Sausage Making – Tips & Techniques

The How-to, What-For, and Why Not of making your own delicious sausages
which is a detailed “How-To” on all the facets of making fresh sausages and a good introduction to making smoked-cooked sausages. Instruction in the basics, plus a number of recipes, are summarized here. (Click on the link to see the various topics.)
Basic Sausage Makin’: Details of sausage making

By Chuckwagon

 

 

Types of Sausages:
Basically, there are only four groups of sausages when they are classified according to curing options:
• Fresh Sausage – This type ground meat is “fresh” (meaning not cured) and must be refrigerated and eaten within three days, or frozen for use later. Add all the seasonings you may, stuff it inside casings or mold it into patties, but it must be used up quickly (or frozen) as it is not cured and never smoked. This is the famous “breakfast” type sausage containing pork and sage. Other favorites include fresh Italian, fresh Mexican chorizo, and of course, fresh Polish kielbasa. Once again, fresh sausage is never smoked (without cure being added).
• Cured, Cooked, And Smoked Sausage – This sausage is cured with an actual chemical cure, (most often sodium nitrite – Prague Powder #1) to destroy clostridium botulinum and other pathogens. Whenever meat is placed inside casings, oxygen is cut off, just as it is whenever oxygen is replaced by smoke inside a smokehouse. Following drying, they are partially or fully cooked, depending upon the type of sausage, while being simultaneously smoked if desired, to destroy possible trichinella spiralis and retain moisture. Cook ‘em on the grill or in a pan. These are the famous Bratwurst, Bockwurst, Knockwurst, and emulsified sausages known as hot dogs or “wieners”. Also included in the emulsified category are bierwurst, Vienna sausage, and bologna. Cooked Italian mortadella, salami, Chinese “lop chong”, Cajun boudin (blood) sausage, smoked Polish kielbasa, and German Berliner, are other popular favorites.
• Semi-Dry Cured Sausage – These are tangy, fermented, sausages, cured, cooked and dried during preparation, but not further cooked before serving them upon a fancy plate at a party, or simply sliced with a pocketknife while you’re in the saddle. Favorites include varieties of summer sausage and “slim jims”. These sausages are usually cured using Prague Powder #1 (nitrite).
• Dry Cured Sausage – This is the only sausage that may not be cooked during its preparation, and is not cooked before serving or eating. This is the only type sausage safe to eat without being refrigerated and it is always made with Instacure #2 containing nitrates as well as nitrites. Special precautions are taken with pork sausage in this category, as the destruction of possible trichinae becomes vital. Favorites include German landjager and plockwurst, Mexican chorizo, Italian sopressata, pepperoni, and salami. A hygrometer with initial refrigeration is necessary to produce dry cured sausages.

 

 

Choosing and Grinding Meat: Unless you butcher your own livestock, it is probably best to purchase untrimmed Boston butts from a reputable grocery-meat cutter or specialty meat supplier for making all around well-balanced pork sausage containing about 25 – 30% fat. Beef chuck, are good choices for high-quality beef sausage. Do you need fat inside a good sausage? Absolutely! Yes, fat adds flavor and creamy moisture. In the appropriate amount, it is entirely necessary and must be included in good sausage – cold or nearly frozen so it does not “smear” into the meat. This is very important for good texture. The USDA limits fat to 30% although we’ve found that about 25% fat makes a pretty good product. Some specific types of sausages may require more or less fat in their recipes, for instance, the “fresh” type pork breakfast sausage we are all so fond of may legally contain up to a whopping 50% fat legally! If you are like me, I’ll pass on that much fat packed into a sausage by a large meat corporation. I’ll make my own, thank you – with only about 20% fat Does pork blend well with beef? Completely! Sausage products include all sorts of ground meat, in proportions and varieties usually mixed with spices. Before carving up ten pounds of pork (two five-pound butts), you may want to prove your recipe by making only a few pounds initially. Cook and taste a small patty before adding more spice.Beginners tend to use too many varieties of spices as well as excessive quantities of spice, trying to improve grandpa’s old time secret recipes, only to discover their own hodgepodge doesn’t taste anything at all as had been anticipated. Nor is there a constant flow of neighbors knocking at the door with hopes of getting their mitts on the stuff. The truth is, beginners using too much spice, or too many types of spices, trying to improve a recipe, usually toss out ten or more pounds of otherwise great pork, not to mention the loss of labor and time spent grinding and stuffing the meat. The best sausage recipes are very simple and often contain only a sprinkling of spices. Many sausage makers use only salt and pepper for seasoning.
Grinding Meat Use an ultra sharp boning knife and closely carve the flesh from the “Y” shaped bone of a pork butt. Trim the fat and reserve it. Remove the gristle, gland, blood veins, and any clots, cutting the meat into two-inch chunks for the grinder. Place the chunks inside a clean container inside a freezer for a while to firm up the meat, being careful not to freeze it solid. Use the time to weigh spices and additives, including the cures (nitrite or nitrate) mixed with water, and process them in a food processor. What do you do with the bones? Simmer ‘em of course, to make great stock for soups and stews.
As a grinder’s blade friction against its plate creates heat, fat will begin to liquefy as it approaches 160 degrees, where it separates from muscle (called “smearing”) rather than achieving a good emulsion by remaining solid. As the fat cools having exited the grinder, it will solidify anew – into unappetizing, greasy, orange, clusters scattered throughout the meat! This is called “breaking” the fat, and leaves lean meat having the texture of sawdust while tasting of something I step in once in a while. Rather than having sausage containing locked-in tasty solid fat, you’ll end up with a burger or sausage leaking greasy “ninety-weight”, burnt-tasting, oil all over the place as it cooks. MMmmm…just the stuff for the crankcase in your ‘57 Chev. Ground meat will have a better finished texture if the meat is initially prepared by cutting it into inch-and-a-half chunks, spreading them onto a sheet tray or large plate, and placing the chunks into a freezer for five or ten minutes, until they almost start to freeze. It’s also a good idea to place the grinder’s blade and plate (not the housing) into the freezer at the same time. As these parts begin to heat with use later on, keep them cooled by adding crushed ice or ice water to lubricate the meat during grinding. Never try grinding solid ice cubes inside your meat grinder.

