Sausage Making II - Basic Procedures

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    Sausage Making II - Basic Procedures
    by browningbbr

    As noted in my last post, the basic procedures will focus on the most popular types of sausage and will be pretty general in nature. Before I can go into the 'how' of making the products, it's worth spending a few minutes on what we are trying to accomplish.

    The most basic objective of sausage making is to produce a good-tasting, safe-to-eat product with reasonable keeping qualities (shelf life). That's why the notes about cleaning, chilling and quality of ingredients in the previous posts.

    The second objective is to make a product that "holds together" and has a nice appearance. Ever heard the expression that people eat with their eyes? A sausage that has an old-world, professionally made look to it is certainly going to be more appealing that something that turned out like mush.

    This brings us to the first key of making sausage: Making it hold together. Sausage makers call it "bind" and here's some of the background and the key to making it occur...

    Muscle tissue is the part of meat that we call "lean". On a sub-microscopic level, muscle cells are comprised of proteins that slide past each other to contract and move parts of the body. (An analogy of this would be to interlace your fingers and slide them together.) The 2 primary proteins that do this are called "actin" and "myosin".

    The neat thing about actin and myosin is that you can make them work like mortar in a brick wall. Certainly everyone has cut a summer sausage or a salami and seen particles of lean and particles of fat. Well think of the fat as the bricks and the lean as the mortar. The trick is to activate the proteins in the lean meat to hold the fat together (like fresh mortar holds bricks), then get them to "set" by cooking (like mortar holds bricks permanently when it dries). Here's the secret that I learned in my first college meat science class (although I didn't understand it at first)...

    "Maximum extraction of myofibrillar proteins occurs when mechanical action and time are applied in neutral solutions of sodium chloride at 0 degrees Centigrade." What the hell does that mean??!! It's simple: When we make sausages that are to be cooked in a smoke house, we want these things occur in the blending process:
    A - Make sure the meat is COLD. 28-32 F (-1 to +1 C) is perfect
    B - Make sure the water is COLD. Add ice if needed to make sure the meat-salt-water blend is 28-32 degrees. (Always add flake ice, never add cubes.)
    C - Mix the salt with the lean meat and thoroughly dissolve the salt until it makes a true solution
    D - Keep mixing until protein extraction (the lean meat gets very "sticky")is clearly visible.
    E - Hold the blend for 24 hours at 28-32 F to let the salt continue to extract protein.

    If you do this right, you are making the protein glue that holds cooked sausages together. You can prove this yourself the next time you make hamburger patties. Try forming half of the patties from just plain ground beef. Mix about 1% salt (what you would add for taste) into the other half of the ground beef and knead it a bit and form those into patties. Put them all in the refrigerator for an hour. After an hour, pull them out of the refrigerator and try to pull the patties apart. The ones with salt will have a lot more "bind". They will also hold together better on the grill.

    Ok, back to sausage making again.

    GRINDING
    I'm not going to spend a lot of time on meat grinding, but there are a few things to note:
    1 - Make sure knives AND plates are sharp
    2 - Grease knives and plates with lard so they don't burn before the meat gets to them
    3 - Run the plate retaining nut on tight, then back it off 1/4 turn
    4 - ALWAYS GRIND IN 2 STEPS - Make the first grind at 1/2 to 3/8 inch, then the second grind at around 1/8 inch.

    COOKED-SMOKED SAUSAGES
    We want smoked sausages to have some juiciness to them, so we want to put in more water than we we shrink out. Typical shrink in a home smoke house is about 15%, so here's a basic, 100# formula based on that:

    INGREDIENTS
    60# of lean meat
    40# of fatty meat (about 50/50 lean and fat)
    2.75# salt
    22# water (some as ice if needed for temp control)
    1# prague powder
    Spice blend (commerical or home mix)

    PROCEDURE
    1. Grind lean meats 1/2-3/8 inch and put in mixer.
    2. Grind fat meats 1/2-3/8 inch and set aside
    3. Start mixer and add the prague powder. Distribute it well. Keep mixing until it all disappears into the meat.
    4. Keep mixing and add the salt. Distribute it well. As soon as it is distributed, add 15# of water.
    5. Keep mixing until all water is absorbed by the meat, no salt is visible and the meat begins to get "sticky". (You will see sticky strands coming out.)
    6. Add the spice. Keep mixing until it is fully incorporated.
    7. Add the fat meats, keep mixing until the fat is evenly distributed.
    8. Add the last 7 pound of water and mix until it is all absorbed, then stop the mixer.
    9. Clean out the grinder and put in the 1/8 inch grind plate.
    10. Discharge the blend from the mixer and grind it 1/8 inch.
    11. Put the fine-ground blend into plastic tubs and cover it TIGHTLY with plastic. (Tuck it down around the edges.)
    12. Hold in refrigeration (as close to 30 F as you can) for at least 12 hours (24 is ideal) and no more than 72 hours.

