§ Bacteria: Fermented Sausages, Understanding Bacteria…

 Topics on This Page: sausage making

You Can Make Your Own Professionally – Fermented “Dry-Cured” Sausage!
Understanding Bacteria
Bad Bugs With Bad Manners! (Bacteria In Sausage Making)
The Major Causes Of Food Poisoning
Beneficial Bacteria
Two Recipes:
   —“Drag Rider’s Pepper Sausage”  (Dry-Cured-Smoked-Black Pepper Hard Sausage)
Salami di Alessandra (Genoa salami  by Stan Marianski)
Understanding Relative Humidity
What Is Meat And Why Does Salt Change Pork Into Ham? (Rigor Mortis)
Chicken – Infected with Salmonella and Campylobacter – November 2014

Pages Linked to This Topic: (click on the link to read the page(s)

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You Can Make Your Own Professionally – Fermented “Dry-Cured” Sausage! Yeee Hawww! Wranglers… you have no more excuses! Have you been hesitating to make “dry-cured” sausages because you’ve heard that it is difficult or not safe unless you have “special knowledge”? Well, procrastinate and postpone no more! It just isn’t that tough…  IF… you just realize what you are doing… when you are doing it!


First, you’ve got to know a little about microorganisms, especially “pathogenic” and “spoilage” bacteria. It is a good idea to read and understand all you can about the subject. Actually, the elemental but essential material for us “home hobbyists” has been placed into my friend Stan Marianski’s book, “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages”. Stan has taken the mystery out of the subject in his books available at his own company Bookmagic.com.


Stan is also the author of “Home Production Of Quality Meats And Sausages”. This publication is recommended if you are making any type of sausage, and vital if you are going to make “dry-cured”, fermented sausage. Stan has expertly placed a wealth of knowledge in his books for you to use. For the first time in history, the “jealously guarded secrets” of the craft are shared without having been clandestinely “handed down in secret” throughout generations. Today, thanks to Stan, we can simply order them online at Bookmagic.com or obtain them from our favorite sausage-supply company.


Understanding Bacteria

 When I first started to study pathogenic bacteria, it didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps Mother 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-born bactera. Some of these pathogenic bacteria species are deadly! Just one look into a microscope and this stuff will have you shaking in your boots! On the other hand, we must recognize the benefits of beneficial bacteria if we are to make fermented meat sausages. At the same time, an understanding of a third type of bacteria – the “spoilage” bacteria – is indispensable. However, although the spoilage bacteria is unpleasant, it is the pathogenic bacteria with which we are most concerned, as its presence in contaminated food is not always made evident by irregular odor, color, texture, or other normally perceptible means. 

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”

 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.

pH – The Measure Of Acidity 

Another effective means of reducing numbers of bacteria is to introduce them to an acidic environment. Have you ever thought about just how many foods we preserve in vinegar? In preserving sausage, we simply introduce a lactic acid – producing bacteria such as lactobacillus or pediococcus. Of course, acidity affects flavor and the addition of an acid is not just a simple solution for every type of meat. Yet, without lactic acid – producing bacteria, we wouldn’t have wonderful, tangy, fermented type sausage.

In chemistry, potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration is abbreviated pH.   What’s this? Shucks pards, I “aced” college chemistry… mostly because I intimidated the teacher with my garlic jerky breath! Uhhh… Roughly, pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity in any substance using a scale from zero to fourteen. Pure water is said to be very close to neutral, having a pH measurement of nearly 7.0 at 77° F. Foods with pH less than 7 are said to be acidic, while foods having a pH greater than 7 are said to be alkaline or “base”. Note that as we lower the pH factor, we increase acidity. Are microorganisms able to survive inside acidic foods? Not when the acidity is increased in a sausage by a drop below about 4 pH., depending upon the specific microorganism we are referring to. Some are more resilient than others.

Lets investigate a most effective way of preserving non-cooked, fermented sausages such as salami and pepperoni, using lactobacillus or pediococcus – the bacteria that produces lactic acid when nourished with a sugar (powdered dextrose). For centuries, man has been able to make dry-cured sausage safely only because the meat he used was subjected to a long drying process (including large amounts of salt), as well as naturally occurring lactobacilli or pediococci bacteria found in the atmosphere and on the premises of the slaughterhouse or sausage maker. Of course, he did not realize why safe fermentation occurred; only that it did occur. Few families were privy to the processing information someone had previously, accidentally discovered, and had passed down for generations. Certainly, these families marketed their product as being crafted using “secret” information and recipes. Often a technique called “back slopping” was used, in which a small amount of a previous batch (containing lactobacilli) was introduced into a fresh batch of sausage. Civilizations throughout Europe employed this inoculating procedure, again not understanding the reason it worked – only that it did work. For the first time, sausages did not have to be cooked to be safely stored for any amount of time at room temperature.

Just what was taking place without the knowledge of the sausage maker? What mysterious force was rendering the sausage safe rather than being spoiled during the long process? Incredibly, the scientific secrets would not be entirely understood until the middle of the Twentieth Century! In short, man began to realize that as sausage “cures”, a competition ensues between the good bacteria and the bad, both struggling for the same nutrition source. Time, (allowing lactobacilli or pediococci to accomplish their pH drop by increasing the acidity), becomes vitally important as the only initial protection of an air-dried sausage is the addition of salt, which immediately lowers the amount of “available water” accessible to any bacteria. Again, salt does not destroy bacteria, nor does it cause water to evaporate. It does, however, limit the amount of water available to bacteria – with much the same effect that freezing accomplishes. (As ice crystals develop inside meat cells, they simply limit the water available to bacteria – prohibiting bacteria from becoming nourished.)

So, to sum it up, as sausages become slowly dehydrated in a controlled, humid, atmosphere or chamber, they become safe for consumption as pathogenic and spoilage bacteria are not able to survive, once limited available water restricts their nutrition. While this is going on, lactobacilli or pediococci bacteria are slowly producing lactic acid to also limit pathogenic and spoilage bacteria. Given the proper amount of time, both these procedures work very well in making that great tangy sausage we call “dry cured” or fermented sausage.


Bactoferm ™ Bacterial Cultures


Now, where does Bactoferm™ fit in? The product is simply a high-quality, freeze-dried culture of controlled and measured bacteria in various strengths for slow, medium, or fast production. With Bactoferm™, the pH drop (increase in acidity) may occur in as little as 2 days to as much as several months. Other cultures are formulated to produce various, specifically desired qualities such as desired flaky-white mold formation (penicillium nagliovense) or even protection against listeria. Why do we use it? Simple! Uniformity and maximum positive effect; it’s foolproof!

Why We Use Cure #2?

In time, man’s discovery of nitrates in any number of the earth’s salt reserves, were found to assist in the curing process as micrococcus bacteria (usually staphylococcus) cause nitrates to break down into nitrites. Cure #2 (containing a “reservoir” of sodium nitrate) is used in dry-cured (fermented) sausages whenever curing time allows its sodium nitrate to gradually break down into sodium nitrite. Cure #2 in the United States, contains 6.25% sodium nitrite (NaNO2), 4% sodium nitrate (NaNO3), and 89.75 sodium chloride (salt). Why so much sodium nitrate as compared to that in Cure #1? As micrococcus bacteria (also called Kokuria) reduce nitrate to nitrite, nitric oxide is produced. It is actually this element that “cures” meat. Following two weeks dry-curing, only about a quarter of the 6.25 % sodium nitrite remains in meat. Nitrite simply breaks down too quickly to be of value over an extended period. In other words, in salamis requiring three or more months to cure, a certain amount of sodium nitrate must be added to break down into yet more nitrite over time.

Bad Bugs With Bad Manners!

Bacteria In Sausage Making

Sausage makers deal with basically three types of bacteria.

1. pathogenic
2. beneficial
3. spoilage

Another consideration of sausage makers is non-bacterial yeasts and molds. Some retain “tough-to-get-rid-of” toxic spores. Other microorganisms we may encounter are even non-bacterial, but actual living organisms such as trichinella spiralis – a microbial, nematode worm!

