Fermented Sausages – Project Wrap Up
- Notes on Mold and Appearance
- Amount and type of sugar in recipe. Dextrose versus other sweeteners
- Notes on Weight Loss and Water Activity
- Typical pH and Aw figures for Fermented Sausages
- Notes on Bacterial Choice, Notes on Troubleshooting
- Notes on Packaging
- Spreadsheet for Sausage Recipes
- Maintaining Your Chamber
- Final Notes
- Chuckwagon’s 32 Sausage Making Tips to Save You Grief
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)
The Marianskis’ “Fermented…” book lists pH, water activity, temperature control, and humidity control as most important physical factors in producing fermented sausages. For the fermentation step, they list these bacterial growth factors as important: warm temperature, moisture above 75% relative humidity, sugar, and oxygen presence/absence. In this project, we have concentrated on temperature and humidity control, but dodged the sugar and oxygen side of things by using known tradition-based recipes and casing methods.
Try some variations if you desire. The section on how pastrami and pastirma recipes diverged is a good example of a variation driven by religious and cultural needs. The section on old and new world chorizos shows another variation driven by scarcity or lack of key ingredients. Differences between traditional and “modern” salami and pepperoni production show a different motivation- – profit. Here’s hoping that your variations are driven by better taste, rather than shorter production time or cost cutting.
Notes on Mold and Appearance:
Mold can be controlled by starting it just as soon as sausages or meats are hung in your fermenting/drying/curing chamber. Spray as specified on the package. If worried, spray again after 24 hours. Within three or four days, there should be a healthy growth starting to cover.
If nasty-looking green or black mold starts to grow, you’ll need to wipe it off your sausages. If no mold is desired, you can ferment/dry alongside molded sausages without problem. Merely remove the sausages that you want mold-free periodically, wipe them off with a moistened paper towel if sticky or slimy-feeling, wipe again with vinegar to knock out the mold, then re-hang. I have used this technique on summer sausage and landjaeger without problems. You can also wipe with wine, as some Spanish and Italian recipes specify.
Amount and type of sugar in recipe. Dextrose versus other sweeteners You may have seen that dextrose is only 75% as sweet as table sugar. Why is that, and what are the practical consequences of this? Wikipedia to the rescue! Let’s get an overview of common sugars that you are likely to encounter.
Wikipedia on Glucose:
“Glucose is a sugar with the molecular formula C6H12O6. The name “glucose” … comes from the Greek word … meaning “sweet wine.”… The suffix “-ose” is a chemical classifier, denoting a carbohydrate. It is also known as grape sugar. With 6 carbon atoms, it is classed as a… sub-category of monosaccharides. D-glucose is one of the 16 alsohexose stereoisomers. The D-isomer (D-glucose), also known as dextrose, occurs widely in nature, but the L-isomer (L-glucose) does not.”
“Glucose is produced commercially via the enzymatic hydrolysis of starch. Many crops can be used as the source of starch. Maize, rice, wheat, cassava, corn husk and sago are all used in various parts of the world. In the United States, corn starch (from maize) is used almost exclusively. Most commercial glucose occurs as a component of invert sugar, a roughly 1:1 mixture of glucose and fructose. In principle, cellulose could be hydrolysed to glucose, but this process is not yet commercially practical. Fructose has approximately 75% the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar). Glucose syrup is also known as corn syrup and is essentially a purified aqueous solution of saccharides that are obtained from edible starch…”
Again from Wikipedia, regarding sucrose:
Sucrose is a common, naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many plants and plant parts. …The molecule is a disaccharide combination of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose with the formula C12H22O11.
Sucrose is often extracted and refined from either cane or beet sugar for human consumption. Modern industrial sugar refinement processes often involve bleaching and crystallization, producing a white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste of pure sucrose, devoid of vitamins and minerals. This refined form of sucrose is commonly referred to as table sugar or just sugar. It plays a central role as an additive in food production and food consumption all over the world.
Reading further in Wikipedia, regarding fructose:
Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a simpleketonic monosaccharide found in many plants, where it is often bonded to glucose to form the disaccharide sucrose. It is one of the three dietary monosaccharides, along with glucose and galactose, that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. … Pure, dry fructose is a very sweet, white, odorless, crystalline solid and is the most water-soluble of all the sugars. Fructose is found in honey, tree and vine fruits, flowers, berries, and most root vegetables.
