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First Time Making Sausage, Got Some Questions

tallbm

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As the title suggests, I'm going to make my first attempt at making sausage in the next couple weeks during some time off from work, and I'm a little intimidated, so looking for some help. For equipment, I have a LEM Big Bite #12 grinder and a LEM 5 LB stuffer that I ordered about a year ago and I've never even opened them yet (I know, shame on me, it's been a crazy year but I'm ready to give this sausage making thing a try finally!)

First of all, I want to make sure I'm doing it safely due to the cold smoke requirement, and I understand I need to use a curing salt. I was going to order this pink curing salt, but want to make sure this is the right thing. amazon" style="max-width:120px">

I'm planning to start off small since it's my first time and I have no idea what I'm doing. I want to do 5 pounds of Texas style all beef sausage, and 5 pounds of a jalapeno and cheddar type sausage. I'm wondering if anyone has any good recipees to follow.

For casings, I want to go natural hog and was just going to order these but wondering if there is a better place I should be looking. They're actually slightly cheaper on Amazon than directly through LEM plus free shipping. amazon" style="max-width:120px">

For the Jalapeno and Cheese sausage, I know they make a high temp cheddar cheese for sausage specifically, but I seem to remember seeing a Youtube video with Texas sausage guru Bill Dumas that said he does NOT use that, he uses regular cheddar cheese and feels it makes a better end product. Wondering peoples thoughts on that.

Last, equipment wise, aside from the grinder and stuffer, is there anything else I need? Trying to get all my stuff together now, so that I'm ready to go when the time comes in a couple weeks.

Any help, or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!

1. Don't get those home packs (little plastic bag packs), get a better casing. Buying a "Hank" will cost more and give you a lot more casings but they are the good ones. The little home packs are all the left overs it seems.

2. Casing prep, casing prep, and casing prep!!!! Whether it's bone dry in salt or in a solution if you rinse and soak in water in the fridge for 5-7 days before using (read boykjo's post about this) then you will never have an issue. Doesn't matter if it's home packs, hanks, in solution, not solution, tubed or not. FYI, lamb casings will always be a little bit of a pain the ass being smaller and more delicate but I digress lol.

3. Get more acquainted with the sausage smoking process. If your smoker is going up to a 150F temp or higher you aren't really cold smoking. You may as well keep inching it up to 160F or 170F(as high as you want to go), then you may as well smoke until the sausage meat has an Internal Temp (IT) of 150-153F. They are done at this point.
Throw them on the grill to heat and eat, or smoke them hot at 275F to heat and eat or whatever to heat and eat.
If truly COLD smoking you don't need to apply any heat at all and in fact you want your smoker temp and ambient temps to be no higher then 70F degrees for the whole cold smoke.
Also, I stuff cured sausage, vac seal, freeze, and end up just grilling them all the time rather than taking the time to smoke them. They come out tasting fantastic. They are different than smoked but still fantastic. I do this with Franks all the time.


4. Equipment, get 3 of these meat lugs/totes at least - Academy has the best prices:

Why 3? Tote 1 to catch your ground sausage meat. Then you mix your seasnings by hand, if doing by hand. AVOID BOX MIXING MACHINES!!!! Hand mixing is the way to go for 10 pounds or under. if ever mixing 20 pounds or more and doing like 40-100lbs or sausage total then we can talk other options but know the box mixing machines are a freaking waste of time!!
Tote 2nd you will use to store your sausages as you stuff them. Just stuff in giant coils and NOT TIGHT stuffing. Think like 75-80% casing capacity. You will need to twist and link them and if the casing is stuffed tight you will break it and have blow outs. Plus a really tightly stuffed casting will burst on the grill or in the oven so not maxing it out gives you nothing but benefits for the most part.

