Curing & Smoking
Sausage Making Equipment and Procedures
The basic steps in sausage making are:
- Weighing (measuring) the ingredients
- Mixing the meat and ingredients
Weighing or measuring the meat and spice ingredients is one of the most important steps in the preparation of a good sausage. Weigh out the proper amounts of lean meat, fat, meat and each individual spice or added ingredient to be sure that the formulation is correct. There is nothing more disappointing than to make sausage which is too hot or not properly seasoned. If it is not possible to weigh the ingredients, be sure to measure them properly. Remember, weights are always more accurate than measures.
Mixing the meat and other ingredients is a simple but important step. Before the spices and dry materials are added to the meat, cut the meat into one- to two-inch squares. Spread the meat in the bottom of a large pan. Sprinkle the spices and dry ingredients over the meat and mix thoroughly. Add the water/ice or wet ingredients last and mix again. This mixing will ensure a uniform distribution of spices and develop the binding ability of the meat. If nitrate or nitrite is to be used in the formula, dissolve it in a small amount of water before adding. This will ensure a uniform distribution throughout the sausage.
Small manual or power grinders are available from most hardware or appliance stores. These are adequate for home sausage making. Larger models are available from restaurant and institutional suppliers.
The key to doing a good job grinding is to use sharp blades and plates that match. Clean out any gristle and bone fragments so that the plate and blade will fit together. Avoid smearing or crushing the meat through the plate. This will change the texture and color of the sausage, making it mushy. The sausage may be ground twice especially if two meats, such as a fat meat and a lean meat, are being used. Grind each meat through a 3/8-inch coarse plate. Add the spices and other ingredients, mix and then grind through the final 3/8- or 3/16-inch plate. If two plates are not available, the spices can be added to the meat pieces and then you can grind it twice through the small plate. A single grind is usually not adequate.
Stuffing and Linking
Getting the sausage into the casings may present a problem if you do not have a stuffer. This simplest stuffer is a horn which fits the grinder, however, several other types of home stuffers may be used. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in assembling the stuffer. Slip the open end of the casing onto the horn. Put some meat through the stuffing horn until it is filled. Pull one or two inches of casing over the end of the horn and knot it. Hold the mouth of the horn with the thumb and forefinger and allow the casing to slide under your fingers as the casing fills. If the casing is held too tightly the pressure of the meat will tear the casing. Allow as few air pockets as possible to form in the casing. Air pockets may be prevented by packing the sausage tightly into the stuffer. Be sure the horn and casings are wet. This will allow the casings to feed freely off the horn. If the sausage is to be linked, the casing must be stuffed loosely so that when twisted several turns to form the link, the casing will not burst. Links may also be formed by tying the casing with cotton string after stuffing.
Large casings (two to six inches) are stuffed in the same manner as the small casings. The casing should be pre-tied at one end and the open end fed completely over the horn. Grip the casing tightly with the thumb and forefinger on the mouth of the horn. Allow the casings to feed out as it fills but avoid letting the fingers slip over the end of the horn. Leave about two inches of casing empty to tie off with a string. Air pockets may be removed by pricking the casing with a pin. Tie the casing string tight and leave enough string to hang the sausage in the smokehouse.
Sausages and meat products are smoked for flavor, color and to help preserve the product. However, these products are not completely preserved unless the product is partially dried as was done before refrigeration was available.
Hot smoking is used when the product is to be partially or completely cooked. Cold smoking is basically a drying process that adds the smoke color and flavor to the product. Dry sausages such as salami and pepperoni are cold smoked. Other products like cured bacon and fresh sausage may be cold smoked for the added flavor. Cold smoking is usually done at temperatures below 110ºF and may require from 15 to 24 hours, or as long as three days, depending upon the color, flavor and dryness desired.
Hot smoking is more like a flavorful cooking process. The smoke is added to the product during the cooking cycle. The rate the smoke deposits on the meat product is affected by the relative humidity and the temperature. As the smokehouse temperature increases, the more rapidly the color will develop on the surface. Higher relative humidities permit greater penetration of the smoke flavor through the casing, but the color does not develop as rapidly. If the relative humidity gets too high, creating a hot steam in the smokehouse, the natural casings will break down and drop the sausage on the smokehouse floor. A relative humidity of 35 to 45 percent is best for most products. The home sausage maker will have to experiment with the equipment to determine which procedure produces the most desirable product.
Liquid smoke may be used in the sausage formula if a smoke flavor is desired and smoking equipment is not available. Use about a half teaspoon of liquid smoke to one pound of sausage. Dilute this in the added water before mixing to get good distribution.
Smokehouse schedules will be given in the various sausage formulas as guides. A substitute method of cooking some sausages is to gently cook them in a water bath at 160ºF to 175ºF until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF. Sausages may also be placed in loaf pans and oven cooked at 200ºF. Cook these loaves until the internal temperature is 160ºF.
Several commercial smokers are available to the home processor; but a small backyard smoker can be constructed easily and will serve the purpose.
Electric portable smokers are available from sporting goods and hardware stores. The units consist of a metal box with an electric heat unit, a pan for sawdust or chips and usually a recipe booklet. Most are large enough for about 20 pounds of poultry or meat.
Metal drums, wooden crates or old refrigerators will provide the skeleton for building a home smoker. The functional parts of a smoker are: 1) a smoke and heat source in the bottom, 2) a baffle to distribute the smoke, 3) a pan of water for humidity, and 4) a screen or smoke sticks to place the meat. Vents are needed at the top and bottom for draft controls to regulate the temperature and smoke. If an old refrigerator is used, it must be one which is lined with metal, not plastic. If the insulation is flammable, it should be removed from the floor of the refrigerator.
An electric hot plate, charcoal or hot coals may be used as heat sources for a homemade smoker. Damp sawdust or wood chips can be placed in a pan on the hot plate as the smoke source. When using charcoal or hot wood coals, sprinkle damp sawdust or wood chips over the briquets to produce the smoke.
Covered barbecue grills or the kettle type units may be used as smokers. Keep the bed of coals to one side of the grill and regulate the heat by adjusting the vents. Produce the smoke as above.
This document was extracted from "Sausage and Smoked Meat Formulation and Processing", 1982. Bulletin 865, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. By A. Estes Reynolds, Jr. and George A. Schuler, Extension Food Scientists.
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