Cured Sausage: 206 Advanced Cured Sausage Processing
Attend this Intermediate level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!Meat Block
7 lb of Pork ButtOptional Additives
For Snack Sticks .35 lb Gigawatt Seasoning
For Summer Sausage .8 lb Habenero Mango
For Cured Sausage .28 lb Cheeseburger Cheddarwurst
.28 oz of Sure Cure
9 oz of water (per 7 lb of product)
The casings I am using for the Summer Sausage are fibrous so they need to be soaked for at least 30 minutes in warm water before stuffing. I generally start soaking them right before I start grinding. Neither the 32mm Collagen I am using for the Smoked Sausage or the 19mm I am using for the snack sticks need any preparation, they are ready to use right out of the package.
We’ve got our plates and knives oiled. A quick note here on plates and knives, Walton’s sells two types of plates and knives, one is disposable, you use them until they are dull and then throw them out and the others can be sharpened for future use. The disposable ones will work but the knives and the plates that can be sharpened are going to give you a better-finished product. You can tell the sharpenable knives from the disposable ones as they have an insert into the blade where the disposable ones don’t and they look more like a boat propeller.Grinding Your Meat
Our meat is extremely cold and even though we are doing 3 different products we can grind them all together as they should all go through a 3/8 plate first and then a 1/8 inch plate. With our meat being so cold you can see how quick both the 1st and 2nd grind are going. The 2nd grind is always going to take longer but when the meat is near frozen it will go much faster. If you notice that either of your grinds is taking an incredibly long time you might need to have your plates or knives sharpened. You can also check your plates for any cracks or imperfections by knocking them lightly together if they ring nice and clear you can proceed if they clunk or don’t ring then they might need replacing.
Since these are smaller batches I am going to have to do protein extraction by hand as the scoops on the paddles of a meat mixer will not be able to mix this small of an amount. While mixing I am going to add my seasoning, cure, and binder along with 10 oz of water. For the water 10 oz to 7 lb of meat would equal 1 qt per 25 lb batch of meat. We are going to mix until we have nice protein extraction in all of our meat. For the Snack Sticks, I am using Encapsulated Citric Acid so I am going to add that during the last 60 seconds, along with the cheese, to prevent breaking the encapsulation or smearing the cheese.Stuffing Summer Sausage
Now, here is where we start diverting from one product to another. I am going to start with the Summer Sausage first. So I have the largest stuffing tube that these casings will fit over. With Fibrous casings, we really aren’t worried about blowouts so we are going to stuff it until the casing is full and smooth. Then when we are done with that we have to clip the end closed. Remember, all the weight of the casing is going to be pushing on this clip so it has got to be tight. You can use either Hog Ring Pliers, Auto Load Hog Ring Pliers or a Bag & Casing Clipper like this. If you are doing a lot I would recommend the Bag & Casing Clipper as it will give you the tightest seal and is easiest to do if you only do medium-sized batches and only occasionally then this might not be worth it and I would recommend the autoload hog ring pliers. The normal pliers are okay for the beginner but if you are putting all this effort into a product then the small investment of the Auto Load Pliers is worth it.Stuffing Smoked Sausage
Next, I am going to do the Smoked Sausage, again, I want to use the biggest tube that the casings will fit over and we do want to be careful not to overstuff these as they can blow out. So a slightly understuffed casing is much better than an overstuffed casing as we can always twist it a time or two more to firm them up. For these, we are going to do an advanced linking and hang them from this. Make sure that you have some empty casing at the end of the sausage and then make a link and fold it over the rope so your 2nd link will be the same size. Then, pinch of that link and twist some of the empty casing around where the two sausage meat. Then spin the two links a few extra times at this point it should look sort of like ring bologna. Now hold it from the link you just made and bring the rope up to the top and pinch it down and bring the rope up through the middle of what now should be three brats all hanging. Now just keep repeating this process until you are done. You now have perfectly even brats that should cook at the same rate.Stuffing Snack Sticks
For the Snack Sticks we are using 19mm casings and we have chosen the 12 mm stuffing tube. They should flow fairly smoothly off of this tube as you stuff. As this is going to be the hardest one to stuff as it is the smallest stuffing tube you probably want to make sure you have your stuffer clamped down to the table to prevent the stuffer from rocking as your turn the handle. Casings should be full and smooth but not overstuffed as we want to avoid blowouts. I like to lay these out and then cut them to the longest lengths possible for how big my smoker is, this way we will have the least amount of curved sections possible.Smoke Schedules
Snack Sticks and Summer Sausage in PK-100:
First, for the snack sticks, we are going to leave them in our PK-100 the entire time and rely on the water pan with the extra large sponges to provide us with the relative humidity. For the Summer Sausage, we are going to pull them at 130 - 140 degrees and finish them up in water so that we are not spending 10 hours smoking these. basically, we will start them all at 125° with no smoke and dampers wide open for an hour to act as our drying stage, this will allow the smoke to adhere later on. Then we will close the dampers down mostly and add smoke and our water pan with the sponges to the Pk-100 and increase the temperature to 140° for 1 hour. Then we will move it up to 155 for 2 hours and then 175 until internal temperature is 160°.
