Tuesday, November 8, 2016

DIY Dry Curing: How to Make Salami


The Art of Dry Curing Meats

Traditional dry curing techniques date back thousands of years and were used simply to preserve meat as long as possible. It was quickly realized that salting meats and hanging them in certain areas preserved them for longer periods of time. What was actually happening was the salt drew moisture out to the surface and rapidly restricted available water internally, lowering what is called water activity (Aw). Back in the old days, they didn’t know about bacteria, good or bad, and didn’t know that salt has many trace minerals such as sodium nitrite, which helped to cure the meats. This is why modern recipes add sodium nitrite (Insta Cure™ #2) as an additional ingredient, because most processed salts today have trace minerals removed (nitrite included).

The cool, humid and gentle breezes typically associated with naturally good areas for dry curing are very difficult to duplicate at home. Depending on the recipe, temperatures need to fluctuate from 50-90°F and relative humidity from 65-90%, which, for most, likely means heating and cooling, humidifying and dehumidifying. The risks involved in not maintaining proper conditions can be serious, so the art of dry curing has been mostly lost in modernity. In the last 10-15 years, there has been a surge of interest in traditional food preservation and this old style of salami-making has seen a very welcome comeback!

Salami can be prepared in either fresh/cooked, smoked or dry-cured varieties. Dry-cured salami (the kind we’re making in this tutorial) is ready to eat once it’s properly fermented and aged, while the fresh variety must be cooked beforehand. Fresh/cooked and smoked salamis do not have long shelf lives and should be consumed shortly after cutting (unless vacuum sealed and/or frozen). Dry-cured salami has a prolonged shelf life, famously rich aroma, unmatched sliceability and a flavor that is developed, savored and remembered. For all tools and ingredients listed throughout this tutorial, part numbers can be found in parentheses for easy location on our website. Let’s learn how to age salami!


Parts/Equipment We Used:

#12 electric meat grinder (15-1111)
5 lb. sausage stuffer (18-1011)
2x meat lug (16-1023)
Roast tyer, 86 mm (11-1710)
Sausage pricker (17-2519)
pH strips (3.9–5.7 range) (11-1521)
Twine (14-1812)
Cutting board (14-1324)
Soehnle 33 lb. scale (21-1012)
Plastic wrap
Sterile/clean plastic/foam cups

Needed for Recipes:

For smaller diameter salami:
Sopressata sausage seasoning (12-1037)
Insta Cure™#2 (11-1016)
47 mm dia. pre-tied collagen casings (17-1711)
Bactoferm™ T-SPX (11-1311)

For larger diameter salami:

Pre-Prep Work

At least 2-3 hours prior to meat prep, take 1 cup of tepid 4 oz. distilled water (plastic, glass or foam cups are okay. Must be unused/clean). Open Bactoferm™ T-SPX and place 1 level tsp. of culture for every 10 lbs. of meat in a cup of water. Swish it around and stir it with a sterile spoon or utensil to blend it thoroughly. Quickly close the tops of the cups with plastic wrap to prevent contamination. Push out any air in the Bactoferm™ packet, sealing the opening with tape or vac-seal if possible, and put it back into the freezer (close to the vents, the colder the better). Remove your hairnet, protective eyewear, nitrile gloves and lab coat (just kidding). If you need to mix more than 1 tsp. Bactoferm™ T-SPX (making more than 10 lbs.), then add 1-2 oz. of distilled water to the cup for each consecutive 10 lbs. being added. Too much water will overly dilute the culture solution. 

If you want to also add the beneficial-mold surface that is often seen on salami in old salumerias and NYC delis, here’s what you do: Buy a spray bottle, mix 1 tsp. of Bactoferm™ Mold-600 with 6-8 oz. of room-temperature distilled water in your spray bottle and let it sit for 1-2 hours in the bottle. Spray the salami surfaces once they are encased, hung up and ready for the fermentation stage.


The Grind

You’ll want to grind lean meat separate from fat where possible. We suggest buying Boston butt (shoulder) and trimming it very neat for your “lean,” which will still be 10-15% fat. For extra fatty chunks, you can either retain the shoulder’s fat cap or buy pork back fat (where available). Total fat content should be between 25-35% total weight. Grind your lean meat through a 1/4" plate and fat through a 3/8” plate.

Mix Together

Use a recipe and ingredients from a trusted source (your neighbor’s Italian grandpa doesn’t count) or one of our time-tested seasoning blends. Mix your seasoning and Insta Cure™ #2 together (2 tsp. per 10 lbs.), pour the seasoning over the meat/fat mixture and mix them in thoroughly. Now add the Bactoferm™ T-SPX water solution to the mixture and mix again. Don't add more water than what's in the culture solution.

Remember: Wear gloves throughout the process and change them often if you need to. Be careful not to allow for any bacteria contamination as it can result in a ruined batch of salami.

