Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sausage Making Trial and Error, Part Two

Continuing from Sausage Making Trial and Error, Part One:

The morning after making sausage in Part One, I was fired up, ready to tackle sausage links again. I had the smaller sheep casings soaking, and some of the soaked hog casings left from the previous day. I just needed to grind more venison, pork and pork fat to add to what I had ground the previous day.

About the time the frozen packages of meat and fat hit the counter to thaw, the power went out. We seemed to be having an ice storm. Power is seldom out for long around here, so I didn't worry. After all, I still had hot coffee in my thermos, and a book. After an hour or two, the house was getting colder, the meat was NOT thawing... so back into the chest freezer it all went. Good thing I did that... the power was off for 3 days! (I don't worry much about opening a chest freezer in the beginning of a power outage, since the cold air doesn't fall out like in an upright freezer... think of the open-top freezers in a supermarket.)

The casings I had soaking were trash after the second day. Phew!! Casings cannot be frozen or they split everywhere when stuffing, and I didn't want to open the refrigerator for fear of losing what cold air was inside.

So, a week later, I finally started again. Cubed more venison, pork shoulder, and pork fat. Mixed up my spices, and added them to the mix, and re-ground. 

Problem #1: The plate with the larger grinding holes is missing from my grinder parts. The first grinding should be coarse, and the second grinding with a smaller grinding plate. Since I only had the finer grinding plate, my finished mix was almost emulsified. 

Some of that emulsification could have happened because I also ignored the recommendation to keep all parts and the mix in the freezer off and on while making sausage. I did start out with all the grinder parts and bowls in the freezer, but I didn't put portions of the meat back in the freezer as I was working. I wasn't worried about spoilage because the kitchen is quite cool, but I hadn't considered the texture of the sausage with the combination of a small grinding plate and cold but not icy meat mix.

Problem #2: Smaller casings! My stuffing attachment has two sizes of tubes. I used the larger one earlier for the lamb sausage, and even though I visualized the sheep casings should fit over the nozzle tip, there was no way! So, I put a yard or  of casings the smaller tip, and started the motor to fill the casings. The push rod met a LOT of resistance trying to get sausage mix into the auger, and I only filled about a foot or so of casings in about 10 minutes.

Closer examination showed the tip of the smaller stuffing tube was pretty small, 5/16". No wonder the machine was having a hard time pushing the mix through it. I cut about an inch and a half of the tip, sanded off the burrs, and back to work. The new opening is now 7/16". I would have liked it a bit larger but I didn't think I could cut more off this tube and still have space for the casings to load on the tip.

Problem #3: Lubrication (lack of). This time it went pretty good... well, almost. The casings slid somewhat easily over the tip because they were wet. However, as the filled casings started pulling the bunched casings off the tip, the casing seemed to stick to the tip, and I got a few tears. Next step, I dried the tip with a paper towel and buttered the outside of it. The next yardage of casings went on with about the same ease since they were still wet.

Success! Most of the sausage rolled off the nozzle pretty well; I had 2-3 more splits which could be a sharp edge from the cut that I didn't get sand-papered off, OR it could be that a second set of hands guiding the sausage straight out from the nozzle would have relieved some stress to the casings at the nozzle.

After I had done KP duty, I put the lengths of stuffed casings out on a counter and rolled them to be a bit more even, then twisted into links. Rolling was very necessary as there were some thin spots while I was loading more mix into the chute, and some fat spots where the casing wasn't coming off the tube very well. In both cases, another pair of hands would have been a great help!

TIP: If you plan to vacuum-pack the sausage links, freeze them in package portions first! I didn't do that in the beginning and a couple of the links burst from the vacuum pressure. I froze the rest before continuing!

At any rate, I managed to stuff the whole batch of venison sausage and I'm very pleased!

Lessons Learned:

1. I like making (and eating!) sausage, and I have a bunch of different recipes to try, other than breakfast sausage.

2. Mix the seasonings thoroughly in some water before adding to the meat. It helps disperse them more evenly throughout the mix when blending... whether by hand or in a mixer.

3. I need a better stuffer than the cheap plastic tubes that attach to my meat grinder attachment. I have seen several stuffers that have multiple sizes of smooth stainless steel nozzles. I'm also thinking I might like a non-electric stuffer where the pusher is attached, and the nozzles discharge the stuffed sausage casings close to the work surface. With the set-up I have now, I must stand on a stool to see and be able to push meat chunks into the grinding chute, and the drop from the stuffer to the counter is about 2 feet, stressing the casings.

4. I will eventually want/need a separate meat grinder. The toll on the motor of my KitchenAid mixer is apparent in the sound of the motor.

5. A stainless steel work surface would be great to have as it would stay colder, and be easier to clean. It is very low on the priority list, though. Just wishful thinking!

6. None of this current sausage-making solves my problem of wanting some meats that can be preserved in non-electric-powered storage. What I'm making now are all sausages that need to be frozen, if not cooked and eaten in a couple of days. First things first, though.

Next on my list to make: Italian Sausage, Polish Sausage, Venison Sausage with Garlic and Bay or Sage.


  1. This was a really good post. I learned a lot. Glad I found your blog.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Becky!

    If I'm not learning something every day, it feels like a waste. I love trying new things, and I'm okay with not doing them like a Pro.

  3. It's encouraging to see this, Darius. I've got the hand powered meat grinder, not sure if it has the sausage tips; it's been awhile since I've opened the box. One of these days...

    Another idea along these lines... kitty food sausages. I know I can get offal (heart, liver, kidneys, etc) free from a nearby custom slaughter house. Some blend of all this w/some free pork jowl would make a dandy dog food in sausages, baked, frozen & ready to serve. Maybe something w/poultry for the kitties?

  4. Pooh, I can't even get my 2 to eat any raw meat, not even liver or chicken livers... and all I buy is free-range, local and FRESH!

    It's an idea, though!

  5. Well, I wouldn't feed the offal I can get raw... it's probably contaminated w/some nasty bacteria. I'd definitely cook it... do they like cooked any better? Or are they addicted to the crunch? That'd be annoying.

  6. The Princesses don't even like most cooked meat, LOL. I don't like the cereal chow but they get some of it mixed with canned food (mostly people grade).

    I get good grass-fed, free range offal, but for myself. I had forgotten how good liver can be! Now I'm hoping for cheeks (jowl) for charcuterie...


I'd love to hear what you think about my posts! We all learn together.