Fermented Sausages: Summer Sausage “Live” Test
Includes the following:
- Storage: Keeping Your Fermented Sausages
- Summer Sausage Recipe and notes
- “Observations on Sausage” by Stan Marianski
- Ordering Supplies
- More Wisdom from Chuckwagon
You can review the posts from the original Project “A” (135+ pages, divided into thirds ) by clicking one of the following:
Wisdom Gleaned from the Original Project “A” (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)
——————-before we begin, Shuswap has asked us to discuss “STORAGE” briefly—————————————
Our ol’ buddy Shuswap reminds me to include some words on storage. At issue, the requirement “Store at 55˚ F +/- 4 degrees. (13˚ C.) in 75% humidity. “ Here’s an excerpt from a “three-way” exchange between him, me, and Chuckwagon, heavily redacted by the CIA or the DVD or the Sausage Police or somebody:
Hey, hey, Phil! How are you sir? I’ve got El DuckO at my house for a week and we’re having a ball…
- A cool basement is the place to store the pepperoni…
- If we vacuum pack the stuff when it is at 75%, then the humidity is a “moot point”…
- … in Cuba, they push the sausages down into a can of lard to keep it moist.
- … a tray of salt will produce about 75% humidity. Do you have a cold, damp, cellar there in B.C.?
P.S. Hi, Phil. Duck here.
The idea on vacuum packing is that the sausage, which is already at close to water equilibrium conditions, gets packed in a container (vacuumed bag) where the water has little room to expand, so it stabilizes pretty close to the same humidity that it had. As to temperature, it’s probably not sensitive.
Traditionally,,,[sausages] were stored in cellars at moderate temperatures, but you can stash them [vacuum packed] in the refrigerator with no adverse effect. …except that they’re visible, and therefore subject to being eaten by …“others.”
——————————–end of “STORAGE” discussion————————————————————————————
SECTION FOUR – SUMMER SAUSAGE LIVE TEST
Background on Raw Sausage Fermentation:
The US and Canadian governments, various academic institutions, and others put out excellent information on sausage making. A particularly clear discussion of raw sausage fermentation, complete with pictures, is contained in a publication titled “Meat Processing Technology for Small- to Medium-Scale Producers” by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Raw fermented sausages are thoroughly covered in a chapter starting at page 115 of that document, which you can read at ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/ai407e/ai407e04.pdf . The “raw fermented” chapter is clearly presented, thorough, and pretty good reading. We’ll refer to that section in the upcoming Project “A”-2016 session. Have a look. …great background material.
Before You Start:
Keep a logbook! Record everything you do. Write down dates, times, measurements, etc. (Ed. Note: Don’t forget to include items that you’ve learned so far during the construction and testing phases.) Believe me, you’ll refer back to it several times during the process. Save your notes for the next batch. They will be invaluable. Don’t ignore this step. It only takes a few seconds to write down the information you may really need later on.
Chuckwagon Reminds Us What We Are Trying to Do:
Let’s look at what we are attempting to do with our “fermentation chambers”: we are going to purposely spoil meat… but it will be controlled spoilage called fermentation.
Many foods are prepared in such a manner. And what causes this “spoiling”? Bacteria. In meat, we use lactobacillus and pediococcus, feeding on sugar (carbohydrates) to produce lactic acid. This bacteria competes for nutrition with the undesirable spoilage bacteria (brochotrix thermosphacta and pseudomonas spp.) et. al., as well as pathogenic bacteria of several varieties. Of greatest concern are staphylococcus aureus, clostridium botulinum, listeria monocytogenes, escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium perfringens, campylobacter jejuni, shigella, and bacillus cereus.
What makes these bacteria safe when consumed in meat, cheese, or any fermented food? Acidity! Bacteria do not do well in an acidic environment. In meat, lactobacilli produces acidity and when it increases, dropping to a point between 3.8 and 5.5 on the pH scale, it becomes safe to consume. The acidity of a sausage is determined by the amount and the type of sugar placed into the recipe.
The speed of the fermentation period is increased as the temperature is increased inside the chamber. It ceases when no more lactic acid is produced. This happens when there is no more sugar available to the lactobacilli. It will also stop when the temperature is lowered below 53˚ F., or heated beyond 120˚ F.