Commercially, fructose is frequently derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn. Crystalline fructose is the monosaccharide, dried, ground, and of high purity. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a mixture of glucose and fructose as monosaccharides. Sucrose is a compound with one molecule of glucose covalently linked to one molecule of fructose. All forms of fructose, including fruits and juices, are commonly added to foods and drinks for palatability and taste enhancement, and for browning of some foods, such as baked goods.
Notes on Weight Loss and Water Activity:
Okay, you’re not going to like this. According to Wikipedia, “Water activity or aw is the partial vapor pressure of water in a substance divided by the standard state partial vapor pressure of water. In the field of food science, the standard state is most often defined as the partial vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature.”
Let’s put it on practical terms. Vapor pressure of water is 1 atmosphere, 14.7 psia, at 212 degF/100 degC. At that temperature, a covered but vented pot of water will drive all the air out. (Air is essentially inert for this sort of thing.) The partial pressure of water is equal to the total pressure, 14.7 pounds per square inch absolute (meaning relative to a total vacuum). For that reason, a covered pot containing, say, broccoli or tamales supported in the vapor space, cooks with steam at water’s boiling point, whereas an uncovered pot cooks at a lower temperature.
Now, suppose your pot’s temperature is lowered to room temperature. Air infiltrates through the vent because the vapor pressure of water isn’t as high at room temperature. The air in the pot will now be at 100% relative humidity, meaning that no more water can evaporate into the air, and the water that used to be in the vapor phase will condense and fall back into the pot.
Now, suppose you had a piece of sausage in the pot. That poor little chunk of meat will act like a sponge and draw liquid water into itself until it can draw no more. Pour off the excess water beneath your sodden piece of meat, leaving liquid water only in the sausage, and the water in the air and in the sausage are in equilibrium. That is, no water can evaporate into the air because it’s already at 100% relative humidity and can’t take up any more. Likewise, no more water can be taken up by the meat because, by definition, we saturated the thing with water, then poured off the excess.
Next, we’ll torture our poor piece of sausage further by reducing the relative humidity to, say, 85%. We might do this by heating the air (so it will hold more water) or by diluting the humid air with a little dry air. At any rate, the air can now take up more moisture, and seeing as how we have a wet sausage to supply water, some of the water in the sausage will evaporate into the air. If we continue to maintain the air at 85% relative humidity, the sausage will continue to give up water… that is, dry out, slowly. The rate at which it dries is proportional to the relative humidity in the air so, at 85%, it will continue to dry for quite a while.
Now, suppose we seal up the pot, wet air, sausage, and all. The air would like to return to 100% humidity but it can’t, because we have dried out the sausage a bit by maintaining 85% humidity, and in order to do that, we have had to discard water in the pot’s air. Sealing the pot, maintaining the same temperature, there will be a little water which will evaporate from the sausage, so the air will get a little bit wetter before things settle down. How much…? It depends on the interaction among the water in the sausage and the various components of the sausage. Similar to water in a sponge, water in the sausage will have a vapor pressure less that that of pure water.
Vapor pressure is a function of temperature, the “partial vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature.” The phrase “partial vapor pressure” means the amount of total pressure (which is still 14.7 psia) made up of water. The vapor pressure is a function of temperature, and its’ value at various temperatures is well known. Thus, measuring the partial pressure of water in the head space above the sausage, you can calculate the water activity by dividing by the known vapor pressure of pure water.
…clear as mud? You betcha. But here’s the clear part: the formerly wet sausage has lost water weight, and since meat starts out at 75% or more water, weight loss is a way of estimating water activity. If you want to be precise, you can buy an expensive instrument which will tell you the Aw, or you can go by the recipe guidance which says that you need to lose at least 35% weight to reduce the Aw sufficiently to be safe. That’s a tried-and-true method, and at least for now that’s good enough for me. Equipment for measuring water activity is a bit expensive, but the correlation with weight loss is pretty good.
For a clear explanation of water activity, have a look at a brochure by Aqua-Lab, a manufacturer of equipment to measure it, at http://www.aqualab.com/assets/Newsletters/Fundamentals-of-Water-Activity.pdf
Typical pH and Aw Figures for Fermented Sausages According to the Department of Agriculture FSIS, “Handbook of Fermented Meat and Poultry,” Fidel Toldrá, editor, Table 2.1. “Characteristics of different types of fermented sausages” lists water loss percentage en lieu of water activity, plus other interesting parameters like fermentation temperatures and times.
