I thought I would open up some areas for specific ?s. If you have a particular subject area that should be included please pm me.
Nitrates-Nitrites. A specific thread under sausage is the inspiration for this ? I would like someone other than myself for the new folks to elaborate on the importance of these products in cured meats to be slow-cold smoked. This has come up often and the controversy created by those who rely on antidotal evidence to support their position can be dangerous to the new comers to the forum.
Meat that we have available is by industry standard and by USDA Inspection...Wholesome...Meaning, if Stored, Handled and Cooked properly is Safe to eat and not cause illness....This meat is not however STERILE...At any point in the process Bacterial Contamination from the Digestive Tract of the Animal or Poor Personal Hygiene and/or Bathroom Habits by Employees can happen!...When we take that big Brisket or Pork Butt and stick it in a Smoker...We heat the Exterior of the meat above 140*F killing the most Harmful of the bacteria...E-Coli-0157, Salmonella and ACTIVE Clostridium Botulinum ( bug that causes Botulism)...These Bacteria are only on the exterior of Intact Muscle...Meaning NO Injection used to push the Nasties inside...Now moving on to Sausage...
When we take this meat, we ALWAYS ASSUME IT'S CONTAMINATED!...And Grind it to make Sausage, we MIX all the Bacteria INTO and Through Out The Meat...Since Bacteria multiply Rapidly between 40* and 140*F (The Danger Zone) we need to keep it Cold or Cook it...If we have made Fresh Sausage, Breakfast, Bratwurst, Italian...We will Cook it at a temperature 400+*F for a Short Time, 1 hour or Less, and Get the ENTIRE Sausage above 165*F Guaranteeing destruction of that Bacteria...NO Worries...
A common method to extend the Shelf Life and add Flavor to Sausage is Curing and Smoking...For generations this was done in a families back yard and Kitchen...The Hog was Carefully Butchered, all meat Washed,Ground, Salted and Seasoned, Stuffed into Casings and into the Smoke House it went for a long Smoke at various Temperatures depending on the Maker...While this was good there was STILL issues with Foodborne Illness and length of Storage time...Enter the discovery of Potassium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite (Two different Chemicals...Not interchangeable)...
These Naturally Occurring Salts have the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in a manner that is Superior to common Salt, Sodium Chloride. Yes NITRATES once converted by bacteria to NITRITES are more Toxic than Chlorides but THAT"S THE POINT!....It is bad for Bacteria! In addition Nitrites affect the Myoglobin in Meat giving the much more appetizing Rosy Red color...
The addition of Sodium Nitrite to Cured Smoked sausage allows us to COLD Smoke the Sausage at temperatures, typically, between 70 and 130*F, Dead within the Danger Zone of 40* to 140*F, where Bacteria Thrive and Aggressively Multiply....This Cold Smoking allows the slow infusion of the Antibacterial Properties of Smoke along with Great Flavor that CAN NOT be achieved at Higher Temperatures...While the use of NITRITES extends the storage of Sausage from Days to Weeks...It is still no solution to LONG term storage, Months or Years...Without Refrigeration...
Sodium NITRATE is used to fill the need for Long term Preservation...When applied in very specific amounts, and under optimum conditions...55*F and 70-80% relative Humidity...Sodium Nitrate combines with active, but non-harmful Bacteria to form Sodium Nitrite and thus allows Long Term Drying and Storage of Sausage at 55* to 80+*F, Room Temperature...The most important thing that necessitated the use of NITRITE is its ability to kill or inhibit the activation of the Dormant Spores of Clostridium Botulinum...This bacteria if left unchecked Grows rapidly and gives off a Neurotoxin that causes the debilitating or Deadly Botulism...Once this Toxin is Formed...Only heating the meat above 220*F can destroy the Toxin but the meat would be burnt...Long Term Dry Curing of Sausage without NITRATE is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!!!
In summation...ASSUME ALL SAUSAGE CONTAINS HARMFUL BACTERIA!...Keep meat and Processing Equipment COLD at all time...Maintain Sanitary Conditions avoiding Cross contamination and Clean as you go with a disinfecting solution of 1-2TBS Bleach per Gallon of Water...and Sausages made with Common SALT can be Cooked or Smoked at temperatures that will get the entire Sausage above 145-165*F in UNDER 4 hours...Typically 200* to 400*F....If you wish to make CURED Smoked Sausage with intense Smokey flavor and Rosy Color...SODIUM NITITE is the ONLY SAFE way to go with the intention of COLD Smoking for long periods of time, 4-24 hours...At Temperatures below 190*F....Lastly DRY CURED Sausage, Smoked or otherwise...MUST Have the addition of SODIUM NITRATE to the Cure to Guard against the development of Clostridium Botulinum Spores becoming living Bacteria that can cause Botulism and KILL YOU!
This is a great read on the subject of Nitrates and Nitrites...BE SAFE!...JJ
That is an excellent link, JJ. In fact that is a fascinating site.
I would note that they say that any smoked sausage must have cure. That is because they define smoking as cold smoking. The hot smoking we do much of the time is considered BBQ on that site and not smoking.
Good luck and good smoking.
That is an awesome explanation, Jimmy !!!
All the little things I have learned along this road, all wrapped into a nice, easy to understand package.
You have become a huge asset to this forum !!!!
Thank You So Much!!!