    After holding, it's ready to stuff. I'll spend time on stuffing and casings in my next post.

    SEMI-DRY SAUSAGES
    We want semi-dry sausages to lose a lot of water so they become shelf-stable. Therefore, we want to add as little water as possible. Typical shrink in a home smoke house is about 15%, so here's a basic, 100# formula based on that:

    INGREDIENTS
    60# of lean meat
    40# of fatty meat (about 50/50 lean and fat)
    2.50# salt
    2# water for dissolving the bacterial culture
    1# prague powder
    Spice blend (commerical or home mix)
    Bacterial culture

    Before starting the mixing procedures, prepare the bacterial culture exactly per the instructions. I find most dried cultures to be a little "shaky" when it comes to viability, so don't worry about using 50% more than recommended.

    PROCEDURE
    1. Grind lean meats 1/2-3/8 inch and put in mixer.
    2. Grind fat meats 1/2-3/8 inch and set aside
    3. Start mixer and add the prague powder. Distribute it well. Keep mixing until it ALL disappears into the meat.
    4. Keep mixing and add the salt. Distribute it well. Keep mixing until it ALL DISAPPEARS, THEN MIX 1-2 MORE MINUTES.
    5. Keep mixing until the meat begins to get "sticky". (You will see sticky strands coming out.)
    6. Add the spice. Keep mixing until it is fully incorporated.
    7. Add the bacterial culture in solution. Distrubute it evenly.
    9. Add the fat meats, keep mixing until the fat is evenly distributed, then stop the mixer.
    10. Clean out the grinder and put in the 1/8 inch grind plate.
    11. Discharge the blend from the mixer and grind it 1/8 inch.
    12. Put the fine-ground blend into plastic tubs and cover it TIGHTLY with plastic. (Tuck it down around the edges.)
    13. Hold in refrigeration (as close to 30 F as you can) for at least 12 hours (24 is ideal) and no more than 72 hours.

    After holding, it's ready to stuff. I'll spend time on stuffing and casings in my next post. A later post will deal with fermentation and cooking.

    FRESH SAUSAGES
    Forget everything that you just learned about getting sausage to "bind". With fresh sausages like Italian, Polish or breakfast patties, you want them to be loose and fork-cuttable. As a result, the procedures are just about the opposite. Also, fresh sausages are uncured, so no prague powder is needed. Lemon juice has vitamin C and that helps the fresh meat keep its "bloom" (bright red color)

    INGREDIENTS
    60# of lean meat
    40# of fatty meat (about 50/50 lean and fat)
    2.0# salt
    2# flake ice (if you can't get flake ice, use ice water)
    Spice blend (commerical or home mix)
    1oz lemon juice

    1. Grind lean meats 1/2-3/8 inch and put in mixer.
    2. Grind fat meats 1/2-3/8 inch and set aside
    3. Start the mixer and add the spice. Stop mixing as soon as the spice is all incorporated.
    4. Add the ice (or water) and lemon juice and mix until the disappear. Stop the mixer.
    5. Add the fat meat and mix until it is evenly distributed. Stop the mixer.
    6. Clean out the grinder and put in the 1/8 inch grind plate.
    7. Discharge the blend from the mixer and grind it 1/8 inch.

    The blend is now ready to stuff immediately.

    The next post will deal with casing selection, casing preparation and stuffing.


    The author, browningbbr, has a degree in Animal Science from Iowa State University (specialized in meat processing) with minors in Food Science and Food Technology. He has an M.S. in Food Science from Oklahoma State University through the Department of Animal Science, again specialized in meat processing.

    For the last 30 years, he also experimented on the best ways to handle the processing of wild game to get the best quality meat for the table. When in South Africa, he asked a LOT of questions about how meats are processed, handled and prepared there. The hunting outfitter and chef gave him many insights into their procedures. Not suprisingly, the most effective ones matched basic principles of good meat science.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2014

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