Tote 3... do whatever you want in it because the 1st meat tote will need to be washed before reusing. That ground sausage meat makes a mess and you don't want to transfer linked sausage to it. Solution? Have a 3rd clean tote, go wash dirty ground meat tote #1.
Having 3 means 2 are in use while 1 can be washed and/or ready for anything else the sausage stuffing process throws at you :)

To be honest if you plan to do multiple batches at a time it's best to have 4 totes and an empty garage fridge. This way you can grind and mix two batches of sausage into 2 separate totes and they will be full. Tote 3 will be ready to take both stuffed sausage coils and then tote 4 is the spare clean one for whatever you need. I link and then cut the links and place them in my empty tote 4. Then wipe out tote 3, vac seal the links and put the vac seal bags back in tote 3. I then write on/label the vac sealed sausage links and put in the freezer. Total assembly line style! :)

5. A quality vac sealer and pre-cut bags. Buy them pre cut, dont waste time making them. Plus you get more for less money when you buy precut, win-win. A quality vac sealer will run you like $275+. These machines are notorious for crapping out or working for like 2 weeks, 1yr, and then never being able to provide proper suction again. This is one of the best examples in the world of pick a reputable brand and then buy once and cry once about it then live happily ever after haha :)

I think that is it along with all the other great info the guys are giving you. I hope this massive amount of info helps out :)
 

boykjo

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View attachment 518116
This is a home pack I bought from them a couple months ago from my Sportsmans Warehouse. They are in a solution with no visible salt at all. These turn silky pretty fast soaked in water.
I've never seen these casings made by LEM. Looks like they are stepping up their game with a better product. Thanks for sharing.

1. Don't get those home packs (little plastic bag packs), get a better casing. Buying a "Hank" will cost more and give you a lot more casings but they are the good ones. The little home packs are all the left overs it seems.

2. Casing prep, casing prep, and casing prep!!!! Whether it's bone dry in salt or in a solution if you rinse and soak in water in the fridge for 5-7 days before using (read boykjo's post about this) then you will never have an issue. Doesn't matter if it's home packs, hanks, in solution, not solution, tubed or not. FYI, lamb casings will always be a little bit of a pain the ass being smaller and more delicate but I digress lol.

3. Get more acquainted with the sausage smoking process. If your smoker is going up to a 150F temp or higher you aren't really cold smoking. You may as well keep inching it up to 160F or 170F(as high as you want to go), then you may as well smoke until the sausage meat has an Internal Temp (IT) of 150-153F. They are done at this point.
Throw them on the grill to heat and eat, or smoke them hot at 275F to heat and eat or whatever to heat and eat.
If truly COLD smoking you don't need to apply any heat at all and in fact you want your smoker temp and ambient temps to be no higher then 70F degrees for the whole cold smoke.
Also, I stuff cured sausage, vac seal, freeze, and end up just grilling them all the time rather than taking the time to smoke them. They come out tasting fantastic. They are different than smoked but still fantastic. I do this with Franks all the time.


4. Equipment, get 3 of these meat lugs/totes at least - Academy has the best prices:

Why 3? Tote 1 to catch your ground sausage meat. Then you mix your seasnings by hand, if doing by hand. AVOID BOX MIXING MACHINES!!!! Hand mixing is the way to go for 10 pounds or under. if ever mixing 20 pounds or more and doing like 40-100lbs or sausage total then we can talk other options but know the box mixing machines are a freaking waste of time!!
Tote 2nd you will use to store your sausages as you stuff them. Just stuff in giant coils and NOT TIGHT stuffing. Think like 75-80% casing capacity. You will need to twist and link them and if the casing is stuffed tight you will break it and have blow outs. Plus a really tightly stuffed casting will burst on the grill or in the oven so not maxing it out gives you nothing but benefits for the most part.

Tote 3... do whatever you want in it because the 1st meat tote will need to be washed before reusing. That ground sausage meat makes a mess and you don't want to transfer linked sausage to it. Solution? Have a 3rd clean tote, go wash dirty ground meat tote #1.
Having 3 means 2 are in use while 1 can be washed and/or ready for anything else the sausage stuffing process throws at you :)

To be honest if you plan to do multiple batches at a time it's best to have 4 totes and an empty garage fridge. This way you can grind and mix two batches of sausage into 2 separate totes and they will be full. Tote 3 will be ready to take both stuffed sausage coils and then tote 4 is the spare clean one for whatever you need. I link and then cut the links and place them in my empty tote 4. Then wipe out tote 3, vac seal the links and put the vac seal bags back in tote 3. I then write on/label the vac sealed sausage links and put in the freezer. Total assembly line style! :)