Fermentation will also discontinue when there is no longer free water available to the lactobacilli. In other words, if the sausage dries too quickly due to either (a.) low humidity, or (b.) too fast an air speed, while in our fermentation chambers, fermentation will cease.
We must also remember to use a specific amount of nitrate/nitrite to combat any possible clostridium botulinum. The toxins of the spores are deadly. Measure carefully.
OK wranglers, while the increase in acidity is taking place, we must contain the growth of the pathogenic and spoilage bacteria somehow (while the lactobacilli go to work). The most convenient method is to simply lock up or “bind” their water supply. This is accomplished by the use of salt, and a prescribed amount will bind their reserve. As the “water activity” drops to a point below Aw 0.86, a meat product has dried enough to consume safely.
You may be wondering why the salt doesn’t affect the lactic acid-producing bacteria also. Well, it does… but not to the same degree. Lactobacilli and pediococci are somewhat resistant to salt. Not only that, but they perform rather well having a limited water supply.
Summing it all up, we allow the sausage to ferment as lactic acid microorganisms go to work producing acid. This is where we get the “tang”. When it reaches proper acidity, it become safe to consume. While this is happening, we also start drying the sausage to achieve a point below .86 Aw. All this takes time… time in which pathogenic and spoilage bacteria may also grow in number by competing with the food supply. As we “bind” their supply of water, they start to die and the beneficial bacteria eventually take over. So… in essence, there are TWO things going for us. Acidity and dehydration. Both work! They’ve worked for thousands of years. But they MUST be controlled.
OK guys, […] Please obey all the rules of cleanliness, cover your hair, and don’t cough! Wash and scrub your hands!
Let’s “Rattle Some Iron:”
…the slang for starting up a chemical plant, also known as “Let’s ‘run it in anger’.” A good low-risk way to start using the equipment is to make Chuckwagon’s “Sunrise Summer Sausage. This recipe, which uses naturally-occurring bacteria for fermentation, can be found at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Sunrise-Summer-Sausage-Semi-Dry-Cured-Cervelat-or-Goteborg.pdf on our website. It requires tying up our equipment for only a few days.
Managing the recipe, and in particular, scaling it to a different size, is one area where people are prone to making mistakes. May I suggest that you use a spreadsheet? If you don’t routinely use one, no problem- – write your recipe down in rows and columns, then work through it by hand as follows. All we’re doing is recording the amounts of ingredients that the recipe calls for, then multiplying them all by a constant called the “scale factor,” to get the recipe that we’ll actually use. At the risk of sounding too simple, I recommend that you make a hand-operated spreadsheet. It really helps.
First, copy down the recipe name and whatever introductory information you want, in two columns. In a third column, convert to weight units if you want (I recommend grams). The weight conversion gives you a chance to work in consistent units, plus it offers a simple way to check you calculations. The fourth column, the percentages, “fall out of it” naturally. However, these two columns are entirely optional.
Here’s the partially-filled-in summer sausage recipe. You’ll need to do some converting of pounds and ounces and what-not to grams. …no problem for things like 6 pounds of pork, which you can multiply by 454 grams/pound, but those pesky tablespoons and teaspoons present a problem. You can solve them in one of two ways- – if you know what’s called the “bulk density” of an item, you can multiply through, or you can actually weigh a teaspoon of Instacure or tablespoon of salt or whatever. Notice that the bottom row gives you a chance to sum up the columns, giving you a check. This is especially easy if you use a spreadsheet. However, there’s no need to even fill the row in, much less automate it. (…but I sure is handy.)