For the Summer Sausage, we are pulling it at 130-140 degrees and we will vacuum seal them and then finish them up in water that is heated to 175°. You don’t absolutely need to put it in a vacuum bag but I still recommend it unless you are using De-ionized water and are 100% sure your processing area is sterile. It should take us about an hour to an hour and a half to reach the desired temperature.
We will go over this in more detail in future episodes but 160 is the point of instant lethality, meaning as soon as you hit it everything we are worried about is killed off. The USDA, however, realizes that lower temperatures can still achieve the same result, they just need to be held there for longer times.
Smoked Sausage in Pro Smoker 500T:Ice Bath
Once we have reached the desired temp we want to put these into an ice bath to stop the cooking process and to help “set” the casing. If you have excessive wrinkling on your snack sticks or your Fibrous casings are pulling away from the meat when peeling then your ice bath is most likely the reason why. Once we have left them in the ice bath for 20 minutes we will take them out and leave them uncovered at room temperature for an hour before moving to a cooler overnight before packaging.Shower
If you have a smokehouse that has a shower cycle you can use this instead of an ice bath. If you are going to use this then make sure the fan is blowing between shower cycles, this will drop the temperature much better than a shower alone.Blooming
Leave the meat out at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow for blooming.Vacuum Packaging
After you have held your product overnight in a cooler you can vacuum package them. You want to allow it to sit, uncovered, in the cooler to stabilize the heat and to make sure all surface moisture has evaporated. If you skip this step you will end up with moisture in your package.Shop waltonsinc.com for PK 100 Pro Smoker Smokehouse
Cured Sausage: 205 Advanced Thermal Processing
Attend this Intermediate level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!Getting Started at Low Temperatures
The first thing that we want to make sure we are doing is starting the smoker at low temperatures. To avoid putting too much stress on the proteins we want to stay around 20 degrees from the animals living temperature. A hogs temperature is a little warmer than humans, right around 101° Fahrenheit so we want to start our smoking process around 120°. The other thing we want to do at the start is to dry the outside of the product. For most home smokers this will simply mean opening the top and bottom dampers to allow air to travel through the chamber and dry the surface of the product. This drying stage should usually last around an hour, if you skip this step you will have problems with smoke adhesion and you might end up with a streaky appearance on the surface of your sausage. If you are planning on using a water pan in your smoker I recommend that you NOT add it during this first hour to get the full benefit from the drying phase.
Then, once we are past the drying stage we want to close the dampers down and begin the cooking process by stepping up the temperature gradually. If you try to go directly from 120° to 170° you run the risk of cooking the outside of the sausage too quickly, this is called case hardening and this is how you end up with a product that is overcooked on the outside and under-cooked on the inside. Slowly increasing the temperature will allow the outside of the meat to transfer heat to the interior of the meat easier.Relative Humidity
A very important factor when you are smoking any piece of meat is the relative humidity. You’ve heard us talk about the water holding capacity of meat a lot in the past, well Relative Humidity is the water holding capacity of the air and being able to increase that can speed up your cooking process and give you a juicier finished product. Most people at home do not have a way to control the relative humidity in their smokers and just put a pan of water in there, which is better than nothing but it is a shot in the dark. A psychrometer is something that a commercial smokehouse would have that will have both a Dry Bulb and a Wet Bulb and by getting those two reading it can give you the relative humidity.
So, placing a pan of water took our relative humidity from about 10% up to 15%, which as I said, is better than nothing but it isn’t going to make a ton of difference. So I started thinking of ways to increase that. There are a bunch of chemicals you can add to water to make it evaporate quicker but they are not ones that you want around food, you could disturb the waters surface with a constantly moving paddle, you circulate air through it or you can increase the surface area of the water.
