Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How to Dry Age Beef at Home

At the Sausage Maker, we are big fans of meat. We want to help our fellow enthusiasts get the highest possible enjoyment out of a great piece of meat, whether that means recommending the perfect blend of spices and casing; providing the best sausage recipes from around the world; or showing you the newest and most on-target processes, tools, and advice for turning a good cut of meat into a fantastic example of a hand-crafted link. And while we love sausage, of course, there are other ways to go about enhancing a great cut of meat. Curing, smoking, brining, or any other way you can encourage meat to achieve its full, glorious flavor potential is fair game (get it?) for us.

Dry Aging vs. Wet Aging Beef

Which brings us to one of the oldest and most prestigious methods for intensifying the flavor of meat: aging. More specifically, aging cuts of beef. As many of our biggest fans may know, there are two generally accepted methods or styles for aging beef: dry aging and wet aging, with the former being the clear “older sibling” of the pair. Meat has been aged “dry”—also called “hanging out” or just “hanging”—for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The process involves leaving cuts of meat exposed to air (these days, also under refrigeration) for between 7 and 30 days. “Wet” aging has come about comparatively recently, made possible by technological advances in vacuum sealing and temperature control. In this method, the meat is sealed into airtight plastic packages and left in refrigeration, for usually slightly less time. The difference is that nothing gets in or out of the package—moisture, air, or microbes—and so it needs less management.
The key to both approaches is allowing for enzymes naturally present within the meat to break down the tissue, leading to more tenderness. There is also a change in flavor, with wet aging somewhat intensifying the meat flavor while retaining more of the “metallic” taste associated with fresh meat, whereas dry-aged meat develops a deeper, more concentrated flavor sometimes described as “nutty”, or even with a sharpness occasionally likened to that of blue cheese. There’s plenty of debate about which approach is “better”, and to some extent this will reflect the taste of the individual (whether one prefers the “metallic” flavor of wet aging over the stronger, “nutty” taste produced by dry aging). But in general, the argument comes down to this: Dry aging is the more traditional method, which produces a better, more complex taste and feel, while wet aging is easier, cheaper, and faster, but doesn’t result in meat that is as tasty or tender.

How to Dry Age Steak at Home

So what do we recommend, aging-wise? Well, for dry aging, the Sausage Maker’s digital dry curing cabinet can produce very fine, steakhouse-quality dry-aged steaks (as well as helping you cure salami, capicola, and other sausages). If you’re a serious DIYer, you might even consider building your own with the help of our step-by-step dry aging chamber guide. For those on a more restricted budget, however—or those who want to dip a toe into the dry-aging waters before taking the full plunge—we recommend UMAi Dry aging bags. This product, created by UMAi Dry (also makers of high-quality sausage casing kits) is a single-use, sealable bag in which home chefs can age meat in a standard refrigerator.

How Do Dry Aging Bags Work?

The approach of sealing individual cuts of meat into clear plastic bags and aging them that way may seem similar to wet aging, and this has led to some confusion about the real nature of the UMAi Dry bags. The key difference is permeability to both water and air. The UMAi Dry bag allows moisture to escape from the meat in much the same way it would from a cut hanging or sitting on a rack in a dry-aging cabinet, and unlike a standard wet-aging bag (where part of the point is to have the meat sit in its own serum during aging). At the same time, the UMAi bag allows oxygen from the air to flow past the meat surface while keeping out larger-moleculed air components like nitrogen, as well as harmful microbes. This combination results in a dry-aged style cut, with the shrinking (and flavor concentration) associated with traditional cabinet-style aging, as well as the thick crust on the outside of the meat. Take a look at this demonstration from our friends at Ballistic Barbecue:

And here’s a great grill technique for those steaks once they’ve finished aging:

So what’s our final verdict on aging? In our estimation, UMAi’s dry bag introduces a “third way” between traditional dry aging (in a cabinet) and standard wet aging (in non-permeable sealed bags). Although all three methods have their pros and cons, we think the UMAi bags give the budget-conscious home chef who prefers the taste and texture of dry-aged meat an option that doesn’t require the time, space, or cash outlay of a full dry aging cabinet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Spicy Italian Burger

Italian flavors aren’t limited to just pasta. They go great inside burgers too combined with pepperoni and arugula salad. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette if you want to take this burger up a notch!

1 beef patty
1 tbsp Spicy Italian Seasoning from The Sausage Maker
1/4 cup arugula
1 slice provolone cheese
3 slices pastrami or pepperoni
1 brioche bun
2 tomato slices
Onion slices
Olive, optional

  1. Heat in a saucepan with oil or in a grill and cook to your liking. 
  2. Heat saucepan with oil or using a grill, cook beef on one side then flip over to heat the opposite side. Cook until it’s cooked to your liking. 
  3. Add a slice of cheese and remove from heat.
  4. Stack burger with arugula beef, pepperoni, tomatoes, onions and garnish with an olive, if desired.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Guacamole Burger

Who knew the same Mexican flavors you love taste great on a burger? The guacamole adds a great creamy avocado base, while the subtle flavors of the Grill Master Seasoning make the burger patty itself take center stage.

