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HOW TO MAKE SAUSAGES FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

TallyrandSausage making . . . all you ever wanted to know about sausage making but were afraid to ask by Tallyrand

Fresh sausage

Fresh sausages are best cooked just prior to serving. They will only keep a few days in the refrigerator but can be frozen for future use, so make them in bulk. Sausages are traditionally stuffed into casings (artificial or natural) but can also be formed into patties and fried like hamburgers, made up of minced (ground) meat and spices. The variations are endless and only limited by your own imagination: pork, beef, lamb, venison, pheasant, duck, fish, seafoods or vegetarian ones even. If you can imagine it, make it, you can stuff it! (into a sausage casing of course)

Cured sausage

Cured sausages can further be divided into semi-dry and dried sausages. Semi-dry sausages, such as summer sausage and hot dogs are cooked, either in hot water or a smokehouse and will keep under refrigeration for months. Dry sausages are not cooked but are dried to about 75% of their stuffed weight over a period of several months and will keep for years at room temperature. Both types can be fermented by the addition of a lactic acid producing bacteria culture that provides a wonderful tang to the sausage in addition to the enhancement of long keeping qualities.

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Implicit in the word cured is the use of an agent or process that provides long term keeping properties to the sausage. The use of salt, drying and fermentation are examples of curing that have been used for millennia. Modern public health practices demand the use of chemical agents in the form of nitrites and/or nitrates to assure the destruction of pathogenic organisms such as that which causes botulism.

HYGIENE STANDARDS

I cannot emphasise the need for high standards of kitchen, food and personal hygiene when attempting sausage making. The average household or even the average kitchen has enough bacteria and germs to make the normal person sick. Hygiene is something that should be in the front of the mind the whole time when making sausages. So being fanatical about cleanliness and hygiene when sausage making is a must:

  • Use a water/soap mixture of 100 : 1 to thoroughly clean counter surfaces before and after use (be sure to rinse with fresh hot water).

  • Use hot soapy water to clean all tools and then pouring boiling water over them to rinse, this should be done before and after using them

  • Frequent hand-washing, between tasks is a must, but using disposable gloves for each task is also recommended

One of the most common and lethal bacteria is botulinum, it can occur in food products before the first hint of a foul odour or other form of food spoilage occurs. It is a food poisoning caused by the pathogen (bacteria that cause food poisoning) clostridium botulism. The pathogen is easily destroyed by boiling, but their toxin producing spores are not so easily destroyed at 100ºC (boiling point of water). They thrive in a low acid, moist environment that is lacking of oxygen. If the sausage is stored above the temperature of 4ºC, bacteria will multiply, so always store them in the refrigerator until just before required for cooking . . . do not leave sausages sitting in the sun when barbecuing!

CASINGS FOR SAUSAGES

Lets take a look at sausage casings; sausages require casings; something to stuff the mixture into. They can be split up into two general catagories, natural and man made. Natural casings are the intestines of animals, more specifically those of cows, pigs, lamb or sheep. Man made ones are made from various materials. Man made casings need little or no preparation but the fibrous ones need to be soaked before use, but that is the extent of the preparation.

Natural casings are another story however. They can come in a package of brine or in a heavily salted brine/water paste, or even in a cake of salt. These need to be pre-treated before use. The first reason is to dilute the salt to a palatable level and to prevent them from getting so tough that you need a chainsaw to cut through them.

Natural casings come in a wide variety of sizes and are usually sold by what’s called a bundle/hank or half hank. The bundle or hank is about 80 metres, and will hold about 20kg of meat (sheep/lamb casing) or about 50kg of meat in the medium sized hog casing. There is no way to determine, except through trial and error how much casing is needed for a batch of meat. Any leftovers go back into the original bag with maybe a teaspoon more salt, and then vacuum seal the bag if you can to help make the odour in the fridge stay at a level that is appealing to the nose.

Specific sausages call for specific casings, the recipes usually tell you what to use, but in general the following will help determine what casing to use for what sausage:

Beef casings

Used for sausages that require thicker than normal casings, and usually are not eaten with the product.

Beef Bungs

Come in sizes from 85mm to over 125mm, and are used for such sausages as Capocolla, Veal Sausage, Large Bologna, Lebanon and cooked Salami's.

Beef Bladders

Range in size from 135mm inches to over 250mm and are traditionally used for Mortadella or for minced (ground) speciality sausages.

