Fresh Sausage 101 - What Is Fresh Sausage?
Attend this entry level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!What is Fresh Sausage?
Fresh Sausage is a traditionally a product that has been ground, seasoned and then most times stuffed into a casing for cooking. The size of the sausage can vary from as small as breakfast sausage link all the way up to 35mm Bratwurst style sausage. It can be made from beef, pork, poultry or wild game or other meats and even some non-meat items are being called sausage now.
Initially, sausage was made to use as much of an animal as possible so organ meats, connective tissue, and other non-desirable cuts were ground, salted and then stuffed into the intestines of the animal to be either cooked or cured. Over time it proved to be so popular due to its taste that the practice of using lower quality cuts is no longer common.
Today some common types of Fresh Sausage are Breakfast whether it is in links, patties or just made as a ground product, Italian, Bratwurst, Mexican Chorizo, and even some Boudin. Because a cure is not used for fresh products they need to be refrigerated or consumed right away. When cooking them you can add smoke if desired but it is less common.Meat Block
Sausage can be made from almost any meat. Pork is the most common as it is readily available and relatively inexpensive but beef is also fairly common and chicken sausage is also becoming much more common and commercially available. Regardless of what meat block is being used at least 80/20 fat ratio is standard but we like 70/30 and some even go closer to 50/50. This means if a leaner wild game such as venison is being used the correct amount of pork fat will need to be added or the finished product will be less flavorful and overly dry. The best time to add this pork fat is during the second grind so it can mix in well with the lean meat. For most types of fresh sausage, the meat should be ground twice through a 3/16" plate to achieve the ideal particle size.Texture
Fresh Sausage, especially Bratwurst and Breakfast Link Sausage does not have the same texture as a cured sausage. This is because we do not need to achieve protein extraction during the mixing process as we are not smoking this, meaning there is less of a danger of the fat rendering out of the meat during the cooking process. The end result is that when you cut one open it will have a more coarse appearance and mouthfeel.Casings
Fresh Sausage can be stuffed into natural casings, like hog and sheep, or you can use fresh collagen casings. Since Fresh Sausage can cover everything from Breakfast Links to Bratwurst you might be using casings as small as 21mm collagen or as large as 35mm natural hog casings.Cooking
Depending on the meat that you are using to make your sausage you will need to cook it to different internal temperatures. For example, beef and pork sausages need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F while chicken and other poultry need to be cooked to 165°F. The reason that sausage needs to be cooked higher than a whole muscle cut, like steak, is that very little harmful bacteria live inside the muscle, the majority of it is on the surface. Once you have ground that however you have exposed all of the meat to that bacteria and it must be properly cooked to be safe to eat.Storage
Either cook your sausage right away or freeze and then vacuum pack it for future use. If you do not freeze the sausage first and try to vacuum pack it you will end up crushing your sausage and it will either have flat sides to it or it will be pushed out of the casing altogether.Shop waltonsinc.com for Vertical Smokers Shop waltonsinc.com for American BBQ Systems Smokers
Fresh Sausage 102 - Equipment Needed For Fresh Sausage
Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!What Is The Most Important Piece of Equipment?
For fresh sausage, the most important piece of equipment will be a Meat Grinder. Most of the time we don’t like to use the stuffing functions of grinders. It is generally a lot slower to process this way and will be more difficult to stuff your sausage correctly. However, with Fresh Sausage, it is a little easier as you do not need to achieve protein extraction during the mixing process so the meat will flow through the grinder easier.
To make sausage with just a grinder start with a whole muscle cut of meat, we like to use an untrimmed pork butt as it is large, inexpensive and has a lean to fat ratio of around 70/30. The first step will be to break this down into smaller chunks, to do this use a sharp knife on a sanitized cutting surface. The size it needs to be cut into will depend on the size of the grinder, a larger grinder like a 32 will accept larger chunks of meat than a smaller grinder like a #8. Make sure that you cut your meat into small enough pieces to easily fit down the whole from the hopper to the grinder throat.
