Storing Meat

All uncooked meats or sausages should be treated as fresh meat. We can keep on hand an amount that will be consumed within a few days and the rest should be frozen. A ready to eat product should not be stored for more than 7 days if held at 41° F, or 4 days at 45° F. This practice will help control the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, a harmful bacteria. Meats should be stored at 32-40° F (0-4° C). We should bear in mind that there are differences between home and commercial refrigerators and freezers:

Home refrigerator Butcher’s cooler
36° - 40 F° (2° - 4° C) 32 F ° (0° C)
Home freezer Butcher’s freezer
0° F (-18° C) -25° F (- 32° C)

Meat products stored for a long time in a freezer will start developing inferior taste due to the oxidation of fat. Those chemical changes known as ”rancidity” occur spontaneously and are triggered by light or oxygen. Meats stored in a freezer will turn rancid more slowly than meats stored in a refrigerator. Rancid meat is noticeable more with frozen meat than chilled meat because bacteria can spoil meat in a refrigerator well before rancidity begins. To prevent fat oxidation and to prolong shelf-life of the product, anioxidants such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ and rosemary extracts are commonly used.

Storing Sausages

In the past sausages were made differently as the meat preservation was the most important factor. Meat was cured with 2-2.5% salt and nitrate, then it was smoked for a long time. Smoke application prevents the growth of bacteria on the outside only so it was not a strong preserving factor. However the sausage was losing a lot of moisture during smoking, in other words it was drying out and the loss of moisture is a very strong safety factor. The sausage was cooked in a smokehouse and the finished product was slightly dried, and free of bacteria which died during cooking meat to 160° F (72° C) internal temperature. Such sausages were hung at room temperature, usually in kitchen pantries and will last a long time, as long as there was relatively low temperature and low humidity. They would keep on drying out and in time would become semi-dry and then dry sausages. Some sausages were cold smoked for a few days and not cooked at all. This cold smoking (drying with smoke) would remove enough moisture that the sausage was hung at room temperature to dry out more. Such a process is emplyed in making dry and slow fermented sausages, although most Italian and Spanish products (salami, chorizo) are made without smoke application.

The majority of sausages will be stored in a refrigearator, although some sausages will have longer or shorter shelf life. Fresh sausages will have the shortest useful life of just a few days which is a common knowledge. Cooked sausages such as liver, blood or head cheese will last a few days longer. Smoked sausages that were cured with nitrite will last even longer due to preserving effects of salt, nitrite and smoke. Here the amount of salt that was added to meat would be a deciding factor as well as the amount of moisture that the sausage contains. All sausage types can be frozen for later use. If frozen, the sausages should be tightly wrapped to prevent drying out.