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Recent Posts

  • Fresh Sausage Cured Sausage 101 - What Is Cured Sausage?

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Summer Sausage What Is Cured Sausage?

    Sausage is a traditionally a meat product that has been ground, seasoned and then stuffed into a casing for cooking. Cured Sausage has a few extra steps, it has just had either nitrate or nitrites added to it to allow it to be smoked or slow cured. Cured Sausage covers a wide variety of meat snacks, everything from Snack Sticks and Summer Sausage to Bologna, Salami even a Hot Dog is also technically a Cured Sausage.

    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.

    Summer Sausage What Does Sure Cure Do?

    The cure that is used when wanting to keep a product safe through the smoking process contains sodium nitrite, also known as Sure Cure, Cure #1 or Prague Powder. The salt and cure block the growth of botulism spores, impart a cured flavor and are responsible for burning the meat a nice pinkish red color. Meat cured with salt alone will not have the same color, as the nitrites help burn that nice red color into the meat and then set it there during the thermal processing stage.

    Texture

    Cured Sausage will have a smooth interior texture with small particle size. This happens because we need to achieve protein extraction and we have to grind it twice, first through a larger plate like a 3/16" and then a smaller plate like a 1/8". Then we will need to mix this until the protein begins to extract from the meat and bind together. All of this extra working of the meat will create a very fine texture.

    Casings

    Cured Sausage covers such a wide variety of Sausages, from Snack Sticks to Summer Sausage that many different casings will be used including Fibrous (Summer Sausage) Collagen (Snack Sticks and Larger) Natural (Snack Sticks and Larger) and even Cellulose Casings (Skinless Hotdogs).

    Cooking

    The cooking or smoking schedules for Cured Sausage will generally be more complicated than fresh sausage. Since we have added a cure to the meat we are able to cook it at lower initial temperatures as the cure will keep the meat safe through this process. Cured Sausage can be cooked on a grill, in a smoker, in an oven or even on a stove top if desired.

    Storage

    Depending on the pH and the Water Activity of your meat, you very well might have a shelf stable product. However, since you probably do not have a way to test either of these at home you should keep these items in a refrigerator or vacuum pack and put them in a freezer.

    Shop waltonsinc.com for Vertical Smokers Shop waltonsinc.com for American BBQ Systems Smokers

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  • Cured Sausage Cured Sausage 102 - Equipment Needed For Cured Sausage.

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Butcher Series Mixing in seasoning What is the Most Important Piece of Equipment?

    This depends on how you get your meat. If you are a hunter then a Meat Grinder will be the most important as you will be starting with large whole muscle cuts. If you buy meat at the store then it is easy to buy already ground meat, and that meat will almost always be ground twice at the meat packing plant. I personally think that both a Stuffer and Grinder are needed to make a quality cured sausage product as unlike with Fresh Sausage you will have to get some protein extraction during the mixing process. This means your meat will be stickier and more bound together which will make using the stuffing function of your meat grinder much more difficult. Still though, because you need to grind twice and because in theory, you could still use your grinder to stuff with I will say a Meat Grinder is still the most important piece of equipment.

    Do You Still Need A Sausage Stuffer?

    Absolutely you should be using a sausage stuffer when making cured sausage. The time it will take you to stuff off of a meat grinder will be many times longer than it would take with a sausage stuffer. The stuffer will also give you a more uniform and evenly filled product than a grinder will, not to mention the unnecessary wear and tear you are putting on your meat grinder.

    As a final point, many Meat Grinders do not come with an attached small enough to allow you to make smaller diameter products like a snack stick.

    Do You Need A Meat Mixer

    Yes, a Meat Mixer is a very important tool when making cured sausage. This brings me back to one of my favorite topics, Protein Extraction. Protein extraction is what allows the fat, meat, and water to all bind together and stay bound during the cooking process. Because we are going to smoke these for long periods of time at lower temperatures the fat will render out of the meat during the cooking process, this will cause a host of problems with your finished product such as overly dry casing, shrinkage, and lack of taste to name just a few.

