Tips for Making Sausage
Sausage making has been around for thousands of years and is one of the oldest ways of using and preserving meats. In making sausage you can use the left-over meats, trimmings, and fats. When grinding the meat, even the toughest parts can be used and made tender along with herbs and spices to make the best tasting sausage. Different ways of processing developed with smoked, dried and frozen being the most common.
Today, sausage making is more advanced and we are more aware of the contaminations that can take place from the different types of meats. If the meat is handled in sanitary conditions, kept cold until processing, and processed to temperature requirements, then it is safe. Cures are critical in smoked and cooked meat to prevent food poisoning. Botulism spores are found in every type of meat.
Problems arise when there is lack of oxygen, low acidity, proper nutrients, moisture and temperatures in the range of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Meats are smoked within these temperature ranges, sausages are moist, and the smoke and heat eliminate the oxygen thus creating perfect conditions for food poisoning.This is very important: If you do not use cures, the internal temperature to be attained for sausage making is at least 152 degrees Fahrenheit. So when smoking or cooking sausage at temperatures less than 152 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure you use a cure in with your meat. Ascorbic acid will not act as a cure and should never be used to cure meat.
Almost any meat may be used-beef, pork, poultry, venison, elk, and buffalo. Generally, a ratio of 15% fat to 85% lean meat works very well. The fat helps to tenderize the sausage and the juices it creates helps to send flavor throughout the meat. You will need to weigh the meat before grinding to help determine the amounts of seasonings and cures you will need. Some recipes calls for certain amounts of water to mix with your seasonings and cures to get a good mix throughout the whole ingredients.
When grinding the meat, you should have a good sharp plate and knife. Replace when necessary, when the meat looks "mushy" or the grinder is running slow. The plate hole size that is usually used for sausage is the 3/16". If you are making sausage links, you will need a stuffing tube, casings, and twine or hog ring pliers and rings to divide the links.
Some of the larger meat grinders have mixers within them. If your meat grinder doesn't offer this option you can use a meat mixer or work it out by hand. If working out by hand a long-handled metal spoon helps in the mixing. Other items that are useful for making sausage are a thermometer for checking the temperature of the meat, large metal bowl or meat lug to grind and mix the meat into, knife for trimming and boning meat, measuring cup, and a scale for weighing the meat.
Have all seasonings and cures measured and mixed thoroughly before adding to ground meat. The weight of the meat should be taken before grinding. Then add in the proper amount of seasonings and cures accordingly.
Natural hog casings are sold in "hanks" that are packed in liquid brine. They require refrigerated storage and will last a long time. Use natural casings for bratwurst, polish, and Italian sausages. Collagen casings are used for fresh sausage. It is a natural beef product that is availably in different sizes. These casings do not need refrigerated and can be stored in a cool, dry area. The fibrous casings are a peel-off casing used in processing sausages such as salami, summer, and bologna. They are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and lengths. They are string tied for hanging.
Have all equipment, utensils, and seasonings clean and assembled. Weigh the meat before grinding to establish the proper amount of seasonings. Grind the meat into a large bowl or meat lug. Remember to keep the meat chilled. Mix the seasonings thoroughly into the meat. The meat may now be refrigerated, packaged, or linked. If you are linking the sausage insert the stuffing tube into the grinder head or use a sausage stuffer with the proper attachment. The casing is rinsed in cold water to remove brine, or with collagen casings, they may be placed in water for a short time until they are slightly softened. The casing is then "pleated" onto the tube, the meat is forced through the head of the grinder or sausage stuffer, and into the casing. The casing should be well-filled, but not over-filled, and with no gaps or air holes. The meat can be gently squeezed into position to fill any gaps. A sausage perforator can be used to remove any air trapped inside the casing. The rope of sausage is then divided into links either by twisting between links or using string to tie off the links. The sausage is then cut between the links and is ready for cooking or freezing.
If this is the first time that you are out to make sausage, you are into a very worth while adventure. You can choose the meat you want such as beef, buffalo, pork, poultry, venison or elk. Have control over the salt, fat, and chemical content along with the seasonings to satisfy your own taste. We recommend starting with the fresh sausages such as breakfast or Italian and latter work your way into the cured sausages such as salami, summer, bologna,etc. One point to always keep in mind is that any sausage that is being made requires a cure if the internal temperature of the meat does not reach 152 degrees Fahrenheit. There is many books and videos that will enhance the learning of sausage making along with the different kinds of recipes. I hope this information has helped you understand the making of sausage a lot clearer. May your sausage making bring you many years of pleasure and satisfaction.