5. A quality vac sealer and pre-cut bags. Buy them pre cut, dont waste time making them. Plus you get more for less money when you buy precut, win-win. A quality vac sealer will run you like $275+. These machines are notorious for crapping out or working for like 2 weeks, 1yr, and then never being able to provide proper suction again. This is one of the best examples in the world of pick a reputable brand and then buy once and cry once about it then live happily ever after haha :)

I think that is it along with all the other great info the guys are giving you. I hope this massive amount of info helps out :)
Great advise.............. :emoji_thumbsup:

Boykjo
 

JckDanls 07

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The only other things I can add is a can or 2 of food grade silicone for spraying grinder plates and blade.. also to spray the o-ring and inside the canister of the stuffer ...

Also I would get a pack of assorted bottle brushes to help with clean-up ..
 

Boise Elkhorn

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So, I thought I would try sausage as well. Plan on hot smoke since I have an upright charcoal smoker. bought the pink salt and LEM casing from Amazon.
I've read a lot of do's and don'ts over the years on a variety of subjects and found that even the cheap crap will work if you are willing to take a little more time.
Yes, it's convenient to be able to work in 50# batches with an electric stuffer; I tend to do the low and slow by hand method.
I bake bread and brew my beer the same way.
I'll post photos and let you know how it all turns out.
 

kevin james

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1. Don't get those home packs (little plastic bag packs), get a better casing. Buying a "Hank" will cost more and give you a lot more casings but they are the good ones. The little home packs are all the left overs it seems.

2. Casing prep, casing prep, and casing prep!!!! Whether it's bone dry in salt or in a solution if you rinse and soak in water in the fridge for 5-7 days before using (read boykjo's post about this) then you will never have an issue. Doesn't matter if it's home packs, hanks, in solution, not solution, tubed or not. FYI, lamb casings will always be a little bit of a pain the ass being smaller and more delicate but I digress lol.

3. Get more acquainted with the sausage smoking process. If your smoker is going up to a 150F temp or higher you aren't really cold smoking. You may as well keep inching it up to 160F or 170F(as high as you want to go), then you may as well smoke until the sausage meat has an Internal Temp (IT) of 150-153F. They are done at this point.
Throw them on the grill to heat and eat, or smoke them hot at 275F to heat and eat or whatever to heat and eat.
If truly COLD smoking you don't need to apply any heat at all and in fact you want your smoker temp and ambient temps to be no higher then 70F degrees for the whole cold smoke.
Also, I stuff cured sausage, vac seal, freeze, and end up just grilling them all the time rather than taking the time to smoke them. They come out tasting fantastic. They are different than smoked but still fantastic. I do this with Franks all the time.


4. Equipment, get 3 of these meat lugs/totes at least - Academy has the best prices:

Why 3? Tote 1 to catch your ground sausage meat. Then you mix your seasnings by hand, if doing by hand. AVOID BOX MIXING MACHINES!!!! Hand mixing is the way to go for 10 pounds or under. if ever mixing 20 pounds or more and doing like 40-100lbs or sausage total then we can talk other options but know the box mixing machines are a freaking waste of time!!
Tote 2nd you will use to store your sausages as you stuff them. Just stuff in giant coils and NOT TIGHT stuffing. Think like 75-80% casing capacity. You will need to twist and link them and if the casing is stuffed tight you will break it and have blow outs. Plus a really tightly stuffed casting will burst on the grill or in the oven so not maxing it out gives you nothing but benefits for the most part.

Tote 3... do whatever you want in it because the 1st meat tote will need to be washed before reusing. That ground sausage meat makes a mess and you don't want to transfer linked sausage to it. Solution? Have a 3rd clean tote, go wash dirty ground meat tote #1.
Having 3 means 2 are in use while 1 can be washed and/or ready for anything else the sausage stuffing process throws at you :)

To be honest if you plan to do multiple batches at a time it's best to have 4 totes and an empty garage fridge. This way you can grind and mix two batches of sausage into 2 separate totes and they will be full. Tote 3 will be ready to take both stuffed sausage coils and then tote 4 is the spare clean one for whatever you need. I link and then cut the links and place them in my empty tote 4. Then wipe out tote 3, vac seal the links and put the vac seal bags back in tote 3. I then write on/label the vac sealed sausage links and put in the freezer. Total assembly line style! :)

