Stuffing Sausages

Taste the sausage before it’s stuffed as there is sill time for last minute adjustments. People make mistakes when reading recipes, they get confused with ounces and grams, they use different size spoons to measure ingredients, etc. Just make a very tiny hamburger, like a quarter, throw it on a frying pan and in two minutes you can taste your sausage. After the meat is ground and mixed it has to be stuffed into a casing, preferably as soon as possible. Allowing the meat to sit overnight causes it to set up and absorb all this moisture that we have added during mixing and stuffing.

The ample amount of salt inside will perform this trick and we’ll be struggling with stuffing the casings the next day. Such sausage masses should be remixed. Although sausage should be stuffed as tightly as possible, nevertheless for practical reasons different sausage types are stuffed to a different degree of firmness:

Sausage type Firmness Remarks
Rope sausage. Tight Meat shrinks in time due to evaporation of the moisture.
Individual links, tied with twine or enclosed with clips. Tight Meat shrinks in time due to evaporation of the moisture.
Rope sausage manually linked into individual links by twisting. Loosely If stuffed tight, twisting will be difficult to perform.
Liver sausage, Blood sausage, Head cheese. Loosely These products are heated in water and casings may burst open. They often contain filler material (rice, oats, barley etc) which often expands in volume.

The casing should have about a third of a cup of water inside as it acts as a lubricant for the entering meat. By the same token pouring water over the stuffing tube is recommended to increase lubrication. Some people grease the tube lightly. Don’t use water when making slow fermented sausages. Use the largest stuffing tube which fits the casing but make sure it goes on loosely otherwise the casing might break. It is important to stuff sausages hard and without air as the resulting air pockets might fill with water or become little holes later.

When stuffing fermented and dry products, such moisture pockets will become breeding grounds for bacteria. Pack the meat tightly in the grinder, horn, or piston stuffer to prevent air from entering into the casing. The air also creates unnecessary resistance during stuffing. Most vertical piston stuffers come equipped with an air valve that allows accumulating air to escape outside. After the sausage is stuffed, any accumulated air pockets visible to the naked eye are simply pricked with a needle.

It is a known fact that a smoked sausage will be of higher quality when the meat is seasoned overnight which is basically a shorter, simplified version of the curing process that should have been performed earlier. If you want to cure a sausage that way (why not to cure it the proper way), grind, mix and stuff it first, then it can be stored overnight in a refrigerator. Note that when a cold sausage will be transferred from a cooler to a warm room, the condensation will likely appear on its surface. Sausages that have been kept in the refrigerator overnight should be permitted to hang at room temperature for at least one hour before being placed in the smokehouse.

Recommended stuffing tube diameters

Tube size Casing diameter
1/2” 22-28 mm
3/4” 30-36 mm
1” 38 mm and over

The natural casings are ideal casings for a home sausage maker though they require some practice. After the first sausage session they become easy to work with and are always ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Any remaining casings should be packed with canning salt and stored at refrigerator temperature (38 - 40° F) where they will last almost indefinitely.

The mixed sausage mass can firm up very fast and should be stuffed without much delay. To remove air commercial producers perform mixing and stuffing under a vacuum at around 0º C (32º F), but this requirement will hardly be met in the home production of sausages.

Natural and synthetic casings are used as long as they allow moisture and smoke to go through. They must be able to cling to meat and shrink with it as it goes through the drying process. Natural casings may look solid but in reality they contain minute holes (pores) that permit smoke or moisture to go through. If warm fat is ground, it starts to smear and clogs up those spores inhibiting drying.

Natural casings are salted and they must be prepared for stuffing:

  • Desalt casing at least one hour in cold running water before use to eliminate salt and to make them pliable. They can be soaked in cold water for 30 min and then rinsed. Change water once or twice. Water should be of drinking quality.
  • To reduce the possibility of any contamination by bacteria, rinse casings briefly (in and out) with vinegar.
  • If during drying the outside of the sausage becomes greasy, it should be wiped off with a warm cloth otherwise it may inhibit drying.

Do not:

  • De-salt casings with hot water.
  • Store casings at high temperatures.
  • De-salt casings for a prolonged period of time.

Steps such as meat cutting, grinding, mixing and stuffing should be done at temperatures below 12º C (54º F). If working at higher temperatures, try to plan and organize your work in such a way that the meats will be processed as fast as possible and then placed in a refrigerator. All preparatory sausage making steps such as meat cutting, mixing and stuffing should be performed at the lowest obtainable temperatures in the kitchen. If the premises are not temperature controlled, it is advisable to perform those duties at late evening or early morning hours.

If a sausage is stuffed into 32, 36 or 38 mm hog casings its taste will obviously remain the same. The smoking and cooking times will change slightly but it will still be the same sausage. On the other hand it will be a different sausage if you start experimenting with new spice combinations or will add chicken meat to it. The casing is just a packing material and although some traditionally made products may look unusual if stuffed into casings less accustomed to us, they will taste the same. For example, pepperoni will look odd if stuffed into 24 mm sheep casings but it will still be pepperoni and you may as well call it a pepperoni stick. The same applies for using synthetic casings, a liver sausage is still going to remain a liver sausage whether it is stuffed into a 36 mm hog casing, 36 mm cellulose casing or 36 mm fibrous casing.

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The Art of Making Fermented Sausages
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Spanish Sausages
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Home Canning of Meat, Poultry, Fish and Vegetables
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Curing and Smoking Fish
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