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«EB1661 HOMEMADE MEAT, POULTRY, AND GAME SAUSAGES Jan R. Busboom and Ray A. Field F or thousands of years, people have prepared meat products similar ...»

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Jan R. Busboom and Ray A. Field


or thousands of years, people have prepared meat products similar to today’s sausage.

Homer spoke glowingly of sausage in the Odyssey, saying it was a favorite food of the

Greeks. Roman festive occasions were considered incomplete without it. Marco Polo’s

spice quest (1271–1275) and Christopher Columbus’s voyage (1492) in search of a shorter route

to the East Indies for spices used in sausage also indicate its popularity.

Some early sausage makers became so adept in spicing and processing sausages of distinctive types that the fame of their products spread throughout Europe. Many of today’s sausages bear the name of the city of origin. From Italy comes Milano, Romano, Genoa, Bologna, and Salami.

From Frankfurt, Germany, came the frankfurters and from Vienna, Austria, weinerwurst.

Sausage continues to grow in popularity. Sausage can be made by grinding or emulsifying meat, poultry, or game, mixing in salt and other seasonings, and then stuffing into a container or casing.

Many meat processors and local custom locker plants make excellent sausages. However, you can make homemade sausages. They are particularly popular among hunters who find that properly handled game, when made into sausage, is palatable and highly nutritious. Making sausages spiced to meet your own preferences is a further incentive to prepare them at home.

Types of Sausage There are four broad categories of sausages: fresh sausages, cooked sausages, semi-dry or dry sausages, and specialty meats (luncheon meats).

Uncooked fresh sausages are made from fresh ground meat and spices. These are not cooked during manufacture and usually are not cured, which means they do not contain nitrite.

You can store fresh sausages in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but you must freeze them for longer storage. Examples of fresh sausages are fresh pork sausage, Italian sausage, and some types of bratwurst and bockwurst. You must cook fresh sausages before eating them.

Cooked sausages are usually cured with nitrite, heated to an internal temperature of 150˚–155˚F during processing, and frequently smoked. Cooked sausages require refrigeration. They will keep for at least 2 weeks in unopened vacuum-sealed packages and for 1 week in non-vacuum packages or after you open vacuum-sealed packages. Freeze for longer storage. These sausages can be eaten without heating, but many are heated before serving to enhance their flavor.

Examples of cooked sausages include hotdogs and luncheon meats such as bologna, cotto salami, polish sausage, and braunschweiger.

Semi-dry and dry sausages are cured and may or may not be smoked. The distinguishing feature of their production is a carefully controlled bacterial fermentation which results in a lower (more acidic) pH and a characteristic tangy flavor. Some of these sausages also undergo a carefully controlled dehydration procedure. Lactic acid-producing bacteria and sugar (dextrose) are added to the meat to assure proper fermentation. Lactic acid formed during the fermentation results in the decreased pH. Dry sausages require drying periods usually ranging from 3 weeks to 3 months in which both the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. Therefore, they are quite costly and difficult to make. Many semi-dry sausages, on the other hand, are simply fermented and cooked in a smokehouse. The low pH, low water content and nitrite in dry and semi-dry sausages contribute to their long shelf life. Dry and semi-dry sausages can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator, but freeze them for long-term storage. Some dry sausages can be stored at room temperature. Check the label on purchased sausages. Examples of semi-dry and dry sausages include summer sausage, Italian salami, pepperoni, Lebanon bologna, cervelat, and some thuringers.

To make dry sausages, both the fermentation and dehydration steps need to be carefully controlled. Proper equipment and knowledge of sausage making are essential to produce these products safely since Staphylococcus aureus toxin can be produced if fermentation conditions are not rigidly controlled. Therefore, home production of dry sausages is not recommended.

Semi-dry sausages can be safely prepared within 24 hours if you use very fresh ingredients, properly handled lactic acid starter culture, and careful temperature control.

Tangy semi-dry sausages can also be produced without fermentation by adding encapsulated lactic acid or citric acid directly to the sausage mixture. Sausages made with encapsulated acids are easier to make, but they may have a slightly different flavor than fermented sausages.