Note the differing European vs. American practices. The section below, on Bacterial Choice, explains much of the difference. Partly it’s that American desire to rush products out the door faster, but there’s also a flavor preference difference.
Notes on Bacterial Choice, Notes on Troubleshooting:
The publications by and about Danish manufacturer Chr Hansen provide useful documentation on what to try. These days, re-sellers supply excellent information on bacterial variations such as slow-fermenting, higher temperature fermenting.
Here are a few links:
- Butcher Packer & Packer has several good individual publications at http://www.butcher-packer.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=36_205&zenid=fe7d184590e08f0f7ba564d5487a3997 on Mold-600, F-RM-52, LHP, T-SPX, F-LC, and an excellent troubleshooting guide.
- A very thorough publication by Chr. Hansen titled “Bactoferm Meat Manual, Volume 1” covers fermented sausages in great detail, including the selection recommendations and troubleshooting guide mentioned above. Find it at http://netropolitan.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Chr-Hansen-Meat-Brochure-141009.pdf or in our SausagesWest media stash at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Chr-Hansen-Meat-Brochure-141009.pdf
- A short follow-on publication, “Meat Mold Manual, volume 2,” outlines use of molds in fermented meat production: http://www.hjemmeriet.dk/ChrHansen/Brochures/Meat%20Mould%20Manual%202nd%20edition%20(UK).pdf or at SausagesWest.com archives as http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Meat-Mould-Manual-2nd-edition-UK.pdf
- Volume 3 in the Chr. Hansen series, “Dry-Cured Meats, Volume 3,” is at http://netropolitan.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Bactoferm-Meat-Manual-vol.-3.pdf or in the archives of SausagesWest.com at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Bactoferm-Meat-Manual-vol.-3.pdf
Most of our fermented sausage recipes at SausagesWest.com specify type T-SPX, which gives European-style results. It is interesting to contrast these with the recipes in a book which I recently purchased, titled “Olympia Provisions, Cured Meats and tales from an American Charcuterie,” by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson. The Olympia Provisions folks advocate using Bactoferm LHP, which is described by the Chr. Hansen folks as Pediococcus pentosaceus and Pediococcus acidilactici, suitable for “extra fast culture targeted for fermentation temperatures 26-38°C (80-110°F).” They target less than 5.0 pH, and supply the dextrose to get there. …obviously American style.
This contrasts with our use of T-SPX, which Chr. Hansen notes is a mixture of Pediococcus Pentosaceus and Staphylococcus Xylosus. Their comment: “The high concentration of Pediococcus Staphylococcus and Xylosus Pentosaceus gives a controlled and moderate pH-drop. The acidification gives a mild lactic acid taste. The used Staphylococcus xylosus gives good color formation and stability. Furthermore the Staphylococcus xylosus gives a very round and mild flavor which is very typical for South European salami types such as Milano.” Our recipes typically are fermented at 20 degC/68 degF, which slows down fermentation rate The pH drop is less, typically 5.2 or so, controlled in part by using less dextrose. The taste is milder than would be obtained with LHP.
What the difference is, our old friend Chuckwagon says (quoting Rytek Kutas), is the difference between modern day American practice and old-world Southern European practice. Americans are in a hurry, as usual, slamming the pH down as fast as possible so they can manufacture more, faster, with consistent quality. European practice is more bound by tradition. The recipes differ in both formulation (dextrose content plus bacterial choice) and temperature. So which is better?
…beats heck outta me. I tend to follow directions, at least the first time that I make something, so I have a shot at a proven result, so I do what it says to do in the recipe. Later, as I get into the subtleties of the recipe, sure, I’ll give it a tweak, but I would suggest that you follow Chuckwagon’s often-given (although rarely solicited) advice about making substitutions- – DON’T.
So, looks like it’s time for another order from SausageMaker, this time for Bactoferm LHP.
Notes on Packaging:
Many fermented sausage recipes suggest storing at 12 degC/54 degF and 75% humidity. This is often not practical for the hobbyist, because few of us have dark, cool, not-too-drafty cellars for our sausages and wines. Shoving them into a refrigerator seems like a good idea at first, but isn’t. The problem is that at the refrigerator’s 40% or so relative humidity, the sausages will continue to dry until they become as hard as jerky and will be very difficult to cut, let alone chew.
