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Old stuffers lament....

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Yes, old but young at heart and a neophyte sausage maker - probably have made less than 50 pounds since buying my WSM a year ago. At the outset I gleaned all the information I could from this board, Rytek Kutas' book, and the Stanley & Adam Marianski book. Have learned enough to quit chasing the "ultimate sausage recipe" and have created my own. The wife and I like the taste, and that's the important thing - if friends don't like it, that leaves more for us! <G>


The problem we are having is the tough casings! I have used casings from three different sources, the last being from the Syracuse Casing Company. I have tried several procedures in preparing the casings, the last one was to wash the casings in warm water 3 times a day for 3 consecutive days before stuffing. I have also used a cap full of vinegar in the rinse water. I have experimented with stuffing so tight that I experience blowouts, now feel that I am stuffing properly, but still experience very tough casings.


Have experimented with drying and smoking temperatures - have settled on 130 degrees F without smoke to dry the casings before applying smoke. I have followed the general rule of starting at 130 degrees, increasing 10 degrees every hour until 180 degrees. Have used different woods to determine what effect that has. Have used a water pan to increase the humidity in the cooker (low humidity in Arizona desert) and that doesn't seem to make any difference. I am confident in my ability to control temps on the WSM, and never go over 180 degrees even though food temps seem to stall for a long, long period at 140 degrees.


I have also pulled sausages at 140 degrees internal temperature, and placed in the kitchen oven at 170 degrees in order to obtain the desired 154 degrees internal temperature. Have also used a turkey roaster at 160 degrees water temperature, and the only change was that the smoke aroma dissipated - the casings were still tough!


Don't want to give up making my own sausage, but am really whipped on the tough casing situation. Hopefully one of you experts here can tell me what I'm doing wrong - probably something simple that I am overlooking - and provide some advice. Thank you very much!      

post #2 of 6

RedT, I'm new at making sausage but I'm wondering what type of casing you are using?      Hog, sheep or collagen?     In my limited experience, collagen casing produce a tougher casing than hog or sheep casing.     Lot of experienced sausage makers here and I'm sure one of them will be here shortly to give some advice and help you.

post #3 of 6

Wow, there are as many ideas on making sausages as there are on smoking.


First I highly recommend that you read Boykjo's thread in the sausage forum on casing care.


I can only tell you what I do. Very first thing I do is pull from the hank the casing I believe I'll need, +1.

Then before I put them in a bowl of water to soak, I wash them out. This accomplishes numerous things. It shows me any holes in the casing, it rinses out the inside of the casings (salt if nothing else), and it gets all the kinks and turns out of the casings. Sure they slightly expand also. 


Then they set in the water in the reefer for 24 hours and have had 'em in as long as a week ( 'course then the casings become so tender they blew out a lot and expanded a lot also).


From then own they are covered in water until I stuff them.


Vinegar, I have heard it softens the casing, but so does just leaving 'em in the water. I more believe that the vinegar is for smell. AND if my casings smell, I will throw them away. Casing normally last me up to 2+ years. I keep 'em damp and salted.


I use water to mix my cure and its the last thing I add before stuffing, making the stuffing a more fluid medium, easier to stuff. 


Then I allow the sausages to set overnight in the reefer to let the cure marry with the meat and the dehydration of the reefer do its duty on the casing. This drys the casing some, looking for a sanp when biten right?


Then I smoke. using the first 45 mins to and hour to dewater the sausages. Wet skins doesn't hold smoke well.


Afterward, I water bathe so my sausage so they stay plump and juicy on the inside and they are completely cooked and safe, I hope.


I dry again over night in the reefer, love that dehydration.


Then I smoke again. That's right double smoke. It adds back what you lost while cooking (boiling in the roaster), plus much more. 


Back to the reefer, and they are done. My sausage and andouile casings are dry, crackly, and paper thin. Tear just like paper when over stressed. Everyone loves the double smoke.


That's how I like my casings.


My last batch a couple a weeks ago.



I hope something helped the light above your head to come on. If not Boykjo is pretty knowledgeable.


I hope you find what you are looking for.


Oh and BTW I use 'Butchers and Packers' natural casings.

Edited by Foamheart - 2/27/16 at 7:13pm
post #4 of 6
I really think it comes down to humidity, air flow and the amount of time under these conditions.
I never had issues until I started burning pellets in the electric MES. The pellets required a lot of air intake that I think causes the casings to dry out, which is why you need the humidity. and the longer you leave them in the smoker the dryer they'll get, just like jerky. For me it only happens in the winter which is when our humidity is pretty low like yours. This winter I switched back to burning dust and closing the intake damper way down and haven't had a problem.
You also might consider starting your drying stage at 100°-110° for an hour if your smoker lets you, and keep the max temp under 170°-175°

I hope to do some experiments with humidity soon, FWIW, I've read that you want 60% while reddening , 80% during smoking and finish cooking them off at 100%

Don't give up yet, We'll figure it out.
post #5 of 6
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thank you DanMcG and Foamheart for the info and encouragement. I haven't given up! 


Foamheart, with the exception of the double smoke, I have used the same process as you outlined in handling the casings. No luck. Have read and reread Boykjo's well detailed instructions several times, and can't determine where I am making the mistakes. BUT, I will continue, and my next step is to visit with a local meat market butcher, purchase some "fresh" casings and see if I can pick his brain with regard to casings. 


Thanks again for your advice, the meat tases good, now all I have to do is get it right with the casings!  <G>  

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