Stuffing Salami into Casings

Natural casings (beef middles, ideally) are excellent for breathability, elasticity, provide mold the best surface for growth and best adherence to meat during drying. We use flat collagen casings for their enhanced durability, ease of use and storage. Fibrous casings should be avoided as they need ideal conditions to not release from the meat (separation). Flat collagen casings do not need soaking; just wetting them is enough. Just a couple dunks in a bowl of tepid water will make them pliable enough to “accordion” comfortably onto the stuffing tube and will increase elasticity strong enough to withstand a tight stuff. Stuff your casings, tie off ends or clip with hog rings and pin-prick all visible air pockets. Be generous and pin-prick all over the sausage. If you have pre-tied casings (highly recommended), then you just need to clip/tie one end. Stuff one salami into a full-diameter stuffed ball, like an extra short salami. This is our chub. We’ll get back to him later.


Take the Weight

Weigh the salami and mark on a label or sheet of paper that particular salami’s initial weight. This is also commonly called the “green” weight. We will use this number to identify the salami’s progress and determine when it’s ready to take down for eating and hoarding (…or “storing”). This is a must! Don’t trust your senses; you cannot gauge doneness accurately by sight or checking firmness/elasticity. It’s like a BBQ guru who puts his thumb against a loin chop and says, “They’re ready!” Thermometers are easy to operate and cheap—why take the risk?

Where to Hang Your Salami

For fermentation and mold production, you need a warm (90-100°F) and very humid area (90-95%). Warmth is not hard to create. A kid-safe, small space heater or ceramic heat bulbs work great. Either way, place it a safe distance away to keep the area warm and not heat the sausage too much. For the high humidity, a cool-mist ultra-sonic humidifier is a must. Later you will need a cool (45-59°F) and slightly less humid area (70-75%).

Hang Your Salami


Remember the Mold-600? If you have that spray bottle handy, now’s the time to use it. Mist the mold solution up and down the salami. Give them a few good sprays each. Even if you aren’t adding mold (it’s not necessary), a fermentation stage is important for early microbiological stability. Hang the salami (including your softball-sized chub) in your controlled environment and bring the temp up to 90-100°F and humidity to 90-95%. This is the fermentation stage! Hold the sausage in this environment for 48 hours. Keep the mold solution in the spray bottle and in the freezer until later.

Why Make a Salami Test Chub?


A chub is a small sample of your product, stuffed to the full diameter of the sausages that you’re drying. Stuff it to a short length to reduce waste, since this will be thrown out after testing. This test chub will be used—you guessed it—to test the pH of your fermenting salami to determine whether it is in the correct acidic range, so that the sausage is fermenting properly.

After 48 hours of fermentation, remove the chub. Cut it in half. With clean/dry fingers, rip a 1-2” piece of the pH strip, scoop a little bit of the meat center and insert the pH strip. Hold it there for 30 seconds and check the color guide. The pH should have dropped down to 5.3 or lower. If higher, keep fermenting for an additional 6 hours to ensure proper acidity level. Throw away the chub; do not eat it. Once fermentation period is over, drop the temperature down to 50°F and humidity to 75% for the long drying period. Also, by this time, you should see excellent mold coverage (if applied earlier). At least 25% of surfaces should have spotting. If not, respray surface with a few mists of the remaining mold solution. This is the last spray (if needed). The solution should not be frozen again; discard the remainder down the drain and clean the bottle with hot, soapy water.


Checkups

In the first 1-2 weeks, you’ll want to check your environment rather frequently. If there are large variations in humidity and temperature, they’ll need to be corrected immediately. When making sausage like this at home and especially when you’re first learning how to cure salami, it’s important to do dry runs, test the environment and keep notes of all conditions. Even with immaculate cleanliness, your salami may develop unappealing mold on the surface. If this is the case, mix white vinegar and distilled water (1:1), moisten a clean cloth with it, and wipe the mold away. Use a little extra around the affected area. If dark/unwanted mold continues to come back and/or appears beneath the casing, the sausage should be discarded.

The Weigh-In!

Flash forward about 4 weeks for 47mm dia. sausage or 5-6 weeks for 65mm. Let’s take out one of those Italian baseball bats we call salami and weigh it. If it’s lost over 35% of its green weight and it was fermented, you could say it is ready to cut and inspect. If it’s lost less than 35%, leave it for another week and reweigh. Personally, we enjoy 40% loss for the best quality, but others dry even more! When you cut the salami open, the cross section should be roughly the same vibrant color throughout, aside from a bit darker purplish ring closest to the surface, which is normal. If the color is vibrant and dark towards the surface and light/grey/pale in the center, then something went wrong. In the latter case, the center will undoubtedly be moist, non-pliable and crumbly. This means that it didn’t make it. Don’t “give it a try” or claim to have an iron stomach. You can get very ill and so can others, so throw it out! If you see a nice, uniform, reddish (cured) color and a rubbery center, then it’s done, ready to slice thin and be savored.

Digital Dry-Curing Cabinet

The Sausage Maker is excited to announce the first large-capacity dry curing cabinet (often called a curing chamber) for home use. Perfect for the modern kitchen, office or man cave, watch plain salamis turn into artisanal charcuterie masterpieces. Dry curing is no longer limited to those who live in an ideal climate.

