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How do I make summer sausage firmer?

Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 01:26
by Blackriver
Well my summer sausage I made 2 weekends ago was great in flavor, and texture. The only thing I would like with the next batch would for it to be a little firmer. I used 7lbs of venison, 4.5lbs of pork shoulder, 1lbs of pork back fat and 1 cup of water for a 12.5lbs batch. I was thinking about taking out the pork back fat, and use 5.5lbs of pork shoulder next time. I have not gotten into dryed sausages yet. I know summer sausage is a semi dry sausage. Does anyone have any suggestions that would help me get a firmer texture? The inside is pretty moist.

Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 08:56
by Chuckwagon
Hi Blackriver,

The first thing people will tell you about sausage without a firm texture is that the mixture initially contained too much moisture. This could possibly be true, but there are a few other things you may consider also.

The air speed of sausage drying should not be higher than 2 mph. Excessive air flow (especially in dry humidity) can harden the casing by sealing the surface pores. When the casing becomes too dry, it becomes impossible for the moisture to escape properly - (This is called "moisture migration" in sausage making circles.) Another cause of hindered moisture migration may even include excessive initial smoke - it may actually coagulate surface proteins. Also, "smearing" (during grinding) may prevent water loss later on. If the inside of the casing has become greasy due to fat melting during the cooking process, it may also prevent the moisture from leaving the sausage properly. This is usually caused by the failure to increase the heat in the smoker (or oven) by only two or three degrees at a time... every half hour or so. This is a very important step to keep the texture from becoming grainy and dry.

Many folks make the mistake of initially mixing too much water into the sausage trying to "thin" it enough to squeeze through a "horn-type" stuffer. If this rings a bell, do yourself a favor and invest in a "geared" hand-cranked vertical stuffer. The proper consistency of a good sausage mixture simply doesn`t need much added water at all. I usually mix 2 teaspoons of cure with only one cup of water (for even distribution) for ten pounds of sausage.

One final thought. If you are making a "semi-dry cured" product that requires heating the sausage to an internal temperature of 155°; F. (68°;C.), be aware that cooking in an oven with slightly lower heat, will cause a sausage to dry out more as it cooks longer. Once the sausage is stuffed into casings and hung in your smoker, it must not be cooked too quickly or at too high a temperature. You just can`t hurry the process! If the fat in the mixture "breaks", (at about 170°F./ 77°C.), the texture of the sausage will resemble that of sawdust, and the now orange, re-solidified fat tastes just awful. Worse, there is no salvaging the entire batch. Throw it out. This is the reason we immediately cool it with ice water after it leaves the smoke house at an IMT of 152-155°;F.

Also, I would hesitate to remove the pound of backfat in the recipe. Good sausage needs 25 to 30% fat content to keep it lubricated and palatable. Without it, your sausage, (even made with the finest meats), will feel dry as you attempt to chew it. If you are attempting to harden the texture by diminishing the fat content of the sausage, you should know it`s just like me - won`t work! :wink:

One last note here Scott. You must realize there is a world of difference between "semi-dry-cured" (cooked-smoked during preparation) and a fully "dry-cured" product in which there is no prep-cooking or finish cooking at all. As the air-drying continues, the texture becomes much more solid due to the intentional loss of moisture, and it becomes very much darker in color also. It eventually takes on that beautiful dark mahogany color and the flavor is much more intense. Compare it to an Italian salami for example. A dry-cured "cotto" (cooked) salami is much lighter and more moist than a Genoa salami or any other fully "dry-cured" salami. The texture may even become quite hardened in time. It this the firmer texture you had in mind?

Please let us know how your next batch turns out.

Best Wishes,

Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 21:15
by Blackriver
Thanks a lot Chuckwagon. I will not remove the backfat. You saved me from ruining my next batch. It seems I am doing things right, keep meat cold, sharp blades and less water. My buddies tasted it and they thought it was great. I think I might explore dry and fermented sausages. Like always your help is greatly appreciated.

Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 22:57
by Chuckwagon
Hi Scott,
Thanks for the reply. I'm glad to hear you are going to try some air-dried (fermented) sausage. I think you'll find the texture (firm) that you've been looking for.

Allow me to post some info in the tech section of this site. I'll guide you through the process of making a "black pepper dry-cured sausage" (without cultures) for the first time. As you gain a little experience, you'll find a few short cuts and even may wish to try some Bactoferm. I use it all the time now. For now, check out the tech section and fire away with any questions you have. I surely don't have all the answers but I make a heck of a good biscuit! :lol:

Best Wishes,

Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 07:34
by H_Nutczak
Black river,
What do you think caused your texture issue?

Did you think heated it up it too quickly?

My smoking schedule for summer sausage is to start at 100 degrees, vents open 100% and leave it at that temp. for at least 4 hours, then I raise my temp's 10 degrees at a time adding smoke, and closing the vents 10% with each raise in temp, but at least 2 hours between each successive rise in temp. as soon as the internal temperature of the sausage hits 152F, it gets sprayed with cold water, or dipped into a tub of ice-water until my internal temp is below 100 degrees, then I let it hang at room temp for 4-6 hours before getting cooled in a cooler.

Do you like a fermented sausage? increase your 100 degree hold time to 24 hours, another trick is to grind, season, and mix your meat, and let it set for 3 days in the cooler, and mix it by hand once per day. Or better yet, try a starter culture and follow the fermenting instructions that come with the starter.

Another trick I use is to grind my pork fat first, and get it cold and keep it there until the meat is completely mixed, then for the very last step I will gently fold in the ground fat.
This prevents almost any chance of the fat smearing from an over mix at too warm of a temperature.