Acidic or strong Vinegar taste

  • Hi I’ve made several hundred pounds of snack sticks and summer sausage but this is the first time that I have a batch that when I take a bite it has a strong acidic taste, why? Anybody else have this problem? Do I need to cook it longer it’s been cooking for 9 to 10 hours at 158

  • Regular Contributors

    @rodbiggs Rod, did you put Encapsulated Citric Acid in the meat? I just made a batch of Summer Sausage and the only thing I did different was adding ECA rather than letting the cure work in the refrigerator overnight. After stuffing, I smoked the sausage within an hour for four hours, increasing the temp each hour to 165-170 F.
    The Summer Sausage came out looking fine; moist and filled the casings well. No “fat out” (I did use carrot fiber binder) but when I tasted it, the sausage was very acidic, like biting a strong dill pickle. Also, the normal pink-red color that I have always associated with sausage cured with Cure No. 1 and smoked to 160F+ was missing on some of the product–it was the grey color of over-cooked meat. My mix was 80% lean ground beef (80/20 lean to fat) and 20% pork with about 50% pork fat, bringing the over-all mix to a fat ratio of about 30% by weight. I mixed the meat in a Walton’s mixer for 8-9 minutes, adding the ECA and some high temp cheese during the last minute of mixing, being careful not to over-mix the ECA. Still, I ended up tossing the whole batch and I will never again use ECA in my stuff.
    Auston and Jonathan at Waltons have sort of pushed this ECA as allowing us to move right from stuffing to the smoker without a 12 hour wait for the cure to activate, but it didn’t work for me.
    Good luck,

  • Walton's Employee

    @rodbiggs I would assume that if you were getting any vinegar taste at all you were either using ECA or at least a starter culture? If not then you have some serious issues with the meat block you were using.
    @gadahl We do like ECA, perhaps more than normal people! Its been a while since I have not added it to a Summer Sausage or a Snack Stick. Now, part of that is that we like the cure accelerating properties but, for me at least, it is the added acidic taste that I really enjoy!

  • @rodbiggs - I used ECA for the first time also and had the same problem - tossed it as it almost taste putrid. Will wait for the overnight cure to work from here on out.

  • @gadahl
    I called my local Walton’s store where I purchased the supplies (Wichita, KS) and they told me that some of the lot # were double in the package. But my first batch turned out awesome.

    I’m a little concerned about trying it again

  • I’ve notice that the acidic taste calms down (that’s the only way I know how to describe it) after a couple days in the fridge. I thought I ruined the first batch that I did using ECA after tasting it a couple hours after cooling it down. I was going to throw twenty pounds of summer sausage out but my Dad convinced me not to. Although I did throw it all in a garbage bag before I put in the fridge. A couple days later I tasted the same batch and it was totally different - to me anyway. I did a batch the old way and I like the acidic taste in the sausage and sticks now - use ECA all the time now.

  • Walton's Employee

    @kdub It’s always worth trying to save a batch, or the very least give it away to someone who likes it. If I oversmoked something (it is possible!) then I always let it sit in the fridge for a few days and it tends to calm down a little. When you tried the summer sausage was it still warm? The ECA tends to taste a little, or a lot depending on your sensitivity to it, stronger when it is hot.

  • @Jonathon I tried it after ice bath and sitting at room temp for a couple of hours. I have done that on about every batch I’ve made since and it seems that it tames down after a day or so in the refrigerator. Probably doesn’t make sense from a chemistry view as Ph probably doesn’t change, but from my taste bud’s view that’s what it seems like to me.

  • I’m not a big fan of the acidic taste that ECA creates (I’ve noticed it when I bought summer sausage from the store and never knew what was causing it – I thought the meat had gone bad). So I was glad to find out that I could leave it out and just have to keep the stuffed sausage in the fridge overnight before doing the smoke process the next day.

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  • P

    I do it all the time. Still remember my mom saying it’s not a good idea. I’m sure if you are buying a nice steak and intend it eat it as a grilled T-bone you might notice some flesh cell break down (texture change). If you are going to use it in sausage you will not notice any difference. Made brats last night. Once frozen pork and elk. Refroze the brats. I do it time and time again.

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  • E

    Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
    As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
    I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
    Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
    Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
    I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
    Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.

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  • K


    Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??

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  • K


    Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.

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  • @Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.

    One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.

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