Beef Middles

Range in size from 43mm to over 110mm and come as natural whole product or can be sewn to increase the size. They are traditionally used for the types of bologna Leona style sausage, dry and semi-dry Cervelats, dry and cooked salami and also for veal sausage.

Beef Rounds or Beef Rings

From 28 mm to over 44 mm and are used traditionally for ring Bologna, ring liver sausage, mettwurst, Polish Sausage, blood sausage, Kishka and Holsteiner sausages.

Hog

Probably the most widely used and are the most common ones found when you go to buy "casings". They are usually by the bundle and are strung through a plastic ring as a group. If care is not taken upon opening the package, you can spend hours trying to untangle them. Casings range in size from just under 32mm and go to just over 44 mm, and are used for country style sausage, linked hot sausage, large frankfurters, Kishka, Kielbasa and pepperoni.

Bungs

Come in 2 varieties "regular" and "sewn". The regular bungs are about 1 inch in diameter, give or take a quarter inch or so. The sewn range in size of 2.5 to 4 inches. Bungs are used in making liver sausage, Braunschweiger, Genoa and the German white Thuringer sausages.

Middles

The part of the pig that is referred to as chitterlings (Chitlin's).

Lamb or sheep casings

Usually a nice white colour, relatively strong for how flimsy they look and are the most tender of natural casings when it comes to eating them. They range in size from 16 to just over 26 mm and are used for most pork sausages, hot dogs and for sausage sticks.

Preparing natural casings for sausages

  • Take the natural casings from the package, and place them in a large bowl, spread them out, and examine the way they are bound.
  • Separate the amount that you will need for your sausages (be excessive, any leftovers can be added back to the package).
  • Place the casings to be used in a second bowl and fill with water, allow to soak for a few minutes then drain and refill.
  • Place a few inches of water in the sink; drain the casings again, place in the sink.
  • Take a casing, open one end and fill the entire casing with water from the tap, do it for one whole length, then drop it and move to the next one, basically flush the inside.
  • Leave in the sink of water and then withdraw what you need as you are ready to stuff it (after they are stuffed, you need to remove all the air pockets; poke the casings with a tip of a knife, a sewing needle or pin).

Man-made casings for sausages

Collagen:

- though made of natural ingredients is classed as man-made as it is produced / manufactured. Cattle hide has two layers, the hair side and the flesh side. The flesh side is dried, ground and dissolved and reformed into casings. These are formed into tubes, with a definite diameter, and are extremely uniform. The only variation in home made sausages will be the packing them to uniform tightness, which is not an easy task by hand. They are available in clear and mahogany coloured, and they come in a range of sizes for a particular type of sausage: 18 to 32 mm. On a negative note, if you over stuff one, it splits a long way and is a pain to recover from.

Fibrous:

- are used to make dry and semi dry sausages, and have fibres running the breadth and length of them. They allow for a much tighter packing of the meat on the inside, and generally have a protein inner lining, that makes removing them easy along with allowing them to shrink to fit as the sausage dries. They come in sizes ranging from 37mm to 150mm in diameter and varying lengths. They usually need some sort of soak time to make them usable. They are usually factory tied at one end, and need a special knot when you tie the other end, so that the knot won't unravel and cause the interior to drop to the floor.

Synthetic:

- plastic, or something so close it doesn't matter. Advantages are that it need no special care before use, can be cut uniform, so that all packages are the same size and weight and can be packed super tight. Available just about any size, shape or colour you desire. The disadvantages that they are no good for smoking; the smoke will stain the plastic and the flavour will also stay on the plastic and not get to the meat.

Cures

The subject that seems to cause the most confusion to beginners is that of cures and best done only when you have thoroughly understood the process and are serious about doing it. Cures come in various forms and with various names, but the bottom line is that one type contains sodium nitrite and the other contains sodium nitrate. The generic name for the former is Prague Powder No 1 and the latter is No 2. These go under various trade names, but are always recognised by the Prague nomenclature. Not readily available, but you may find them at your local chemist (pharmacy) or ask your local butcher.

Prague No 1 is used for cured sausages that fall into the semidry category in addition to other cooked products such as "boiled" ham.

Prague No 2 is used for dried sausages and country cured hams and bacon.