5. A quality vac sealer and pre-cut bags. Buy them pre cut, dont waste time making them. Plus you get more for less money when you buy precut, win-win. A quality vac sealer will run you like $275+. These machines are notorious for crapping out or working for like 2 weeks, 1yr, and then never being able to provide proper suction again. This is one of the best examples in the world of pick a reputable brand and then buy once and cry once about it then live happily ever after haha :)

I think that is it along with all the other great info the guys are giving you. I hope this massive amount of info helps out :)
Definitely helpful, thanks so much! I have a good vac sealer so good to go there. I have the VacMaster Pro 360 which I bought a little over a year ago or year and a half... something like that. It's been great so far!
 

tallbm

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Definitely helpful, thanks so much! I have a good vac sealer so good to go there. I have the VacMaster Pro 360 which I bought a little over a year ago or year and a half... something like that. It's been great so far!
That vac sealer is one of the brands and models that people have verified as being good. You are all set on that end.
Meat totes is probably the next thing for you. When you start getting into mixing 15-20 pound loads and doing like 80-100lbs then we can talk about the best approach for mixing. In short its a 1/2 chuck corded like 10-12amp drill, a longer sheet rock mud mixer "paddle" and a cooler. Think of it like a big kitchen mixer hahaha.
 

kevin james

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A couple more questions for you guys.

I found the Insta Cure #1 5 lb. jar for $16.25 at The Sausage Maker and will be getting that.

I also looked at casings, but there are so many options just for natural hog casings, different sizes, tubed vs. not tubed I'm honestly not sure what to get and was hoping you guys could point me in the right direction with a link.

Last, I really like the 7" meat lugs that were mentioned by tallbm, unfortunately they are from Acadamy, who will not ship to me since I'm in California. I did a search but couldn't find anything similar anywhere that was in the same price range, so looking for recommendations or links for that too.
 

tallbm

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A couple more questions for you guys.

I found the Insta Cure #1 5 lb. jar for $16.25 at The Sausage Maker and will be getting that.

I also looked at casings, but there are so many options just for natural hog casings, different sizes, tubed vs. not tubed I'm honestly not sure what to get and was hoping you guys could point me in the right direction with a link.

Last, I really like the 7" meat lugs that were mentioned by tallbm, unfortunately they are from Acadamy, who will not ship to me since I'm in California. I did a search but couldn't find anything similar anywhere that was in the same price range, so looking for recommendations or links for that too.
Bass Pro will have meat lugs/totes and are located in California:

They have 5 inch and 7 inch version, 7 inch is $12.99, not terrible on price plus if you have a Bass Pro nearby you can likely go look at both of them and see how large they are. I would still go for the 7 inch but lets say you only have a smaller fridge that could hold the 5inch but not the 7 inch, well that may make the decision for you. Yep you will put these in the fridge full of meat while you are making sausage and/or if you want to be done for a few hours or until the next day. Keeping everything refrigerated for proper food practices is important so plan on being able to put 1 or 2 of these in a fridge :)

As for hog casings, I would suggest you go 32-35mm size.
This is good so you don't have too small but not too large. Also you don't always want to stuff them super tight because they bust upon making links or when you grill them. A little less full will never hurt and they will plump without bursting when you reheat or grill them :)
I say this in case you want a smaller diameter just fill a little less tightly.

Now I personally get tubed casings. They are almost fool proof and way faster to work with.
Know that when I do sausage I usually do like 100lbs+ at a time and 2 sometimes 3 different kinds with very limited help, so.... EVERY bit of time I can save matters or I'll be at it for days. (I process like 7-14 animals usually when I make sausage so lots of other steps involved and time matters greatly).

If you have the money I would say get 1 order of tubed at 32-35mm (does like 50lbs) and 1 hank of 32-35mm (box pack and does 95lbs).

You can learn what works best for you and make a ton of sausage while learning.

Either way you will want to follow boykjo's casing prepping practices. If you do that you should be fine with either approach, tubed/not-tubed. I've got both loose castings and tubed right now.