    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

    If I have $500 to purchase my equipment to make Fresh Sausage I would buy a 7 lb Sausage Stuffer for $160, a 20 lb Meat Mixer for $110. This leaves you with $230 making the Weston #12 750 Watt Meat Grinder the best grinder at that price point. The other option would be to break the budget (or save up!) and get a Weston Butcher #8 $329.99 or #12 for $399.99.

    Other Equipment Or Supplies You will also need a Smoker at some point, these products can still be cooked in an oven or on a grill but a smoker will give you a better tasting and more appealing product. For Summer Sausage, and a few other products as well, you will need a way to close the casings. The Auto Load Hog Ring Plier is a cost-effective way to do this. For a commercial application the Max Pac or the Bag and Casing Clipper. Shop waltonsinc.com for Vertical Smokers Shop waltonsinc.com for American BBQ Systems Smokers

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  • Cured Sausage Cured Sausage 103 - Casings For Snack Sticks

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Smoked Collagen Direction of CollagenRecipe What Are Common Styles Of Casings?

    For Snack Sticks the most common types of casings used are Smoked Collagen, known as the Processed Stix Variant. These casings are tough enough to stand up to being hung in a smokehouse without spilling the meat or breaking under their own weight, they have a mahogany color that will impart a reddish color after being cooked and they still have a tender bite.

    Clear Collagen casings, also known as Processed Fine-T variant, are also sometimes used for snack sticks. These casings have an opaque appearance when they are fresh but as they are cooked they will become clear. This gives you a casing that will look similar to fresh collagen, or natural casings when finished.

    A few people still use natural casings to make snack sticks, because of the small diameter desired with snack sticks sheep or lamb casings would be the only ones used.

    What Are The Most Sizes Of Casings?

    Snack Sticks can range from 15mm in diameter up to 21mm when using collagen and as large as 22mm if using sheep casings. In recent years home processors have been trying to make smaller and smaller snack sticks, with 16 and 17mm a desirable size. However, it is more difficult to stuff these size casings as you need to use a considerably smaller stuffing tube and therefore it will require more force to push the piston down through the cannister. The best and most common sized casing for the home user is the 19mm smoked collagen.

    For sheep casings, the only ones that should be used are the smallest size of sheep casings (22-24mm) or lamb casings, which can be difficult to find.

    Advantages and Disadvantages To Collagen and Natural.

    Smoked Collagen Casings are the most popular casings for a snack stick for good reason. They are easy to use, simply take them out of the package and put them on to the tube. The Processed Stix (Smoked Collagen) is a strong casing so when you are stuffing them blowouts are not a major concern, stuff until the casing looks full and smooth as it comes off of the stuffing tube. Walton’s also makes many sizes of collagen casings so you do not need to purchase an entire “caddy” which would process multiple hundreds of pounds of meat. The major disadvantage to collagen, that it will not hold a twist, does not apply to snack sticks as you don’t twist snack sticks, you just cut them into the desired lengths.

    The major advantage to Natural Casings is that some people prefer the “snap” of these casings. The major disadvantages are that they need to be rinsed, soaked and sometimes flushed before using them costing you valuable time. They are also more prone to blowouts than Collagen Casings are.

    Other Notes

    Collagen casings do have a correct way to be loaded onto the stuffing tube. If you look closely at the casings when they are compressed into a single solid piece you will see that they look almost like bowls stacked inside of each other. You want the casing to come off of the stuffing tube as if you were taking one bowl out from another.

    Shop waltonsinc.com for Poly Bag Sealers Shop waltonsinc.com for Holly Regular Pork Sausage Seasoning

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  • Cured Sausage Cured Sausage 104 - Casings For Summer Sausage

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Stuffed and Hanging Stuffed and Hanging Stuffed and Hanging What Are Common Styles Of Casings?

    There two styles of casings that are commonly used for making Summer Sausage, Fibrous Casings and certain types of Inedible Collagen Casings. Fibrous casings are made from a paper-like product that will be dry when you take them out of the package, closed on one end and can be clear, mahogany or have some pattern or picture printed on them. The collagen casings are a specific type of collagen that is inedible, they will be dry, tied on one end and clear when you get them.

    What Does Pre-Stuck (PS) Mean?