We at the Sausage Maker have built numerous dry curing cabinets over the years in an effort to find the best way to accurately regulate both temperature and humidity in a controlled and sanitary environment. Through all the lengthy engineering, testing and adjusting cycles, we have finally developed a dry curing cabinet that we can proudly offer to our customers. Now you can dry-age steaks or pork belly to enhance the flavor of choice cuts, hang sausage to make a traditionally preserved salami, capicola (coppa) or give your summer sausage or pepperoni sticks that tangy flavor through natural fermentation. Make traditionally fermented, dry-aged and preserved foods in your home, with the control and modern elegance of the Sausage Maker’s dry curing cabinet (11-1509. Ship by truck. $3,425.99).

Specs/Features:

Designed and assembled by the Sausage Maker
LCD capacitive-touch control panel
    Temperature range: 41–99°F (±2°F)
    Humidity range: 40–90% RH (±5% RH)
304 grade stainless steel interior
USA-made, whisper-quiet compressor
2-gallon water tank humidifier
Anti-microbial membrane
6 stainless steel v-sticks for hanging product
Carbon air filtration  
Removable s/s drip collector
UV-protective double-paned glass
Key-locking door
Miniature blue LED ceiling light
Water tank overload drainage

Learn more about dry curing and stock up on all your dry curing needs at our online store.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Pair Beers & Sausage Like a Pro


It’s Oktoberfest season, which means we’ve got sausage and beer pairing on the brain (though really, when do we not?). But even when it’s not exactly the right time of year for your favorite German bier haus, it's never a bad time for beers and brats. In fact, according to figures compiled by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council—oh yes, you better believe it exists—dinner sausages have enjoyed unprecedented sales in the United States, hitting more than $3.85 billion in 2015. 

Creating the perfect pairing of a refreshing beer and a succulent sausage is more of a science than an art, though. You can't just mix whatever you like and expect an enjoyable match; trust us. After all, we're the sausage experts. 

For this edition of Sausages of the World, here are six of the best beers to serve with sausage this Oktober (or anytime).


French Andouille + Märzen

Originating in France, French immigrants brought Andouille to Louisiana and it has since become a staple in Cajun cuisine. This double-smoked sausage is made of pork from a Boston shoulder roast, garlic, onions, pepper, wine and other seasonings. 

Our Favorite Märzen for Andouille: Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Available exclusively in the fall, this Märzen brewed by the Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Ohio has an alcohol by volume of 6.5%. While some Märzen-style beers are either too malty or not balanced, this pick has the clean malt character you look for in a beer that pairs well with Andouille. Its bitterness is clean and not overpowering. 

Say cheers in French: Sante! (SAHN-tay)


German Currywurst + Weizenbock

This common fast food, which originated in Berlin in 1949, consists of fried pork sausage (the traditional German bratwurst) that's usually cut into slices, topped with curry powder and accompanied by a special curry ketchup. If you're a fan, there's even a museum in Berlin you can visit that's dedicated to the national German dish.

Our Favorite Weizenbock for Currywurst: High Point Ramstein Winter Wheat

Available in the winter and brewed by High Point Brewing Company in New Jersey, this German-style ale comes with an ABV of 9.5%, which is hidden well by the wonderful balance of its full caramel and chocolate malt flavors. It makes for the perfect match when enjoying a currywurst on a cold winter's day. 

Say cheers in German: Prost! (PROHST)


Italian Salami + Stout

Consisting of fermented and air-dried pork or beef, salami was popular among central and southern European peasants because it can be stored at room temperature for up to 40 days after being cut. While many European countries make their own traditional varieties of salami, the Italians sure have perfected this delicious deli favorite. 

Our Favorite Stout for Salami: Magic Hat Heart of Darkness

Brewed by the popular Magic Hat Brewing Company in Vermont, this English Stout has an ABV of 5.7% and is only available in winter. With a smooth palate and undercurrent of bittersweet chocolate, it complements the saltiness of this sausage well. For a full-bodied and well-rounded stout for your salami, look no further.

Say cheers in Italian: Salute! (sah-LOO-tay)


Mexican Chorizo + Lager


Like salami to Europe, there are many varieties of chorizo across Latin America, but Mexico has perfected the tastiest version. Because of the high cost of imported smoked paprika from Spain, Mexican chorizo is usually made with native chili peppers.

Our Favorite Lager for Chorizo: New Glarus Totally Naked

Brewed by the New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin, this American Pale Lager comes with an ABV of 4.25% and complements the spiciness of chorizo perfectly. Crisp and clean with a smooth and mellow body, this beer has just the right hint of light malt character for a hot chorizo.

Say cheers in Spanish: Salud! (sah-LOOD)

Polish Kielbasa + Pilsner

It's almost a crime not to include some type of Polish sausage on a list like this, considering it's a cuisine staple, comes in dozens of varieties and there are even government guides dedicated to different sausages. Kielbasa, which is often used in dishes during the holidays and at weddings, can be served in a variety of ways.