If you REALLY love saving time the cellulose (plastic) casings make skinless dogs and OMG they are so fast and easy to work with BUT you basically have to stuff and smoke em the same day or be able to put them in a meat tote in the fridge and smoke em the next day.
You can't link, cut, and vac seal uncooked sausage when using the cellulose casings. You CAN when using natural casings.

Like everything there are trade offs, but I think this will get you going :)
 

tallbm

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kevin james kevin james something just crossed my mind. Are you planning to make loose breakfast or italian sausage?

If so we should talk about 1 pound poly bags, bag sealing tool, and bag seal tape.

It just occurred to me to bring that up :)
 

kevin james

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kevin james kevin james something just crossed my mind. Are you planning to make loose breakfast or italian sausage?

If so we should talk about 1 pound poly bags, bag sealing tool, and bag seal tape.

It just occurred to me to bring that up :)
I'm Italian, so yes, eventually I do plan on making Italian sausage. I may make some breakfast sausage at some point, I guess there is no limit to what I might eventually get into, but to start, I am really focusing on BBQ style, and more specifically Texas BBQ style sausage.

In response to your last post I'll check out the tubs at Bass Pro Shops. My local store is out of stock on the 7", but they have the 5" in stock and now that you mention putting them in the fridge the 5" may be better. I do plan on getting a second fridge for the garage so if I can make room for the 7" I can always buy those later I guess.

I'll try the tubed casings based on your recommendation.
 

tallbm

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I'm Italian, so yes, eventually I do plan on making Italian sausage. I may make some breakfast sausage at some point, I guess there is no limit to what I might eventually get into, but to start, I am really focusing on BBQ style, and more specifically Texas BBQ style sausage.

In response to your last post I'll check out the tubs at Bass Pro Shops. My local store is out of stock on the 7", but they have the 5" in stock and now that you mention putting them in the fridge the 5" may be better. I do plan on getting a second fridge for the garage so if I can make room for the 7" I can always buy those later I guess.

I'll try the tubed casings based on your recommendation.
I think you will be set with those 5" tubs. It's almost like you can never have enough so if you have to start with three 5" and then get two are three 7" tubs you can always find uses for them. I even brine and cure in them for chicken parts and briskets and such. When I break down a turkey I put my cutting board in the bottom of one and break down the turkeys and it contains the mess. They are super helpful!

If you want a Texas Hot Link/Hot Gut sausage I have ya covered here!

The Texas sausage I think you are looking to make is closer to a kielbasa or a Czech klobasy.
Either way I think the secret is more garlic and some beef. Add dehydrated jalapeno for one with more flavor and a little kick. I LOVE TX smoked bbq sausage and its surprising how so much of the rest of the country eats no sausage. Hell most Texans don't realize that most of the country only smokes bbq pork and not really any beef. No beef... that's blasphemy for us hahaha.

Being born and raised in TX I may be able to give you some real life input on anything like that but know that everyone is still going to do it all a little different :)
 

kevin james

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Made my first attempt at sausage this weekend! I got my tubed casings, and went and picked up the meat lugs at Bass Pro Shop on Friday. Unfortunately the forecast was heavy rain all weekend through this Thursday so I wasn't going to smoke anything, and decided based on that that I didn't want to waste my brisket trimmings I've been saving up, but the grocery store had a good deal on some 73/27 Ground Beef for $2.99/lb so I picked up 6 pounds to use for my first test run.

I started out with Chud's beef sausage recipe from this video:

I also made myself an Excel spreadsheet based on the recipe that automatically calculates the amounts of each spice in grams depending on how much meat, so all I have to do is put how many pounds of meat and it converts that to grams and then tells me how many grams of each ingredient to add.

Made a about 1/2 pound of Chud's original recipe and fried up a patty to taste test, then another 1/2 pound tweaking the recipe a little to my taste. Then I made 5 lbs from there.

I was surprised that casing it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be and the whole process went relatively smoothly for my very first attempt. I only had two small blowouts, one while casing getting the feel for it, and the other while linking it. But I feel like I know what I did wrong that caused each of those blow outs so I'm pretty happy with myself. Next time I will break out my LEM #12 grinder and use my brisket trimmings, and try double smoking them as in Chud's video above.