TABLE 1 – SUMMER SAUSAGE Spreadsheet
|2||6.||Lbs||pork butt||=A2 * 454.||=D2 / $D$13|
|3||4.||Lbs||beef chuck||=A3 * 454.||=D3 / $D$13|
|4||2||level tsp||Instacure No. 1||=A4 * 6.0||=D4 / $D$13|
|5||5||Tblsp||un-iodized salt||=A5 * 18.0||=D5 / $D$13|
|6||4||Tblsp||corn syrup solids||=A6 * 12.0||=D6 / $D$13|
|7||4||Tblsp||powdered dextrose||=A7 * 12.0||=D7 / $D$13|
|8||6||oz||Fermento||=A8 * 28.3||=D8 / $D$13|
|9||1-1/2||tsp||garlic powder||=A9 * 2.80||=D9 / $D$13|
|10||2||Tbsp||mustard powder||=A10 * 6.60||=D10 / $D$13|
|11||1||Tbsp||ground coriander (see note)||=A11 * 6.00||=D11 / $D$13|
|12||1||tsp||allspice||=A12 * 1.90||=D12 / $D$13|
Which is more accurate, weight basis or volume basis? It depends, but it may not matter. There’s enough “give” in most recipes to accommodate the variability. It is usual practice in the US to use these volume measurements, but in the rest of the world, weight units are preferred because they’re more precise. To be consistent from recipe to recipe, I personally prefer the weight units, but use what you want.
…think it’s a waste of time? Then, do yourself a favor and weigh out a tablespoon of kosher salt and a tablespoon of iodized table salt. They are quite different, aren’t they? That’s because particle size is different. You get the same amount of salt, be it kosher or table, when you weigh. Use a volumetric measurement and you’re subject to introducing variability in your recipe.
So, I’ll climb down off my soap box and fill in the table for you. Being somewhat lazy, I will use spreadsheet notation and compute the weights, totals, and fractions. The formulae are given here (the $ signs allow you to copy cells and NOT change the address. If you don’t use the spreadsheet, or if you are measuring actual weights of teaspoons, tablespoons, etc., plug ‘em into column D directly. If you DO use a spreadsheet, please note that you could keep a table of conversion factors from teaspoons and tablespoons to milliliters, and from pounds and ounces to grams, and use the metric standard to convert milliliters of water to grams. You could keep a table listing various ingredients and their bulk densities. That way, you could make a generalized spreadsheet that, given a list of ingredients and amounts in various units, could look all this stuff up in tables and fill in the spreadsheet properly.
That’s one of those annoying “the exercise is left up to the reader” notes that you probably encountered in academic textbooks. (Yeah, I hated it too.)
Here’s what the numbers look like:
TABLE 2 – SUMMER SAUSAGE Spreadsheet
|4||2||level tsp||Instacure No. 1||12.0||0.24|
|6||4||Tblsp||corn syrup solids||48.0||0.97|
|11||1||Tbsp||ground coriander (see note)||6.0||0.12|
Given the small size of my equipment, I made a half-recipe using three pounds of pork butt and two pounds of beef chuck. It’s easy to scale the recipe if you designate one spreadsheet cell to hold a scale factor (default: 1.00) and use it to multiply all the weights. For example, instead of keying in
=A2 * 454. In cell D2, I would use =$A$15 * A2
Where rows 14 and 15 look like:
Interested in downloading the spreadsheet and using it, or picking it apart to see what makes it tick? Use this link to download a copy of both the Summer Sausage and the Salami d’Allessandra recipes.
You can extend them. For example, make a table of conversion factors, use “Data Validation” to restrict the choices to what’s in the table, then use the MATCH() function to get an offset into your conversion data table and the OFFSET() function to retrieve the conversion factor. Unfortunately, this approach is not for the casual spreadsheet user.
These notes show some of the specifics of my batch- –
- I used kosher salt, and weighed it. You can’t trust a volumetric measurement, especially for salt.
- The corn syrup solids are hygroscopic, meaning they take up water from the air. This makes them stick together. My bag was one solid piece. I used the old tried-and-true western method- – smacked it with a cast iron skillet. I then took what looked like the right volume of pieces, ground ‘em up in a blender, then weighed out the called-for amount of tablespoons of powder.
- The cure #1, salt, corn syrup solids, and dextrose present a dispersion problem unless you dissolve them in water. I used the equivalent of 100 ml of warm water, “nuked” it in the microwave, then added it to the solids and stirred them in. The Fermento and spices went into the bowl, too. I whisked it all until nearly everything was dissolved. Then I added the cold ground meats in, mixed it all with gloved hands, and stuffed. (More about stuffing later.)
- The half recipe filled four half-tubes of 61 mm by 24” casing. (That made each about a foot long.) The left over mince filled a fifth tube of about 18 inches length, which turned out to fit the fermenting/curing chamber fine. However, it DIDN’T fit the smoker well. (See below.)