Each year in the United States food borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses and 325,000 hospitalizations*. Of this number, more than 5,000 Americans painfully suffer the clearly evident indications and symptoms of preventable food contamination, breathe their last breath, and agonizingly die!
* statistics from Center For Disease Control

Three pathogens in particular – SalmonellaListeria, and Toxoplasma – are responsible for 1,500 deaths annually. Many of the pathogens of greatest concern today were not even recognized as causes of food borne illness merely twenty years ago! They include Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Cyclospora cayetanensis, and others.

Other pathogenic bacteria of concern to sausage makers include Clostridium botulinum whose spores produce the deadliest toxin known to man, andClostridium perfringens – both of which grow without oxygen present. Staphylococcus aureus is present in the mouth, nose, and throat as well as on the skin and hair of many healthy people who never suspect it. One cough or sneeze may be accountable for the sickness of countless individuals. Shigella, also a rod-shaped pathogenic bacterium, is closely related to E.coli and salmonella. Usually ingested, it is the cause of severe dysentery. Also rod-shaped pathogens of bacteria genus bacillus include Bacillus cereus, which causes a foodborne illness similar to that of staphyloccus.

We live in a microbial world in which there are limitless opportunities for pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms to contaminate food whether it is produced in huge commercial kitchens or prepared “from scratch” at home. Food borne microbes are present (usually in the intestines) in healthy animals raised for food and the slightest contact with even small amounts of intestinal contents may contaminate meat or poultry carcasses during slaughter. Others are passed along by any number of means. As a result, worldwide each year, over two million people die from diseases attributed to contamination of food and drinking water, many being painful diarrhoeal diseases. Even in industrialized countries, up to 30% of the population have reported suffering from foodborne diseases annually.

Recently in Europe, two and a half million pounds of beef were recalled due to salmonella contamination. In the United States, a single ice cream producer affected 224,000 persons when salmonella contaminated products were placed on the market. Earlier, an outbreak of hepatitis A, resulting from the consumption of contaminated clams, affected some 300,000 individuals in China. In the United Kingdom, two million cases, (about 3,400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), of food contamination are reported each year. In France, three quarters of a million people (1,210 cases for 100,000 inhabitants), report food contamination sicknesses annually. Australia reports an estimated five and a half million cases of food-borne illness every year, causing 18,000 hospitalizations and 120 deaths. The problem creates an enormous social and economic strain on people in every country. In the United States alone, diseases caused by the major pathogens are estimated to cost over $35 billion dollars annually in medical costs and lost productivity.

So, why am I including this ghastly information in the midst of our sausage making project? Frankly, to scare the daylights out of you! What better place to print explicit and even graphic details in which every responsible sausage maker should become familiar before undertaking the business of feeding or preparing sausage for other people? A trusted sausage maker or cook may either promote or recklessly endanger the health of other human beings. I openly cringe whenever I hear someone repeat the words “he’s just a cook”. Inside our ranch kitchen, cowboys helped with dishes and treated the cook as if he were royalty. After all, although he was “just the cook”, all hands depended upon the “biscuit wrangler” to feed us fresh, tasty, and safely prepared food. Shucks pards, we all knew he could have easily slipped a little something extra into the chocolate pudding anytime he had revenge on his mind. We also trusted and relied upon him to help keep harmful bacteria out of the sausage and meat products we devoured like hungry wolves.

Safety n’ Savvy 

Before you begin making sausages in your own ranch or home kitchen that others will consume, you MUST become familiar with the basics of food handling safety and gain at least a fundamental insight of microorganisms and their behavior. Without this knowledge, you may very easily harm someone most seriously. Making fresh sausage involves the use of immaculately clean utensils and low processing temperatures. We must take advantage of every opportunity to lower the temperature of the meat during the various steps of processing sausage. Those of the cured, cooked, and smoked variety, require the same essentials, but further include the use of sodium nitrites and nitrates, higher salt content, and of course, higher cooking temperatures. If you wish to make any type of dried or semi-dried sausage, a basic understanding of the fermentation process becomes necessary, along with an elemental knowledge of unique, acid-producing, microorganisms and their behavior. In other words, because the meat in these sausages is not cooked during preparation or even upon consumption, a bit more “bacteria savvy” is required. Further, in making those great tasting, tangy, “fermented” sausages, familiarity with a few unique safety procedures involving yeast and mold microorganisms is essential. They include at least an elemental understanding of:

1. Water activity (Aw) – a measure of how much “bound” water is available to microorganisms.

2. pH acidity – (potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration) – a measure of acidity or alkalinity in food, developing resistance against microbiological spoilage.

3. Microbiology, including:
a. molds
b. yeasts
c. bacteria of three types:
1. pathogenic
2. beneficial
3. spoilage

The Major Causes Of Food Poisoning 

1. Pathogenic Bacteria

Of the three microorganisms affecting food (bacteria, yeasts, and molds), pathogenic bacteria, existing virtually everywhere in our environment, remain the greatest cause of food poisoning. Sausage makers and food handlers must be aware of the strains of (a.) food spoilage bacteria, (b.) pathogenic bacteria, and (c.) beneficial bacteria. Millions of microbes may be found on unwashed hands and dirty utensils and under the right conditions, multiply at an alarmingly incredible rate.

As sausage makers, we must constantly be aware of the primary factors necessary for bacterial growth. We must also know how to change any dangerous circumstances immediately. Bacteria need merely four elements for growth:

(1.) moisture– Did you ever imagine that meat is comprised of three-quarters water? If we freeze the water in meat, we give it temporary defense against bacteria by “binding” the moisture. Moisture is the primary reason meat spoils. Will dehydrating meat preserve it? We’ve been doing just that for thousands of years!

(2.) nutrient– Meat, (mammalian muscle) consists of roughly 75% water, 19 % protein, 2.5% fat, 1.2% carbohydrates, and 2.3% non-protein substances such as amino acids and minerals. Exposed to the atmosphere, meat becomes a virtual feast for bacteria.

(3.) warm temperature– Bacteria thrive at body-temperature! Called the “danger zone”, the range from 40°F. (4°C.) to 140°F. (60°C.) is the optimum temperature periphery for bacteria to multiply. It is interesting to note that bacteria are restricted from growing at 130°F. (54°C.) but actually start to die at 140°F. (60°C.).

(4.) lack of oxygen– Aerobic bacteria need oxygen; anaerobic bacteria do not. Certain pathogenic bacteria in sausage being smoked certainly present a risk. Casings also cut off a certain volume of oxygen as does the “overnight curing” covered with plastic wrap inside a refrigerator. Remember the first rule of sausage making: Don’t smoke it if you can’t cure it! (meaning the use of actual cures of sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite).

Bacteria, have been named mostly in Latin or Greek, for their shape. Spherical bacteria are called cocci. Rod-shaped bacteria are known as bacilli. Curved bacilli (resembling a comma), are called vibrio. If they are spiral-shaped, the are called spirilla, and if the bacilli is tightly coiled, it is called spirochaetes. Many bacteria exist simply as single cells. If they are found in pairs, they are neisseria. The streptococcus form chains while the staphylococcus group together in clusters resembling grapes.

If a specific bacterium is a facultative anaerobic, it is most active in oxygen but can survive without it. On the other hand, an obligate anaerobe cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. Bacteria do not grow in size – they multiply in number. And they do it very quickly! Without oxygen, the addition of sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites is necessary to prevent botulism. It also becomes crucial that meat be removed from the “danger zone” temperature range as quickly as possible during any preparation or cooking process. This includes grinding, mixing, and stuffing sausages, procedures often supported using ice, ice water, or refrigeration and freezing. As bacteria need moisture to multiply and meat is about three-quarters water, it becomes an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, even when it is mostly dried. However, there is a point in which meat can lose so much “available” water, it will no longer sustain bacteria. This point differs within each particular type bacterium. We’ll discuss this “water activity” later as well as another bacteria destroying process known as potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration…   … or simply “pH acidity”.