    Prestuck means that the casings have been manufactured with small holes in them. The purpose of these holes is to allow some pressure to bleed out of the casings during the smoking process but more so to help the casing conform to the meat after the cooking process has finished. If you purchase nonstuck casings you will need to purchase something like a Casing Perforator to create these holes.

    What Are The Sizes Of These Casings?

    Casing size varies in summer sausage maybe more than any other casing. You can get standard casings as small as 1.5" X 12" all the way up to 2.9" X 24". Because of this variation, these casings can hold anywhere from a 1/2 lb of meat up to 4 - 5 lb of meat.

    How Are Casings Prepared For Use?

    Fibrous Casings - These need to be soaked in warm water for 30 minutes before being used. This will make them pliable enough to be stuffed full. You should only soak how many casings you are going to need but if you soak too many casings you can let the unused ones dry back out and you can use them again in the future.

    Inedible Collagen - The easiest way to remember how to prepare these casings is to remember the rule of 15s. They need to be soaked for 15 minutes, in a 15% salt solution that is 15°C (59°F). Doing this will rehydrate the casings and make them pliable enough to be able to be stuffed. Even though this is inedible it is still made from the same basic process as regular collagen so it is made from the hide of beef and or pork.

    Advantages and Disadvantages To Fibrous and Collagen.

    The main difference in these two casings is the preparation that is required for the inedible collagen casings. The rule of 15s is very simple to follow but with fibrous casings, you do not even need to do that. Because of that Fibrous Casings are the more common casing for summer sausage.

    Both of these casings are very strong, blowouts should not be a concern when stuffing them. The tie that already comes on one end will have a loop in it so that you can slide this over a smoke stick and hang them in your smoker.

    Other Notes

    *Because you will be hanging these from the side that is already tied you need to secure the other end very well as all the weight from the meat will be pushing down against whatever you used to seal it. The best way for the home user to do this is with a Hog Rings and Auto Load Hog Ring Plier.

    Shop waltonsinc.com for Poly Bag Sealers Shop waltonsinc.com for Holly Regular Pork Sausage Seasoning

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  • Cured Sausage Cured Sausage 105 - Casings For Smoked Sausage

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Clear Collagen Tubed Hog Casings What Are Common Styles Of Casings?

    Smoked Sausage covers a wide variety of products, technically snack sticks and summer sausage would fall under this category. For our purposes today though we are talking about a bratwurst like product that is going to have cure added to it and will be smoked in a smoker. The type of casing that is used for this will be important as not all collagen casings are suitable for this.

    The two most common styles of casings for this type of sausage are Collagen and Natural Casings like Hog or Sheep intestines. Collagen Casings come in 3 different styles, Fresh, Clear and Smoked. For a smoked product, Fresh Collagen should not be used, they won’t stand up to being hung in the smokehouse like Clear and Smoked will.

    What Are The Sizes Of These Casings?

    Collagen - Smoked Sausage will generally be 30mm or larger. Both Clear and Smoked Collagen have many options above this size.

    Natural Casings - Smoked Sausage like Boudain or Kielbasa will almost always be 32-35mm or larger. However, you could make a strong argument that Hot Links belong in this category and those can be as small as hotdogs, around 26mm. So for natural casings, they can range from 26mm sheep casings all the way to 42mm hog casings.

    How Are Casings Prepared For Use?

    If you are using collagen casings there is no preparation necessary, simply remove them from the package, load them onto your stuffing tube and begin stuffing.

    For Natural Casings you will need to rinse the salt off of the outside of the casing with clean running water and then soak them for 60 minutes in warm water before they are ready for use. If you purchased your natural casing in a “home pack” you will also need to flush the inside of the casing by running water through the middle of them. Then you load them on to your stuffing tube and you are ready to stuff.

    Advantages and Disadvantages

    The main advantage of collagen is the convenience, no preparation is needed for these casings to be ready to use. Another benefit from collagen is uniformity, they will be the same diameter throughout the entire run, this is especially important for commercial processors. Collagen casings are also less prone to blowouts than natural casings are. The biggest drawback of collagen is that it does not accept a twist as natural casings will. You can twist them and they will stay that way until you go and cut them at which point they will unravel and open slightly.

    The main advantage of Natural Casings both hog and sheep is that they will accept a twist and once cut they will remain closed. Some people also prefer the snap of natural casings. The biggest drawbacks are the difficulty in getting them ready and the fact that they are prone to blowouts.