Both of these powders are combined with enough salt so that they can be measured out by the teaspoon for recipes. They are also coloured pink to distinguish them from common salt. In addition to the anti-bactericidal effects of cures, the most obvious effect of cures is the pink colour of the finished product. These cures are readily available from the many sources of sausage making supplies.

FERMENTATION OF SAUSAGES

Fermentation is another subject that has been much maligned. It is either ignored completely, declared too complicated for amateurs or quack substitutes such as "Fermento" are recommended. As mentioned above, fermentation adds a taste element that simply can not be duplicated any other way. Furthermore, the lactic acid produced by the fermentation provides the sausage with an additional weapon against spoilage. Cured sausage without this step is like beer without alcohol.

Prior to modern times, sausages were hung up to cure and with luck, the appropriate lactic acid producing bacteria would happen along and colonise the sausage and produce the needed fermentation. Unfortunately, as in winemaking, trusting to luck often produces unpleasant surprises.

Contrary to the popular literature, the fermentation step is no more complicated than adding yeast to bread. In fact the culture is sold in foil packages just like yeast and stored in a freezer. It is inexpensive to begin with and only 1/8 tsp. is required for a 2kg batch.

In use, the culture is mixed with a little water and sugar and then mixed in (along with the spices) with the meat mixture. After stuffing, the sausage is held at around 32ºC overnight for the fermentation to take place. This can be done in a smoker, oven with just the light on or just take a little longer at room temperature. The sausage is then smoked, cooked or dried according to the recipe. There simply is no excuse for not fermenting if the type of sausage calls for it and that is just about all sausage except fresh.

SMOKING OF SAUSAGES

Although the spices and brine add the majority of the flavours when making sausages, the smoke is what makes it stand out from the rest of the stuff you can consume. It used to be part of the preservation effort, before refrigeration. Now it is used primarily as a flavour. Commercial entities often add preservatives of a chemical nature to the meat, usually add some liquid smoke, steam cook it and sell it to you as a "smoked product".

In the cloud of smoke there are minuscule droplets of chemicals (natural chemicals that is) such as carbolic acids, ketoses, phenols and others that condense out on the meat surface. Some of these will be absorbed into the meat the same way salt works its way into the meat when brined, others just stay on the surface and add that smoky flavour we all love. The chemicals also prevent the formation of bacteria and other micro organisms that cause the food decay. They also work with the salt and the cure to prevent the fat from turning rancid.

Some sausages (fresh and dry) are smoked just to add flavour, not to dry out the meat. Ensure that the surface is dry (this applies to meat, fish and sausages) before placing in the smoker or the smoke will not condense out evenly on the surface of the product. Smoke fresh sausages to a deep dark mahogany colour then be sure to refrigerate, remember this is for flavour only. For dry sausages, smoke to get the flavour you want, not to exceed about 90ºor so, then continue the drying process with cool air just like the recipes call for.

To Soak or not to soak? Chips, chunks or logs? Soaking for an hour before use restricts the airflow and a much more mellow flavour is obtained. With to much air, or not pre-soaked, a much stronger, bitter flavour can result. Soaking and style of wood used should be left to personal preference.

Smokers come in all shapes and sizes and are not difficult to make. There are many sources on the web for information on them. You should get one that's capable of fermenting at 32ºC, smoking at 71ºC and cook at 142ºC which are the basic numbers needed for most sausage and ham.

SAUSAGE MAKING

Onto the actual process . . . sausages are basically a minced meat, fish, seafood or vegetable put into a casing. The mince may be purchased from a butcher, but is best when done by oneself. Many food processors these days have a mincer attachment and they all operate on the same principal; an auger pushes the meat into a rotating blade that chops the meat as it forces it through the stationary output plate. The size of the holes in the plate determine the coarseness of the minced meat. They can range from 4mm to 13mm and the meat can be run through several times for a very fine mince. Your processor may even have a sausage stuffer attachment….who knows have a look, pull out that manual and see what all those tools that are sat in the drawer are for!

Basic sausage making process can be broken down into 4 main steps:

  • mincing the meat

  • adding of spices and flavourings

  • stuffing the casings

  • storing

One great tip, is that you must keep your meat as cold as possible throughout the sausage making process. Before and after each step of the process refrigerate the meat and keep it as stiff as possible without actually freezing it. When mincing (grinding) the meat, if you use warm or soft meat, it tends to be mashed through the mincing (grinding) plates, turn mushy and lose all of the juice in the meat. You will also notice that once meat has been minced, there is far more surface area for bacteria to develop, which is another good reason to keep it cold.