Our Favorite Pilsner for Kielbasa: Baderbräu Chicago Pilsner

When looking for the perfect beer to pair with kielbasa, a Czech Pilsner is a perfect match. Our favorite is brewed by the Baderbräu Brewing Company in Illinois and has an ABV of 4.8%. Considering Chicago is home to the world's largest Polish community outside of Warsaw, it almost seems fit this beer would make our list. The reborn brew and its extreme smoothness pair perfectly with any dish containing kielbasa.

Say cheers in Polish: Na zdrowie! (naz-DROH-vee-ay)


South African Boerewors + Witbier

When your taste buds think sausage, they usually salivate for the European and Latin American versions because of their widespread popularity, but let's not forget about the Boerewors sausage from South Africa. This sausage contains at least 90 percent meat, always with beef, as well as a combination of lamb, pork or a mixture of both. The rest consists of spices and other special ingredients. Want to make your own? Follow our recipe!

Our Favorite Witbier for Boerewors: Allagash White

When it comes to white beers that pair perfectly with this style of sausage, there’s no better option than this beer brewed by the Allagash Brewing Company in Maine. At an ABV of 5.1%, the interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer contains a generous portion of wheat and is spiced with coriander and orange peel. Fruity and refreshing, you can't go wrong with this selection. 

Say cheers in Afrikaans: Gesondheid! (ge-SUND-hate)


Are you a beers 'n' brats aficionado? Leave a comment below and share your perfect pairing with the world, or share it with us on Facebook!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Sausage Maker Recommends: Butchers & Meat Markets


Let’s face it: Most of us have forsaken the friendly local butcher in favor of convenient chain grocery stores—sacrificing taste and customer experience in the process. The locavore movement is a growing population of eaters that bucks this trend by only consuming locally produced food. In order to stick it to the man (take that, Sam's Club!), we’re highlighting local, free-range butchers around the country that avoid chemicals, deliver quality and care and ensure the humane treatment of their animals.

Ethical dilemmas aside, undue stress in an animal’s environment can alter its pH level and taint the taste of its precious meat. We’re not advocating that you become a card carrying member of PETA, but you’ve got to be concerned about quality if you want your dishes to taste just right.

Frankly, a bland burger, steak or sausage is just the wurst, so here’s our list of eight locavore-approved meat markets that are a cut above their peers.

1.  Red Apron Butcher - Washington, DC

An urban-dwelling foodie’s paradise, Red Apron isn’t your traditional butcher shop.  Founder Nathan Anda has made his mark on DC by building lasting relationships with farmers in the area and selling in small batches. Make sure to get the pork when you visit, because Red Apron is America’s first butcher to source 100% of its pork from Animal Welfare Approved farms.

2.  Golden Gate Meat Company - San Francisco, CA

Voted San Francisco’s best butcher shop by SF Weekly, the GGMC is an old-fashioned meat market operated by the Offenbach family for nearly 40 years. GGMC boasts over a thousand natural and organic products, making it the perfect destination for meat lovers looking for variety. Be sure to check out their free-range Kobe beef—it comes from happy cows.

3.  The Local Pig - Kansas City, MO

A restaurant and butcher shop hybrid, the Local Pig is committed to providing meat lovers in Kansas City with humane, locally sourced fare. While the eatery is renowned for its “Pigwich” sandwich, the main attraction is the healthy selection of choice cuts sold over the counter.

Each Sunday, the Local Pig also offers a sausage making class, where you can learn how to put all your shiny new sausage making toys to use.

4.  Salt & Time - Austin, TX

Salt & Time is committed to bringing the best meat from Texas ranchers directly to hungry Austinites. They offer a wide assortment of cuts, sausages and ground meats to choose from as well as a monthly butcher’s box if you’d like to try a little of everything. If you’re feeling inspired after eating Salt & Time’s famous burgers in-restaurant, you can mimic them at home with one of our burger kits.    


Butcher & Larder proprietor Rob Levitt
5.  The Butcher & Larder - Chicago, IL

Another butcher-restaurant mash-up, the Butcher & Larder rules the Chicago meat scene and sources its food from Midwestern farms. Take advantage of Rob Levitt and his staff's’ expertise and ask for recommendations—they know protein inside and out.  

Pro tip: The restaurant is BYOB, so make sure to come prepared with a few cold ones.

6.  The St. Paul Meat Shop - St. Paul, MN

With meat sourced from seven nearby farms, the St. Paul Meat Shop practices whole-animal butchery and emphasizes sustainable practices. While the Twin Cities rave about their pastrami sandwiches, make sure to also check out their selection of brats and jerky.

7.  Dispenza’s Meat Market - Ransomville, NY

A family-run slaughterhouse with only four employees, Dispenza’s strives to emulate the charm of traditional meat markets. Just a short drive north of Buffalo, you’ll find specialty meats that aren’t at most grocery stores (jowl, cheek, primal cuts, etc.) alongside their more conventional products. Take family breakfast to new heights by snagging some of Dispenza’s fresh eggs and some thick-cut bacon for home curing.