Our first line of defense continues to be the application of extreme temperatures applied to meat either being cooked or frozen. As sausage is prepared, it is essential to work with only small batches at a time outside the refrigerator. Very often, meat is partially frozen before it is put through a grinder and bacteria at this temperature remain mostly inactive. In the grinder, ice chips are sometimes added to keep the temperature down as the friction of grinding actually warms the meat. Out of the refrigerator, most bacteria begin to wake up as the temperature rises above 40°F. (4.4°C.). At 50°F. (10°C.), it is safe to work with the meat only temporarily before it goes back into the refrigerator. At this point, salt in the amount of 2.5% – 3% is frequently added to partially restrict pathogenic and spoilage bacteria growth, as beneficial bacteria go to work producing protective acidity within time. Most bacteria thrive at the temperature of our bodies (98.6°F. / 36.6°C.). As temperatures rise much above the “danger zone”, their growth becomes restricted until around 140°F. (60°C.), they begin to die. Yet, strains such as Clostridium botulinum, may survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C) by producing heat-resistant, isolating envelopes called spores – nature’s way of protecting the organism by sheltering the bacteria from other unsympathetic environmental conditions. 


Clostridium botulinum – The Killer

Clostridium Botulinum is a common obligate anaerobic bacterium microorganism found in soil and sea sediments. Although it can only reproduce in an oxygen-free environment, when it does reproduce, it produces the deadliest poison known to man – botulinum toxin. One millionth of a gram ingested means certain death – about 500,000 times more toxic than cyanide. Onset of symptoms can occur quickly and include nausea, stomach pain, double vision, and spreading paralysis, ultimately reaching the heart or respiratory organs. If treatment is given and the dose is low, half of those affected may survive, but recovery may take months or years. Although fatalities occur yearly, especially in countries where home canning is popular, the risk of acquiring botulism is very, very low. However, the lethal consequences of poisoning may make you wish to reconsider the proper addition of sodium nitrate/nitrite in your products to almost eliminate the risk. Worldwide, there are about 1000 cases of botulism each year.

The rod-shaped bacterium was first recognized and isolated in 1896 following the poisoning of several people who had consumed bad ham. It was later discovered that due to the enzyme superoxide dismutase, the bacterium might actually tolerate very small traces of oxygen. Botulinum spores are extremely persistent and will survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C), freezing, smoking, and drying. Insidiously, they lie in wait for the right conditions to occur and give no foul smell or taste, making it even more treacherous. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop beyond 5.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.97 or less. Placing fresh vegetables or un-sterilized (garden fresh) spices into sausage is not recommended as botulinum spores are not uncommon on leafy herbs, peppers, beans, chilies, and corn. Cut off from oxygen by being stuffed into casings and placed in a smoker, the smoking temperatures are ideal for bacteria growth. The risk using fresh garlic is less, but cases of botulism poisoning have been reported after people have eaten home-canned garlic cloves in oil – the ideal environment for anaerobic bacterial growth!

The most commonly recognized foodborne infections are those caused by the bacteria species campylobacter, salmonella, and E.coli, along with a group of viruses called clicivirus also known as the Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses. Campylobacter remains the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the world and incredibly, most raw poultry meat has campylobacter on it. Salmonella is also a bacterium widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles, and mammals. Its infection, known as samonellosis, typically includes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. E.coli 0157:H7 is a bacterial pathogen infecting cattle and other similar animals. Human illness typically follows consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with microscopic amounts of cattle feces. The illness it causes is often a severe and bloody diarrhea with painful abdominal cramps, but without much fever. In 3% to 5% of cases, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can occur several weeks after the initial symptoms. This severe complication includes temporary anemia, profuse bleeding, and kidney failure.

Norwalk and Norwalk-like virus (calicivirus) is an extremely common cause of foodborne illness, though it is rarely diagnosed, because its laboratory test is not widely available. It causes an acute gastrointestinal illness, usually with more vomiting than diarrhea, that resolves within two days. It is believed that Norwalk-like viruses spread primarily from one infected person to another. Infected kitchen workers can contaminate a salad or sandwich as they prepare it, if they have the virus on their hands. Infected fishermen have contaminated oysters as they harvested them. Sausagemakers, wash your hands! 

Although other routes usually transmit them, some common diseases are occasionally produced by foodborne bacteria. These include infections caused byshigella, hepatitis A, and the parasites giardia lambia, and cryptosporidia. Even “strep throats” have been transmitted occasionally through food.

Indeed, we live in a microbial world with countless opportunities for food to become contaminated as it is produced and prepared. Many food borne microbes are present in healthy animals (usually in their intestines) raised for food. In the kitchen, microbes may be transferred from one food to another food by using the same knife, cutting board or other utensils to prepare both without washing the surface or utensil in between. Worse, a food that is fully cooked can become re-contaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens.

A “strain” is a sub-group within the species of a particular bacterium having unique characteristics distinguishing it from other strains. These differences are often detectable only at the molecular level; yet, they may result in changes to the physiology or lifecycle of the bacterium. Some strains develop pathogenic capacity becoming hostile to our food supply.

Many bacterial microbes need to multiply before enough are present in food to cause disease. The way food is handled after it is contaminated can also make a difference in whether or not an outbreak occurs. Given warm moist conditions and an ample supply of nutrients, merely one reproducing bacterium dividing itself every half hour can produce 17 million progeny in only 12 hours! As a result, lightly contaminated food left out overnight can be highly infectious by the next day. If the food were refrigerated promptly, the bacteria would not multiply at all. In general, freezing prevents nearly all bacteria from growing but merely preserves them in a state of “suspended animation”. However, this general rule has a few surprising exceptions. Two foodborne bacteria, listeria monocytogenes and yersinia enterocolitica can actually grow at refrigerator temperatures! As we shall see, high salt, high sugar, or high acid levels keep bacteria from growing, which is why salted meats, sweetened jam, and pickled vegetables are traditionally preserved foods.

Staphylococcus Aureus

Staphylococcus aureus is a particularly infamous nasty strain of bacteria that thrives at 98° Fahrenheit, causes intense vomiting, and much like clostridium botulinum, it is capable of producing toxins that remain in meat even after the microorganism is destroyed or removed. Most often found around the nose and throat or on sores, the foods most often contaminated with staphylococcus are moist and high in protein, such as meats and cheeses. The bacteria are usually passed onto food by the hands. “Staph” is even more dangerous because there is no tangible way to tell if meat is infected – taste, aroma, and appearance all seem normal. Moreover, it is highly resistant to drying and in the presence of oxygen, it can survive in Aw water levels down to an incredible 0.86. Worse, it can withstand a whopping 15% salt! Proper temperature management is essential – no, it is critical – in avoiding the spread of staphylococcus microorganisms. Cooked foods that are not cooled quickly enough or that are allowed to stand at room temperature are susceptible to infection. In fermented (not cooked) sausage, a rapid drop to less than 5.3 pH is required for its demise. In fresh or smoked-cooked-cured sausage, normal cooking temperatures exterminate the bacterium.

E. coli

The rod-shaped, facultative anaerobic, E. coli (escherichia coli) bacteria are comonly but not always confined to the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most are harmless and one strain in particular has been used in the development of probiotic medicine developed to treat gastrointestinal infection. However some strains, such as serotype 0157:H7, 0104:H21, and 0121, can cause potentially lethal toxins. The strain 0157:H7 especially may cause serious food poisoning in humans, as well as other life-threatening complications. The ability of E.coli bacteria to survive for brief periods outside the body makes them ideal candidates for fecal contamination. The bacteria survive freezing and acidic environments down to 4.0 pH and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.95. Untreated water, unwashed hands, flies, or vermin can then spread the bacteria. As plants are eaten, the cycle continues. As with staphylococcus aureus, it is best destroyed using heat.


Salmonella bacteria do not produce spores, are not destroyed by freezing, and are facultative anaerobic, meaning they are active in oxygen but can survive without it. This is the nasty bug that causes Typhoid Fever! In food, it is the cause of salmonellosis. The rod shaped bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals and are passed in the excreta of an infected host. Untreated water, unwashed hands, flies, or vermin can then spread the bacteria. Salmonella can survive for weeks outside a living body and have even been found in dried excrement after nearly three years. The foods most commonly infected with bacteria are poultry, eggs, and all kinds of meat. Thorough cooking of these foods at a temperature of at least 165°F. (74 &ordm;C) will destroy the salmonella bacterium. Each year, about 40,000 Americans are infected with food borne salmonella and develop salmonellosis. Amazingly, another 142,000 are annually infected with Salmonella enteritidis solely from consuming raw chicken eggs! About 30 die. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to less than 3.8 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.94.