Encapsulated acids are recommended for homemade dry or semi-dry sausage.

Specialty meats are cured, fully cooked, and occasionally smoked. They are usually cooked in loaf pans or casings. Commercially they are sometimes water-cooked in stainless steel molds.

Examples of specialty meats include pickle and pimiento, olive, ham and cheese, and honey loaves, as well as head cheese. These sausages are ready to eat and require refrigeration. Their storage life is similar to that of cooked sausages (7 days when not vacuum packed).

Using Sausage Making Equipment and Supplies You can buy most equipment and supplies required for sausage manufacture from sausage makers’ equipment and supply companies, farm and home centers, certain kitchen appliance

stores, and mail order outlets. The following items are used for preparing homemade sausage:

Thermometers You need an accurate meat thermometer that can measure the coldness of your raw materials and the final internal temperature of cooked sausages. This is essential to produce safe, high quality products. A temperature range of 30˚–200˚F is required. You also need an oven thermometer to check the smokehouse or oven temperature.

Meat Grinder Hand operated and electric powered models are available. The size of grinder plate holes determine the coarseness of the ground product. The most widely used plates for sausage manufacture have 1/2", 3/8", 3/16", or 1/8" holes. The meat grinder should come equipped with attachable stuffing horns. Grinder knives must be kept very sharp and the meat kept very cold (32˚F) to prevent product smearing. Meat is usually ground through a 3/8" or 1/2" plate, mixed with salt and other ingredients, and then reground through a 3/16" or 1/8" plate.

Mixer You can use a commercial mixer or a home mixer equipped with a flat beater or dough hook. For small batches, clean, sanitized hands can also be used. For good product uniformity, mix sausage products thoroughly (2 to 5 minutes), but overmixing can cause a rubbery finished product.

Food Processor You can prepare finely ground or emulsified sausages, such as frankfurters and luncheon meats, with a food processor. The food processor should be equipped with overload protection to prevent the motor from overheating.

Casings Casings are used to form the product. The two major kinds of casings are artificial and natural.

Artificial casings are used commercially for most types of sausages. Natural casings are not as uniform or as easy to use, so commercially they are used primarily for gourmet sausages. You can buy natural casings, pickled or preserved in dry salt, from a local butcher who makes sausage or from sausage maker supply companies. Artificial casings also are sometimes available from places where sausages are made.

Natural casings preserved in dry salt must first be soaked in lukewarm water before use. Flush each casing by putting the end of the casing over the cold water tap and running cold water through the casing. Unused casings can be drained, covered again with fine salt, and frozen. Soak natural casings which come in a brine, in cold water before use.

Some artificial casings should be soaked in warm tap water (100˚F) at least 30 minutes, but not over 4 hours before use. Puncture with a knife point before sausage is stuffed unless the casings are pre-stuck. These holes eliminate air and fat pockets in the finished product.

Most specialty meats are transferred without stuffing to molds or bread pans and cooked as meat loaf. Most cooked sausages and semi-dry sausages can also be cooked in loaf pans, but natural smoking is not very effective in pans.

Stuffer You can use a stuffing horn mounted on the grinder head or a piston-type stuffer (i.e., cider press). Or, tightly pack a plastic or stainless steel pipe (2 to 21/2" inner diameter) with sausage batter.

Use a clean plunger that just fits inside the pipe to force the meat into a casing placed over the opposite end of the pipe.

This small electric grinder is also equipped with a plastic stuffing horn that can be used with hog casings.

Oven and Smokehouse If you have a smokehouse, smoke the sausage items with low heat first and then cook to the final temperature in the smokehouse or oven. Several types of smokehouses and smokers can be constructed or purchased for smoking meat.

You can also use a household oven. Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to catch drippings and increase humidity. Hand-formed loaves of sausage or sausage stuffed into casings can be placed on oven grates. The oven must be able to maintain a temperature of 185˚F.

Sausage Ingredients Meat Sausages are most frequently made from pork and beef. However, lamb, veal, goat, chicken, turkey, rabbit, venison, and other game are suitable. Species affects sausage color. Beef and venison sausage are dark red. Sausages that contain veal, chicken, or rabbit are light colored.