8.  T-Meadow Farm - Lockport, NY

T-Meadow Farm has a very simple philosophy—they raise their swine “the way the pigs like it”. Using low-impact methods, T-Meadow rotationally grazes their livestock on sprawling pastures and refrains from the use of antibiotics. You can grab a whole cut of their pork at the Elmwood-Bidwell Market on Saturdays and grind the leftovers for safekeeping. If you want your pork cooked to perfection, you can also enjoy it at a handful of local eateries including the Black Sheep, Marble & Rye or Toutant. T-Meadow Farm holds a special place in our hearts for being close to home, and a special place in our stomachs for being downright delicious.

Do you have a favorite meat market or butcher in your area? Tell us about them in the comments below or share them on our Facebook page!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Sausage Maker Guide to Tailgate Food

We’re nearly halfway through August, and while that means prime grilling time is coming to an end, we’re also nearing the kickoff to one of the best times of year for cooking: football season.



Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Your average tailgate features nothing but domestic beer and brats, which don’t exactly present a challenge for the chef or a surprise for the taste buds. You can surf Pinterest for Super Bowl food ideas, but your table will still mostly consist of chips and dip, grocery store hot dogs and football-shaped desserts. Looking for some game day recipes your guests will actually remember? Roll up your sleeves and get into the kitchen—we’re here to save your tailgate.

The Appetizers

Our favorite pregame appetizers are ones you can carry around the tailgate and munch on throughout the game, without fear of knocking over your plate when things get exciting. We’re especially partial to handheld football snacks, and that doesn’t have to mean store-bought.

Like the convenience of a Slim Jim but wish it could be… better? Try making your own meatier, adult-ier snack sticks. We like ours made from pork, in a slightly larger diameter than your average convenience store size. Think smoky, not tangy, letting your smokehouse do the flavoring or adding it via liquid smoke. The Sausage Maker carries a DIY dried sausage sticks kit that comes with everything you’ll need except the meat—just follow the kit’s instructions and you’ll have plenty to feed a crowd.



If you want an even more finger-friendly food and need something you can sneak past stadium security in your pockets (shh… you didn’t hear it from us), jerky is the way to go. Professional-quality jerky can be made with ground or whole-muscle meat and a good dehydrator, flavored with the seasoning of your choice. Make a few batches with different spices if you’re looking to please lots of varied tastes. We recommend a smoky flavor for classic jerky lovers or something with more of a kick for our Bills Mafia brethren once we reach those winter games.

The Entrée

If you’re set on serving sausages at your tailgate, we salute you. Why, it would be downright blasphemous to discourage you. But variety is the spice of life, after all, and even a brat-loving crowd can get behind something a little more unexpected from time to time. Our bold suggestion for this year’s season opener? Fish ‘n’ chips.



Bringing a deep fryer to a tailgate might sound cumbersome, but you’d be surprised how much easier it can be than even a portable grill. Choose a nice, flaky cod and a good beer batter, plus a bag full of Russets and you’re good to go. If you’ve never brought homemade fries to a party, trust us—that fryer will be on the whole time and your fellow football fans will tell tales of your awesomeness for weeks to come. Get your batters and fryers here and your fry cutter right here.

If you’re going with a heavier meat option like pork or beef, we recommend our Memphis Style Barbecue Rub. It’s one of our most popular, perfect as a dry rub or (insider tip) as a marinade if you just add water.

The Side

Most Super Bowl snacks and recipes aren’t known for their healthfulness, but we know of at least one healthy tailgate food that’s easy to sneak by the meat lovers. A mandolin shredder is yet another handheld, extremely portable tool that makes cole slaw as easy as a couple of swipes. Red and green cabbage, carrots, beets—just about anything can go through the mandolin and make a great topping for fried fish tacos too. Just be careful you don’t take off a finger after a few beers.



Our mouths are already watering in anticipation of football season. Have a favorite recipe we didn’t mention here? Share it with us on Facebook and Pinterest and we might just feature it on our blog! Go Bills!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Hot Dog


Independence Day is right around the corner, but you still have time to prep for a day of grilling. This year, we challenge you: Skip the store-bought knock-offs and learn how to make your own hot dogs.

Take it from the experts. Hand-stuffed, homemade hot dogs are worlds away from what your guests are used to. The snap, the flavor, the experience of a classic American hot dog recipe made the old-fashioned way - you'll never go back to Oscar Mayer. Follow the steps below and tell us all about your 4th of July on Facebook and Instagram, or ask your hot dog questions on the Sausage Maker forum!

