Monday, March 14, 2016

Sausage Casings 101: Fibrous Casings

It's that time again! In part three of our series on sausage casings, we're taking a look at fibrous casings, which come in tons of varieties to fit your specific sausage plans. If you're craving pepperoni, liverwurst or any other sausage that requires tight stuffing, fibrous casings might be the right choice for you.

While fibrous casings are inedible, they're still traditionally used to make several specific types of sausage. When you're shopping fibrous casings at the Sausage Maker online store, you'll find usage and recipe suggestions within our product descriptions. Be sure to choose the right diameter for the amount of meat you'll be stuffing, and choose a dark-colored casing if you want to lend a classic smoked look to your finished product.

Read below for our tips on making the most of your fibrous casings, plus a few dos and don'ts for beginners.
Mahogany Fibrous Summer Sausage Casings, $15.99 at the Sausage Maker

What are fibrous casings made of?

Fibrous casings are made with plant fiber in the form of cellulose, non-meat glycerin, added moisture and food oil running lengthwise, which gives them added strength. 

Are fibrous casings edible?

No, these casings are not edible, although they do peel easily when cooked.

What are fibrous casings generally used for?

Fibrous casings are most commonly used for making pepperonis, summer sausage, beef sticks, bologna, cooked salamis, liverwurst, etc. They are much more durable against tight stuffing, which makes them ideal for stuffing fine ground or emulsified sausages tightly.  

How do I prepare these fibrous casings for use?

Soak fibrous casings in tap water for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the water gets inside the casing as well as covering the outside. Water can be cool, tepid or room temperature. 

Which casings should I use—plain or protein-lined (A.K.A. “meat cling”)?

So-called "protein-lined" casings have a protein coating applied to the inside of the casing. If you are making a dry cured product such as pepperoni or hard salami, you would use the protein-lined casings. These casings will shrink as the meat is shrinking, which will result in a better-looking product. 

When would I use the mahogany-colored or other designer casings?

Brown, red and mahogany casings can be used when you want to give a smoky or colored appearance without using a smoker. Often these recipes use liquid smoke to impart a smoky flavor to the meat. Other designer casings (i.e. string-effect) are simply printed for making a unique-looking final product. 

Do these casings let the smoke penetrate?

Yes, fibrous casings are porous and allow the smoke to penetrate into the meat. However, they are not as porous/permeable as collagen casings or natural casings (which are the most permeable).

Ready to experiment with fibrous casings? Check out the selection in our store and visit our blog again soon for the conclusion of our sausage casings series, when we'll talk troubleshooting. Happy cooking!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sausage Casings 101: Natural Casings

Welcome back to our series on sausage casings! This time, we're going au naturel and discussing the use of natural casings, a diverse family of products that come in beef, sheep and hog varieties.

Natural casings are flexible, making them ideal for twist-linked sausages. They're generally easier to stuff than manmade casings, and because they're made up of completely organic materials, they're easier to digest as well. The type of natural casing you use depends on the diameter you're hoping to end up with and, traditionally, the variety of sausage you're preparing. Just make sure to check whether your casing is edible before you eat it!

At the Sausage Maker, our natural casings are packed in purified salt and meant to be stored in the refrigerator. This allows for a practically indefinite shelf life, as long as they're kept properly. You'll simply flush and soak your casings in tap water before you use them, and be sure to keep them cool to avoid unpleasant odors! Read on for our tips.

How do I prepare a salted hog, sheep or beef casing for stuffing?

Preparation should be completed as follows:
  1. Unravel the casings into separate strings, setting aside the approximate amount you plan to use.
  2. Rinse the salt from the casings with fresh water. When flushing the casings, the inside should be rinsed by opening one end and letting faucet pour in, one end to the other. The outside should also be rinsed.
  3. Place casings in a bowl of tepid or lukewarm water with about 1” of one end hanging over the top and soak for 20 minutes to 1 hour prior to stuffing. Some people refrigerate this way overnight.
  4. Optional: Prior to stuffing, introduce an ounce of water into the casing before placing it onto the stuffing nozzle. This will lubricate the inner casing wall and prevent it from sticking to the stuffing tube.
  5. Slide the casing over the nozzle/tube.
  6. During the course of stuffing, always try to keep the casings to the front of the nozzle where the meat is coming out. This helps minimize air pockets and breakage.
Why do my natural casings have a strong odor?

Salted casings have a very long shelf life when stored properly. When refrigerated and packed liberally in purified salt, shelf life is basically indefinite. Unrefrigerated, these salted casings quickly begin to give off a strong odor even though they are not spoiled. Put them back under refrigeration and this odor for the most part subsides.

Can leftover natural casings be reused?

If you don't use all of the casings, they can be re-salted and kept in the refrigerator. Squeeze out as much water from the insides as possible and pat dry the outside with paper towel. When fairly dry, sprinkle salt on the casings thoroughly. Do not use iodized salt—purified salt or non-iodized kosher salt is best. However, use your judgment! If mold, rotting smell or texture changes substantially, the casing should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out.

Stay tuned for our next installment, when we'll be covering fibrous casings!