 

 

Preparing Sausage Casings
If you’re using fresh casings, rinse the casing under cool running water to remove any salt. Place it in a bowl of cool water and let it soak for about half an hour. While you’re waiting for the casing to soak, you can begin preparing the meat by cutting it into chunks. After soaking, rinse the casing under cool running water. Slip one end of the casing over the faucet nozzle. Hold the casing firmly on the nozzle, and then turn on the cold water, gently at first, and then more forcefully. This procedure will flush out any salt in the casing and pinpoint any breaks. Should you find a break, simply snip out a small section of the casing and tie the new end off with string (cotton string only). Place the casing into a bowl of water and add a splash of white vinegar. A teaspoon of vinegar per pint of water is more than sufficient. The vinegar softens the casing a bit more and makes it more transparent, making your sausage more pleasing to the eye. Leave the casing in the water/vinegar solution until you are ready to use it. Rinse it well and drain it before placing it onto the stuffing tube. Use a tapered tube for stuffing fresh casings.
If you’re using edible collagen casings, there’s no need to soak or flush them. They are sterile. Simply place them over a non-tapered stuffing horn (tube) and go to work. The one drawback in using collagen casings is that they cannot be “twist linked”. They simply will not hold a link and must be tied off using string. One exception is when you are stuffing small-diameter breakfast sausages. If the mixture is not too moist, a sausage maker may stuff a long “rope” then simply use a pair of scissors to cut 3” sausages to length. 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.

 

 

 Adding Spices And Salt
Remember, if you are making Cured-Cooked-Smoked Sausage, you need to add 2 level teaspoons of Prague Powder #1 to each 10 pounds of meat. This “pink powder” was developed by Griffith Labs. They recommend 4 ounces mixed into 100 pounds of meat. Since most modern home recipes are only about ten pounds, they recommend merely 2 level teaspoons for ten pounds of meat.
Since “Semi-Dry Cured” sausage is initially (during preparation) cooked or smoked, it also requires 2 level teaspoons of Prague Powder #1 (sodium nitrite) for each 10 pounds of meat.Note that “Dry Cured” sausage is not cooked during preparation and usually not cooked before consumption. This is the only sausage that is safe without refrigeration. This type sausage requires Prague Powder Cure #2 (which includes sodium nitrate). The same volume is required (two level teaspoons per ten pounds of meat) but… it becomes vital that you use type 2 Cure only for Dry Cured products. Also, while making hams or bacon, you will notice large amounts of pink salt specified – much more that ordinary sausage requires. This is because the meat is injected and soaked in the brine, then most of the brine is poured off and discarded, the curing salt (nitrite) having done its job. Whenever making any type sausage, it is most important to use only sterilized spices and only kosher (not iodized) salt. Unsterilized spices or herbs from your own garden can turn sausage rancid overnight. Thawed frozen meat is acceptable for making sausage if it is kept below 38 degrees F throughout the grinding process. Frozen meat will extract blood and exudates as it is thawed. This is part of the sausage making process and should be placed back into the mixture.

 

 