Ingredients for 20-lb recipe:
8 lbs pork butt (shoulder)
12 lbs lean beef chuck 
4 level tsp Insta Cure #1 (use only if smoking) 
8 Tbsp paprika
12 Tbsp ground mustard
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground white pepper 
2 tsp ground celery seeds
2 Tbsp mace
2 tsp garlic powder
8 Tbsp salt
4 s ice water
small collagen casings (fresh if not smoking, smoked if planning on smoking)

Machines/tools:
meat grinder w/ 3/16" plate or 1/4" plate and sharp chopping knife
sausage stuffer w/ ½" tube 
food processor
spice mill/spice grinder/unused coffee grinder
smokehouse (optional) 
butcher paper or food-safe container 
Step 1: Preparation

Getting everything ready and in place is almost half the work. Make a checklist similar to ours. The pork-to-beef ratio is entirely up to you; our 3:2 beef is taken directly from a tried-and-true recipe from Great Sausage Recipes & Meat Curing. Paprika gives the final product a nice reddish tint, so if you don't want that, just leave the paprika out entirely. If you find the lightly bitter taste of mace objectionable, the 2 Tbsp can be substituted with 2 oz (10 Tbsp) of ground coriander (a slightly less bitter spice). We kept the recipe entirely intact, paprika and mace included. The mace mixes in very well and is largely unidentifiable in the hot dog, and the paprika gives it color (not a terrible thing for a dull-looking dog, right?).

Both the beef and pork should be very lean (the dry milk/soy protein will do most of the
Trim the gland from your pork butt for best results.
binding instead of the fat). Cut everything that looks fatty or that you may not want to eat, like the gland in the pork butt (if there is one). The beef chuck (your choice of cut) shouldn't have much baggage to deal with aside from a little defatting. Cool the trimmed meat in a fridge or cooler to await the grinding phase.

One more thing to do before beginning your wiener experiment: Cleaning all the tools and machines before using them is vital. We want to make hot dogs that won't make people sick, and efficient cleaning will give us a leg up on that. Clean the grinder parts thoroughly, plus the stuffer, food processor, knives and everything that will come into contact with the meats.

Step 2: Grinding & Mixing

The meat should be removed from the cooler when it gets to just about freezing (mid 30s°F is perfect). Cut the meat into pieces to fit your grinder’s hopper. We’re using our ¾ HP #8 electric meat grinder, but any grinder will do. The grinding plate should have very fine holes, 3/16” plate or ¼” plate. Grind the pork and beef together into a food lug and mix together well. We had an unused coffee grinder that we used to grind up some seeded spices. Sprinkle the ground ingredients over the meat and mix everything together thoroughly. Latex gloves are helpful here because it's cleaner - without them, you can contaminate everything you touch and washing off the meat isn’t the easiest thing to do. After about five minutes of mixing, the meat should begin to change consistency, becoming clumpy and sticky, and turning a light grayish color (if using the paprika, it won't get very gray). Put meat in butcher paper in a cooler and clean the grinder before the little meat shrapnel hardens.

Tips on cleaning your grinder: Grinding hardened, leftover bread works great for cleaning the plate’s holes. When sufficiently cleaned, spraying plates, knife, auger and even the grinder itself with silicone lubricant will prevent future rusting. Place the small parts in a plastic bag with some uncooked rice to absorb excess moisture and store.

Step 3: Processing

Now we'll further break down the meat into a paste-like consistency using a food processor. We won't name what brand we used for emulsifying the meat because ours was a messy fiasco. If you plan on going through the processing stage we highly recommend you buy a food processor that has a reputation of handling emulsification, or call the manufacturer to find out. The meat got into places it shouldn't have, halfway through the machine started giving off a slightly burned smell and when we finished, the motor gave out an exhausted smoky sigh. If this experiment is enjoyable for you and you plan on doing this again, then doing a little research and purchasing a quality food processor is a good idea.

We can't let the meat get too warm, and when it is being processed it will of course warm up very quickly. So, keep ice water close by. Add small amounts of water to the concoction to keep the temperature down and make it easier on the processor, and be careful not to overdo it with the water (avoid pooling). it's best to handle this phase fairly speedily. You can wipe the paste off the side walls with a spatula or fingers (fingers worked better for us - careful, blades sharp), and put the splattered meat back into the center. We did about 2-3 lbs of the meat at a time and after each pasty bunch, we placed it in butcher paper (use any food-safe container/material) and in the fridge. And so on with the next batch, til the fridge is filled with our pulpy meat.

Note: The food processor we purchased was not cheap (about $100) and we still had problems with it. To skip the risk, you can emulsify by regrinding the meat two times with a 3/16" or ¼" plate (smaller the better) in your grinder. The consistency may not be as pasty, but it will taste just as good and may save you a stress headache.


Step 4: Stuffing

Now for one of the most fun (yet tricky) parts of the process: stuffing the meat into casings. We used 24-26mm sheep casings, which, when stuffed, are little over a plump 1" in diameter. The ¾" diameter stuffing tube is a bit of a stretch, so we used the ½" diameter instead. The stuffer is our TSM 5 lb capacity model. If you plan on smoking your hot dogs, remember to link in even numbers. For example, two sets of 12 links or three sets of eight links. It is much easier to hang an even number of links, it will prevent one side from pulling the other down and if they are equal-length links, they're less likely to touch the smoke diffuser in your smokehouse. One more note on smoking before we begin: If you're smoking the hotdogs and you prefer to use collagen casings instead of natural, make sure you use smoked and not fresh collagen casings. The directions below reference natural casings specifically.