One way to solve this problem is to seal the sausage in a “FoodSaver” or other brand vacuum-pack bag and store it in the refrigerator. An advantage to this method is that, the way sausages and meats are dried, at finish time their centers are always wetter than their outsides. If the moisture removal in your curing chamber is uneven, there may also be variation along the length as well as the diameter. Vacuum-packing prevents air and moisture from entering or exiting, producing a stable environment. Moisture diffuses uniformly throughout the packaged item(s), but can’t enter or escape. Since you removed your sausages or meats according to weight loss, they will equilibrate at that same (correct) moisture level. (See the discussion on water activity above.)
If you hit your weight loss target, no refrigeration (other than “cool” storage) is needed because at the targeted moisture level, water activity is low enough that the sausage is stable. However, why fool around? I vacuum-seal, then refrigerate, mine.
Spreadsheet for Sausage Recipes:
The general method for building a recipe spreadsheet is to list all the ingredients, list all amounts by percentage (which all adds to 100%), multiply each percentage by the weight of the entire recipe to get individual components’ weights, then (optionally) multiply each component’s weight by its bulk density to give an approximate volume. Common American practice is to list recipes in volume amounts, whereas Europeans seem to prefer weights. Use the spreadsheet to give both.
However, use caution when converting recipes back and forth. Bulk densities vary considerably. For a good illustration, weigh out a tablespoon of granulated table salt (non-iodized, of course!) and a tablespoon of Kosher salt. The larger granules have a considerably different bulk density than does the table salt. This should be a good incentive for you to convert each of your recipes to weight basis, work out the kinks until they taste right, then pt away your measuring spoons and weigh each ingredient. Your recipe will be much more reproducible.
Maintaining Your Chamber
Curing Chamber Maintenance- – – Hey, all you users of fermenting, curing, drying cabinets! I hope you’re enjoying yours as much as I am. I had no idea how good some of these meats tasted. We’ve discussed how to build your own chamber. Here’s a thought about how to maintain your equipment.
We’ve fielded several questions about how to clean or disinfect your cabinet, or even if you should, or not, do so. The professionals don’t- – they instead value the crop of mold that has established itself in their large-sized equipment and gives their meats a special flavor. Thus, you won’t find many people who advocate scrubbing the chamber. (For the pro, that would mean a whole room!)
Disinfecting: However, for us small-time operators, if it’s been a while since you used your chamber, it might be a good idea to clean it. I, for example, have two chambers in two different parts of the country. I shut mine down when I leave town, then start the other one up when I get there. Nowadays, leaving consists of turning it off and unplugging it, removing and emptying out the water reservoir, and wiping the interior out as best I can with a mixture of vinegar and water on a paper towel or with a sponge. I also use a sponge brush to get into hard-to-access areas. I wipe it down, inside and out, and leave the door propped open for a few days. As an alternate, which I’ll probably try this time, I’ll do the above, leave the humidifier empty (disconnected electrically), and leave the temperature controller and cooler operating with the door closed.
Purging: Suppose you don’t have to shut down, but instead keep on processing meats in your single chamber. What’s wrong with continuing to operate the thing, day in and day out? Well… nothing, assuming your system has some means of purging the water. If you have a system that continuously lets humidifier water drain, such as a drain hole in the bottom, there’s no problem. However, if you have a system which recycles water internally, such as my dorm refrigerator setup (water pan and ultrasonic vaporizer beneath freezer compartment coil), you’ll need to periodically change out the water in the pan. You see, without some means of periodically purging this buildup in the reservoir, oils and such that evaporate from the meat and condense on the cooling coil will accumulate in the liquid. Over a period of a couple of months, the liquid will build up an odor and may, in some cases, form a separate liquid layer. There is a possibility that this material might go rancid or potentially become infected with something horrible. You don’t want this, obviously, so be sure to purge it occasionally. Simply drain the water, flush the reservoir if desired, then fill it back up with water.
Here’s to many more successful salamis, chorizos, and the like. I enjoy exploring the world through various types of sausage, and the fermented semi-dried and dried types seem to be the most flavorful. Best wishes from the SausagesWest.com guys. Share those recipes! Let us know how you fare.