I just need to make a couple more small tweaks to the recipe, and for now I'm going to stick with the the beef sausage until I get it 100% dialed in, then I'll attempt the Jalapeno Cheddar and do the same until I get that one dialed.

I can already tell this is going to be an addicting hobby!!! I was a little worried that my stuffer was too small at 5 lbs., but now I'm thinking it's perfect for now because I don't want to make huge batches while I'm dialing my recipes in, and also the bigger the batch the less often I need to make more, which is counter productive to getting good at it which requires repetition. Once I've got some experience under my belt and decide to do larger batches I may upgrade to a bigger stuffer, but for now I think this 5lber is perfect for me.

Here's a pic of the finished links. The 5 lb's yielded about 16 6" links.
All-Beef-Sausage.jpg
 

tallbm

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Made my first attempt at sausage this weekend! I got my tubed casings, and went and picked up the meat lugs at Bass Pro Shop on Friday. Unfortunately the forecast was heavy rain all weekend through this Thursday so I wasn't going to smoke anything, and decided based on that that I didn't want to waste my brisket trimmings I've been saving up, but the grocery store had a good deal on some 73/27 Ground Beef for $2.99/lb so I picked up 6 pounds to use for my first test run.

I started out with Chud's beef sausage recipe from this video:

I also made myself an Excel spreadsheet based on the recipe that automatically calculates the amounts of each spice in grams depending on how much meat, so all I have to do is put how many pounds of meat and it converts that to grams and then tells me how many grams of each ingredient to add.

Made a about 1/2 pound of Chud's original recipe and fried up a patty to taste test, then another 1/2 pound tweaking the recipe a little to my taste. Then I made 5 lbs from there.

I was surprised that casing it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be and the whole process went relatively smoothly for my very first attempt. I only had two small blowouts, one while casing getting the feel for it, and the other while linking it. But I feel like I know what I did wrong that caused each of those blow outs so I'm pretty happy with myself. Next time I will break out my LEM #12 grinder and use my brisket trimmings, and try double smoking them as in Chud's video above.

I just need to make a couple more small tweaks to the recipe, and for now I'm going to stick with the the beef sausage until I get it 100% dialed in, then I'll attempt the Jalapeno Cheddar and do the same until I get that one dialed.

I can already tell this is going to be an addicting hobby!!! I was a little worried that my stuffer was too small at 5 lbs., but now I'm thinking it's perfect for now because I don't want to make huge batches while I'm dialing my recipes in, and also the bigger the batch the less often I need to make more, which is counter productive to getting good at it which requires repetition. Once I've got some experience under my belt and decide to do larger batches I may upgrade to a bigger stuffer, but for now I think this 5lber is perfect for me.

Here's a pic of the finished links. The 5 lb's yielded about 16 6" links.
View attachment 519028
Man that's nice work! It sounds like all your prep paid off.
Yeah roll with the 5 pounder until you figure out what you want to do later. Then you can go big so you can do like 20lbs at a time and do like 2-3 different types and be stocked up with linked and vac sealed sausages ready to smoke or grill at will.

Also keeping the 5 pounder is always good for small batches or doing sticks. My big stuffer is a 2 person operation and no way I can imagine doing sticks with it.

You are well on your way man, congrats! :)
 

kevin james

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Nice work......... They look great.

Boykjo
I'll 2nd what Joe said... great job for a virgin ...
Man that's nice work! It sounds like all your prep paid off.
Yeah roll with the 5 pounder until you figure out what you want to do later. Then you can go big so you can do like 20lbs at a time and do like 2-3 different types and be stocked up with linked and vac sealed sausages ready to smoke or grill at will.

Also keeping the 5 pounder is always good for small batches or doing sticks. My big stuffer is a 2 person operation and no way I can imagine doing sticks with it.

You are well on your way man, congrats! :)
Thanks guys! I greatly appreciate all the help from everyone. I'll be honest, I was a little intimidated about this whole thing at first, but now that I have my first batch in the books I see it's not bad at all and I'm feeling pretty confident. And with some practice things will only get better!
 

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