like the original Masterbuilt rig, ready the first charge. Otherwise, be sure to load enough pellets for the full run, if you’re using the Amazin’ smoke generator. Venturi- users will have to use their experience. At any rate, light it (if you have to), and once it is stabilized, load.
7. Partially Close the Vent: With smoke introduced, close the vent to 25%. I have a couple of thermocouple wires threaded through my stack vent, so the adjustment is about that. Smoke should be coming from the vent, and can easily be monitored. Check it each time you check your temperatures. For example:
IMT. . . . . . . Stack Temp . . . . . . . SetPoint . . . . . . . Smoke
56 . . . . . . . . . .138 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 . . . . . . . . . .good
…and so on. Keep a running log, every half-hour to hour. Even though the setpoint stays the same, the actual (stack) temperature will creep upward as the humidity in the smokebox goes down.
There need not be smoke for the full run. In fact, two, four, or six hours is usually sufficient.
8. Raise Temperature to hit IMT Target: Toward the end of smoke duration, start raising the temperature setpoint. Bear in mind how high the temperature will cycle each time you do it, and don’t raise the setpoint too much or too rapidly. I add in five degrees per new setting, every half hour or so, keeping in mind that I don’t want to go above 170 degrees stack temperature or 154 degrees IMT. Factoring in a 10-degree swing (which varies, so keep an eye on it), I keep raising until I hit the stack temperature limit, then let it ride until IMT hits target.
…and why have the IMT target, you might ask? Well, the FSIS has various times at target temperatures which will kill off microorganisms to the proper level. They are listed at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRPubs/95-033F/95-033F_Appendix%20A.htm
and are summarized on our own website at http://sausageswest.com/fsis-guidelines-on-internal-meat-temperature-and-cooling/
Don’t argue with them. Do it as specified, for your own health as well as that of your friends.
But what if Aunt Gertrude is due at 5:30 for dinner and your spouse insists that you wrap it up? Well, the good folks at FSIS evidently are married, too, and give the alternate classifications “partially-cooked” for meats not done to the specified temperature. You’ll be heating your sausage in order to cook it, right? For most sausages, items like snack sticks excluded, that’s not a problem. Cook or freeze within three days. If frozen, thaw and cook within six months. Kabanosy and Landjaeger fans out there- – hit the IMT target. No exceptions!
9. Cool Rapidly: Congratulations! You’ve hit IMT target. Pull out your sausage, turn off the electricity to the smoker, toss the sausage into a suitable vessel, add ice and water, and cool it rapidly to below 80 degrees IMT. Dump the water, dry off the sausages, and let them continue drying while you prepare your packaging.
10. Package: Zip-Lock and similar bags are good for short-term storage (that 3-day limit, for example), but for freezing, I recommend FoodSaver or similar vacuum sealing equipment. I bought mine at a second-hand shop for twenty bucks. Nice ones retail for $85 and up.
Seal whatever is a typical helping size for your family, or whatever is convenient. For my breakfast chorizo, I plop 4-ounce portions into “snack bags”, form them into small logs, and fit them into a larger FoodSaver bag. To use, clip the end, not the top, off a FoodSaver bag, and empty out one of your “logs.” This leaves enough FoodSaver bag that you can vacuum-seal the remaining “logs” and put them back into the freezer. One 4-ounce log, thawed, is enough to scramble into four eggs for two people, or to store in the refrigerator for the next day.
There’s no need for the “log” treatment for fresh-style loose sausages like Italian sausage, unless you freeze multiple batches in a single bag. Weigh out enough for a batch of tomato & meat spaghetti sauce, a half-pound to a pound, pack it in loose form into a FoodSaver bag, and flatten it out a bit. Freeze it. They stack fairly well, once solid.
For andouille and the like, I typically seal a pair of smaller sausages or one larger one per FoodSaver bag, enough for one pot of gumbo or whatever. For kielbasa or bratwurst or the like, I seal two per FoodSaver bag, one each for my wife and me. If you have hungry teenagers, increase appropriately.
11. Cleanup: “The job ain’t finished…” Let the smoking chips smolder, although if you judged the needed amount correctly, they will have burned out already. I leave my Amazin’ tube in the smoker, having once dumped a live one into a flower bed with fresh mulch. (“Boss Lady” was not impressed.) Pull out the temperature gauge thermocouples, if you haven’t already, and close the vent so flies can’t get in. Take any grates inside, clean off the grease and solids, and either load ‘em into the dishwasher or wash by hand with hot, soapy water. Clean off the thermocouples or thermometer stems, taking care not to immerse them in water. (This can short them out. …not a disaster, but next time you’ll have to re-heat them to drive the water out.)
Notes on Smokers: Some people attempt to clean the inside of the smoker. I don’t, other than perhaps once a year. There is electrical equipment inside which can be ruined by exposure to water. Don’t chance it. One friend wipes down the inside by hand, and uses hot, soapy water to clean out the grease on the bottom of the smoker box. She’s a neat freak! Maybe a once-a-year wipe-down would be a good idea if there’s grease buildup, but mine has two years on it (knock on wood) hasn’t caught on fire yet.
When the grates are cleaned, re-install them in the smoker. …cuts down on the amount of storage required. One of my electric smokers and a spare reside in a plastic storage unit which can be opened up for use- – the lid lifts and the doors open outward. Another of my electric smokers, at a second house, is mounted on a furniture mover dolly. I stash it in a corner of the garage when not in use. The idea, on all of them, is to shield the electrical portions from the weather.
My Smoker Rigs: Not to brag, but I have (accumulated?) a gas smoker and several charcoal smokers as well. I find that the gas one can’t go low enough for my sausage needs. When I use it for sausage, I put a hot plate inside and hook up an external temperature controller. This is a nice rig- – controls within a half-degree, which still swings the box five degrees or so, but it’s better than the stock Masterbuilt unit.
The other two smokers are Brinkmann units, a horizontal smoker and a vertical smoker. I fitted the horizontal unit with steel rods for use as “smoke sticks.” In order to control the temperature, a carefully-measured amount of charcoal has to be loaded, and maintained every half hour, or the temperature gets too hot or too cold. At that temperature and with restricted air flow, the main problem with this unit is that the smoke stratifies in the upper half, so the sausages get only half-smoked. I have laid sausages horizontally on the grill grates, but there isn’t enough smoke contact to do a good job with sausages. This equipment is better used as a brisket smoker, which operates great at 250 to 275 degrees F. …but that’s a different subject.
There would be better smoke contact with the Brinkmann vertical smoker. However, it works best at 250 to 275 degrees F, too hot for use with sausages. It’s a larger box than the electric smokers, too big for my current needs. Someday, perhaps I will install a heating element or two. For now, though, the Masterbuilts, even with their flaws, continue to serve well.
Conclusion: There are lots of refinements and variations in technique that you will develop (or fall into) while smoking sausage. Innovate! Share with us, too. There’s always something new (and tasty) out there. The publications of the 1950’s predicted atomic power for everything, and little of that came to pass, but the controls grew directly out of some of that work. Don’t hold back! Although we’ll hold off publishing items that involve radioactive sources (well, maybe not), we’re open to whatever crack-pot, screwy, innovate, safe, helpful variations you might dream up.
Best regards, con mucho gusto, et cetera,
Chief Waterfowl Officer