Summer Sausage is traditionally a cured, fermented sausage seasoned with salt, sugar or dextrose, mustard, black pepper, and garlic with many cultural and geographic variations. Summer sausage is usually made from leftover trimmings, low quality cuts, and organ meat but can be made with higher classes of meat as well.
The fermentation process is facilitated by the addition of lactic acid bacteria starter cultures and the sausage must then be allowed time to ferment. These bacteria feed on the sugars in the meat mix and produce lactic acid as a by product which lowers the pH of the product and creates an environment unfavorable for further bacterial activity. There is usually a drying period and the combination of proper pH coupled with reduced water activity results in a product that is shelf stable and can be stored at room temperature.
Lactic acid also imparts a tangy flavor common to this type of product and can be duplicated by the addition of encapsulated citric acid when the time required for the fermentation process or the availability of starter cultures is a factor.
An excellent product can be made without fermentation, the addition of encapsulated citric acid, or the drying period but this product will be perishable and must be kept refrigerated.
Before starting have everything ready to go. Grinder, stuffer, and all food contact surfaces should be sterilized. Grinder plates and knives should be clean, sharp, and matched. Sharp plates and knives yield a cleaner cut with less smearing as will a matched set. Have a clean sharp boning knife ready. Meat must be clean and cold, free of bacterial contamination. 32-35 deg F. is a good place to be.
Fat ratio is a matter of preference but should be between 15% – 25% (20lb lean + 5lb fat = 80/20 lean/ fat ratio)
Lets get started.
1. If using fibrous or natural casings put them into some warm water to soak
2. Grind 25lb meat/ fat through a coarse plate once. If you want to grind the lean and the fat separate before mixing, that’s fine too. If you only have one size grinder plate don’t worry about it, it’ll be ok.
3. Dissolve one ounce of pink curing salt in 1 quart of ICE COLD water. Note: 5 level teaspoons will give you about 1 ounce of cure.
4. Add the spice mix and the dissolved cure solution into the ground meat. If you are using a binder add that now too. Mix well. This should take a full 2-3 minutes to mix by hand. Make sure the spice and cure is evenly distributed throughout the mix. If you are using encapsulated citric acid it should be added after the last grind and mixed in thoroughly.
5. Grind again through a small plate, 3/16 or 1/8.
6. If you’re stuffing off the grinder, remove the plate and knife from the grinder head and put the stuffing attachment in place. Stuff the casings as tight as you can without breaking the casing. If you’re using a sausage stuffer, grind the meat one more time. That’s a toal of 3 times through the grinder. The mix is going to get very sticky. This is good, it shows the binding quality of the mix.
7. Pack the mix into the stuffer tight, making sure to get all the air out and stuff the casings as tight as you can without breaking the casing.
8. The sausage should now be returned to a 40 deg F cooler to cure. 4-6 hours should do it but overnight is better. Don’t be in too big of a hurry, if your cooler is 38-40 deg the sausage will hold for a couple of days.
9. Hang the sausage in the smokehouse and let the surface dry for an hour or more before you start the heat. Again, don’t be in a hurry.
10. Using your favorite hardwood (hickory is a good choice) apply a heavy smoke at around 100 deg F for 1-4 hours. This is a matter of personal taste, first time out try 1-2 hours.
11. Kill the smoke and gradually, over the next 4 or so hours, raise the house temperature to around 175-180 deg F and cook until the sausage reaches an internal temperature of 155 deg F. This is going to take some time, let it. Be sure and check temperatures of the sausages around different parts of the smokehouse to manage cool and hot spots.
12. When the sausage reaches 155 deg pull it out of the house and immediately shower with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the sausage. Try to get the internal temperature down to around 120 deg F. You can hang the sausage up outside and spray with the water hose or an ice water bath will work too. When using the ice water bath method, have the tank of cold water ready before the sausage is done.
13. Hang the sausage in the cooler overnight to chill before cutting.
Find all your sausage making supplies at Southern Indiana Butcher Supply
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