Clostridium Perfringens

Clostridium perfringens bacteria, like salmonella, is present in the intestines of humans and animals, but like clostridium botulinum, it is an obligate anaerobic and cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. The bacteria forms spores that survive very well in soil – thus vegetables may carry the organisms.Clostridium perfringens bacteria are most commonly found in raw foods, especially meats and poultry, and proper temperature management is fundamental in avoiding the spread of the microorganisms. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the bacteria must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to a point less than 5.5 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.93.

Listeria Monocytogenes

In October 2002, a major poultry producer in Franconia, Pennsylvania, recalled more than twenty-seven and a half million pounds of turkey and chicken “ready to eat” products they had already placed on the market. Following an outbreak of listeriosis, several other meat companies voluntarily shut down operations until the source could be identified. Unfortunately, listeria infection (listeriosis) in several northeastern states had taken its toll, initiating several deaths, sicknesses, miscarriages, and stillbirths.

Each year in the United States, an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis. Another 500 die, causing listeriosis to be the leading cause of death from food borne bacterial pathogens! Twenty to thirty percent of infections result in death! Listeriosis infection is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women are twenty times more likely to contract listeriosis than other healthy adults and account for a third of all reported cases. The elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems due to cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and other diseases, are especially at risk.

The rod-shaped Listeria monocytogenes bacteria do not produce spores and are found in soil and water. Most often, the bacteria get into food using manure as a fertilizer from animals having the infection yet displaying no ill symptoms. The bacterium is destroyed by heat while cooking or preparing food. Uncooked meats and vegetables and unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Foods to be concerned about include soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter, and many ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and raw vegetables. These items must be thoroughly cooked until they are steaming hot! Check the labels on Feta, Brie, and Camembert, any blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican cheeses such as Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, and Panela. Unless labels clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk, avoid them. It is always a good idea to eat smoked seafood only in cooked dishes such as casseroles.

Whenever making fresh sausage from any raw meat, protection from listeria monocytogenes is dependent upon cooking the meat until the recommended internal meat temperature of at least 152°F. (66.6°C.) is reached. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to less than 4.4 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.92. Sausage making is completely safe only when the rules are stringently followed.

Campylobacter Jejuni

It is now estimated that half of the chickens produced in America contain the spiral rod-shaped campylobacter jejuni microorganism that infects 13 persons in one hundred thousand. The bacterium does not produce spores. World wide, it affects about two and a half million people annually or 0.8% of the population. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. Although comparatively few people die from the disease (about 125 each year), the symptoms are harsh and painful, usually requiring medical attention. Many chicken flocks are infected with campylobacter but show no signs of illness. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to less than 4.9 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.98. Campylobacter may be easily spread from bird to bird through a common water source or through contact with infected feces. When an infected bird is slaughtered, campylobacter organisms are easily transferred from the intestines to the meat.


Reactive arthritis is autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. People developing an infection having come into contact with Shigella bacteria, often devolp severe dysentery and reactive arthritis. Infection is made though fecal-oral contamination and as few a ten cells may trigger the disease shigellosis. The rod-shaped bacterium does not produce spores, is closely related to E.coli, but is found naturally only in man and apes. It does not affect other animals. In non-cooked fermented sausages, Shigella bacteria must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to less than 4.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.91.

Bacillus cereus

Bacillus cereus is a rod-shaped bacterium that develops spores. Some strains are harmful to humans when survival of bacterial endospores takes place whenever food is improperly cooked. This problem is compounded when food is then improperly refrigerated, allowing the spores to germinate. Infection causes severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In non-cooked fermented sausages, bacillus cereus must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop to less than 4.3 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.91.

Other strains of bacillus cereus can be beneficial as probiotics. The bacteria are facultative anaerobic (most active in oxygen but can survive without it) and are found mostly in the soil. The bacterium is difficult to identify, as it closely resembles staphylococcus aureus and other pathogens. Bacillus cereus is also known to cause problematic skin infections in humans that can be quite damaging, and difficult to eradicate.

2. Food Spoilage Bacteria

Mother Nature has always employed an efficient and practical means for reducing and eventually eliminating waste. Surplus organic material (without preservatives) no longer needed or not consumed while fresh, simply wastes away with the infection of several types of bacteria. Most often, a product simply falls apart and eventually disintegrates. Meats spoil by food spoilage bacteria breaking down proteins and fatsBrochotrix thermosphacta, pseudomonas spp., or a host of other spoilage-type bacteria, usually cause not only slime and discoloration, but also objectionable odors, terrible tastes, and intolerable textures as well. Each has its preferred temperature range for quick reproduction and some are most active inside a refrigerator. Others are active at room temperature or even smokers, heated up to 140°F. (60°C.). Although spoilage bacteria may not be life-threatening, they may certainly make life miserable for a week or two, if ingested in spoiled food. How do we stop food spoilage bacteria? Sometimes we can’t before it does its damage. However, most cannot survive a drop below Aw 0.85. Dried foods? Most are very palatable but not always preferred or practical.

You may wonder how the Great Plains Indians kept fresh buffalo meat from spoiling. Without salt, and plenty of it, bison jerky did indeed spoil! Rarely did they have freshly killed meat as an alternative to tough, chewy, dried buffalo jerky and most often it had to be soaked a few hours just to relieve enough of its salt content to make it palatable.

Don’t confuse pathogenic bacteria with spoilage bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria cause illness. They grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone” at temperatures between 40 and 140 °F.  and do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. Food that is left too long at unsafe temperatures could be dangerous to eat, but smell and look just fine. Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 are examples of pathogenic bacteria.

Spoilage bacteria reproduce at specific temperatures and some can grow at the low temperatures inside your refrigerator or even your freezer. Other spoilage bacteria grow well at room temperature and anywhere within the “Danger Zone.” Bacteria will grow anywhere they have access to nutrients and water and under the correct conditions, spoilage bacteria may reproduce extremely rapidly in large populations. Spoilage bacteria can actually double their numbers in as little as 20 minutes and it doesn’t take long for a large number of microorganisms and their waste products to cause objectionable changes in odor, taste, and texture.  P.U.

 It’s All About The Temperature  

Mesophilic bacteria (the largest and most common group) are those that grow best in moderate temperatures – about 70° to 98° F. but mesophiles can also grow at only 45° degrees and up to 110° degrees, but they do so more slowly.

Some like it hot! Thermophilic bacteria live and multiply best at approximately 130° degrees F. but can grow anywhere between 110° and 190° degrees F.

Psychrophilic bacteria grow from 32° to 90° degrees F. Most thrive at 50° to 70° degrees. Because they grow better NOT best than the mesophilic bacteria at refrigerated temperatures–32 to 45 degrees–, this group is most often responsible for spoilage in refrigerated foods.

Contrary to the belief of many people, cold or freezing does not always kill bacteria. Make no mistake! In most cases it just stops or slows down their growth. The FSIS rules require “extended freezing” with prescribed lengths of time at precise temperatures to slowly kill them. Also, bacteria need water to grow and even though some of them have the ability to resist long drying out periods, keeping things dry will stop growth and in some instances will kill them. Generally, bacteria responsible for spoilage of foods (mesophilic and psychrophiles) can be killed by hot water. Ten minutes at 150 degrees F. will be sufficient. However, there are some strains so resistant that germicides such as chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds are required to control them.

 As stated above, the spoilage bacteria may be unpleasant, but it is the pathogenic bacteria with which we are most concerned as its presence in contaminated food is not always made evident by irregular odor, color, texture, or other normally perceptible means.

