Smoking meats and making sausage is something that I learned from a very young age as this is a family tradition. I am of 100% Czech decent, 50 years old, and from a farming/ranching background and I recall sausage making and meat smoking as a frequent occurrence throughout my life. Hot smoking meats is something that I've done a lot of and I think I'm quite good at it. Cold smoking meats has also been something that I have experience with, but I have come to realize that my family has practiced what most would consider dangerous behaviors in the way we have cold smoked meats..ie. without cure. I have cured and smoked meats before, but I have also done quite a lot of cold smoking of uncured meats, especially sausages. Having learned about the importance of cures in sausages, I'm here to try to connect with cold smokers who might be able to help me learn a little more. I actually still know some people who routinely cold smoke uncured sausage and they've never encountered a problem, but it's something that I wish to get away from as I've gained a healthy fear of uncured meats in the cold smoker. Just last week, I visited a guy who cold smokes many hundreds of pounds of sausage every year which is consumed by his family, friends, and neighbors. I questioned whether he used any cure and when he told me that he does not, I tried to educate him on the need to change his habits, but he insists that he's never had a problem and doesn't feel a need to change a thing. Good luck to him and all his friends!
In recent years, I have started spending several weeks each year in Europe...mostly Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary. I've been fascinated by all of the smoked meats and especially sausages, so I find every opportunity to visit with butchers and sausage makers to discuss their processes. I've learned a lot from them and have a collection of recipes that they have given me that I have either tried or wish to try. One thing that did surprise me about the meats that they eat there is that they will eat some things that I'm quite sure would never be eaten in the US. For instance, in Germany, we eat a popular dish known as Hackepeter. It is nothing but raw ground pork, mixed with salt, pepper, finely chopped onion, and sometimes raw egg yolk. Usually, it is spread on bread and eaten completely uncooked. I like it and I eat it in Germany, but I wold be very reluctant to eat it made from US pork. Another thing they eat is raw smoked sausages. These are simply cured and cold smoked sausages that are consumed absolutely raw. They are not dried; only cold smoked for a short period of time. I have talked with some butchers who make it and they have assured me that it is only cold smoked and not cooked at all. I have told them that serving something like this to customers in the United States would be forbidden and they are shocked that people in the US would be afraid to eat such a thing uncooked. Somehow, I feel confident in eating it there, but I can't see myself eating the same thing here in the US. I would like to be able to reproduce these types of sausages at home and feel safe in eating them, but I want to learn a whole lot more about it before I do so.
I have owned all sorts of hot smoking equipment and have built my own rather large hot smoker that I use to cook a lot of meat. I also have experimented with several different designs for cold smokers, always trying to improve on what I design. When I was young, we would make sausage and then take it all over to the neighboring farm where they had a huge smokehouse. we would simply hang our sausages in there and then come back and get them when they were ready. My attempts at building cold smokers have mostly been quite small, but I've always planned to have a larger smokehouse. Well, just this week, I finally finished what I consider to be a more appropriately sized smokehouse for cold smoking my sausage. It isn't huge, but is quite large enough to do some serious smoking. I've calculated its volume at 320 cubic feet, so I think I finally have the space to get my sausage properly smoked.
I have cure #1 on hand as well as hog casings, seasonings, several hundred pounds of pork and venison, and giant piles of mesquite, pecan, live oak, post oak, apricot, and hickory firewood. I've just been waiting for my smokehouse build to be completed so I can start making some sausage. Now, my only holdup is going to be trying to find a time when I don't have to work and the weather is cooperating. I'm thawing about 40 pounds of meat right now and am going to aim for making a trial run with a batch of sausage on Sunday. The only thing I'm concerned about is that our local temperature is supposed to get up in the upper 70's on Sunday. I'm not sure if this is really a safe temperature for cold smoking. I know that we've always cold smoked sausage (without cure) when the weather is very cool, but I'm understanding that when using cure, the temp can get higher and still be considered safe. I wish I had more details on this from knowledgeable people, so would really like to hear from those who know. Our temperature will probably drop into the 30's Sunday night, so maybe I can wait until late evening to start smoking.
Anyway....that's who I am and this is why I'm here. Looking forward to reading more posts and hoping to connect with some people who know a whole lot about what I'm interested in. Right now, my focus is totally on cold smoking sausage, but after I get this out of my system, I'll certainly be more than willing to share my knowledge on hot smoking with those who might be interested,