1 brioche bun
1 beef patty
1 tbsp Grill Master Seasoning from The Sausage Maker
1 can fire roasted corn, heated
2 tbsp. Guacamole (store-bought or homemade)
Red onion slices
Tomato slices

  1. Pat patty with seasoning on both sides. 
  2. Heat in a saucepan with oil or in a grill and cook to your liking. 
  3. Stack the burger with the beef, guacamole, fire-roasted corn, onion, and tomatoes. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hawaiian Burger

No need to go to the islands to get your pineapple-on-a-burger fix. The crispy bacon strips and Savory Bacon Seasoning from The Sausage Maker brings the saltiness while the pineapple delivers the sweet in a tasty combo you will crave again and again.

1 beef patty
1 brioche bun, split
1 tbsp Savory Bacon Seasoning from The Sausage Maker
2 slices pineapple
2 slices bacon
Green leaf lettuce

  1. Cook bacon slices in a medium saucepan with 1 tsp. water. 
  2. Once done, remove bacon from pan, drain and set aside. 
  3. Add pineapple slices to the same pan with the bacon grease. 
  4. Cook pineapple for 5 minutes on each side on medium/low heat.
  5. Remove from pineapple from heat and set aside. 
  6. Pat patty with seasoning on both sides. 
  7. Cook in a pan on the stovetop or grill to desired doneness. 
  8. Stack the burger with lettuce, beef, pineapple, and bacon. 
  9. Add your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Italian Meatball Subs

Add the right amount of seasoning to turkey meatballs to make a perfect sub sandwich at home. All you need to do is combine turkey, garlic, Italian Herb Seasoning from The Sausage Maker, and salt to make flavorful meatballs packed with protein. Add any leftovers to pasta or eat on their own dipped in marinara sauce.

1 lb ground turkey
3 sandwich-sized whole wheat baguettes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 jar marinara sauce
Olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl add ground turkey, garlic, seasoning, and salt. With clean hands, mix ingredients together well. Form the mixture into balls with your hands and set aside. 
  3. In a large skillet or saucepan heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan. Add meatballs to the pan and cook each side for a few minutes until browned and no longer pink inside. Once done, remove from heat. Slice the baguettes open and layer marinara sauce, meatballs, more marinara, and cheeses.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

How-To Steps for Smoking a Fresh Ham

  Fresh Ham
  Ingredients for Brine
  Meat Pump

This is a condensed version of our online DIY Ham Tutorial in which the steps we took to fully prepare, cure and smoke two Hams are in greater detail. We hope the simplicity of this brine cured ham recipe will inspire you to try making your own this year.

Go to your trusted meat market, hog farm or grocer’s deli and ask for “boneless fresh Ham” (you may need to pre-order and pick up when ready). We bought two, each weighing in at a little over 10 pounds. This ended up costing us only about $50 total, compare that to a smoked Ham behind the glass counter. Your Hams are likely to taste just like those and will cost you MUCH less. Once you have the ham at home, immediately refrigerate it until you are ready to pump the salty ham brine.

(1 lb. FRESH HAM)
2.5 Gal. Water
2/3 Cup Salt
1 Cup Insta Cure#1 
1/2 Cup Dextrose
1/2 Cup White Pepper, Ground
1/4 Cup Juniper Berries, Crushed or Cracked

 You can also substitute the Dextrose with 1 cup of Honey or Maple Syrup, delicious. We had whole juniper berries, so we placed them on a tray and laid a plastic bag on them and hammered them into pieces, simple enough. Add water to your container, mix in your ingredients and stir with a long wooden or plastic spoon for a few minutes to disperse ingredients thoroughly. There shouldn’t be gritty salt grains at the bottom, if there are, keep stirring.
TIP: Heating up the water to 100°F to 140°F prior to mixing will help ingredients dissolve quicker and more solute. Cool before adding ham! *We do not recommend curing ham without stitch-pumping.

The amount of the brine to be pumped into the Ham is 10% of its weight, so in our example, it turned out to be about 4 full capacity loads with our Meat Pump . It is important to pump the densest/thickest portions of the ham muscle. It is normal for some of the ham brine  to spill out of the meat, it is inevitable, so don’t worry. 
TIP: At small home-scale production, One (1) Fluid Ounce by Volume is close enough to One (1) Ounce by Weight that we are equating them here. For precise measure 1fl.oz. = 1.043 oz.

The temperature of Ham prior to pumping should be 38-40°F (refrigerated). If you are preparing a Ham that has the bone-in, make sure to pump around the bone. When the pumping is done, put the Ham in the brine bucket which should have enough brine left to entirely cover the muscle. It is alright to place one Ham on top of another as long as the top one is also completely immersed. If stacking, rotate top-to-bottom once a day. Place a plate with a water-filled jar on hams to keep them under the brine if you have to and place a lid on the container.

The brining of the Ham should be done in a cooler where the temperature can stay relatively constant at 38-40°F the entire time. Aside from top-to-bottom rotating, it's really 5-6 days of leaving the Hams alone. Let the cure do its job and get into each crevice by itself.