- Don’t forget to number or otherwise mark each sausage, then weigh it. This “green weight” is important to know- – the starting point for the water loss estimate.
- When the sausages were hung, they fit fine, once slid along the hanger bar and adjusted to clear the partitions built into the door. Don’t let them touch each other, as in the picture at left. Space them out on the hanger bar so as to clear each other as well as any door partition obstructions.
- The hanging stick support brackets which I had epoxied into place didn’t hold. I drilled them out to accept screws, then carefully drilled four holes and screwed them onto the plastic side walls of the chamber, being careful to penetrate the plastic wall thickness but little further.
- Be sure to keep a log book. You should record green weight for each sausage, then the temperature and percent humidity just before opening the chamber to hang the sausages. Then record the time. It will take time for the chamber and its sausage contents to come back to a steady level.
- One indication of whether or not air flow is uniform is to watch the water loss weight percentages as they decline. (My rig has a slight tendency to lose water more rapidly toward the left side.)
Preparation – Stuffing and pH Testing:
One way of stuffing the casings is to use a wide-mouth canning jar funnel and stuff by hand. This works, but results in large bubbles of trapped air which have to be removed by massaging the casing. A better way is to use a regular sausage casing stuffer with a big nozzle to squirt the mince into the casing. Air bubbles and inclusions can be minimized this way. My hand packing method caused large bubbles, which I had to squeeze repeatedly to force up the casing and out. For that reason, I cannot recommend the canning jar funnel method. Use your stuffer.
Another item which never occurred to me was to hold back some of the mince for checking pH progress during the fermentation. It would be a shame to do “destructive testing, pulling a sample off an intact sausage, especially sausages like salami which grow a healthy coat of mold. How do you do it, then?
I’ll quote Jeffrey Weiss, “Charcutería, The Soul of Spain,” p.95, Surrey Books (Agate Publishing), 2014. Weiss wrote a wonderful book about Spanish charcuterie while spending time in restaurants, bars, and on hog farms in Spain:
“For the home charcutier, I really like the method Paul Bertolli discusses in his book “Cooking by Hand.” Bertolli suggests wrapping a sample of the prepared masa [mince] in plastic wrap and holding it in the fermentation chamber alongside your other embutidos [sausages]. You’ll then use this test sausage to periodically check the pH level of all the sausages.”
Measurement of pH can be done with what used to be called “litmus strips,” which change color based on the acidity of the sample, or with more sophisticated electronic instruments. (We’ll take the inexpensive route. ) Sample preparation is simple- – In a handy little publication called “The ODB Guide to pH Measurement in Food,” which can be found at https://ourdailybrine.com/how-to-test-the-ph-of-food-and-drink/ the author notes that
“FDA Dilution Amount: The FDA suggests that a sample for pH testing not be diluted with more than 16.67% deionized/distilled water; that is, a 50g sample into 10g of water, representing a 5:1 sample-to-deionized water ratio…”
“Practical Dilution Amount: Despite the FDA directive of no more than 5:1 dilution, samples can be diluted further without negative effect on the accuracy of the pH reading. We have tested dilutions up to 1:10 sample-to-deionized water ratio; that is, a 50g sample into 500g of water…”
“Recommended Slurry Ratio: That said, a 1:2 ratio of sample-to-deionized water (e.g. a 50g sample to 100g deionized water) should, in most cases, provide sufficient dilution to achieve a sample solution capable of testing with a spherical-bulb electrode.”
This produces quite a bit more sample than we need. A pH test strip need only be wet with the sample to give a reading. Holding back 25 grams total of mince should do nicely for five tests.
In Retrospect, a Warning:
A word of warning, here- – buy your pH test strips ahead of time, from one of our sausage supply houses. Running around at the last minute, looking for test strips, is almost guaranteed to fail. I write this after the fact. Plan ahead! Buy your pH test strips early, when you buy your casing and other supplies.
At the last minute, I tried to use a pH probe that I found in the garden section at Home Depot, made by Vigoro. I checked it on water (7.0), then on lemon juice (6.1, which seems high), then stuck it into a sausage. It didn’t change. …strike one.
I sliced off about 16 grams, chopped it up, and mixed it with about 30 ml of bottled water (reverse osmosis, with 100 or so ppm of minerals added back in). I then slurried some as described above, and tried the probe again. …got a 6.7 reading, which seems way high. …strike two.