Garage Refrigerator/Freezer or Curing Chamber Not Working? Those of you who need to control temperature during winter months have probably encountered this problem: your curing chamber or refrigerator/freezer is located in a garage or other non-heated structure and, as winter approaches, your normal operating conditions are no longer the norm:
- Your refrigerator/freezer controls to typically 38 degF (3 degC) so, as the ambient temperature falls below that, your refrigerator no longer cycles on and off. As a result, the freezer compartment no longer receives coolant, and its temperature rises. In a prolonged cool spell, everything thaws as the temperature approaches the high thirties, and the frozen material is ruined.
- Your curing cabinet no longer requires cooling, and instead calls for continuous heating. Unfortunately, the heating element is not large enough for the task. Normally, it need only supply 20 pr 30 watts, which is enough to be called a “trim” amount, but now, considerably more is required, and the concentrated heat drives the area around it too high, damaging the chamber’s innards.
Easiest Answer: The easiest answer is to move your refrigerator or curing cabinet into conditions more suited to the equipment. It was designed to operate at or near room temperature, which is to say, 50 to 100 degF (10 to 38 degC). Too far out of that range and you have problems.
Next Best Answer for Frozen Goods: A better answer, at least for freezer thawing problems, is to buy a separate freezer. Inexpensive chest-models are available through numerous home improvement or appliance retailers, and on-line. The colder it is, the better a freezer likes it, because it doesn’t have to work as hard. Note that a freezer doesn’t have to worry about maintaining 38 degF, so there’s no risk to frozen food. And should you wish to use a freezer for your curing cabinet, note that it will work fine, as long as you can provide enough heat input. …which can turn out to be a problem. Read on.
External Heating/Cooling Answer: Maintaining sufficient heat input without melting the innards of your cabinet or damaging the refrigerator coil can be a problem. One answer is to install a “tempered water” system that circulates water or other fluid through a heat exchanger with a small fan installed inside the cabinet, with the heat source located outside the equipment. The heating equipment is mounted outside the cabinet, isolating it from the sausages and meats. If the interior heat exchanger is big enough, just about any external source can be used as a heating device. Because the heat transfer fluid is isolated away from the food, you could use any suitable (easy to handle) circulating heat transfer fluid such as brine or an ethylene glycol + water mixture (such as is used in your automobile). However, for our desired temperature range for curing meats, this is not necessary.
If you can locate a suitably small radiator which will fit inside your cabinet (such as an engine oil cooler) at a junk yard, you could use an aquarium pump for circulation and provide controlled heating with sous vide (bain marie, or double boiler) equipment, but this may get expensive. Controlled cooling would of course be done using the refrigerator’s built-in cooling equipment.
How it Works: What you are doing is artificially loading the equipment with heat ingress similar to what normally happens during warmer weather. You are attempting to balance out the heat which is now being lost through the walls of the cabinet. The trick is to not set the circulating fluid’s temperature too far above the desired temperature, so you don’t overload the cooling capacity of your curing cabinet. There’s a trade-off between heat exchanger surface area and circulation rate, so I can’t give you a decent estimate for temperature setting, but it should be just a few degrees above the desired cabinet temperature. If adjusted correctly, the curing cabinet’s temperature controller and the sous vide controller will appear to “fight each other” just a bit, and the cabinet temperature will cycle a few degrees, just like it does during normal operation.
Cheap Answer: But, having said all that, please realize that it’s a whole lot cheaper to move your equipment indoors for the winter. The only thing cheaper is to bring all your frozen stuff to an inside refrigerator/freezer, and to quit fermenting meats and sausages during cooler months. Bring the frozen stuff in, by all means. …but I think you’ll agree that stopping production is unacceptable!
Just because safety isn’t mentioned nearly as often as other aspects of sausage making doesn’t mean that it is any less important. In fact, much of what you do falls under the “GMP” (Good Manufacturing Practice) category. The commercial guys are required to practice GMP by regulatory law. You should do even better than they in your own practice. The risk- – death by some rather horrible means. The rewards, though, are great-tasting sausages, praise by kin and neighbors…
We’ll close with the ever-apropos “Chuckwagon’s 32 Sausage Making Tips to Save you Grief,” which you can find in our SausagesWest.com “Tips and Techniques” post. (My apologies for not including the long link. …need to fix that. …Real Soon Now.)