 Microorganism Type 2. (Yeasts)

It is estimated that only 1% of all yeast species have been described. Yeasts are microscopic fungi that grow as single cells. They will grow on the surface or near the surface inside non-cooked, air-dried, fermented sausages, while molds grow only upon the surface. Neither yeasts or molds are affected by the pH drop during the fermentation stage of sausage making and as long as a high degree of humidity is sustained, they will grow within a wide temperature boundary. However, the two microorganisms grow much slower than bacteria and during the drying process, they develop much later. Both yeast and molds are entirely part of traditional sausage making as both metabolize some of the lactic acid created during fermentation. Increasing the pH, thus lowering acidity, the flavor of slowly fermented sausage is greatly enhanced. Yeasts are not as sensitive to increased levels of salt as are lactic acid bacteria and they need little oxygen to survive. Two yeasts especially tolerant of salt are Debaromyces hansenii and Candida formata.

Unlike bacteria, there are no known species that grow only anaerobically (obligate anaerobes). Yeasts grow best in a neutral or slightly acidic pH envornment but are able to grow in foods with a low pH, (5.0 or lower) and in the presence of sugars, organic acids, and other easily metabolized carbon sources. During their growth, yeasts metabolize some food components and produce metabolic end products. This causes the physical, chemical, and sensory properties of a food to change, as the food is spoiled. The yeast of the Zygosaccharomyces genus have long been associated with the food industry as a spoilage yeast. These species are able to grow in some of the more commonly used food preservation concentrations including ehanol, acetic acid, sorbic acid, high sucrose, benzoic acid, and sulfur dioxide.

Microorganism Type 3. (Molds)

Molds are microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. Ubiquitous in nature, molds are aerobic and grow on the surface of sausages. Wild growing “white” molds have been used for centuries on sausage surfaces to help prevent oxygen from penetrating the sausage and to help regulate or temper the drying cycle. Mold also oxidizes lactic acid – increasing pH, and it consumes oxygen to produce catalase, thereby reducing lipid oxidation and rancidity of fats. Penicillium nagliovense in particular, promotes lipolytic (breaking down of fats) and proteolytic (breaking down of proteins) development, greatly improving the flavor of fermented, air-dried sausagesIn order to grow, molds need 75% humidity or more and higher temperatures facilitate their development. The sausage maker’s favorites include penicillium nagliovense and Fleming’s penicillium chrysangenum, from which the miraculous antibiotic penicillin was developed.

Spores And Mycotoxins In Molds

Some molds also produce spores and subsequently, mycotoxins. When mold spores are present in large quantities, their mycotoxins can certainly present a health hazard to humans and animals, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Exposure to (or consumption of) high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases… death! Molds of color, especially green, should be wiped away with vinegar immediately.Although it is generally accepted that wild white mold is safe, it yet remains a wild mold and therefore its safety remains a gamble. For this reason, it is suggested that starter cultures, purchased from a reputable company, be used in sausage making to control microorganisms. I prefer and recommend the very fine Chr. Hansen Bactoferm™ products made in Denmark and distributed in Germany. To start a mold culture on sausage, most sausage makers dip them into a solution just before they go into the fermentation room or chamber having raised temperature and higher humidity – ideal growing conditions for fungi. I like to spray them using an atomizer. And yes, you really should put a little ventilation into your curing chamber. A couple of well placed 30-30 rounds should do the trick!

There will always be skeptical ol’ timers and hardy, dogmatic ol’ folks who may say, “We’ve never used that ‘newfangled bio-culture stuff’ to make salami – our good ol’ mold has been successful for years, and we haven’t killed anybody yet, so what’s the big deal”? Well, I have but one question… and I’ve wondered about it for some time. Just how many folks over the years have died of “natural causes“?

How Bacteria Multiply

Microorganisms do not grow in size – they multiply in number. And they do it very quickly! Lets take a look at the bacteria count of two particularly infamous nasty strains – E.coli 0157:H7 and staphylococcus aureus – both bacteria thrive at 98° Fahrenheit. It is crucial that meat be removed from this temperature range as quickly as possible during any sausage making preparation or cooking process. Because staphylococcus aureus bacteria are most often found around the nose and throat or on sores, and the foods most often contaminated with staphylococcus are moist and high in protein (such as meats), hands must be scrubbed, a hairnet or hat worn, and any contact with the mouth, nose, or acne sores etc., must be eliminated. Coughing or sneezing is inexcusable and indefensible during any phase of the sausage making process! The bacteria are usually passed onto food by the hands. “Staph” is even more dangerous because there is no tangible method to indicate whether the meat is infected; the taste, aroma, and appearance all seem normal. Proper temperature management is not only necessary, it is critical in avoiding the spread of staphylococcus microorganisms. Cooked foods not cooled quickly enough or are allowed to stand at room temperature too long, are susceptible to infection. How quickly do bacteria develop? Left on a table top on a warm late spring day, bacteria actually double each twenty minutes! In other words, E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in “sterile meat” may easily number above 25,000 in three short hours without refrigeration. Worse, if the meat is ground into burger, the increased surface area increases the risk exponentially!

Non-Bacterial Contamination – (Parasites) 

Trichinella Spiralis

Trichinella spiralis is a parasitic roundworm whose larval form may be present in the flesh of pork or wild game and its painful infection is known astrichinosis. The best way to irradicate the dangers of the trinchinella spiralis larva is to simply cook the meat thoroughly. However, not all sausagemaking procedures allow the meat to be fully cooked or even cooked at all. In these cases, “certified pork” must be used; pork that has been deeply (sub-zero) frozen for a prescribed amount of time. Because of new USDA regulations in American hog production during the 1970’s and 80’s, the disease in modern America has mostly been eradicated. For decades preceding the new rules, many hog producers fed hogs the entrails of other butchered hogs as the cycle continued until the modern rules were put into effect. By public demand over an extended period of time, American pork has become less fatty and mostly trichinae free. It is interesting to note that in England, as well as in many other hog producing countries, trichinella spiralis is virtually unknown.

Always follow the recommended cooking temperatures in recipes. The internal temperature of cooked fresh pork must reach at least 150 &ordm;F. (65.5 &ordm;C.) All hot smoked sausages should be cooked to 155 &ordm;F. (68 &ordm;C.). Cold-smoked or air dried sausages, whose formulas contain Prague powder #2, should be cooked to 120-135 &ordm;F. (49-57 &ordm;C.). Never judge by looks alone, whether meat is cooked sufficiently, and always check the internal temperature using an accurate meat thermometer.

Cryptosporidium Paryum

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite cryptosporidium paryum. Both the disease and the parasite are known as “crypto“, and there is no effective treatment or cure for the nasty stuff. The parasite lives inside the intestines of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of both once infected. Most people with healthy immune systems will recover on their own having been infected. So why is it such a concern? Many people affected with other diseases as cancer etc., have weakened immune systems. Worse, the Crypto parasite has a protective outer shell allowing it to survive outside the body for long periods and makes it very resistant to the chlorine disinfection of any city’s water supply. Within the past two decades, cryptosporidium paryum (“crypto”) has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease (drinking and recreational) in humans in the United States. The parasite is found in every region of the United States and throughout the world. Millions of Crypto bacteria may be released in just one bowel movement of an infected human or animal. People may become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite inside a recreational facility as a swimming pool or by simply eating uncooked food contaminated with cryptosporidium paryum. As food is prepared with water taken from a “chlorinated and disinfected” city’s reservoir supply, Crypto yet thrives. Cooks must destroy any possible contamination by completely cooking any food. How much heat? The USDA recommends at least 152 degrees F.

“Declaring War On The Bugs”

How are we to defeat pathogenic and spoilage bacteria in sausage? Is it possible to starve them? What about salt? How much should we use? We also know that bacteria cannot survive in an environment without moisture, so may we limit the amount of water available to bacteria to destroy them?

All good questions! However, contrary to popular certainty, salt does not destroy bacteriaIt doesn’t even force water to evaporate. It does, however,immobilize or bind a specific 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. 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! How did your grandparents preserve fresh pork hams and bacons? Perhaps they were pioneers heading westward across the plains in a wagon with bacon, hams, or other cured meats in the larder. Salted hams were dried then “revived” in water before use. Bacon was cured with salt, smoked, and par-cooked. Your grandparents certainly knew that salting 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. Of course, they had to soak the salt from the flesh just to make it palatable. Nevertheless, it was meat – consumed along the trail, months after it had been initially prepared.