The casings come in bundles called hanks. Each hank can be very long and untying them can be quite a chore. What we like to do is find a loose one and keep pulling it till it's stuck. Then place the entire knotted bundle on a clean surface and start working on it. If you have roughly five feet, it's long enough. Cut it and place it in a small container with warm water. Move on to the next casing and do the same. Be absolutely sure to flush the casings thoroughly. When you untangle a casing, open one end and, with the faucet lightly open, fill the casing at least half with water. When the "water-sausage" fills about half the casing, gently push the water through the end (always watching for knots; it would be a shame to burst a casing before it sees any meat). Remove any water left in the unused casings, mix liberally with purified salt, repack tightly in a plastic bag and place in the back of the fridge for storage. When loading the casings on the tube, always err on the side of putting on more. Casings are relatively cheap, they have incredibly long shelf life and our single plastic bags have about 100 yards of casing. So if there's a little bit left on the tube after the meat is gone, it's better to just throw it away.

A quick note on inserting casings on the tube: Try your best to put the casings on straight and not turn them either way. When you notice the casing beginning to tighten in front due to twisting, do not force it onto the tube or try to untwist it by turning the part that's already on the tube. Those twists will exit just as they entered and your hot dogs will be turned around. If it is less than halfway up the tube, take the whole thing off and unwind it. If you have a lot of casing already on, hold what's on the tube and (you may need an extra hand) untwist it with the other end. Getting the tube and casing thoroughly wet will prevent casings from getting stubborn when applying, so have warm water handy.

Now that we have the casings on, leave about an inch of casing hanging off the tube. Start cranking and once the meat starts pushing its way out of the tube, pinch shut the casing a little to get a nice shape going right at the start. If you have someone with you, have them help you get a coil going so it doesn't snake its way off the edge of your table. At the end of any long, stuffed casing, be sure to leave an inch or two empty. Now start at one end, move down the sausage to where you want the first dog to end, gently with forefinger and thumb massage away some of the meat in that part and turn the new dog clockwise, making a link. You should use that one (or something its length) as a model for the rest, or just eyeball it. Remember, each new link needs to be turned the opposite direction than the one before it, so the next one should be turned counter-clockwise and so on. Burst casings are just as likely to occur during the linking phase as the stuffing phase, so be careful when linking. If you have any burst ones, just empty them and fry them up for a little teaser of what's ahead in the finished product. If you're giving them a light smudge in a smoker later, don't forget to prick out the air-pockets. Of course, we have utensils specific to each task. For this, we use the sausage pricker, but you can use anything from a toothpick to a sterilized sewing needle.



If you're smoking, skip to Step 6. If you're not, read on.

Step 5: Parboil, Grill & Eat

If you are not smoking the product, there's no need to use the Insta Cure #1. The product will need to be partially boiled to precook the meat; afterwards they can be simply reheated on a grill, boiled or pan-fried. To parboil, place the dogs in a pot of cold water and gradually bring up the water's temperature. Do not exceed 180°F water temperature or you'll risk breaking the casings. If you have a meat thermometer, the dogs should be at or over 152°F to be considered cooked. If no thermometer, about 15-20 minutes on simmer should be all right. You should eat one or two soon after they are cooked to get an idea of how they will taste. We recommend you eat one plain and the next with your favorite condiments (being Buffalo folks, we eat ours with ketchup, Weber's mustard, Broadway Market horseradish and relish... mmm). Try a few pan-fried with some vegetable oil. The outside nicely caramelizes in the oil, which is delicious. You can save them for two weeks in the refrigerator, or, for preserving longer than two weeks, freeze. And enjoy!

Step 6: Smoking, Steaming

The smoking phase is entirely optional, and for hot dogs we can't imagine you would want it to taste very smoky or have a dark smudge, but to each his own. First, be sure when hanging the links that they don't touch each other or the walls. The smoke will not get into those contact points. You should have a temperature probe inside the sausage that's biggest and furthest away from the heating element for a clear internal meat temperature and a separate inside smoker temperature. When they are set to go, you must dry the wieners by setting the smoker to 120°F with the smoke diffuser atop the heating element and dampers wide open for about an hour, or until the dogs' casings are dry to the touch (no smoke!). We don't recommend smoking any longer than three hours. By wetting the sawdust more than normal, the smoke will not be as forceful. After casings are done drying, set to 130°F, bring up the temperature 10°F every hour until you get to 160°F (damper open halfway the whole time). Smoke to your liking. After smoking, you can go straight to steam.

We steam in our smoker by placing a large bowl of freshly boiled water onto the heating element (remove diffuser entirely) and setting the temperature all the way up. This will bring the meat temperature past 152°F fairly quickly. When steam cooking in your smoker, remember to prevent any steam from escaping (especially from the chimney/damper) by sealing cracks with either towels or other means. If steaming is not an option, no worries - only patience. Set the temp to about 165°F, making sure it doesn't go over 170°F inside the smoker for any period of time because any fat that is inside will melt and drip down along with moisture. Our dogs have very little fat so the dripping may not be terribly dangerous, but this higher temperature will also cause your dogs to shrivel, and nobody likes a wrinkly shriveled dog! Once the internal meat temperature is at least 152°F in a few dogs, they are done. Take them out, and give them a cold shower under the sink until the internal temp goes down to about 110°F. We always cut off a little sausage right after smoking/steaming is done and before cold showering for a victory snack. You can hang them at room temperature until they are sufficiently dried and reach your desired bloom. Finally, they should be put in a cooler until their internal reaches about 50°F.

