Mixing meat by hand also raises its temperature and should be done quickly to extend life of sausages. It takes roughly about 5 minutes to thoroughly mix 10 lbs. of meat. The ingredients may be premixed with cold water in a blender, and then poured over the minced meat. The water helps to evenly distribute the ingredients and it also helps soften the mass during stuffing. We can easily add 1 cup of cold pater to 5 lbs. of meat because it is going to evaporate during smoking anyhow. A rule of thumb is about 8% of water in relation to the weight of the meat. It only takes 5 minutes to mix 5 - 10 lbs of meat by hand. The time is important because fat specks start to melt at 95-104° F (35-40° C). We want to prevent this smearing to keep the sausage texture looking great.The temperature of the sausage mix should be between 0-5º C (32-40º F). If this temperature increases, the sausage mix should be cooled down in a refrigerator before proceeding to the stuffing step.
If the meat/fat mixture is not mixed adequately (then the salt/myosin reaction will be minimal and the water holding capacity and the meat binding capacities will be reduced. Apply some force when mixing, kneading might be a good word for it. This will help to extract proteins which will combine with salt and water and will create a sticky meat mass. This will hold meat particles together and will result in a good texture.
If the meat was previously cured, then the salt, nitrite, and sugar was already added to it. Now we have to add the remaining spices. They should be mixed with cold water in a blender, and then poured over the minced meat. The water helps to evenly distribute the ingredients and it also helps soften it during stuffing. We can easily add 1 cup of cold water to 5 lbs of meat because it is going to evaporate during smoking anyway. Water should not be added to uncooked sausages which will be cold smoked, slow fermented or air dried.
When mixing meat with ingredients, it is best to follow this sequence:
- Minced meats, starter culture, nitrite/nitrate, spices.
- Minced fat.
There are some people that like to add spices to meat during the grinding step. Then they will mix it again. Some don’t mix at all but grind meat through a big plate 3/4” - 1”, then add spices to ground meat and regrind it again through a 1/8” plate. Some say that placing salt in a grinder has a detrimental effect on a cutting knife and that it should be avoided. We believe that the easiest procedure for someone using a manual grinder is to grind the meat first and then mix it well with all ingredients.
Mixing introduces spices and flavorings into the previously minced meat. Home based sausage makers use a grinder to mince the meat which is then mixed by hand with other ingredients. The mixer is a must when over 50 lbs. of sausage is produced as the task is physically demanding. There are small manually cranked mixers designed for a hobbyist and they will accomodate 25-50 lbs. of meat. Keep in mind that for limited home production a small mixer has some short comings. It must be:
- washed before use.
- washed in hot water after the use.
- stored somewhere.
It makes little sense to go into all this trouble to mix 5 lbs. of minced sausage mass when the same task can be accomplished in 5 minutes using hands and any suitable container. The meat should be placed in a big container to facilitate mixing it by hand. Like everything else, the container should be made of stainless steel, stone, or food grade plastic. Remember to taste your sausage now, before you stuff it, since you still have time to implement any changes. Make a tiny hamburger anf fry it, it will take only a minute or two.
Originally whole cuts of meat were either dry cured or immersed in brine. This required an investment in time and storage space. Today the majority of meats are injected with a solution of salt, nitrite, phosphates, sodium erythorbate and other ingredients and flavors. The operation is performed by a bank of about 30 needles which inject a solution under pressure into the meat. There is a limit to how many needles can be inserted as this procedure creates holes and affects the internal structure of the meat. To evenly distribute the injected solution inside, the tumblers come into play. They offer the following advantages:
- Curing solution is distributed evenly inside of the meat.
- Curing times are greatly reduced.
- Mechanical action leads to stronger extraction of meat proteins and more exudate is created which helps in binding meat cuts together.
All tumblers employ a similar principle of operation: a set of paddles rotate inside of a tank moving meat pieces around. There are units that operate under a vacuum that further improve the results.
The tumbler is a machine with a rotating drum. The meat pieces bounce around its moving walls providing better brine distribution inside of the meat. Tumblers normally are horizontal units where meats are struck by the paddles, fall down and are moved up again by the rotating paddles. A tumbler resembles a cloth dryer which moves wet clothing around by means of a rotating drum with paddles. Through the use of vacuum tumbling, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood processors can produce ready to cook, value added products while reducing labor content and increasing product yields. Vacuum tumbling offers improvements to product sliceability, cure color, and overall product juiciness and tenderness which results in higher profitability.
Small products (below 2.5 inches in diameter) can be marinated and tumbled within minutes. Large (2.5 inches or larger) products can be marinated using a combination of injection and tumbling. Large whole muscle meats are normally injected with brine.
The primary purpose of tumbling these products is the optimal protein extraction which will allow individual pieces of meat to stick together during the cooking process. Due to renewed public interest in making quality products at home, smaller tumblers (8 and 15 lbs.) are carried by distributors of sausage making equipment and supplies.
Massagers generally are vertical units and offer more delicate action than tumblers. Meat pieces rub against each other or the surface wall of the massager without loss of contact. Although the actual massaging or tumbling time is only about 1-3 hours, this action is continuously interrupted and meats are allowed to rest. The process generally continues for about 24 hours at low temperatures. The machines are normally loaded 1/2 - 2/3 capacity. Due to their gentler mode of operation, massagers need more time than tumblers to perform the same task.
The machine comes standard with cooling and is equipped with a uniquely designed baffle that rotates and slides the product throughout the drum during processing. This results in the product remaining against the walls and baffles of the drum versus the actual tumbling delivered by competitor models. The advantage is a more gentle massaging action while extracting protein in a highly efficient manner under constant vacuum.
- Improved product quality (juicier, more tender, and flavorful).
- Increased profit margins through the delivery of ready-to-cook, value-added products.
- Increased productivity through reduced handling/processing time.