The surface area of the water seemed the most doable to me so I have been doing some experimenting with ways to do this. In my pk 100 I took 3 large auto cleaning sponges, soaked them and then placed them so they were mostly out of the water, the sponges will continue to suck up water through them and will offer a better surface for evaporation. When I did this I was able to top out at 50% relative humidity with an average of 47%. I’d call that a pretty significant improvement from the 15% I was getting from a water pan alone.
Next, I bought a dry wick towel and laid it out on a rack above the water pan and draped part of it over and into the water to try to keep it moist. My thought was that this type of towel, much like the sponge would stay moist as it could draw water up from the pan. With this set up I topped out at 54.1% and had an average of 50.1%. I also tried a mop head and a regular towel but these were not as effective.Finishing In Water
The last one I want to bring up is pulling your meat out of the smoker and finishing it up in water. I have been doing some testing here on this method and I think it has a lot of promise. So far I have found that the best results are when you smoke it to 130-140° and then move it to water that is a steady 170°. Usually, the 130-160° range takes 3 or more hours, depending on your relative humidity, from 140° your sausage should be up to temp in one hour. Surprisingly putting it in a vacuum bag does not seem to make a noticeable difference in the quality of the meat or the amount of smoke flavor. I am still going to recommend you vacuum bag it for an extra level of safety but plenty of people are doing it without them. One note, if you DO use a vacuum bag and you want to see what the temperature is, make a small cut in the up near the seal, insert your thermometer and then you don’t need a new vac bag if it needs to be cooked longer.Special Thanks
@Parksider and @gadahl deserve a ton of the credit for the above section (Finishing In Water) as it was @gadahl’s great post titled “Summer Sausage Nightmare” that brought up the idea to us and @Parksider that recommended it. Since then I have used this technique 4 times and it has never failed!Shop waltonsinc.com for PK 100 Pro Smoker Smokehouse
Cured Sausage: 204 Using Different Diameters
Attend this Intermediate level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!Taste Difference
For Fibrous Casings you are ranging from 1.5" all the way up 2.9" and you can even use some specialty sausage casings up to 4.6 inches. These have the ability to change the taste of your finished product in a few ways. First, if you get 2.5 lb of cheese per 25 lb batch and you have a smaller casing then your slice is going to be smaller and any cheese in there will be more dominant as it has less meat to contend with. So, if you really like the taste of cheese in your summer sausage or whatever you are making a smaller casing might be better for you. Conversely, if you want the cheese to be an accent you can use a larger casing, less cheese or people can always slice a piece of cheese and add it to a cracker with the summer sausage.
The size of your casing is also going to affect the amount of smoke flavor there is in each slice or bite. It doesn’t really matter how long you smoke a cured sausage, the smoke is only going to penetrate so far. So on a 2.9" casing the smoke ring around it will take up much less of the overall product than it will with the 1.5" so the smaller one will have a stronger smoke flavor, as again, it has less unsmoked meat to contend with.Problems With Snack Sticks?
For Snack Stick you are almost certainly going to go with Smoke Collagen and if you are planning on something else I would recommend that you rethink that decision, smoked collagen is tough enough to stand up to being hung in a smokehouse and gives you the best finished appearance with a snack stick. For some reason, it seems like more and more people are trying to go to the smallest diameter snack stick that they can.
The smallest collagen casing that we sell is a 15mm Smoke, these are really for commercial processors only, you need a very powerful stuffer to use a casing this small, even a hydraulic stuffer might struggle with this size. A 16mm casing is also, in my mind, too small for a retail customer, the pressure it is going to put on your stuffer and how hard it is going to be to stuff just isn’t worth it.
19mm and 21mm are the sizes you should be using when making it at home. The difference between 16 and 19 mm is 1/10th of an inch. That is not enough to make any type of difference in the taste, if you add cheese then you MIGHT be able to notice a slight difference between a 16 and a 21mm as you might get more cheese in an individual bite but it would be a very small difference. The real difference here is in appearance and ease of processing. You might want the pencil-thin snack sticks because that is what you saw at the gas station but at home, you will be happier with the results if you use a slightly larger casing.Shop waltonsinc.com for Fibrous Sausage Casings Shop waltonsinc.com for Collagen Sausage Casings