It is a bit of work, but it shouldn't seem like a chore. If you do this once, you won't soon forget how it's done, and the next time it will be done quicker and the final product will only get better. Personalize the recipe, make some tweaks and call it your own.

Step 7: ENJOY!

We made this batch for a 4th of July party, but anytime is the perfect time for some good ol' fashioned American hot dogs. We wouldn't dream of giving any grilling advice to you folks since most people we know take great pride in their BBQ wisdom. We hope you have as great a time making these tasty dogs as you surely will eating them with friends and family! Be sure to let us know about your experience in the comments below, on our forum or on Facebook.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Announcing the Sausage Maker Forum!


If there's one thing we've learned in our decades of serving sausage makers and DIY foodies of all stripes, it's that our customers love talking about their craft. Trading recipes, asking for tips, complimenting each other's innovative smokehouse setups--we're proud to have been involved in building a community of food lovers who take pride in their cooking and take the extra time to share.

With all the chatter going on, we thought it was high time to provide our customers and friends with a sausage making forum where you can ask questions and get answers from folks with plenty of experimentation under their belts. Whether you're a beginner hobbyist or a commercial chef with years of expertise, we hope our forum will be a go-to resource for your next cooking adventure.

Bookmark this link: http://thesausagemaker.boards.net, sign up and introduce yourself! The Sausage Maker staff will be available to provide our own knowledge, and we can't wait to see what other genius ideas the sausage making boards turn out.

As always, happy smoking!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sausages of the World: Boerewors


Howzit, bru!

Welcome to the first installment of our ongoing series on sausages of the world! In each post, we'll learn about the history and cooking of a particular type of sausage, enjoyed by our meat-loving brethren in some corner of the globe. For this first outing, we're focusing on boerewors, a traditional South African sausage that's also eaten in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa.

Traditional boerewors is stuffed and presented in a long coil shape.
History of Boerewors

If you're like us, your first question probably involves the boerewors pronunciation. It's easy: Just say "BOO-ruh-vorse." Boerewors is an Afrikaans word that literally means "farmer's sausage."

As with most South African cuisine (and the Afrikaans language), the flavors and ingredients in boerewors were influenced by centuries of colonization and immigration. In the mid-17th century, two members of the Dutch East India Company were shipwrecked for several months at what would become the Cape Colony, later known as the Republic of South Africa. When they finally returned to the Netherlands, these sailors recommended the area as a kind of warehouse where East India Company ships could restock their provisions. The Cape's unique location and ensuing political struggles over the next few hundred years led to South Africa's unfortunate history of extreme segregation and racism. The country still suffers from widespread poverty and the lingering effects of apartheid, but its highly diverse population and turbulent history have led to one of the most interesting national cuisines in the world.

Boerewors is partially derived from a traditional Dutch sausage called verse worst. The flavor of boerewors is somewhat different, though, due to variations in spices. It is cooked by braaing, or grilling outdoors.

The Sausage Maker does not recommend using a log as a heat source.
Boerewors Ingredients

Officially, boerewors contains at least 90 percent meat and not more than 30 percent fat. The majority of the meat used is beef, with some lamb and/or pork mixed in. Traditional seasonings include dark vinegar as well as coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and salt, making for a deep, rich sausage that reminds us of the flavors of the holidays (for a slight variation on these seasonings, try our Farmer's Pork Sausage blend). Boerewors is often served with pap, a grits-like porridge made with maize. Some people prefer their sausage in a boerie roll, a South African-style hot dog with tomatoes and relish.

Boerewors Recipe

Your exact measurements will depend on the amount of sausage you plan to make, but we've approximated the proportions you'll need for an authentic-tasting boerewors.

Ingredients:
90% meat including beef and pork/lamb
30% belly fat for richness and texture
Malt vinegar
Cloves
Nutmeg
Coriander seeds
Salt
Ground black pepper
Natural sausage casings

Instructions:
1. Cube your meat and fat to prepare them for the grinder.
2. Mix all spices together and sprinkle them over the cubed meat/fat, being sure to incorporate them fully for an even flavor.
3. Run your spiced meat/fat mixture through the grinder. Don't pack it too tightly!
4. Add the malt vinegar and stir thoroughly.
5. Add the mixture to your sausage stuffer and feed it into your natural casings in one long, evenly stuffed coil.
6. For authenticity, cook and serve the boerewors in this coil shape rather than twisting the sausage into links or making several small sausages (unless you're serving boerie rolls). Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite boerewors recipe? Share it with us in the comments or on our Facebook page!