Binding
In order to bind meat in a sausage having a proper texture, it must be mixed well until it actually becomes sticky. Ground (comminuted) meat particles just naturally do not combine well until their proteins are developed – actin and myosin in particular – (called “actomyocin”). As mechanical agitation develops actomyosin, a desired sticky “meat paste” forms, known as the “primary bind”. In making sausage, it is just as important not to over-develop actomyosin, as the texture may become too mushy and fine-grained, producing a “rubbery” texture in the final product. Its best to mix sausage meat just past the “sticky” stage where “peaks” develop when the meat is pulled apart.
Depending upon the particular sausage recipe, the “primary bind” may require a bit of help. Many people use non-fat milk powder as a binder in sausage but most do not realize they should look for “dairy fine” milk powder from a supplier, as grocery stores do not carry the superfine textured milk powder required in good sausage. The product actually resembles cornstarch in texture. Another favorite binder is soy protein concentrate. It not only helps bind meat together, it helps meat retain its natural juices, and prevents shrinkage during cooking. Soy protein concentrate contains 250% more protein than meat! It has one shortcoming only – when used in fresh sausage, the meat becomes a little more difficult to “sear” or brown while cooking. In a cooked patty, it gives the meat a greasy appearance although it tastes just fine. However, adding a little powdered dextrose or corn syrup solids (contributing their own flavors as well) usually help brown the meat. In the United States, both non-fat milk powder and soy protein concentrate are limited by the USDA, to 3.5% in commercial sausage.
Corn syrup solids also provide binding quality in sausages that are cured at lower temperatures. Powdered dextrose is another favorite additive in sausage. It is simply glucose made from cornstarch, but is only 70% sweet as sugar. Its weight readily forces itself into the cells of the meat for complete distribution. Please note all these products are natural and are used in most commercial sausage kitchens today. Don’t be hesitant to use them in sausage making as they are completely safe in recommended amounts and contain no additives, preservatives, or foreign chemicals. However, as with any other substance, there are limits set for their use and common sense should prevail.
 

 

 


Chuckwagon’s 32 Sausage Making Tips To Save You Grief

1. 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?

2. 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.

3. Work with small batches of meat at a time and never miss an opportunity to refrigerate the meat at any time during the process.

4. 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.

5. Freeze fat before putting it into the grinder to prevent “smearing”. Meat should be nearly frozen to prevent “mushing”.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. 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

22. Always use non-iodized salt in sausage making. Iodized salt leaves a metallic taste behind.

23. After grinding, add the cure – mixed into a little water or cold stock – for even distribution throughout the meat.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.

31. 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.

32. 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.

Best Wishes,

Chuckwagon

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Slightly More Advanced Sausage Makin’: Detailed Explanations of Various Aspects of Sausage Making:

Botulism Story: “A Baffling Mystery”
Building a Homemade Curing Chamber
Destroying Trichinella Spiralis In Pork
Heat Up: The Stall Zone (and the “Texas Crutch,” foil wrapping)
Measuring Salt in Brine (and recommended Brine Strengths)
Speaking of Salt (All you wanted to know, and more…)
Sodium Chloride Brine Tables @ 60 degF
Why We Use Nitrates And Nitrites
Wood Types for Smoking Meats and Sausages (link)

 

 

Botulism Story: “A Baffling Mystery”
In Sweden during the 1970’s, a single case of food-borne bolulism completely baffled medical authorites for more than a week. A father had been out with his 7-year old son hunting roe deer and since they lacked a freezer, they made meatballs and preserved them in jars. Experienced as they were, they followed all safety rules with sterilization of the jars etc. After a couple of months, the son opened a jar to have a taste and ate ONE meatball. He fell sick with botulism and was admitted to the emergency room at a hospital. Only because of quick diagnosis and treatment, the boy finally recovered following several weeks in a hospital, as authorities investigated every possible clue for answers. (In Sweden, the law requires an investigation regulated by their bureau for Infectious Disease Control). The contents of all the jars were examined by specialists, though only one jar in particular seemed to be the only one infected! Investigators were completely puzzled! What had caused the infection of merely one jar? Following further investigation, it eventually turned out that when the deer was shot, the bullet had slightly grazed against the trunk of a tree before killing the game. A few spores from the tree had obviously followed the bullet into the wound to eventually end up in the preserved meat. Boiling the jars killed LIVING bacteria, but not the spores that found ideal growth conditions during the subsequent storage.
Do you know how the rod-shaped pathogenic bacterium was first isolated? It has only been a little over a hundred years ago. Yup, some crazy home-sausage makin’, cow biscuit kickin’, dude with a bad comb-over just like mine… made a “bad” ham. (Meaning no curing agent was used). That was in 1896. Several people consumed the bad ham and it was later discovered that due to the enzyme superoxide dismutase, the bacterium actually tolerated very small traces of oxygen. All fell victim of the bad ham and died! Scientists finally identified and named clostridium botulinum.
Now, get this! Botulinum spores are extremely persistent and will survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C), freezing, smoking, and drying. When the right conditions occur they become active but give no foul smell or taste, making the bacteria even more treacherous.
In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, sodium nitrate cure, a drop beyond 5.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.97 or less.
Best Wishes,
Chuckwagon


Building a Homemade Curing Chamber


Building A Homemade Curing Chamber
(written by “Uwanna” [Wally], posted by Chuckwagon), October, 2014
I asked my ol’ pal “Uwanna” in Vermont to write down his instructions for building a homemade curing chamber. Wally has unselfishly written the following for all members to use. Thanks Wally!
Chuckwagon


Hey all,
Our ol’ rusty dusty wagon wheel (Chuckwagon) asked if I could share a piece, on how to build a homemade curing chamber, so here I go.
All though not a perfect design this is about as close as I could get to a homemade cabinet without spending a wad of cash. Below is a list of materials I put together to build a curing chamber

1. Working refrigerator / freezer (I prefer a freezer it has more cabinet space)

2. Humidity control – With my setup I use a 1UHG3 from Grainger, http://www.grainger.com/product/DAYTON-Humidifier-Control-1UHG3
This controller is not perfect but works pretty well, I found it will keep the humidity level within 2 – 3% of the set point.
Green air makes a nice humidity and or temperature controller, but I wanted to keep the cost down. https://greenair.com/product/thc-2.html

3. Temperature control- Here I also ordered from Grainger a Ranco controller. http://www.grainger.com/G…ZP77?Pid=search [Sorry. This link was garbled. Search Grainger for “Ranco” or Refrigeration Control”. The cost is about $130 as of 2015.] I have experimented with several temp controllers and this one seems to last and work much better than the others I have purchased. Again not perfect but it does maintain temps within a degree or 2 from the set point.

