Summer sausage fail

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Original poster
Nov 1, 2016
I posted this the other day with my introduction on roll call with no responses. Thinking maybe i,should have put in this section. Any way here was what I posted.
I had a major fail recently with a 10lb batch of summer sausage that had a complete fat out and I'm really confused on why. This batch was fermented using F-LC culture for 24 hr at 90° and approximately 80% humidity. Dried in the smoker at 120° for two hr. Then bump to 135° with smoke for 3 hr. Temp stayed at between 128°-139° for the next 15 hr. That's a total of 20 hr in the smoker. Took the sticks out and temp them they were all right around 120° . went into a hot water bath set at 170° for about 45 min to bring temp up to 152-155° and when I pulled the probe out it was like a waterfall of liquid that came out. Not the thick greasy fat you normally see with a little fat out,this was almost like water. Every one of them did the same thing. I used three different thermometers and they all read the same. I just don't see why or how this could happen with the steps I took. I should say that this was an all beef sausage and the beef I used was from a half we bought about 6 months ago. I had a ton of ground beef left in the freezer so I figured I would just do a batch of summer sausage.I have never done all beef before. This is the only thing that I can think of as to why this happend. Does beef fat render at low temps? Was it the type of fat that's in the ground beef? Could have come from anywhere on the side of beef. And it looks like it's about 70/30 and I figure that should be about perfect for a summer sausage. Anyway maybe someone has an answer or had this same problem.
Welcome to the forum!

SOrry to hear about the SS problems.

Quick question that may help us a bit.  When you went into the 170° bath, where/how were you measuring the temp, and did you agitate the water while the chubs were in the bath?  Did the chubs lay on the bottom of the pot without agitation?  
I did the water bath in an electric roaster. I started it slowly and worked up to the temp. Each time I checked the temp before using a digital thermometer I would stir the water around to make sure heat was even. While the sausage was in there I would kinda move them around every 10 minute or so. They never really sank to the bottom but didn't really float all the way at the top .
I don't know if you have a sous vide unit, but if you do, that is perfect for finishing summer sausage.  It's my go to method now.

I do them in the smoker up to where the meat is in the 145* range.  This give the smoke and sets the meat as it is mostly cooked by then.  Then I vacuum pack the chubs (and usually I'm making extra so they will get vacuum packed at the end, so this is not an extra step).  Then into the sous vide bath set a precise temp of 154* and just let it run for a few hours.  First two times I did this I did check the internal temp, but I found after about an hour it was a rock solid 154* so I don't even bother with checking anymore.  I usually let them run about 3 hours.  No worries about over temp and fat out. Another plus is this also in essence pasteurizes the meat which is an extra level of safety (more a function of time than just the temp). And if you are using ECA, you know it's released into the meat. Then into a ice water bath to complete the process

You don't get a bloom as they are already vacuum packed, but I have not noticed any issues by not letting them air.  Plenty moist (also I use butcher phosphates in my SS instead of NFDM.  I think it gives better results).

So if you have a sous vide, give it a try.  And if you don't have one, put it on your Christmas list as it is a great tool and can do many things!
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I don't have a sous vide but looks pretty awesome! Although I'm not sure that would have fixed the problem I had. I have done a few hundred lb of summer sausage so far and have experienced some fat outs before but nothing like this. When I pulled them out I held one over the sink and sliced the casing lengthwise with a knife. A half cup or better of liquid poured out! I just can't help but think it's the beef I'm using. Never have seen anything like this before. At first I thought the thermometer was off but I checked temps with three different ones and they all read within a couple of degrees. I also use phosphates in my sausage and like the results.
How much water can you heat with a sous vide? Like how big of a vessel? Now that I'm looking at these I might just end up with an early Christmas gift![emoji]128516[/emoji]
My recollection is the tank capacity of the one I have is around 5 gallons.  That being said, I've used it with much larger insulated coolers with no problems.  I think the 4 to 5 gallon rating is for a un-insulated pot or polycarbonate container (they make those containers with cutouts for sous vide units in the top).   I've got several sized coolers and just select the one that best fits what I'm cooking in the sous vide.

I have the original bluetooth Anova Precision Cooker.  My son-in-law has the wifi version.  Truthfully neither of us has used a phone to control ours. Just set it on the dial and then go by time.

Photo is from one of my summer sausage cooks where I finished in the sous vide.  I start with hot tap water which in this instance was still at 119.6 degrees when I took the photo.  Set temp is 154*.  It takes about 10-15 minutes to get up to set point and holds it within 1/10th a degree reliably.  That Coleman "Oscar" cooler is about 35 years old and is a 4 gallon cooler. I like it because it is extra deep for the opening size.

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That looks great! This is something im deffenatly going to look in to. I usually do 10-25 pound batches at a time so im wondering if it would work in a larger cooler. Maybe a dedicated cooler I could cut a hole in the top. Leaving the lid on may help keep the water at temp once it gets there. I mixed up a new batch of SS last night.only did a 5 lb this time and with some beef from the store instead of the beef from the half in the freezer. Fermenting now and into the smoker tonight. I double checked all my thermometers so I know there reading correctly. I just have to find out if the meat was the problem. If it does the same thing I'll have to change something else. Time will tell!
I suggest you use fresh ground unfrozen meat when making sausages.  When ground meat is frozen over long periods of time it will change the texture of the meat and cause it not to bind even with added fat. Adding additional water to the thawed meat will make it even worse.

My 2 cents

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I agree with the fresh meat. I made a small 5lb batch after the fail and it seemed to come out much much better.
looks great........
I'm a little confused. By no means am I an expert sausage maker. But if your making a fermented semi-dry sausage with a starter culture, as well as using nitrite, isn't it the rapid drop in ph during the fermentation stage and then drying that makes the meat safe? Why the need to cook to temp?
I've never finished mine in a water bath.

Could water have gotten through you casings, or through the casing closures?

Did the liquid that came out "almost like water" have a lot of fat in it when it cooled?

Besides fail what was the sausage like?

Turkeysteve yes you are correct. But summer sausage is usually somewhere between a traditional cured and dried sausage such as salami and cured and fully cooked meat. The starter culture drop the ph to help with shelf life and on but mainly used to get that "tang" in the flavor.
Donr the liquid that came out did "set" when it cooled off so I'm sure it was fat. I'm convinced that using the beef I have had in the freezer was the problem. The batch I did with fresh came out fine. On the one that fated out the flavor was fine but texture was horible. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.