Chuckwagon’s 32 Sausage Making Tips To Save You Grief
- Always use good meat to make good sausage. If you toss junky meat into the hopper, you’ll have junky sausage to contend with. Good Boston Butt (pork shoulder) is the first choice for sausage making. Incidentally, have you ever wondered why pork shoulder is called “Boston butt”? Meat cutters in the eighteenth century seaport Boston, Massachusetts, packed cuts of pork shoulder into wooden casks called “butts” to be placed aboard ships…
uhhh…. which brings up the question, “ Do folks in Boston know their shoulders from their butts?
- The meat MUST be kept as cold as possible throughout the entire mincing, mixing, and stuffing process. Place the grinder blade and plate into the freezer 20 minutes ahead of time. If the plate and knife heat up, it can affect the mixture in all sorts of ways. Don’t be afraid to add a little softened crushed ice chips now and then. Never try to grind hard-frozen ice cubes with your grinder.
- Work with small batches of meat at a time and never miss an opportunity to refrigerate the meat at any time during the process.
- Always cut the meat into chunks about an inch in size before they go into the grinder. This prevents sinew from wrapping around the auger, binding it down. When this happens, the meat is usually pushed through the die and is torn rather than being cleanly incised.
- Freeze fat before putting it into the grinder to prevent “smearing”. Meat should be nearly frozen to prevent “mushing”.
- Freezing ruptures meat cells as ice crystals expand. When the meat is thawed, it exudes a mixture of proteins, minerals, blood, water, collagen, and other meat juices we view as simply blood. This liquid should be saved and added to the sausage. Quick freezing produces less rupturing of meat cells.
- Avoid using beef fat in sausage as well as the fat of wild game. Beef fat is yellow and the taste is inferior to that of pork fat. Also, avoid the fat of sheep or goats unless specified in a particular ethnic sausage.
- The most important reason for not stuffing casings as the meat leaves the grinder, is that minced meat needs to develop myocin and actin, (proteins) that makes a sticky “meat paste”. This is done either by hand or by using a mixer, but must be done in order to have proper texture in sausage. An investment in a vertical, geared, stuffer will keep you sane and made short work of stuffing casings.
- The texture of sausage may be improved by freezing the fat then cutting it into larger dice by hand, rather than passing it through a grinder. The frozen fat is then folded gently by hand, into the primary bind.
- Sausage must contain salt for a variety of reasons. Never reduce the amount of salt in a sausage recipe without professional advice. How much salt is needed in sausage? About 2% in fresh type sausage or 2 grams per 100 grams of meat. However, 2% used in fresh sausage, is simply not high enough for safety in a fermented “dry-cured” sausage requiring up to 3%. Dry-cured sausages without starter cultures (called “traditional” sausage), require even more… anywhere from 3 to 3.5%. Four to five per cent salt is unpalatable.
- Follow recipe directions precisely. Observe established rules in method, procedure, and technique. You cannot make your own rules in sausagemaking and expect them to work. In other words, you cannot “fudge” on established, time-honored, and proven sausagemaking regulations. The inexorable rules in place in the sausagemaking world today are the summation of knowledge throughout centuries of world history. Most people who substitute ingredients, alter the technique, or alter the recipe, have a disaster for an end product. Nearly all of these people will blame the recipe.
- Good sausage contains 20 to 25% fat. Fat lubricates the meat and gives it flavor. It also serves as a binder and although the content may be lowered, without it, a sausage’s texture becomes almost unpalatable.
- Make sure the grinder blade is not on backwards. It must be pressed up against the plate with just a little pressure. You should be able to adjust the pressure as you detect just the slightest bit of resistance on the machine.
- Never attempt to sharpen the flat side (plate side) of the blade. The contact surfaces must remain flat within a few thousandths of an inch. (Think of the two “flat contact sides” of a scissors. A cutler never touches them. He does however, grind the beveled edges to sharpen them.
- After grinding, add the cure mixed in a little water for even distribution. Mix the spices and cure into the meat and continue mixing until the myosin develops a sticky meat paste.
- Always use sterilized (prepared) spices in sausage. Non-sterile fresh spices and herbs from your garden may contain various bacteria from the soil and can spoil a batch of sausage within hours.
- The purchase of an electronic scale is a solid investment you’ll never regret. Use it for precisely measuring salt, cures, and ingredients of all types.
- To get the last bit of sausage out of the grinder, put a slice of bread down the hopper and continue grinding until the meat has cleared the plate.