4. Nursery humidifier – This can be picked up from any retail drug store. Keep in mind a smaller humidifier will work fine and not take up to much space. I have a 1 gallon humidifier and the water will last for several days.

5. Small fan – I installed a fan in my cabinet, but found that I rarely use the fan due to I find it dries my salami out too quickly. I open the door once a day to check on things and this circulates the air.

6. Heat source – I set up a 75 watt light below in the cabinet with a dimmer switch to help out during winter months, but I rarely use the bulb. Most of the salamis I make, will take place spring through fall.

Setting up takes basic wiring and can be completed on a Saturday afternoon. Keep in mind when drilling into the side of the fridge/freezer to make sure not hit any wiring or cooling coils. It also helps to find a fridge / freezer with a defrost selector on/off switch. The auto defrost is something we don’t want, this will draw moisture out of the cabinet and we don’t want this, we want to keep the moister in the cabinet. A majority of the newer refrigerators today come with an auto defrost and have no selection, so you may be looking for a unit a couple years old.

Plan ahead, be creative and shop around, deals on refrigerators/ freezer pop up all over the place. I just picked up a freezer from a guy for free, he claimed it did not work anymore, I brought the 4 yr old freezer home and found, it just needed a good cleaning. I cleaned the compressor (under the unit) and the rest of the cabinet inside and out, and it works

This may look a little complicated, but it’s really not. I used about 20’ of common insulated 14 -3 wire to complete all the connections. The junction box is the main power supply for all necessary power. There will be a main power cord using 14-3 wire and a cord end to plug into the wall outlet, to power everything.
All switches outlets and controllers will need power from the junction box, therefore you will need the extra 20’ of 14-3 wire to run power to everything. I hope this helps, I mentioned this project can be completed with basic wiring skills, but by all means, if anyone feels uncomfortable wiring they should seek an electricians help to assist with this project.

I would also like to mention that the temperature controller I have comes with good instructions to assist with the wiring.
My next project I plan to run wire conduit so that all the wires are not hanging on the side of the fridge. It looks cluttered and I threw this thing together as my first project.

I mainly setup this unit for curing purpose only, running average temps between 50 – 60 degrees. The fermentation process is done in my smoker, I also have a setup in the smoker for humidity and temperature control.

I have no issues keeping the curing temps at a specific set point ranging from 35 – 60 degrees. The light bulb was placed in the fridge to help control “curing chamber” temps, when the outdoor temperatures are cold in the garage. Although I have never tested the heat source (bulb) to determine how high the temps would go, I would imagine one could increase the range up above 60 degrees with no problem.

Here in Vermont our temperatures are up during the daytime and some days drop dramatically down in the evening time, and without the bulb to provide warmth inside the chamber to control the temperature, the outside temperature will take over the inside temps and drop down below the set point.

Keep in mind this is an introduction on my idea of a curing chamber and the sky is the limit on how one would build a fermenting and or curing chamber. There are several options on setup, ranging from cooling, heating, humidity controls and air calculation, and so on. I do have plans on building another curing chamber, using a freezer I just picked up from a buddy. I’m waiting on the right deal for a PID controller, something that will control heat and humidity all in one shot. I have also put some thought on setting up a humidifier in the top of the curing chamber instead of at the bottom, so that the cool air mist will drop down into the chamber, due to moisture is heavier and drops down and not forcing the moisture up with a humidifier.

Hope this helps.
Wally

Note: Wally originally posted photos of his wiring at this address: http://wedlinydomowe.pl/en/viewtopic.php?t=5317
You can view our copies of Wally’s photos at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Curing-chamber-photos.pdf


Destroying Trichinella Spiralis In Pork
In 2003, Dr. M. Ellin Doyle at the University of Wisconsin in Madison wrote that trichinella spiralis is so resistant to salt that it takes 8 to 9 percent to kill the larva. Levels above about 4 per cent are not palatable to humans. Many dry-cured (raw) sausages are prepared with salt levels nearing 3-1/2 per cent because the higher salt volume controls pathogenic bacteria by “binding” the water (Aw) until the lactic acid bacteria has had a chance to work by competing with the pathogenic bacteria for sugar.
A couple of years ago, a new member wrote in and asked:

Do you guys freeze your pork to kill any possible trichinae before making salami or just take a chance and not worry about it?