Mincing the sausage meat

  • Make sure you cut your meat to fit the size of your mincer ‘funnel’, then refrigerate the meat.
  • Get the (previously sterilised) mincer/grinder, equipment and dishes for the minced meat set-up on your cleaned work surface.
  • Using the largest holed mincing plate, take the meat out of the refrigerator and mince, working as quickly as possible.
  • Cover the minced meat and return to the refrigerator or freezer, to chill down again.
  • Repeat the process until it is minced/ground to the required texture is obtained. It is always best to mince/grind the meat initially twice through the largest holed plate and then gradually work down to the finest (if you want a fine mince/ground meat).

Adding of spices and flavourings to the sausages

  • There are two different methods of adding spices to the sausage: Tossing the cut meat in the seasoning and allowing to marinate in the chiller before mincing/grinding. This way when you mince (grind) the meat the spices are evenly distributed throughout the meat. If using this method it is best to add the spices to the cut meat the night before mincing; this allows more of the flavours to work their way into the meat.
  • Adding the spices to the minced (ground) meat, this means you must be able to mix the spices thoroughly into the minced meat. The trick is not to compact the meat together too tightly when you do this. Again, keeping the minced (ground) meat very cold prior to adding the spices makes a big difference. Put the meat back into the refrigerator once you have finished adding the spices.

    Note:
    Make a little pattie and fry it off and this stage and taste it to see if it has the seasoning and flavour that you want. This is your last chance to adjust it.

Stuffing the Casings

This can be done with the sausage stuffer attachment on your food processor or with a piping bag. The latter needing a little skill and patience.

Using a sausage stuffer attachment

  • After flushing the casings keep them in a bowl of warm water next to the sausage stuffer. The warm water keeps the casing lubricated when you feed it onto the stuffing horn.
  • Select the stuffing horn that is best suited to the thickness of the casing you are using. Find the end of a casing and slip this over the end of the stuffing horn.
  • Push the casing over the stuffing horn towards the sausage stuffer, so that it forms an accordion-like pleat.
  • Keep the casing wet throughout this process or it will not slide back on the stuffing horn very easily. Leave some of the casing hanging over the horn.
  • Start stuffing the sausage meat into the casing. You will need to regulate the flow of sausage into the casing, which will determine how tightly packed the sausage is. If you try and pack the sausage too tightly the casing will burst. If the casing does burst, tie it off at that point and start again. To regulate the flow of sausage hold the casing on the stuffing horn with your thumb and forefinger. Increasing or decreasing finger pressure on the casing will determine how tightly and consistently the sausage is packed.
  • As the sausage comes out of the stuffing horn, you can tie the ends at regular intervals or make links by twisting the sausage. Certain sausages like Boerewors are made in one continuous piece, which is then coiled for storage and is cooked as a whole coil.

Using a piping bag

  • After flushing the casings keep them in a bowl of warm water next to you. The warm water keeps the casing lubricated when you feed it onto the stuffing horn.
  • Select a piping tube that is best suited to the thickness of the casing you are using. Find the end of a casing and slip this over the end of the piping tube, push the casing over the piping tube towards the bag, so that it forms an accordion-like pleat.
  • Keep the casing wet throughout this process (keep dipping your hands in warm water.
  • Applying pressure to the piping bag with one hand, stuff the casing.
  • As a sausage is formed, make links by twisting the sausage and then pipe again.
  • Regulate the flow of sausage into the casing, by applying different amounts of pressure to the piping bag. This will determine how tightly packed the sausage is, if you try and pack the sausage too tightly the casing will burst. If the casing does burst, tie it off at that point and start again.

Storing sausages

After stuffing the sausage into the casings, hang the sausage. This allows the casings to dry properly as well as gives the flavours in the sausage time to develop. Cover a broom handle with aluminium foil and straddle between two chairs. Hang the fresh sausage over the broom handle until the casings are dry. Make sure that the sausage stays cool or bacteria will develop. If the sausage has a lot of liquid it will drip from the casings as they dry, so you may want to put something down on the floor to catch the drippings.

ASSOCIATED RECIPE

 

 

This article has been written specially for Hub-UK by Tallyrand to celebrate our twelve months of producing the web site together and to champion the great British sausage - anyone who has not enjoyed British 'bangers' has not eaten the real thing!

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com