Sausage flavor is more affected by spices than by the kind of meat used. All fat is often removed from game meat, and pork fat added for proper texture and juiciness. Always use meats that are as microbiologically fresh as possible. Before grinding, the meat should be as close to freezing as possible (30˚–32˚F) to prevent fat smearing.

–  –  –

so fully cook bear meat. Meat (particularly pork) that will be made into products that will not be

fully cooked should be frozen for the length of time listed below to destroy trichinae:

–  –  –

Use lean meat from any part of the carcass. However, meat from the back and hind legs of large animal carcasses is generally saved for roasts and steaks. Boneless, fat-free lean from the remainder of the carcass is ideal for sausage. Do not age meat to be used in sausage; remove it from the carcass prior to aging. Sausage is often made from poultry legs, thighs, and wings, but breast meat also works well.

Water Water may be added to a sausage formulation to rehydrate nonfat dry milk and other extenders and to replace anticipated moisture loss during cooking and smoking. Water helps make the product juicier and in emulsion products, works with the salt to solubilize proteins for binding fat. Approximately 10% water may be added to cooked sausages and 3% to uncooked fresh sausages. For low-fat sausages, you can add up to 20% water, if.3% phosphate is also added.

Salt Salt adds flavor to sausages and helps inhibit spoilage. Salt also helps solubilize the proteins at the surface of meat particles. These soluble proteins can entrap fat, bind water, and on cooking, bind the meat particles together. This stabilizes the sausage so fat does not form large pockets called fat caps, and also gives the sausage its proper “bite.” Most sausages contain 2–3% salt, but you can lower this level to 11/2–2% salt if phosphate is used.

Sugars Several types of sugar are used in sausage production, primarily to provide flavor and to counteract the harshness of the salt. Glucose (dextrose) is required for fermented sausages because some fermentation bacteria require simple sugars to produce lactic acid.

Phosphates Phosphates are often added to sausage to increase water binding capacity and juiciness of the meat, to solubilize proteins, and to inhibit oxidative rancidity. About 1/3 pound of phosphates are added to 100 pounds of sausage. You sometimes can purchase phosphates from small commercial sausage makers.

Spices You can buy commercial premixed spices to season most sausages. Local meat processors or butcher supply houses normally sell commercial premixed spices for various sausage items. You can also buy spices individually. Buy fresh spices in quantities that you will use in one year. The color and flavor of herbs and spices deteriorate over time. If spices are over one year old, use 30 to 50% more spice than is called for in the recipe.

Nitrite (cure) Nitrite produces the characteristic color, flavor, and storage stability of cured meats. Nitrite provides protection against food poisoning and also inhibits rancidity in cured meats. Fresh sausages which do not contain nitrites are much more perishable than cured meats. Sausages which do not contain nitrite will be brown, not red or pink after processing. Nitrite is used in very small quantities in cured meats, and overdoses can be harmful. Since it is difficult to accurately weigh the small quantities needed, it is necessary to use a preblended commercial curing mix.

The cure mentioned in several of the following recipes is a commercial cure containing 6.25% sodium nitrite. Sometimes you can buy commercial cures, such as Modern Cure™ or Prague Powder™ from small commercial sausage makers.

You can buy complete cures, such as Morton’s Tender Quick Curing Salt™, at some grocery stores or locker plants. Follow the instructions on the container if you use complete cures. They are added at much higher levels than commercial cures (containing 6.25% nitrite) because they often contain only.5% nitrite. Complete cures also often replace most of the salt and sugar called for in sausage recipes.

Reducing Agents Sodium erythorbate or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) enhance proper color development and stability and help inhibit rancidity.

Binders and Extenders Sausages may contain additional ingredients such as binders to retain natural juices and extenders to reduce the cost of the formulation. Nonfat dry milk, cereal flours, and soy protein are the most frequently used binders and extenders.

Lactic Acid-Producing Bacteria and Encapsulated Acids Lactic acid starter cultures are available commercially in either frozen or freeze-dried forms.

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