Absolutely we freeze pork to kill any possible trichinae. But simple freezing will not destroy the microorganism. We must “Deep” Freeze meat – BELOW ZERO! Although the FSIS has done much to eradicate the disease by enforcing modified laws, especially after the mid 1970’s, there yet remain about 40 cases of trichinosis each year in the U.S. alone. Most of these cases stem from smaller farms yet feeding their stock the entrails of previously slaughtered pork and because it has not yet been completely alleviated and we must never take a chance or take it for granted that it couldn’t yet possibly affect our sausage making.
In North America, there are five known species of Trichinella. They are Trichinella spiralis, T. nativa, T. pseudospiralis, Trichinella T-5, and Trichinella T-6. The one we deal with most often in pork is trichinella spiralis. The other four occur mostly in game animals. Species T-5 is found mostly in bears and other wildlife in the eastern United States, while species T-6 is mostly in bears and other wildlife in the Northwestern United States. Species T. nativa is found in Alaska. Both T. nativa and Trichinella T-6 are resistant to freezing. Trichinella pseudospiralis has been reported infrequently from birds, but can infect pigs also.
You would be surprised at just how many people believe that simple freezing will destroy trichinella spiralis. Actually, the majority of people believe it, and that frightens me. I often think of the folks who shoot javelinas and think simply freezing the carcass will take care of trichinella spiralis. It absolutely will not! In fact, The Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, at Massachusetts General Hospital has concluded that “Smoking, salting, or drying meat are not reliable methods of killing the organism that causes this infection”. Further, “Only freezing at subzero temperatures (Fahrenheit) for 3 to 4 weeks will kill the organism”. If folks ever gazed into a microscope and saw the round nematode worm embedded far into human muscle tissue, they would surely think twice about proper sub-zero temperatures. The first time I saw the living microorganism beneath the microscope, I thought I’d lose my lunch! The thing that alarms me is that most people do not have the means of freezing meat at these cryogenic temperatures – so, they take the chance. Yet, if the pork has come from a reliable grocer rather than an “independent small farmer”, you will be pretty much safe.

‘Wanna get’ really scared? Here’s how the little buggers work: Trichinella cysts break open in the intestines and grow into adult roundworms whenever a person eats meat from an infected animal. These roundworms produce other worms that move through the stomach wall and into the bloodstream. From here, the organisms tend to invade muscle tissues, including the heart and diaphragm, lungs and brain. At this point, trichinosis becomes most painful.
But we can get rid of it right? Wrong! The medications Mebendazole or albendazole may be used to treat infections in the intestines, but once the larvae have invaded the muscles, there is no specific treatment for trichinosis and the cysts remain viable for years. Complications of the disease include encephalitis, heart arrhythmias, myocarditis, (inflammation), and complete heart failure. Pneumonia is also a common complication. So, what do we do? Purchase pork from a known, reliable, suppliers who conform to USDA and FSIS rules and imports commercially-grown pork. Or, you can cryogenically treat your own if you are a small producer of hogs and insist on feeding your piggies the entrails of other animals.
Employing FSIS rules, hog producers have come so far since the mid 1970’s that trichinella spiralis isn’t much of a threat any longer in commercial pork. However, about 40 people a year are still infected by pork that has been “home grown” by local hog raisers who will not comply. When the animal’s feed is infected, the cycle starts all over again. One of these days, small producers will “get it” and adhere to modern feeding practices recommended by the USDA.
For your reference, here are the rules of the United States Department Of Agriculture – Meat Inspection Division for destroying trichinae:
The Meat Inspection Division of the United States Department Of Agriculture arranges the size, volume, and weight of meat products into “groups” to specify handling instructions.
Group 1 “comprises meat products not exceeding 6” (inches) in thickness, or arranged on separate racks with the layers not exceeding 6” in depth, or stored in crates or boxes not exceeding 6” in depth, or stored as solidly frozen blocks not exceeding 6” in thickness”.
Group 2 “comprises products in pieces, layers, or within containers, the thickness of which exceeds 6” but not 27” and products in containers including tierces, barrels, kegs, and cartons, having a thickness not exceeding 27”. The product undergoing such refrigeration or the containers thereof shall be spaced while in the freezer to insure a free circulation of air between the pieces of meat, layers, blocks, boxes, barrels, and tierces, in order that the temperature of the meat throughout will be promptly reduced to not higher than 5 degrees F., -10 degrees F., or -20 degrees F., as the case may be”.
Item 1: Heating & Cooking
“All parts of the pork muscle tissue shall be heated to a temperature of not less than 138° F.” Whenever cooking a product in water, the entire product must be submerged for the heat to distribute entirely throughout the meat. Always test the largest pieces since it always takes longer to reach the 138°F temperature in thicker pieces. Always test the temperature in a number of places.
Item 2: Refrigerating & Freezing
“At any stage of preparation and after preparatory chilling to a temperature of not above 40° F., or preparatory freezing, all parts of the muscle tissue of pork or product containing such tissue shall be subjected continuously to a temperature not higher than one of these specified in Table 1, the duration of such refrigeration at the specified temperature being dependent on the thickness of the meat or inside dimensions of the container.”