How about introducing acidity as protection against pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms? Bacteria hate acidity, right? But how much is enough? Doesn’t acidity affect the taste of the final product? It’s true, another effective method of preserving meat involves acidity introduced by various means. Of course acidity affects flavor and the addition of an acid is not just a simple resolution for every type of meat. Yet, without lactic acid – producing bacteria, we wouldn’t have wonderful, fermented type sausage. As we lower the pH factor, we increase acidity. Are microorganisms able to survive inside acidic foods? Not when the acidity is increased in a sausage by a drop below 4 pH. Lets investigate a most effective way of preserving non-cooked, fermented sausages such as salami and pepperoni, using lactobacillus or pediococcus – lactic acid bacteria.

pH – The Measure Of Acidity

Roughly, pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity in any substance using a scale from zero to fourteen. Pure water is said to be very close to neutral, having a pH nearly 7.0 at 77° F. Foods with pH less than 7 are said to be acidic, while foods having a pH greater than 7 are said to be alkaline or “base”.

Aw The Availability Of Water

Not all the water in the cells of meat is available to microorganisms. Some of it is “bound” by salt, or other restrictive elements as sugar. The remaining water is known as “free water” and it is the only moisture available to bacteria as well as yeasts and molds. By adding salt or sugar to a sausage, we are able to restrict the amount of “available water” to pathogenic bacteria. Unfortunately, it also restricts available water to beneficial bacteria as well. Freezing water into ice is simply another method of “binding” or keeping water restricted from harmful bacteria. The measurement of “bound” water (not available to bacteria) is called “water activity” or Aw. Water Activity is measured on a scale from 0.00 (called “bone dry”) to 1.00 – the measurement of pure water. Adding salt immediately binds a large amount of water.

Sterilized Spices In Sausage

The risk of bacterial contamination is the primary reason the meat industry uses only extracts of spices in cured meat products. In Europe, most dried spices are irradiated with intense gamma rays before packing, effectively killing the spores. Although irradiation for meat was approved in the 1990’s under the Clinton administration, it has been slow to catch on in the United States. The U.S.D.A. recommends the long-established procedure, and declared it to be entirely safe. Herbs and spices freshly picked and plucked from your own garden are fabulous when washed and prepared in foods for immediate consumption. However, a little fresh, non-sterilized basil or oregano, fresh from your prize-winning garden, may rapidly spoil jerky or meat used for sausage in a matter of only a few hours, producing any number of bacteria types. Whenever storing meat overnight for casing sausages, fresh spices will invariably begin to produce pathogenic and food spoilage bacteria, quickly devastating your product. For health’s sake, it is of utmost importance that you use only sterilized spices and herbs purchased from a reputable company, in making sausage.

Is bacterial contamination the only type of food poisoning? Absolutely not. Consider the toxins of poison mushrooms. Many are fatal. Recently in Salt Lake City, an entire Vietnamese family was tragically poisoned having made a mushroom soup from wild mushrooms found in a nearby canyon. Consuming the soup in one picnic meal on an outing, the entire family agonizingly died. Each year, many people become ill having eaten poisonous reef fishes, me included! Pesticides claim their toll also. Similarly, fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated if they are washed or irrigated with water that is contaminated with animal manure or human sewage.

3. Beneficial Bacteria

Binding available water (Aw) in sausage effectively confines it to a point where harmful pathogenic bacteria are no longer able to survive. The process is known as dehydration or limiting water activity. For centuries, this process, along with the chance addition of lactic acid-producing bacteria to increase acidity, has been responsible for safely preparing air-dried, fermented, sausages. Today, by adding carefully chosen strains of lactobacilli or pediococci, reducing the pH acidity to safe levels in fermented sausage has been most effective in destroying competing pathogenic bacteria. Historically, as the sausage maker unwittingly created ideal conditions for competing beneficial bacteria to thrive, pathogenic bacteria were deprived of nutrients, being literally crowded out of the way. Providing optimum temperatures and relative humidity for any number of previously unknown lactobacilli and pediococcibacteria, safe and tasty fermented air-dried sausages have been crafted for hundreds of years. Only since about the middle of the nineteenth century has man known what was actually taking place inside the fermentation process. Without beneficial bacteria declaring war on pathogenic bacteria, we would not have salami, pepperoni, summer sausage, or any number of other tangy, fermented air-dried sausages.”

The staphylococcus genus includes thirty-two species and eight sub-species. Staphylococcus Aureus remains one of the most dangerous pathogenic bacterium known and can even survive an incredibly massive dose of fifteen percent salt! However, at least one of its strains has proven to be beneficial by promoting color fixing and flavor forming qualities in air-dried sausages. Closely related to Micrococcus, the two micro-organisms provide beneficial qualities to fermented air-dried sausages.


“Drag Rider’s Pepper Sausage” 
Dry-Cured-Smoked-Black Pepper Hard Sausage

I don’t know about you but I fell in love with the taste of freshly cracked black peppercorns when I was only a couple of hours old! I hope you don’t purchase that awful pre-ground black pepper that’s been on your supermarket’s spice shelf in a bottle since Betty Boop and running boards went out of style! Why not buy fresh black peppercorns from a reputable sausage supply house and crack them yourself or grind them inside an inexpensive spice grinder? You’ll never eat the supermarket pepper again! Oh yes, what is a “drag rider”? No, he’s not a cowboy dressed up like a woman. He’s the crusty ol’ salty dog wearing a “wild rag” across his face while bringin’ up the stragglers at the rear of the herd.

  • 3 lbs. lean pork 
  • 6 lbs. lean beef 
  • 1 lb. pork backfat (frozen) 
  • 3 tblspns. powdered dextrose 
  • 7 tblspns. salt (not iodized) 
  • 1-1/2 tspns. garlic powder 
  • 1 tblspn. ground white pepper 
  • 3 tblspns. black peppercorns (cracked) 
  • 8 tblspns. corn syrup solids 
  • 2 level tspns. Cure #2 
  • beef middles or synthetic casings (3” dia.) 

Chill the meat to 30°F. (-1°C.), and then grind the beef through a ¼” plate, then again using a 1/8″ plate. Grind the pork through a 3/8″ plate. Use a sharp knife to cut the frozen back fat into 3/8″ dice and set it aside. Mix the remaining recipe ingredients with a little ice water, distributing it well throughout the meat as you mix the primary bind (sticky meat paste). Fold in the diced frozen fat and distribute it equally throughout the sausage. Pack the sausage tightly into a lug to eliminate any air pockets, cover it, and store the meat inside a cooler at 38°F. (3°C.) or inside your refrigerator a couple of days. Stuff the meat into beef middles about 3 inches in diameter in lengths of 20-24 inches. You may wish to tie off shorter lengths of your choice with twine. Another option is to use one of today’s fine protein-lined artificial casings in 3” or 3-1/2” diameters.

Hang the sausages at room temperature for sixteen hours in relative humidity of 75% before cold-smoking them three days using light hickory smudge inside a smokehouse at only 80°F. (27°C.) in relative humidity of 75%. Finally, hang the sausage inside a curing room at 52°F. (11°C.) with 65% humidity for at least one month. Inspect the casings daily and wipe off any colored mold or gray mold with “whiskers”, using a little vinegar on a cloth. Mold on sausage must be white in color and powder-flaked.

A safe and efficient “mold starter culture” is Bactoferm™ Mold 600 by Chr. Hansen in Denmark. Marketed in Germany, it was previously called M-EK-4 and contains spores of penicillium nalgiovense in a convenient freeze-dried form that stores well (frozen) for six months. It is very reasonably priced and available from most sausage equipment suppliers.

