Just a note first. I wrote this post with the new sausage folks in mind so it is a bit detailed and has lots of pics.
ShooterRicks Day of Sausage Making
As mentioned last week I planned a day for making Shooters Sicilian Italian and Shooters Attitude Brats. While I had planned on 20 lbs of each after meat prep I realized I only had 37 lbs of pork total. I choose to make 20 lbs of Sicilian and 10 lbs of Beer Brats. The reserved ground pork we will bulk packaged for pork burgers on the grill.
Since we often have those new to sausage making coming to SMF I decided to do a more step by step post heavy with QView. I do not want to say this is the only way to approach sausage but the steps oulined have served me well for hundreds if not thousands of pounds of fresh sausage. Making fresh sausage is the logical place to start if you are new to this hobby since you do not have to concern yourself with cures and such. With that said I want to say a few words about safety issues with making fresh sausage.
1. From beginning to end keep your meat cold. When I say cold I mean semi froze to start. In the bible as we call it by Rytek Kutas, the specific temp range is between 33 and 35 degrees Farenheit. This will inhibit growth of the nasty bugs called bacteria. It will also make it possible to get a cleaner grind without smearing the meat.
2. Keep all work surfaces and equipment clean and I choose to also disinfect. Clorox Wipes are my choice since they are readily available and easy to use. While I am not a complete zelot on the matter I do have other health issues which make it difficult for me to combat infections so I try to be reasonably carefull without becoming paranoid.
3. Not only keep the meat cold but place the working end of your grinder and such in the freezer for a few minuted prior to use. The more you manipulate the product the more heat is generated so work as efficiently as possibe to insue the meat stays cool as long as possible.
4. Keep your hands clean and I choose to wear surgical glove during most of the process as further insurance.
Onward to the fun stuff!
I like preping my meat the night before by cutting it into stips (not Cubes) that will easily feed into my grinder. Doing this makes grinding quicker and I hardly need touch the plunger during the process. I also take this time to grind my spice and prepare my seasoning packs in zip lock bags. I set up my equipment and make sure all is working well so I have no surprises at 7 am or earlier the next morning. I use a stand alone fridge thermo to make sure temps inside near the meat is at the proper level. And yes, there are some fine premixed sausage seasoning packs on the market but part of my enjoyment has always been developing my own recipes and I choose to grind whole spice whenever possible. By purchasing whole spice I can grind what I need and keep the rest in the freezer sealed and fresh for extended periods of time.
The next morning.
Place the assembled grinding head in the freezer while you make and drink a cup of coffee. If at all possible draft the Mrs. to assist. Things go faster with 2 people and if your lucky like I am she will pitch in and help clean up as you go. A nice accessory to have is a foot control for your grinder. It frees up both hands and makes life easier.
Time for the grinding to start. For the sausages above I like to use a larger 3/8 inch grinding plate. When making more than one kind of sausage I like to grind all the meat at once. Move the grinder out of the way and you are ready to carefully weigh the meat. Remember you already prepared your seasong mix for the planned weight last night so no need to worry about that.
This scale is a simple postage electronic scale that will weigh both pounds and kilo to a tenth of a gram accuracy.
For mixing small batches under 20 lbs. mix by hand in a bus tub. They work great and give you plenty of volume to make mixing easy. Surgical gloves are a good precaution and will help with the cold. Today for the first time I decided to use a Weston 20 lb manual mixer. A review of this unit will be posted later but for now lets just say it worked, mixing the meat and seasoning well. I have some issues with it but I will cover all my thoughts on a meat mixer in a later post review.
Time to Stuff into casings.
You can certainly stuff with your grinder and I did for some time. You will also soon discover it is a pain to do so and some sausages like Andouille you cannot get the customary texture correct because you are grinding it through an auger too many times. It is also more wear and tear on what will probably be one of your most expensive investments in the hobby unless you are using a manual grinder. I would recommend a vertical stuffer with a capacity of over 5 lbs. If you have a 5 lb stuffer it will most likely only hold 4 lbs of meat. The 5th lb of the tanks capacity will be taken up by the plunger disk and force you to load twice for a small 5lb batch of sausage. I use a 15 lb vertical stuffer with metal gears. The nylon gears on many stuffers usually have metal replacement gears available if the nylon wears out. The stuffer should be mounted firmly to the work surface. Since I do not have a dedicated area to make sausage I use quick clamps like the grip type. They are made of ABS and likely will not mare most counter tops. If you are married this is a important piece of info!
Load your meat mixture into the stuffer small amounts at a time pressing it down firmly to work air pockets out as best you can. Taking a bit more time at this step will lessen frustration later and minimize air pockets in your cased product. You must use a sterile needle to prick any air pockets in the casings. Air pockets can and will facilitate spoilage sooner. Remember all organic material is subject to spoilage so take the time to do this. I find it easier to stuff one continous link and then go back and prick the air pockets just before linking.
Linking Sausage And Casings.
Calogen casings will not link! They are best (in my opinion) used for snack sticks and such. I prefer natural hog casings if I am going to link the sausage. I buy them in a large package called a Hank for the cost savings. Hog casing are stored in Kosher or Pickleing salt. After opening a package rinse and have some Pickleing salt on hand. Toss in several table spoons and fresh water after pulling out what you need. I then seal the package and store them refridgerated. They will keep just fine this way for a long time. I have stored natural hog casings for up to a year in a very cold fridge with no problems. Sometimes a odor will develop. Drop in a splash of vinegar in the bowl with your rinsed casings and that will help. The odor in no way means they are not good. If they smell soured toss em. Otherwise the odor of hog casings is normal.
As I mentioned you need to rinse the casings well to remove extra salt. I also turn the casings inside out to make a more appealing looking link. Doing this is easier then it sounds by placing the casing over 2 fingers and rotating your hand palm up. Use a small stream water while feeding the casing into the opening and the water flow will pull the casing through itself turning it inside out. Must you do this? NO! If you do not your family and friends may ask why your links have white veins running through them and they may even refuse to eat your wonderful product. With a little practive it becomes second nature and is worth the effort in my opinion.
After stuffing and pricking the air pockets it is time to link. You should link ever other one. In other words link skip one and link the next. Each time twist the link in the opposite direction as the one before. Doing this will help them stay linked. To repeat another way: Measure by eye your first link and second link. Pinch the casing gently to creat the second link and rotate it 3-4 times in one direction. Skip a link and repeat but rotate the link in the opposite direction. Continue until the entire length of sausage is linked.
It is important to let the spices meld before freezing to develop full flavour. Some prefer to do this after mixing before casing. I have found sausage will meld just fine in the casing. To let meld place the product in the fridge for several hours. I prefer overnight in a cold cold fridge 33-35 degrees Farenheit. Use a fridge thermo to confirm your temps.
Once melding is done vac pack if you can and freeze what you wish to store.
There are many ways to skin a cat as Dad always said but I hope you find this info useful. Be safe and have fun!