Making sausage is like making a hamburger - the meat is ground, salt, pepper, and the required spices are added, and then it is cooked. If this prepared meat were stuffed into casings, it would become a sausage. People are continuously searching for a “magical recipe” that would create a wonderful sausage, unfortunately, recipes do not make sausages, we do. While various recipes usually get the spotlight (there are thousands on the Internet), the technical know-how behind preparing sausages is far more important.
Probably the oldest illustration depicting pig slaughtering in 1420 Europe. A man dressed in blue cuts the throat of a hog with a knife, his helper dressed in green collects the blood and the lady holding the candle prepares to start the fire in a smokehouse in the back. In practice they will save the best meats for eating, hams will be cured in salt for two weeks and the rest will go for different types of sausages. Collected blood will be used to make blood sausages, heads, and brains for headcheeses. A pig is a unique animal where nothing is wasted.
The sausage making process
- Meat selection - the taste, binding of ingredients, and texture of the sausage depends on meat selection.
- Curing - important, but often neglected step needed for top quality smoked products,
- Grinding or emulsifying.
- Mixing - or rather forceful kneading is needed to extract meat proteins.
- Stuffing - packing batter into natural or artificial casings.
- Conditioning - brief holding period. Spices release their flavor and the casing becomes drier for better smoke acquisition.
- Smoking - (often optional). Flavoring step with hot smoke or flavoring and drying step with cold smoke.
- Cooking - poaching in water or baking in the smokehouse or the oven.
- Cooling - to prevent shrivelling of the casing and cross the "danger zone", the temperature range when bacteria grow rapidly, as soon as possible.
- Storing - refrigerator/freezer or in case of traditional salami a room temperature.
Why Make Sausages?
Because there aren’t many quality sausages left around. To get a top-quality sausage you need to:
- find a meat store that was established by a trained sausage maker from Europe and hope that he passed his skills to someone else
- buy quality products online. The best sausages carry the European Certificate of Origin, however, most of them are available only in Europe
- make sausages yourself
Why Can You Make Better Sausages than a Commercial Producer?
- Because you can select better meat. Good meat makes a good sausage. Commercial producers cannot afford the luxury of choosing the best meats because they produce sausages to make money, they don’t do it for pleasure. Every meat cut, fat, offal meat, and skins, including machine scraped meat from bones is utilized to save money in order to come up with the lowest price. And that translates into higher profits.
- You don’t need to pump meat with water. A terrible but legal practice is pumping water into the meat. Although an enormous amount of sausages is sold in the USA, nevertheless it is one type of sausage that gets the most credit for sales. And this is an emulsified sausage: hot dog, wiener, frankfurter, or bologna. In order to produce an emulsified paste, the meat must be very finely chopped in bowl cutters. As the bowl turns slowly around a set of sharp round knives placed above cuts meat by rotating thousands of times per minute. The resulting friction will dull the knives and will cook the meat so in order to protect the equipment a “certain” amount of crushed ice or icy cold water is introduced to lower the temperature. In order to prevent this water from leaking out “phosphates” are added and the water is locked inside the meat. If only 10% of the ice is added, that would be fine, however, “phosphates” can bind even 50% of water. This is the reason why mass-produced frankfurters are made so cheaply as the customer is buying water without knowing it. Adding water dilutes the flavor of the meat – add water to chicken soup or tea and see the difference. Those sausages except the shape have nothing in common with frankfurters or other emulsified sausages that were originally produced from pork and veal in Europe. The difference in taste and flavor is like a difference between the night and the day.
- You don't need to use chemicals. Sausages do not need chemicals, the meat, salt, spices and time is all that is needed.
- You can create a new recipe at will and you are in full control. A hobbyist can create or change a recipe at will. He can improvise and introduce new ingredients that he likes, his imagination is the limit to the number of recipes he can create. A meat plant cannot afford to take a risk of making sausages with blueberries as supermarkets might be hesitant to order it.