Table 1: Required Period Of Freezing At Temperature Indicated
Temperature Group 1 (first number of days) Group 2 (second number of days)
+05° F. 20 days / 30 days
-10° F. 10 days / 20 days
-20° F. 6 days / 12 days

Item 3: Curing Sausage
“Sausage may be stuffed in animal casings, hydrocellulose casings, or cloth bags. During any stage of treating the sausage for the destruction of live trichinae, these coverings shall not be coated with paraffin or like substance, nor shall any sausage be washed during any prescribed period of drying. In preparation of sausage, one of the following methods may be used:
Method No. 1:
“The meat shall be ground or chopped into pieces not exceeding ¾” in diameter. A dry-curing mixture containing not less than 3-1/3 lbs. of salt to each hundredweight of the unstuffed sausage shall be thoroughly mixed with the ground or chopped meat. After being stuffed, sausage having a diameter not exceeding 3-1/2” measured at the time of stuffing, shall be held in a drying room not less than 20 days at a temperature not lower than 45 degrees F., except that in sausage of the variety known as pepperoni; if in casing and not exceeding 1-3/8” in diameter at the time of stuffing, the period of drying may be reduced to 15 days. In no case, however, shall the sausage be released from the drying room in less than 25 days from the time the curing materials are added, except that the sausage of the variety known as pepperoni, if in casings not exceeding the size specified, may be released at the expiration of 20 days from the time the curing materials are added. Sausage in casings exceeding 3-1/2” but not exceeding 4” in diameter at the time of stuffing shall be held in a drying room not less than 35 days at a temperature not lower than 45 degrees F., and in no case shall the sausage be released from the drying room in less than 40 days from the time the curing materials are added to the meat.
Method No. 2:
“The meat shall be ground or chopped into pieces not exceeding ¾” in diameter. A dry-curing mixture containing no less than 3-1/3 lbs. of salt to each hundredweight of the unstuffed sausage shall be thoroughly mixed with the ground or chopped meat. After being stuffed, the sausage having a diameter not exceeding 3-1/2” measured at the time of stuffing, shall be smoked not less than 40 hours at a temperature of not lower than 80 degrees F. and finally held in a drying room not less than 10 days at a temperature not lower than 45 degrees F. In no case, however, shall the sausage be released from the drying room in fewer than 18 days from the time the curing materials are added to the meat. Sausage exceeding 3-1/2”, but not exceeding 4” in diameter at the time of stuffing, shall be held in a drying room following the smoking as above indicated, not less than 25 days at a termperature not lower than 45 degrees F., and in no case shall the sausage be released from the drying room in less than 33 days from the time the curing materials are added to the meat.

Best Wishes,
Chuckwagon

 

 

Heat Up: The Stall Zone
When smoking sausages, as in barbequeing any meat, the temperature rises steadily the longer heat is applied… until it stalls somewhere in the 130 to 150 degF range, where it can wait for hours. Why is that? It seems related to… uh…
Here physicist Dr. Greg Blonder of Boston University offers the most plausible explanation so far. http://www.genuineideas.com/ArticlesIndex/stallbbq.html

Here’s an article that takes the stall discussion a bit further. http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/the_stall.html These guys are primarily interested in higher temperature brisket and pork butt cooking, but we sausage-types can learn a few lessons. …such as, can you apply their techniques to cooking temperatures below 155 degF IMT and smoker temperatures somewhere below that scary 170-or-so rendering temperature?

For more experimental details and a bit more theory, have a look at Blonder’s write-up on foil wrapping experiments at   http://www.genuineideas.com/ArticlesIndex/foil.html


Measuring Salt in Brine (and recommended Brine Strengths)