Good luck with your first “dry-cured” sausage all you smoke lovers! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to send me a PM. I surely don’t know it all, but I can tell you how to bake a great biscuit! Be sure to pick up a copy of Stan and Adam Marianski’s book, “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages” published by Bookmagic LLC (www.book-magic.com)

Best Wishes,

Salami di Alessandra

Genoa” salami  by Stan Marianski

  • 2.0 kg (4.4 lbs.) pork butt 
  • 2.0 kg (4.4 lbs.) beef chuck 
  • 1.0 kg (2.2 lbs.) pork back fat (or fat trimmings) 
  • 140 g. salt (3%) 
  • 12 g. cure #2 (do not use cure #1 in this recipe) 
  • 10 g. powdered dextrose (glucose) 
  • 15 g. sugar (3%) 
  • 15 g. white pepper 
  • 0.6 g. (1/4 tspn.) Bactoferm™ T-SPX 
  • —– Bactoferm™ Mold 600 

Optional: Note: To make 5 kg. sausage, about 7 g. of spices and 4 g. of herbs are needed.

  • 120 ml. (1/2 cup) quality red burgundy or other dry red wine (Do not exceed ½ cup). 
  • 4 parts coriander (spice) 
  • 3 parts mace (spice) 
  • 2 parts allspice (spice) 
  • 1 part fennel (spice) 
  • 3 parts marjoram (herb) 
  • 1 part thyme (herb) 
  • 1 part basil (herb)

Instructions: Before you begin, please see the hardware section for instructions for making a fermentation chamber. The humidity and temperature MUST be correct and a specific diminishing sequence followed if your project is going to be successful. The fermentation is an absolute necessity for making Dry-Cured (air-dried) fermented-type sausages. Because these sausages are made of raw meat and are not cooked during the curing process, the beneficial bacteria must develop. The correct humidity and temperature are critical to your success.

Preliminary steps: Keep a logbook! Record everything you do. Write down dates, times, measurements, etc. 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.
Thaw the Bactoferm™ T-SPX following the directions on the package. Measure .6 gram (1/4 teaspoon) of the culture and mix it with a little distilled water, allowing the bacteria to “wake up”. Freeze the back fat and nearly-freeze the lean meat. Freeze the grinder plate and blade (20 minutes is plenty). Cut the meat and fat into cubes.
1. Grind the pork and back fat through a 3/8” plate (10 mm). Work in small batches and refrigerate the meat and fat at every opportunity. Grind the beef using a 3/8” plate then again using a 1/8” plate.
2. Mix all the ingredients with the ground meat and develop the primary bind. Fold in the fat particles.
3. Stuff the mixture firmly into beef middles or 46-60 mm. protein-lined fibrous casings, making links about 16 to 20 inches long. (Protein-lined fibrous casings shrink with the salami as the sausage dries.)
4. Weigh each salami and record its “green weight”. Keep a log book!
5. Ferment at 68˚ F. (20˚ C.) for 72 hours, in 85% to 90% humidity.
6. Hang the salamis in the drying chamber and mix the Mold 600 according to the directions on the package. Spray the sausages with a misting sprayer or dip them into a solution. Dry the salamis at 57˚ F. (14˚ C.) in 80-85% humidity for 2 to 3 months (until 30-35% weight loss is achieved).
7. The salamis are stored at (+or- 4˚) 55˚ F. (13˚ C.) in 75% humidity. 


Understanding Relative Humidity

(Fermentation Of Meats In 75% Relative Humidity)

Relative humidity is a measurement, expressed as a percentage, of the amount of water vapor in the air compared to the maximum amount the air could possibly hold at any given temperature. The ability of the air to hold moisture increases as the temperature increases. So, if a “parcel” of air (with a certain amount of moisture in it) is heated, the relative humidity will decrease because the amount of moisture in the air will have decreased in comparison to the amount the air is now capable of holding. There is a continuous exchange of moisture between your legendary, freshly made sausage and the air. When the humidity drops, your skin gets dry, your throat gets sore, your plants wither, and your piano goes flat! And your horse will complain too! He’s just not comfortable.  When the humidity goes up, you just can’t become dry after showering!  People function well in relative humidity of 50-60%. Dry-cured sausage needs 75% relative humidity.

“What Is Meat And Why Does Salt Change Pork Into Ham? “

“Grasshopper” asks:

This is one great source of knowledge.(rigor mortis) CW can you go over the time you ate fresh venison, when you a kid and got sick and why. Also does this apply to other meat such as duck ect. I was out and came home to find Dan had cooked a fresh duck breast. Really did not if it was safe or not.

Chuckwagon replied (11/14/14) replied:

Good to hear from you Mike ol’ pal. Hope all is going well. Thanks for asking about this post as information concerning meat at morbidity is an important topic and should be discussed more often to protect inexperienced hunters. Allow me to “back up” slightly and re-introduce a little information about proteins. This will help folks understand rigor mortis. First, maybe we should ask the question, “What Is Meat And Why Does Salt Change Pork Into Ham? “

Amino Acids And Proteins

Have you ever wondered what meat is made of? To begin with, it’s about 75% water. Another 20% is made of biological molecules called proteins. And just what is a protein? Without being overly complicated in a sausage forum, let’s just say that when organic compounds made from “amines” and “carboxylic acid” are put together, “chains” of something called “amino acids” are formed and their sequence dictates how proteins are shaped into a three-dimensional structure. This “nucleotide sequence” of their genes results in “folding” and determines its activity. And what activity! These little guys called proteins, have a herculean task to perform. They catalyze metabolic reactions, replicate DNA, respond to stimuli, and transport molecules from one location to another.

Back to amino acids for just a moment. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen and there are only about 500 known “classifications” or groups called alpha, beta, gamma, or delta. Amino acid “chains” in the form of proteins, comprise the second largest component (after water) of human muscles, cells and other tissues. These are the basic molecules of living tissue; the building blocks of life – whether it’s in the deer you shoot, the cow you carve into steaks, or the hog you grind into sausage. Indeed, in the proteins of all mammals, amino acids perform critical roles in life processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.

Okay, that only adds up to about 95% you may say. Well, we still must account for fat, glycogen (glucose sugar) and vitamins and minerals. Varying greatly from animal to animal, the fat content is somewhere around 3%. The other components listed account for only about 1% each.

Now, we said meat is about ¾ water. Does this pertain to fat also? No, fat contains only about ten to fifteen percent water. This explains why a mature cow, having more fat, has proportionally less water.

Change In Protein Structure At Morbidity

When I was young and crazy (instead of old and foolish), I took careful aim at a rack of antlers wearing a deer, and released the arrow. What a trophy! I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into a fresh deer steak. By the time I had field dressed the animal, cleaned up a little, and packed the deer out of the deep canyon I was in, several hours had gone by and I was hungry. I had dried food in my fanny pack but I wanted some real venison for dinner! My ol’ Daddy had warned me many times about eating a freshly killed animal in the stages of post mortem rigor, but I was on my own this year and I wanted meat for an evening meal! I had heard all the jokes about rigor mortis and frankly, I just didn’t give the matter much thought. So, having packed that animal halfway out of Timber Canyon, I build a campfire and re-sharpened my 6” Randall. After a few coals had burned down to glowing embers, I laid a steak on them and sprinkled it with a little salt. Oh my goodness, that steak smelled good! It was marvelous. I must have had a smile stuck to my face like a burro grinnin’ in a cactus patch… all the way out of the canyon… Uhh, that is right up until about the time I arrived at the ranch, quickening my step, and making a beeline for the porcelin “comfort convenience”! Now, I’m not going to bother you with the “details” other than to mention I spent the best part of the next three days “reminiscing” whilst on that porcelain privy! I had learned one of life’s lessons the hard way. Man was not meant to consume flesh while it is yet in the state of rigor mortis.

In humans, following death, rigor mortis commences after about three hours, reaches maximum stiffness during the subsequent 12 hours, and gradually dissipates until approximately 48 to 60 hours after death. On the other hand, in the species Cervidae (deer), chemical changes occur as the heart stops, the flow of blood ceases, oxygen is no longer carried to the muscles, and the meat begins to stiffen as rigor mortis sets in. Its duration differs in various animals but in deer, the onset of rigor may require considerably more time – up to 24 hours – and its duration may be up to two weeks. During this “aging” period of time, the carcass is usually hung at a low temperature and a nice protective coating of flaky, white, penicillium nalgiovense mold (one of many genera of ascomyetous fungi), is most welcome. Deer hunters should note that the temperature of the meat before rigor mortis sets in should not drop below about 50° F., or the meat will become tough when later cooked. However, upon the onset of rigor and during the aging process, the carcass should be cooled and kept within the range of 30° – 40° F. It is important to note that during this “aging” period of rigor mortis, the meat should not be processed and consumed. Leave the stuff alone and go play golf until the meat surpasses the rigor mortis stage.

