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!