I started this project on Monday, you can view the first day's work here:
Today, Friday September 10, 2010 I am finishing my first fermented sausage project. Rytek Kutas's Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing, 4th Edition: Cervelat Summer Sausage, pg 359. Today I re-ground the 25 lb of meat in my grinder using the small die. The meat got stuffed into fibrous casings, hung to dry, then popped in the smoker for several hours. After, the sausages were transferred to my bathroom for a quick shower to cool down. The pictures below are a step-by-step for that piece. I cannot wait to slice into them tomorrow morning once they have chilled in the fridge overnight. EDIT: Updates are in purple. (edited 9/11/10 10:30 a.m. EST)
I had a heck of a lot of fun today.
It seems odd to call this a "Day Two" post when I really feel like this has been going on for over a week. OH WAIT! It has! This is the second day of real work though, and yes... I had some "fail" as well as some "success."
To start things off right today, I moved the tub from the fridge (where it had been since Monday) into the freezer. Whenever you are using a grinder, it pays to have your meat be super cold, even a little icy. I could not help but peek at it. It looked mostly still bright pink, very fresh. Smelled pleasantly sour, almost tangy. Happy with that, I went downstairs and began to prep and sanitize my workspace.
I knew that the handful of cute hooks that came with my smoker would not be nearly enough to hold all this meat, so I grabbed 6 feet of 1.5" dowel rod and cut it to 14.5" lengths. Later, as you will see, I wrapped them in foil. These smokesticks will be holding my meat for the rest of the day.
I also needed to start soaking my casings. Flat fibrous casings need to be pre-soaked for at least 30 minutes before you use them. I had 20 mahogany ones from Cabela's. They stated it was enough to do 25 pounds of meat. I cannot see how that's even remotely possible, if you leave yourself enough tail to tie off. (More on that later)
One of the really nice things about Cabela's casings (and LEM casings as well) is that the top is already snugly tied into a loop. This is a huge time saver and helps reduce the risk that your sausage will slide off the smokestick as it hangs.
I did end up needing more casings. To make a long story short, I got about a pound in each one. Thankfully, I live literally four blocks away from a Rural King and was able to purchase a small package of LEM casings, in the same size, so I soaked a few of those too. They look strange to me because they are clear. It ended up being AWESOME though, because the clear really lets you see the dramatic color change that smoking caused.
So... meat is in the freezer. Casings are soaking. Time to sanitize the workspace and haul out the equipment.
This is the first time I get to show off my stuffer!! I have a 5lb Grizzly. As you can see, the base is bolted to the countertop. I have used this stuffer more than I ever thought I would and I adore it. If you are even remotely serious about sausage, you really need a stuffer. Using a grinder's "stuffer attachment" cannot even compare.
Using boykjo's suggestion, I tried fitting a different tray under the output of the grinder. Looks like the disposable aluminum will be perfect! I can grind right into it, slide it over and drop the meat into the stuffer easy.
At this point, I am almost ready to get the meat. I decided to bring it down in roughly 6 pound batches, leaving the remainder in the freezer. I did not want the bulk of it sitting around getting warm as I processed each part. So the first pile of meat came down:
Went into the grinder, which was fitted with the smallest die I own:
And then that mix was packed tightly into the stuffer. You want to try to make sure there are as few air pockets as possible. So go slow. Put a bit in. Tamp it down, add more. Tamp it down. Etc. You can tell the meat is cold, as the outside of the stuffer began to frost up.
To stuff a fibrous casing, begin by sliding the whole casing over the end of the stuffer horn. If you've soaked it long enough, it will be very flexible.
While holding the sausage snug onto the horn, turn the crank on the stuffer, slowly. You want the sausage casing to fill itself, pushing itself along the counter as it gets full of sausage mix. Let it slide off the horn, but keep a snug grip. The goal here is NO AIR POCKETS.
You need to leave enough tail on the sausage to twist it and tie it or seal it.
The picture below shows an okay representation of how to properly tie a hanging sausage. I did some of them this way. Long about sausage 10 or 12, I got bored and just tied 'em regular. Then (when I had to run to Rural King to get more casings) I got some hog rings and clipped the rest. I'm not sure I like the hog rings, it hurt my hands to use the pliers. If I do another big sausage project like this, I may need some advice. Honestly, closing the sausages took more time than anything else.
I apparently forgot to include the picture of the "properly tied" sausage. I think if I were hanging for a long time (or if I had not heard the AWESOME hint of using twist ties) I'd care more about this, but for now I am only including this pic for completions sake:
The clear sausages fill the same way, I'm just including a picture here so you can see the color. My Husband remarked that it looked like I was filling Meat Balloons.
I repeated this process twenty-five times. Grind it, pack it, stuff it, tie it, hang it.
First there was one:
Then there were five:
Then there were twenty. The last five went into the clear casings. And so they hung for a bit, following the original recipie. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the grinder and prep area, got everything soaking in bleach and/or into the dishwasher and set up the smoker outside with some good hickory chunks.
I had to creatively stagger them to fit them all in. You can see the clear casings hanging in the front of the smoker.
This is just a close up of the stagger. The very center sausage was the one that got the temperature probe inserted into it.
I followed the instructions for smoke, time & temperature as written in the original recipie. Mid-smoke I paused to check color and add more wood. They were coloring up nicely.
I took the sausages to an internal temp of 155 (ten degrees higher than the recipie reccomended) just to make myself a little more comfortable. I then moved the smokesticks of sausage to my bathroom to prep them for a nice cold shower. You can really see here how DARK those clear cased sausages got! They are the rack in the back. You'll also see that the probe is still in the meat. I need to shower them down to an internal of at least 120.
Blasted them with cold water for about ten minutes or so. I got them to 115 then let them hang just a bit more to dry out and get that nice bloom of color. I did notice as I packed them away into the fridge that I have a few with "smokestripes" from where they were too close together in the smoke house. I'm not concerned, it's not like I am selling them, so the aesthetics doesn't bug me.
And that's all there is tonight, folks!! I slice into them tomorrow after they spend the night in the fridge, so when I do, I'll snap one last pic and add it here as an edit.
Aaaand the first slice. I decided to eat the one that had the probe in it first, just because it was already punctured.
The texture was just about perfect. Slicing into it felt like I was slicing into any summer sausage.
The color seemed just about what I was looking for too. That meaty reddish smoky look:
Then I took my first bite. Yummm... I am really happy with how it turned out.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Edited by Princess - 9/11/10 at 7:30am