Measuring Salt in Brine
How Salt Is Measured In Brine
If the salt in the sea could be removed and spread evenly over the Earth’s land surface, it would form a layer more than 500 feet thick. Seawater averages 3.5% salt. When a cubic foot of seawater evaporates, it yields about 2.2 pounds of salt. In contrast, the fresh water in Lake Michigan contains only one one-hundredth (0.01) of a pound of salt in a cubic foot. That’s merely one sixth of an ounce. This means that seawater is 220 times saltier than the fresh lake water in Lake Michigan.
The salinity of saltwater is measured in parts per thousand and the symbol 0/00 (parts per thousand), is used. For instance, the salinity of the Dead Sea (the world’s most salty endorheic body of water) is 30.4% or 304 0/00 meaning there are 304 pounds of salt in 1,000 pounds of its water. The level remains practically constant, unlike the Great Salt Lake in Utah where the water has a variable salt content between 8 and 27% or 270 0/00 in its heaviest concentration.
Why… my goodness, the water is so buoyant in that ol’ lake that I’ve see horseshoes float on the surface!
Using A Salinometer
The only way to produce unvarying and consistent hams or other brined products, is to use a salinometer to detect the exact amount of salt in a brine. There is no “universal” or common brine, but there are general, suggested strengths. A floating glass salinometer tube has a stem marked by degrees from 1 to 100. One degree indicates only 0.264% salt and merely 0.022 pounds of salt per gallon. At the far end of the scale, 100 degrees indicates 26.395% salt and 2.986 pounds of salt per gallon. To strengthen the brine, simply add salt. To weaken it, add more water.
There is an old conventional and generally accepted rule that recommends using enough brine water to equal fifty percent of the meat’s weight.In other words, for a 12 pound ham, six pounds of brine water will suffice. This means the container must be a bit “snug” and perhaps even shaped like the product. Some recommended strengths are:
• Poultry 21° (salinometer) degrees – 8 hours
• Ribs 50° (salinometer) degrees – 3 days
• Bacon 50-65° (salinometer) degrees – 1.5 days per lb.
• Canadian Bacon Loins 65° (salinometer) degrees – 5 days
• Hams & Shoulders 70° (salinometer) degrees – 1 day per lb.
• Fish 80° (salinometer) degrees – 2 hours
A U.S. gallon of fresh water weighs 8.33 pounds. The maximum amount of salt it can hold (under normal circumstances at 60°F. (15°C.) is 26.4% (called the “saturation point”). Thus, one gallon of saturated brine contains 2.64 lbs. of salt and weighs 10.03 pounds.
If you unearth a great recipe and wish to know the strength of the brine, find the percent of salt by weight in the solution by weighing the salt and adding the weight of the water. Multiply the sum by 100%. Locate the percentage on a “Salinometer Brine Tables Chart (on the internet or accompanying your salinometer purchase) in the center column – the percent of salt by weight. The corresponding left side column gives us the number of Salinometer DEGREES, and the right side column, the number of pounds of salt per gallon of water.
Yup Pards! Its just like meetin’ a bear on a tightrope. There is just no getting around it! If you want consistent results with your meat products, you’ll find the use of a salinometer is essential.
Best wishes,
Chuckwagon

 

 

Speaking of Salt (All you wanted to know, and more…)
by Chuckwagon
Does kosher salt taste better than table salt? Interestingly, yes, it does. As kosher salt is pressed together by huge rollers, the grains become pyramid-shaped, allowing them to dissolve more easily so it does not linger on the tongue. It’s made without additives, by compacting granular salt into larger flakes that tend to draw blood easily from freshly butchered meats. Kosher salt, at about seventy cents a pound, is ideal to cook with as it blends well, is clean tasting, and contains no additives to influence flavors of cooked foods.

How many times have you been tempted to leave out the “pinch” of salt called for in your favorite recipes just because we eat more than 25 times as much salt as is necessary to maintain good health? The fact remains, salt is a flavor enhancer that is just as important in sweet recipes as it is in savory dishes. In sausage making, it is an essential ingredient. Never tamper with the amount of salt given in a sausage-making recipe. It is critical in controlling bacteria, destroying possible spiralis trichinella, assists with binding, and assists with dropping the AW in fermented type sausages. Sweet recipes without salt, taste flat and boring. That little pinch of salt reinforces flavors such as butter and vanilla, and that’s not all… it actually masks and suppresses bitter flavors like those of yeast, leavening agents, coffee, eggplant, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, flour proteins, and many other foodstuffs we consume.

Salt is just salt, right? So why do so many people get excited over the simple seasoning? Although most of us are concerned with its application inside the kitchen, in today’s world salt has more than 40,000 applications from manufacturing to medicine! The ancient Greeks traded salt for slaves, originating the phrase “not worth his salt”. Roman soldiers were partially paid with garlic and salt, explaining the origin of the word salarium (Latin for salt) meaning salary. Salting fish made long-range explorations possible in the age of sailing ships.

Great chefs have always known the amount of salt in a recipe is important, but the type of salt is crucial. Most of us amateurs are familiar with common table salt (sodium chloride) in granulated form. Mined much the same as coal, rock salt is further processed using water to form small, uniformly shaped cubes. The problem with this type of salt is its inability to dissolve readily, leaving crystals lingering on the tongue. Perhaps you remember when iodine was added to common table salt to prevent medical problems as thyroid disease. Iodized salt is never used in sausage making or meat preservation as it alters the taste of the products.

Today’s “trendy” salts are expensive in comparison to kosher salt and their flavors dissipate during cooking. Nevertheless, some folks purchase exotic salts for “finishing” (sprinkling on food) and it is not uncommon to see price tags in excess of thirty dollars per pound. Maldon Sea Salt is an English finishing salt receiving a delicate flavor from boiling sea water to produce hollow, pyramid-shaped crystals. At about eleven dollars a pound, it is light on the tongue and may actually be crushed between the fingers. France’s Sel Gris is called “gray salt” and is made along the country’s Atlantic coast when shallow basins are flooded with seawater before the month of May when the evaporation process begins and continues through September. Harvested by raking, it picks up it characteristic flavor from minerals in the clay of the basins. A refined by-product of Sel Gris is called Fleur de Sel (flower of salt). On calm, warm, days without wind, the gray Sel Gris “blooms”, creating white, lacy, crystals of carefully hand-harvested finishing salt with a high price tag. Hawaiian Sea Salts are either black or red. The red salt contains the distinct flavor iron, introduced by the soil used to color the substance. The black salt is flavored with purified lava and contains a flavor and aroma of sulfur.