- If you use wine in sausage, be sure it is not a fruity sweet wine, and then limit the amount used. More is not better; too much wine makes the texture crumbly because it denatures the proteins, including the very importatnt binders actin and myocin. Please use only “dry” wine. The best way to add it is using an atomizing “spritzer” to spray it in while it is very cold during the mixing step.
- Always preheat the empty smokehouse, add the sausage, then raise the temperature gradually – only a few degrees at a time at twenty or thirty minute intervals over several hours. I have yet to meet a sausage maker who didn’t ruin his first batch by cooking it too quickly. If the fat “breaks” (melts) and grease runs out onto the bottom of the smoker, you may as well toss the batch and start again. Cooked too quickly or too much, it is impossible to salvage.
- Trichinella Spiralis is destroyed at 138°F. (59°C.). Prep-cooked sausages such as “brown n’ serve” are often cooked to the temperature of 148°F. (64°C.) for later heating to a final serving temperature of around 155°F. (68°C.). Sausages smoke-cooked to this temperature are guarded against most spoilage and pathogenic bacteria including salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and toxoplasma – responsible for 1,500 deaths annually. However, it is critical that internal meat temperatures above 168° F. (76° C.) in “smoked-cooked sausages” be avoided as fat starts breaking (melting) at this point and will melt in pockets inside the sausage, eventually running out of the sausage. If this occurs, the sausage’s texture will invariably replicate sawdust! You may as well throw it out and start again from scratch. And don’t feed it to your dog! He deserves better. During prep-cooking, always heat and smoke sausages “low n’ slow
- Always use non-iodized salt in sausage making. Iodized salt leaves a metallic taste behind.
- After grinding, add the cure – mixed into a little water or cold stock – for even distribution throughout the meat.
- Having ground meat for sausage, we must remember the simple task of developing a “sticky meat paste” that sausage makers refer to as the “primary bind”. Cold meat (just above the freezing point) must be mixed and kneaded well enough to develop the proteins myosin and actin. As this occurs, the mass will become sticky and develop soft peaks when pulled apart. The proper development of myosin and actin is critical for good texture in the finished product, although the meat should never be overly-mixed, as this may result in the sausage becoming “rubbery” in texture.
- It is a good idea to develop the primary bind before vinegar, tomato, or any highly acidic food are added. In chorizo, blend in vinegar, but do not over-develop the mixture. Too much vinegar in the recipe will denature proteins and create other problems.
- If you are making a “semi-dry cured” sausage that requires prep-cooking to an internal temperature of 150˚ F. (66˚C.), be aware that cooking in an oven with slightly lower heat, will cause a sausage to dry out more as it cooks longer.
- If you have used vacuum sealing bags, you’ve probably experienced smashing sausages that have lost their shape. A simple solution is to place them into a deep freezer an hour before placing them into vacuum sealed plastic bags for longer storage. The quicker the meat is frozen, the smaller the ice crystals will be which will rupture meat cells affecting the texture of the sausage.
- If your emulsified hot dogs and sausages are tough or rubbery in texture, you may be over-extracting the actomyosin myofibrillar proteins. In other words, you may be mixing the sausage a little too much, especially with the addition of salt or water. 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.
- Grind fresh black pepper just before it goes into the sausage. Use a coarse “butcher’s grind” for fresher aroma and better taste. Store bought pre-ground pepper has lost its taste. Leave it on the shelf and grind your own peppercorns for great tasting sausage.
- Collagen casings cannot be linked by twisting them. They must be tied off using string, or simply cut to length using scissors if using smaller diameter casings like those for breakfast sausages.
- Avoid air pockets in sausages by firmly packing the meat into the stuffer using your fist. Make certain the pressure relief valve is working properly. Trapped air pockets in casings are pierced deeply with a needle in several places immediately following stuffing.
- Moisten hardwood sawdust well ahead of burning time, and do not soak it to the point it is dripping wet. Turn the hot plate to high until smoldering begins, then turn the heat down until it only produces constant but very little smoke. Moistened wood is not as acrid. Smoke penetrates meat much faster at higher temperatures. A case in point may be a sausage perfectly smoked at 120° F (50° C) for 4 hours. The same sausage may acquire a bitter, over-smoked flavor if smoked at 250° F (120° C) for the same length of time.