Oh yes Mike, you asked the question: “Does this apply to other meat such as duck etc.” Dan had cooked a fresh duck breast. Really did not [know] if it was safe or not. The answer is yes. All meat proteins should “cool” and “age” (according to species) for a time.

It is interesting to note that in her splendid wisdom, Mother Nature has allowed us a “quick processing” time period immediately following an animal’s death. If the preparation is done without delay following slaughter, the meat may be processed without complications. Indeed, in large commercial plants, slaughtering and processing take place within the same building or facility in very short time. Now you know why meat that we purchase in a supermarket has been “aged” by a commercial packing house.

Denaturing Proteins

Denaturation occurs when proteins are exposed to disruptive physical forces such as heat in cooking, or “kneading” a sausage mixture, or by the introduction of chemicals such as alcohol. A common example of a denatured protein is the albumin in an egg as it becomes hard-boiled with the introduction of heat. The gelatinous egg albumin becomes solid.

Proteins are large molecules composed of amino acids, which are arranged in a variety of complex structures. The “primary protein structure” is the simple linear sequence of amino acids within the protein. The “secondary protein structure” is divided into subgroups identified by three shapes. The “alpha helix” looks like a spiral staircase and is a structural protein. The “beta-pleated sheet” looks just like its name implies. The “random coil” does not have a specifically defined shape and this is the one found in collagen although it may link together alpha helices and beta sheets so that proteins may contain all three secondary structures.

Proteins also adopt a tertiary (third in order or formation) structure that is achieved by looping and folding the chain over itself. This folded structure occurs because certain portions of the molecules have an affinity for water. From here, the explanation gets overly scientific for us sausagemakin’ wranglers. Suffice it to say, when a protein is denatured, the molecule’s tertiary structure is corrupted, and this disruption affects the molecule’s secondary (helical) structure without altering its primary structure. In other words, denaturation does not break any of the primary chemical bonds that link one amino acid to another but it changes the way the protein folds in upon itself. Denaturation occurs when proteins are exposed to strong acids or bases, high concentrations of inorganic salts, or organic solvents such as alcohol. In addition, heat or even irradiation can cause denaturation.

Now, here’s the kicker! Whenever the three-dimensional structure of the protein is disrupted, the molecule’s biological activity is affected and sometimes the effects may even be detrimental with side effects. Some denatured proteins can result in illness or even death. (Ever hear of “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy”)? However, not all denaturing processes are harmful, and indeed, certain denaturing processes are even beneficial. Remember the “boiled egg”? And what about that sticky meat mass we made with our hands by mixing sausage until the myocin and actin “developed”? It’s pretty much vital to good texture in sausage? Without the development of actomyocin by the proteins actin and myocin, our sausage would literally fall apart.

In the sausage-making world, we have yet another concern with protein development. Does alcohol denature the proteins in meat? The answer is unquestionably yes. To see for yourself, try making a burger from meat that has had alcohol added to it. It just won’t bind together. On the other hand, does it leave flavor behind? Absolutely! My favorite breakfast sausage is Italian Red Wine Sausage. What a flavor! Yes, somewhere there is a proper balance and there must be prudence and good judgment used.

Mike, you recently made some Canadian Bacon. It really isn’t bacon at all. It’s ham… or a ham-like product. (Only the rear leg of the piggy is considered “ham”.) You observed first-hand that when increased amounts of salt are added to pork, it impacts proteins and serves as a preservative through dehydration and the osmotic pressure produced inhibits bacterial growth. Salt has always been the primary ingredient used in meat curing and even in low concentrations, it has some preservative action. In the production of ham from pork, critical lipolytic and oxidative changes must occur and the degree and nature of proteolysis in dry-cured ham varies according to climate, temperature, and humidity. Actually it’s not as technical as it sounds and is one of the tastiest pork products you can make. So, shop for another nice pork loin and a box of “kosher” salt at the grocery store and we’ll make those Canadians nervous!

Best Wishes,


Chicken – Infected with Salmonella and Campylobacter – November 2014

Did you know that salmonella in chicken causes more than 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year? Additionally, 1.3 million Americans every year are sickened by food borne Campylobacter. These are CDC figures and although Maurice Pitesky, DVM, MPVM, reports that illness from salmonella have actually dropped about 9% since 2010, but reported cases of campylobacter have risen 13% since 2006, according to the CDC. Americans each eat an estimated 84 pounds of chicken per year, according to the National Chicken Council. (That’s up from just 33 pounds in 1965.)

So, how much chicken is infected? Campylobacter was found in 43% of raw chicken breasts purchased in supermarkets, and salmonella in nearly 11%, according to a 2013 independent analysis by Consumer Reports. How can this happen? Chicken flocks can become infected in the henhouse, picking up the pathogens from fecal waste or tainted water. Those infected with campylobacter may show no symptoms, but may later contaminate meat during the slaughtering process.

Once you get the bird home, be sure to store it properly. Refrigerate it below 40 degrees F, and either cook it or freeze it within a day or two. Chilling slows bacterial growth, while freezing can reduce the amount of campylobacter (but not salmonella). Six of 10 families place poultry packages directly into the fridge or freezer, where poultry juices can come into contact with shelves or even other food. Why not use a separate wrap? And please use a separate cutting board designated for poultry, meat and fish. Cutting foods you eat raw, such as salad vegetables, on the same surface can easily contaminate them. And oh yes… never allow kids to handle raw poultry. Many parents encourage children to help with cooking, but it’s a bad idea when it comes to chicken! Kids are especially vulnerable to food poisoning. Never use the same utensils for raw and cooked poultry. If you’re cooking on the grill, remember to use a clean tongs and plate when it’s ready to serve. And cook chicken thoroughly. It should reach 165 degrees F, including any stuffing if you’re cooking it in the bird. So, wash your hands and stay healthy wranglers! I’ve had campylobacter poisoning and was hospitalized. It is not enjoyable and most of those doctors have no sense of humor!

Best Wishes,


One thought on “§ Bacteria: Fermented Sausages, Understanding Bacteria…

  1. Some time ago, a member in Australia wrote to me with the following question:
    I noticed that Stan Marianski’s fermented sausages mostly use T-SPX and F-LC cultures. I can only find F-1 and F-RM 7 here in Oz, and am wondering if they are interchangeable at all, or are they specific to the taste of the sausages. Or is it just a question of the temperature of fermentation. Do they even affect the taste of the sausage? Just a bit confused.

    I replied:
    Traditionally, in Europe, pediococcus cerevisiae has been used at relatively lower temperatures which have resulted in a much milder flavor than those products made using other lactobacilli. In 1957 the micrococcus bacterium was introduced. During the 1960’s, even more curing strains were placed on the market and staphylococcus carnosus is still widely used today. In 1966, the first universal and most practical lactic acid bacteria for use in sausage was introduced by a developer by the name of Nurmi. This is the workhorse called lactobacillus plantarum which is used at moderate temperatures. Then in the 1970’s, “wondercures” were made by combining lactic acid bacteria and curing bacteria. These “multi-strain” cultures not only ferment meat, they also develop color and flavor, as well as fighting off undesirable bacteria. Each culture on Chr.Hansen’s list has a specific property and a unique “profile”. Each has its own recommended fermentation temperature. Most are hetero-fermentative (meaning they not only produce lactic acid by metabolizing carbohydrates, but they also create many different reactions as well – sometimes producing unpleasant odors.) In opposition, starter cultures producing lactic acid only, are called “homo-fermentative” cultures.
    In the laboratory, each culture is developed for a uniquely precise effect and yes, each will produce a product having its unique flavor profile although it may be similar to others. Merely one gram of any specific lactic acid culture may contain tens of millions of bacterial cells ensuring domination over undesirable microorganisms.
    You asked if the cultures affect the taste of the sausage. They absolutely do. Because each culture specifically derives its own fermentation contour, each culture will affect flavor more than any other feature.

    Best Wishes,

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