Adding a pinch of salt to cream or egg whites will enable them to whip better, faster and higher. Improve the flavor of any fresh fowl by salt brining or simply rubbing the bird inside and out (beneath the skin) with salt before roasting. Safeguarding preserved foods, salt creates a hostile environment for certain microorganisms by altering osmotic pressure and dehydrating bacterial cells. Historically, meat has required upwards of 8% salt for its preservation. With the widespread use of Prague Powders (sodium nitrates and nitrites), salt levels are now reduced to less than a palatable three percent. As complete elimination of salt is not possible, it is most important to never reduce or increase the prescribed amount of salt in a sausage, ham, or bacon-making recipe, as salt serves as a binder and fine-tunes certain proteins in meat enabling them to hold water.

Salt is amazing! It’s an excellent cleaning agent by itself or used in combination with other substances. A paste of salt and vinegar cleans tarnished brass or copper and strong salt brine poured down the kitchen sink prevents grease from collecting and helps eliminate odors. Salt and soda water will clean and sweeten the inside of your refrigerator without scratching the enamel. A thin paste of salt and salad oil removes white marks from wooden tables caused by hot dishes or water. In mild solutions, it makes an excellent mouthwash, throat gargle, or eyewash. It is an effective dentifrice, antiseptic, and it can be extremely helpful as a massage element to improve complexion. Rub your hands with salt and lemon juice to remove fish odors. Peeled apples, pears, and potatoes dropped in cold, lightly salted water, will retain their color. The stuff even helps destroy moths and drives away ants. Salt tossed on a grease fire on the stove or in the oven will smother flames. Remove bitterness from percolators and other coffee pots by filling them with water, adding four tablespoons of salt and percolating or boiling as usual.
• Table Salt…….……………………..1 cup………….…292 gr. …10.3 ounces
• Morton (Kosher).…………………..1-1/2 cups..……..218 gr. ….7.7 ounces
• Diamond-Crystal (Kosher) ………..1 cup……………142 gr. …..5.0 ounces

Note that 1 cup of regular table salt weighs more than twice as much as 1 cup of Diamond Crystal (Kosher) salt.

There are 6 grams in ONE flat teaspoon of TABLE SALT.
• 1 oz. (28.3 gr.) = 1-1/2 Tblspns. (4-1/2 tspns.)
• 2 oz. (56.7 gr.) = 3 Tblspns. (9 tspns.)
• ½ cup = 146 gr. (.322 lb.) or (5.15 oz.)
• 1 cup = 292 gr. (.644 lb.) or (10.3 oz.)
• Prague Powder (Instacure) – 1 ounce (28.3 gr.) = 2 tblspns.
• 1 ounce salt = 1-1/2 tblspns.
• The ideal salt content for (fresh) sausage, is about 2 g. per 100 g. meat.
• 1 lb. salt = 1-1/2 cups

Best Wishes,
Chuckwagon

 

 

Sodium Chloride Brine Tables @ 60 degF
Courtesy of Alkar – RapidPak, Inc.
Includes salometer instructions and corrections for other temperatures.
Sodium Chloride Brine Tables for 60F.pdf

 

 

“How do I Give My Casings a Tender Bite?” Here are a few tips from page 38 of the The Sausagemaker (Sausagemaker.com) summer 2016 catalog. …great tips from an excellent provider of sausage-making supplies.

• Stuff Casing Tight – This will provide better adherence of casings to meat and stretch casings elasticity making them slightly thinner.
• Prick Out Air Pockets – With sterile needle or sausage pricker poke out air pockets from stuffed links. (<em>Even if they aren’t overtly visible, just poke away!</em>)
• Let It Rest – Once stuffed and poked, place sausage in container or freezer paper and refrigerate overnight. This will help casing adherence and also let cure (if any) and spices develop better.
• The Cold Shower – We recommend showering all cooked (<em>and smoked especially</em>) sausages in cold water immediately after cooking under your kitchen faucet for about 5 minutes. This nicely tenderizes the casing, as well as preventing the casings from wrinkling and/or separating.

 

 

Why We Use Nitrates And Nitrites
But Grandpa didn’t use nitrates so why should we? Gosh, I wonder how many “grandpas” died of “natural causes”? 😯
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. Botulinum spores are extremely persistent and will survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C), freezing, smoking, and drying. An obligate anaerobe cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. Without oxygen, the addition of sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites is necessary to completely prevent the possibility of botulism poisoning. 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.

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. Once again, 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, Cure #2 containing sodium nitrate, a drop beyond 5.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.97 or less.

The onset of its symptoms can occur quickly and include nausea, stomach pain, double vision, and spreading paralysis, ultimately reaching the heart or respiratory organs. Although fatalities occur yearly, especially in countries where home canning is popular, the risk of acquiring botulism is very, very low. Worldwide, there are only about 1000 cases of botulism each year. 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. I believe that one thousand cases annually are one thousand too many!

To risk your own health is one thing. To sell or give away the sausage to unsuspecting consumers is quite another matter. 😥 The liability you open yourself up to, is incredible. Please be aware that by not using sodium nitrate in an air-dried sausage, definitely places consumers at risk, no matter how slight the possibilities.
Best Wishes,
Chuckwagon