Specific Goods Discussed
This page will cover the production methods of minced-meat preserved goods, namely sausages, but can be applied to any manner of preserved good calling for the meats to be chopped before preserving.
Meat to be preserved; This can be any cut of meat, considerations should be made regarding fat content, as too little fat can lead to an unsatisfactory product. Any fat that is added in should also be well distributed for best results.
Salt; Like with whole-cut meats, Kosher salt is my preferred salt. Larger grain size means the rate of dissolution and absorption isn't as drastic, compared to finer grain salts, like table salt or pickling/canning salt.
Curing Salt (Prague Powder); This is a combination of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. This is used to keep pathogens such as C. Botulinum in check. There are two varieties, #1 and #2, #1 is used for shorter curing times (often measures in days), while #2 is used for longer curing times (weeks/months).
ALWAYS read the measuring directions for this when using it. In sufficient quantities, it is toxic.
Herbs/Spices; While similar spices were used in the production of whole-cut meats. There is less of a trend towards "dry" spices, like black pepper. Fresh/dried herbs that are often omitted from whole-cuts find their way into use in sausages.
Unlike the process for dealing with a whole cut of meat, there is little variation across the entire process.
Mincing: The first step in preparing a sausage, of similar good, is to, of course, mince the meat. This can be done in several ways:
Knife: Using a knife to hand-mince meat is a method known, and used by people in the Middle Ages. This results in a semi-uniform texture, with a certain smoothness punctuated by slightly larger bits. When there is enough time, I personally like to use this method, for the results it gives.
Mortar and Pestle: Much like using a knife, a mortar and pestle can be used as well to grind meat. The results are similar, but with the potential for a finer, more uniform grind.
Grinder: A much faster, and more uniform method would be to use a meat grinder. This allows the processing of large amounts of meat very quickly.
Store-Bought: Not everyone has the time to grind meat themselves. Some meat markets will grind meat for you. Otherwise, store-bought ground meat is a perfectly acceptable option for those with limited time.
Mixing: Mixing can either be done by hand, with some other mixing aid, or during the grinding process. The goal here is to make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the mince.
Resting: Not a required step, but some people will advocate for allowing the mince a "rest time" before stuffing. I generally allow for this time for two reasons.
1. It allows the ingredients to "mingle" before curing, much like with marinating meat.
2. It allows the meat to be chilled again before stuffing. This falls under good practices for handling of raw meat, and should be practiced, even if making use of Prague Powder and/or bacteria/mold cultures.
Stuffing: Depending on the availability of resources, stuffing can be as using something akin to a frosting bag and nozzle to fill casings, or even scooping and packing meat into large casings. It can also be done with a sausage stuffing mechanism, be it an old-fashioned stuffing horn or a more modern vertical stuffer.
Post-Stuffing Care: After stuffing your casings, be sure to pierce the casings where there are air pockets. This can be done with a sterilized needle or sausage-pricker. This allows air out, which could cause issues later on. It also permits off-gassing from any bacterial cultures you are using, in the same way air is let out.
After stuffing, drying can be done in a low-temp smokehouse/smoker, or in a "warm" fridge. The key here is to keep the humidity in check. If the humidity gets too low, the outside of the sausage will dry before the inside can, which may fail to cure, and go bad. Air flow is also important, as surface moisture can lead to the growth of unfavorable molds and bacteria.
Relevant Foods for Gulf 2019
For my food at Gulf Wars 2019, I am currently only planning 1 sausage, a beef/pork sausage similar to the bratwurst recipe of Sabina Welserin.
The process I used for making this batch of sausage follows the guidelines set out earlier.
1. Grind 6 fresh sage leaves, 9 generous pinches of salt (maybe 1.5 each) kosher salt, and approximately 1 tsp black pepper.
2. Put store-bought ground meat (3 pounds 80/20 beef, and 2 pounds pork) into a bowl
3. Add ground seasonings to meat.
4. Pour Prague Powder, dissolved into water, into the mince. Mix thoroughly.
5. Cover, and put into the refrigerator for a couple of days.
6. Some wine (pinot grigio) was added to increase the liquid content. This aids in the stuffing process.
7. With the wine incorporated into the mince, the bacterial culture was added, according to the directions on the package.
8.The mince was left covered on the counter for a few days. This is because the bacterial culture works best at temperatures at, or above, room temperature.
9. After giving the mince a few days to begin fermenting, it was mixed one more time, before being stuffed into 1-pound fibrous casings. They are currently hanging to ferment a few more days before introducing the mold culture.
10. The initial mold culture was introduced by dunking the sausages in a pot filled with the culture, suspended in water. The sausages were then hung back up.
11. After several days, the first mold application appeared to have failed. A new culture was prepared, at a higher concentration. The application was done via spray bottle. A humidifier was also introduced to the hanging area, to encourage mold growth.
12. With the mold culture having taken hold, regular turning and rotating the sausages will be carried out until a uniform coating has formed.
As this project is far from completed, I will be updating this page as the process continues.
While those who have subscribed to receive email updates may not get a notification for those future updates, I will be sure to provide links back here, and brief updates, on my future posts.
Information on other preservation techniques can be found here.