- I recommend natural hog casings 32-35mm for brat or keilbasa sized sausages. Natural casings are cheaper and hold their twist better.
- For breakfast sausage links use sheep casings 22-24mm.
- You can use the same sheep casings for snack sticks or use 21mm collagen. I think collagen are the way to go for snack sticks.
- For hot dogs, I would use the largest sheep casings I could find.
- For summer sausage & salami, I would use either beef middle or fiberous. The fiberous are really strong so you can stuff them really full and evenly. They provide a professional look. The beef middles give a more rustic look.
- Natural casings are stored in your refrigerator (some people freeze them, but I don't) in salt. Before using, you soak for 30 minutes or more and rinse (inside & out) to get the salt off. Unused portions can be re-salted and used later. They'll store for at least a year in the refrigerator. To some degree all natural casings have an odor, especially beef casings. This is expected and isn't an issue after cooking/smoking. You can use a bit of vinegar in the soaking water to take some of it out. Some say this also helps with the tough-ness of the casings issue which you referred to in your next question.
- Fiberous you also soak just to make them pliable.
- Collagen do not require soaking.
I've not really had this problem. As I mentioned above, some say that vinegar in your soaking liquid can help with this.
As little pressure as possible to hold the casing on the tube and allow them to slide off the tube easily and stuffed somewhat full, but not taught. If you fill natural casings too full, they will burst. I link after stuffing, so I have to be careful to allow enough give to be able to twist without busting them. Sheep casings are especially thin, so you have to stuff them really loose. Even if you think they are not stuffed enough, twisting the links will tighten them up. You have to get a feel for it.
I don't think that water is added for stuffing, but to help the mixing process and ensure that the seasonings are evenly distributed.
- Keep the meat really cold during the entire grinding, stuffing, & mixing process. When grinding, it is best if the meat is partially frozen. Put the metal parts of your grider in ice water or the freezer prior to grinding too.
- Cut meat into strips that are narrow enough to fit in your grinding tube. Once the auger catches the strip, it will pull it into the grinder on it's own vs. having to push meat chunks in with the plunger.
- Keep the casings out toward the end of the tube when stuffing. I've put about as much casing on a tube that would fit before and as I used 1/2 or more of it, the casing would be all bunched up toward the back of the tube. This causes suction/friction between the casing and the tube and makes it a lot harder for the casing to slide off the tube and cause blow-outs. As you are stuffing, push the casings out toward the end of the tube so they slide off easily.
- If you don't have a dedicated stuffer, get one as soon as you can. They make a huge difference vs. stuffing with your grinder. There is a post on here with info on how to get a 15 lb-er from Gander Mnt. delivered for $150-ish bucks. That's a great deal. For less than $70, you can get a 5 lb-er from Grizley Tools.
- When linking, make two pinches and twist the link in between, then continue by making two more pinches and twist the link in between. In effect, you are twisting every-other link. This way, it doesn't matter which way you twist. If you make one pinch, then twist, you'll have to twist one direction, then the other on the next link and you'll have to remember which direction to go next. This is a pain in the butt and totally unnecessary.
That's about all I can think of now. Good luck! Remember, even your mistakes will most likely taste good!!!