Remove the Ham from the brine solution and immediately rinse them under cold water while brushing with an unused bristle brush, and or thoroughly rinse for 3-5 minutes. Rinse, Do Not Soak. After you’re done brushing, place the Ham into a permeable, clean cloth bag  or into a Stockinette Bag .
TIP: Your bag should be moistened with a Water-Vinegar solution (50/50), or with a Liquid Smoke-Water solution (1 drop L.S. per 2 oz. water) this will prevent the bag from sticking to the ham.

Tie the net/bag onto the Stockinette Hook  securely, or if no bag available, place Ham on rack. Preheat your Smoker  to 120°F. Just as in smoking Sausages, spacing is important, be sure the Hams are neither touching each other (if doing two), the interior walls of the smoker, and they should be at least 6” above the heating element diffuser. Insert the Remote Smoker Thermometer probes into both the Ham and one into the smoker. The dampers should be wide open for the entirety of the drying process. Check once every hour, for the first few hours. The drying may take 8-12 hours when the outside is tacky to the touch and it isn’t dripping from the bottom… drying is done.

Open dampers/vents half-way. Set the temp. to 130°F and add a full pan of dampened Sawdust Woodchips . One smoke application lasts a little over 2 hours. On the second smoke application increase the temperature setting to 140°F for another 2 hours and close damper to 1/4 open. On the third smoke application (our last) increase the temperature to 150°F for a final 2 hours. You want between 5-7 hours of hot smoke for good flavor penetration & color development. Remove the sawdust pan, without smoke, bump the temperature up to 165°F for 2-3 hours and then set and leave at 175°F.
TIP: Usually in the 140-150°F internal meat temp zone, when cooking at temps between 170-200°F, the meat’s temp will STOP CLIMBING. Called a Plateau, or Stall. The cured ham meat is releasing moisture to the surface, which is, in turn, cooling the outside, and consequently the inside. In short, ‘it’s sweating’. It can sweat for 30 minutes or 2 hours, depending on temperatures. Don’t panic, it is normal and it will pass. Still panicked? Wrap tightly with Aluminum foil containing a small amount of water or apple juice once it plateaus.

When the temperature reaches 145°F internal, the Ham can be removed from the smoker. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight before carving. We hope you enjoyed this home smoked ham recipe, have found it easy to understand and will partake in some Do-It-Yourself ham smoking this year!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Delicious Sausage Ideas for Thanksgiving

Some people say that Christmas is their favorite time of the year, but for us at The Sausage Maker, our favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. What more could you possibly ask for in a holiday than a national day of food appreciation? In fact, Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday; it elevates the enjoyment of food from a hobby to a full blown sport, and we definitely aren’t complaining. So, as the best day of the year rolls around (no pun intended) here are some delicious ideas for side dishes featuring sausage to impress friends and family at your Thanksgiving table.


Simply put, Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without stuffing. And while we love classic stuffing, we’ve got to admit that you are missing out if you haven’t tried to elevate your stuffing game by mixing in some spicy or sweet sausage into your recipe. Eaten on its own, sausage stuffing makes a delicious side dish that can pull together the entire meal, and eaten with your turkey, it adds an entire new depth of flavor that you’ve probably never experienced before. We highly recommend adding a bit of sausage to your traditional stuffing recipe.

Mac and Cheese

The quintessential comfort food, macaroni and cheese is just as likely to be found in the everyday diet of most Americans as is it is to be featured on your holiday menu this Thanksgiving. And while mac and cheese is deliciously decadent on its own, adding some spicy sausage takes your macaroni and cheese to an entirely different level. The sausage adds new texture to the mac and cheese, as well as cuts through the richness of the dish with its spices, creating a deliciously decadent — but well balanced — side dish that everyone will love.

Sautéed Greens

Whether you prefer Kale or Collard Greens, sautéed green leafy vegetables add a wonderful flavor and nutrition to your Thanksgiving menu. When you add some poultry-based sausage into a sautéed green recipe, you add another layer of flavor and texture that makes these greens irresistible. Even better, if you have a child (or adult) who is finicky about eating their greens, adding a bit of sausage to your recipe could be just the thing they need to get past the taste or texture they don’t like.


Who doesn’t love a good roll? Simple, versatile and delicious, rolls are a staple of American dining, especially at Thanksgiving. However, we’ve gotten a bit bored with the traditional dinner roll. And if you’re like us, we’ve got the perfect solution for you. When you are making your rolls for the holiday, take one last step and roll up a sausage into the center of the dough balls before baking, creating a delicious sausage roll that is great as a side dish, appetizer or midnight snack long after the holiday festivities have ended and your guests have gone home.

Whatever you decide to put on the table this Thanksgiving, you can be sure that a sausage recipe is sure to please and be a favorite for years to come. And when it comes to sausage, why not make it the best sausage by making it yourself? With our selection of sausage making tools and accessories, you can impress your guests with your recipes and your newly found sausage-making abilities. Happy holidays!