Before you grind to make sure your plate and knife are sharp and that they have been lubricated with white oil to cut down on friction and to extend the life of your plate and knife. To achieve the proper consistency you should grind the meat through a 3/16" twice. Your second grind will take longer than your first grind, this is normal. Once you have reached the end of your second grind take a small amount of what has already been ground twice and put it through the process again, this will force any meat that was not pushed through the plates to be ground a second time.
Then put on your stuffing attachments for your grinder, load your casings onto that and begin stuffing until the casings are filled to the desired level.Do You Still Need A Sausage Stuffer?
A stuffer can, and in the long-term absolutely should be in the kit of anyone making homemade sausage. Stuffing off of a Sausage Stuffer going to give you a better product, will allow you to be more precise and give you the ability to stuff small diameter sausages that a grinder won’t do. You can also make Fresh Sausage at home with just a stuffer, it just requires that you buy pre-ground meat at your grocery store or local butcher shop.Do You Need A Meat Mixer
The short answer is no. A meat mixer will help you keep your hands clean (and warm) but since you don’t need protein extraction mixing in your meat by hand or adding it between the first and second grind, will work just as well.Best Grinder For Beginners
The Weston #8 Meat Grinder - Black or the Weston #12 750 Watt Grinder are both good entry level grinders that will allow you to stuff larger diameter casings as well. These grinders work best for smaller batches (5-10 lb) and need to be allowed to cool down and not run for more than 5 minutes. If you are looking for the next step up both the Butcher and Pro Series Grinders are capable of handling heavier duties.$500 Budget for Equipment
Ideally, these two would be used together as this allows for the process to be controlled from start to finish. A meat mixer could be helpful but since this is a fresh product and we do not have to worry about protein extraction it is not really necessary, mixing in a lug or large bowl with your hands will be sufficient.Shop waltonsinc.com for Vertical Smokers Shop waltonsinc.com for American BBQ Systems Smokers
Fresh Sausage 103 - Casings For Breakfast Sausage
Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!What Types Of Breakfast Sausage Are There?
Breakfast Sausage comes in three varieties, Link, Ground, and Patty. Ground Sausage is simply stuffed into a Pork Sausage Bags and then cooked in a pan or griddle whenever desired. Patties can either be formed from Ground Sausage or stuffed into Poly Tubing, frozen and then cut to the desired width before cooking. The most common though will be stuffed into links.What Type Of Casing Should I Use For Links
Since breakfast sausage is as fresh sausage that is generally stuffed into a small diameter sausage the 21mm Fresh Collagen is a perfect choice. The Fresh Collagen has the most tender bite of all of the collagen casings, it is a perfect size and they are available in small packages of just 3 strands at a time.
The other option for Breakfast Links would be 22-24mm Sheep Casings. The slight increase in diameter from the 21mm Collagen will hardly be noticeable. Natural Sheep Casings have a very nice tender bite and as most Breakfast Sausage will be pan-fried these casings work well as they have some elasticity to them so they will not split easily when the meat expands.Advantages and Disadvantages To Collagen and Natural.
The main advantage of Collagen over Natural Sheep Casings is that Collagen does not require any preparation, you simply remove it from the package, load it onto your stuffing tube and begin stuffing. Collagen casings are also stronger and less prone to blowouts when stuffing than Sheep Casings are. The main disadvantage to Collagen casings is that they will not hold a twist, once you cut them to separate them they will come unraveled.
Sheep Casings main advantage is that it does hold a twist once cut, this gives it an advantage in appearance. Its major disadvantages are that they have to be rinsed and soaked (and sometimes flushed) and they are more susceptible to blowouts during the stuffing process.Other Notes
Both Pork Sausage Bags and the Poly Tubing require no preparation.Shop waltonsinc.com for Poly Bag Sealers Shop waltonsinc.com for Holly Regular Pork Sausage Seasoning