I tried to buy pH test strips at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and a local pool supply store. …wrong range. “If you swam in a pool with a pH of five, you’d be dead,” the sales guy said helpfully. I smiled, and left. Next, I tried the medical supply company who stocks my size of latex gloves. (Most pharmacies and grocery stores carry “One size fits all but me.”) They recommended a dispensing pharmacy (which is defined these days as “no toys or cosmetics”). They had some indicator strips, range 5.0 to 8.0, not highly accurate but adequate for the job. These finally worked. …but be sure to mail order yours. You’ll get something which works well. My test strips are merely adequate.
Loading the Chamber:
As I mentioned, hang the sausages so that they do not touch each other or the sides and door of the chamber (see picture above). I started at 20 degC, 68 degF. Humidity registered low, low 80’s, for 12 hours, but after that, climbed to around 87%, which indicated that (1) the sausage had come up to temperature and (2) fermentation water production was taking place. It continued high for three days. During this time, a rainy warm front came through the area and the ambient conditions rose to 62 degF and 65% relative humidity. The sausages remained at 68 degF, 88% humidity inside the chamber.
Some mold grew on the sausage casings during the three day fermentation (see below for a later note). It was wiped off easily with a paper towel soaked in vinegar. The sausages were hung at room temperature while I readied the outdoor electric smoker. This did not yet free up the equipment for use in our salami project. The curing test comes next.
Each sausage was weighed and the “green” weight noted, for later use in calculating weight loss during drying. An hour later, when the smoker temperature had stabilized just above 130 degF and the wood pellets in the Amazin’ smoke generator had had time to dry, I loaded the sausages.
Even with the shortened casings, there was not enough vertical height available to accommodate them, and I had to slide a section of the smoke distributor out of the way to hang them. This resulted in the temperature thermocouple being partially shielded from the heat, making the indication more inaccurate than it normally is, and causing the longest of the sausages to receive excess heat on the bottom quarter of its length. This may have rendered the fat in that section.
All was not lost, however. As the stack temperature went up (as measured by a food thermometer hung in the vent), I adjusted the smoker’s temperature setpoint downward- – what’s called “hand-o-matic” control in the chemical business. Manually controlling this smoker is not good. I will need to take some corrective actions:
- mount two to four steel rod “smoke sticks” higher in the smoker, being careful to leave enough clearance that the sausages don’t touch the walls. A few days after the summer sausage was smoked, I mounted mine one inch down from the top panel, spaced so as to allow 15 millimeters between 61-mm sausage casings. Be sure to check yours, draw it in pencil, then draw it on the smoker before drilling.
- Lower the smoke distributor a few inches, but make sure that the smoke generator will still fit below it. I will probably install some angle iron supports. Lowering the existing meat racks seems like wasted effort. The angle iron solution allows me to use the lowest rack position again, a good capacity gain.
After four hours of mixed hardwood smoke, I raised stack temperature to 170 degF and monitored internal meat temperature until it reached 140 degF, the temperature at which all trichinella spiralis has been destroyed. The clear sausage casings developed a mahogany color from the smoke. I showered the sausages with cold water, then allowed them to dry in the kitchen for a day at room temperature.
Wife complained that the smoke odor was offensive. I wiped out the curing chamber with vinegar, then moved the sausages back to it and set the temperature to 18 degC and removed the humidity control tray to drop the humidity to 70% or so. I used the small aquarium air pump to blow ambient air slowly into the chamber when the humidity exceeded 75%.
The humidity fluctuated in the 70% range for several days, until a warm front came through and humid weather caused it to climb into the 85% range. This turned out to be due to the water condensing on the cooling coils, as was mentioned earlier. I removed the water, then placed a plastic tray with water and rock salt in it, into the chamber to stabilize humidity at 75% or so. I installed a paper towel to guide possible condensate into the “salt marsh” tray.
It may be possible to collect the condensate with a paper towel without using salt. This should be tried later, as part of proving out a mechanical humidity control scheme which doesn’t use salt.
After several days of testing, I removed the summer sausage, weighed them again, and hung them in my “drink-o-rator” for further drying and weight loss. This freed up the equipment for use in our salami project.