    Other Styles Of Casings

    Cellulose Casings can be used for skinless smoked sausage products like some types of hot dogs. Cellulose is made from plant material, is very strong, smoke permeable and even has a black stripe down the side to let you know if the casing has been removed or not.

    Other Notes

    *For beginners I always recommend collagen casings over cellulose or natural hog or sheep casings. They require less work and make the entire process less complicated and the fewer complications the better!

    Shop waltonsinc.com for Poly Bag Sealers Shop waltonsinc.com for Holly Regular Pork Sausage Seasoning

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  • Cured Sausage Cured Sausage 106 - Basics of Making Snack Sticks

    Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!

    Grinding Meat Protein Extraction Snack Sticks Stuffing Snack Sticks What Are Snack Sticks?

    Snack Sticks are a meat snack and semi-dried sausage that is stuffed into a smoked collagen casing and then hung in a smokehouse for cooking. Many Snack Stick will have a pH between 4.5 and 5.2 to give it some shelf stability and the classic tangy flavor

    Meat Block

    10 lb of Untrimmed Pork Butts
    1 Bag of Willies Snack Stick Seasoning
    1 Bag of Encapsulated Citric Acid
    1 oz of Sure Cure (Included with purchase)

    Equipment

    Weston #12 Butcher Series Grinder
    Weston 20 lb Meat Mixer
    Walton’s 11 lb Sausage Stuffer

    Process

    The first thing you need to do is to grind your meat. You will want to grind the meat twice, the first grind should be with a 3/8 plate and then with a 1/8 plate, the second grind is going to take much longer than the first grind will as it has already been broken down once so it has more surface area. Remember to keep your meat cold through this process.

    Meat Mixing

    Next, you need to mix the seasoning and cure into your meat. To do this you can either use a meat mixer or do it by hand. Because this is a product that we are going to cure and smoke we need to achieve a high level of protein extraction so doing this with your hands is difficult. When using a mixer add the meat to the mixer, then the seasoning and cure and finally the water, you will want to mix in both directions until all seasoning and cure has been mixed in and you have good protein extraction. You will know that protein extraction has been achieved when the meat is sticky and tacky if you can pull a handful of it apart and it stretches that is a good sign. Add your Encapsulated Citric Acid during the last 60 seconds of mixing.

    Sausage Stuffing

    Next, we will want to stuff into casings. For snack sticks, 19-21mm smoked collagen casings are a good choice, they are large enough to make the stuffing easier while still being small enough to be considered a true snack stick. Use the largest stuffing tube that your casings will fit on and then begin stuffing. Stuff until the casing is full and smooth but not overly full or they will split when you try to hang them in your smoker.

    Note

    When you are done stuffing the product has to be held in the refrigerator overnight to allow the cure time to work. If you added Encapsulated Citric Acid or other cure accelerators you skip this step.

    Thermal Processing & Smoking

    Either hang your snack sticks on smoking sticks or coil on racks
    125F for 1 hour
    140F for 1 hour
    155F for 2 hours
    175F until internal meat temp of 160F
    When they have reached 160° internal temperature remove from the smoker and put them in an ice bath to bring the heat down and help set the casing.

    Cooling

    Lastly, leave them out at room temperature for about an hour before vacuum packing them, this will ensure you don’t get additional moisture in the vacuum bag which would affect the shelf life of your meats.

    Wrap up

    In later classes, we will go over these and more advanced steps in greater detail for making Snack Sticks.

    Additional Tips Adding High-Temp Cheese adds a nice taste to your sticks and with very hot seasonings it can help cut the heat a little Use white oil to lubricate both your Grinder Plates and Knives and the Piston Gasket on your Sausage Stuffer Other Notes

    Depending on your pH and your Water Activity your sticks might be shelf stable but without a way to test this you should vacuum pack and refrigerate these.

    Watch WaltonsTV: Basics of Making Snack Sticks Shop waltonsinc.com for Bratwurst Seasoning Shop waltonsinc.com for Meat Grinders Shop waltonsinc.com for High-Temp Cheese Shop waltonsinc.com for Boning Knives

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