Making Better Sausage
A Wurstmacher's Guide to Maximizing your Oversea Casing
Q: How do I evaluate a quality casing?
A: There are a lot of variables to consider in evaluating a quality casing. The casing should be thin and somewhat transparent not thick or opaque.
Stringent cleaning procedures of the casings are critical. The cleaning process removes the mucosa lining of hog casings. Mucosa can shorten shelf life. Oversea Casing provides an extraordinary cleaning process to remove patches of mucosa that you may find visible in lesser quality casings.
The cleaning process can also result in peyer marks, or scratches on the casings. Too much peyer makes the casing opaque. With quality casings from Oversea,
you can be sure peyer is minimized.
Another measure of quality is the size of the hank. Some manufacturers meet price requirements by reducing the length of a bundle. At Oversea Casing, you can count on a hank being 100 yards. It is important that you know the capacity of the hank you purchase in planning your own yield and pricing.
Casing prices obviously depend on the diameter size range of your order. The kind of sausage you are planning will affect your that choice. Typically larger casings are used for smoked sausage while smaller sizes are used for fresh sausage like breakfast links. Prices are also affected by the number of yards in a hank. You'll want to calculate the amount of sausage that can be made with a casing unit. Your Oversea Casing Sales Associate can assist in your planning how much sausage your casings will make and the quality attributes you may want to consider.
Q: How do I select a casing, and which size is best?
A: Oversea Casing has a wide variety of sizes in sheep, hog, beef, collagen, fibrous, cellulose and plastic materials. The options seem almost endless. Talk to your Oversea Casing Sales Associate about your plans. They can recommend product ideas that will simplify your manufacturing, improve your sausage or achieve the goals you have set. It all starts with your vision, whether it is more effective packaging and weight control, a traditional look or a more creative shape.
Q: Explain the importance of soaking casings. How long is necessary?
A: Soaking is a critical treatment for the preparation of casings. Soaking in warm, fresh water overnight will make your casings tender, flexible and easy to work. Start with the water at 90° F or 32° C. Proper soaking enables fuller, easier stuffing while minimizing breakage and holes. It also helps bind the meat block with the casing, reducing separation.
Improperly soaked casings may not stuff evenly or shape out correctly. Soaking is also a way to eliminate the odor of gas build-up you may notice when you first open a container of fresh casings.
If you are unable to soak casings overnight, at least let them soak for a couple of hours before working. A quick soak may not maximize your yield, but it will let you get started more quickly. For a quick soak:
- Rinse the salt from the casings.
- Soak in fresh water for one hour at 70° F or 21° C. Make sure water gets inside the casing.
- Soak in warmer water, about 90° F or 32° C for another hour.
- At the stuffing table, keep the casings in warm water, 90° F or 32° C.
Q: How do I store unused casings? How long will they keep?
A: Store unused casings in brine, in a cooler at 40° F or 4° C or less. Bacteria growth is dramatically impeded below 40° F, or 4° C. So it is important to minimize exposure above these temperatures.
This is as important for the meat block as it is for the casings. The sausage preparation kitchen should be kept below 40° F for maximum sanitation.
Collagen and fibrous casings can mold if stored in warm damp areas. They should be sealed in vacuum pouches or at least a zip lock bag in a dry cooler once opened.
Below 40° F, casings may keep from 6 months to a year. Never freeze casings.
Q: What makes casings tough during cooking? How can I keep them tender?
A: There are several ways to make your casings more tender. First, soak them overnight. Insufficient soaking makes them tough. Under-stuffing your sausage can also make the casings tougher.
Other than that, cooking your sausage too quickly or at too high a temperature can also make the casings tough.
If your casings are not providing the snap and tender taste that you expect, talk to your Oversea Casing Sales Associate. They can help you trouble-shoot your preparation. Sufficient moisture during the smoke cycle can also affect the casings. Adding some juices during the soak cycle can also make your casings more tender.
Q: How will working with Collagen Casings compare to Natural Casings?
A: Natural casings are far more flexible than collagen casings, so they are more forgiving for overstuffing. The limits of a collagen casing must be followed more critically.
But Collagen casings do not require soaking. They can be used immediately. They are also easier to store. Just place them in an air-tight baggie and place them in a cooler.
Q: How do I protect the fresh color of my sausage?
A: Color is important in sausage sales. Protecting the fresh, pink color means longer shelf life and better sales.
Light turns meat gray. A plastic wrap minimizes UV light to protect color. Minimizing your meat's exposure to light will help to maintain that fresh look longer.
One of the benefits of tinted collagen casings is that they keep sausage looking pink and fresh longer.
Q: How do I prevent my sausages from "Greasing Out"?
A: "Greasing out" is the formation of grease on the inside of the casing.It is caused by the meat block and the ratio of meat to fat.
The protein of the meat must "hold" all the ingredients, including seasonings, moisture and fat and stand up to the rigors of processing. Not all meat is equal. Connective tissue and organ meat are not as effective as the meat of pure muscle. If your sausages are "greasing out" evaluate the quality of your meat protein. Can you add more muscle? Do you need to add other sources of protein? Seek advice or experiment until the grease formations disappear.
Q: How do I minimize "smear" on the inside of casings as they are being stuffed?
A: White patches of grease on the inside of a casing can make it opaque, obscuring the particle definition of sausage. These white patches come from softened fat. Keeping the meat block chilled while processing your sausage keeps the grease in a solid form and minimizes "smear." Talk to your Oversea Casing Sales Associate for other ideas to minimize smear.