As meat and fat slide into a casing during stuffing, the inside of the casing may become "smeared" if the fat has been allowed to warm up - even slightly - during processing. Smearing may primarily occur whenever friction-heated mechanical parts (such as grinder blades, plates, augers, etc.) encounter fat particles that have not been frozen. Forcing room-temperature fat through a grinder is a sure-fire method of smearing an otherwise great sausage.What is "smearing" and how does it affect sausage?
Smeared fat may cause all sorts of problems. First the texture suffers as otherwise creamy, flavorful fat becomes altered as it is heated and "broken" into liquid, leaving a dry, "sandy" consistency behind. In smoked-cooked (cured) sausage, fat that has been heated too much or too quickly may leave re-solidified orange liquid in pockets throughout the meat with a flavor reminiscent of my uncle`s old chewin' t'backy and the texture of an anthill. Your prize sausage will even be restricted from taking on smoke if the inside of the casing has been "smeared" with a film of "ninety-weight". In fermented, dry-cured sausages, smeared casings prevent moisture from leaving the center of the sausages, evaporating outside the casing. This "case-hardening" causes the meat to spoil within as it prevents the meat from becoming bacteriologically stable while being dried to a point beneath 0.85 Aw.
Let me pause here to let you in on the sausagemaker`s biggest little secret. Almost everyone believes it is what goes into a sausage that makes it great. True, good meat makes good sausage. But, it is really HOW you make it that is most important. You must put all the little tricks together to make a great product. Thaw the meat inside your refrigerator and then grind it while it still has a few softened ice chips in its texture. Separate the fat and freeze it before dicing it with a sharp knife. Pop it back into the freezer twenty minutes then put the frozen fat through the grinder. Don`t forget to freeze you grinder`s plate and knives for twenty minutes. Use softened ice chips to keep the mixture below 38°;F. (3°;C.). Never miss an opportunity to put the meat back into the refrigerator. Always work in small batches either grinding, emulsifying, or stuffing, and keep the remainder in your fridge. Allow the meat and fat to become cold, cold, cold before you stuff it into casings.
In ten pounds of meat, depending upon each recipe, generally 5 tablespoons of salt are plenty for safety and flavor. Two tablespoons of freshly cracked black pepper will usually do the job too, unless you are like me and tend to eat cracked black pepper with a spoon! If you add modest amounts of the sausage`s particular "signature" spices and follow all the rules - you should have a great sausage!
No one`s first attempts come out perfectly. It just doesn`t happen. Even the great Rytek Kutas said that he threw out more sausage than he sold during his first year. OK, pards... like my ol` daddy used to say... "back up and hit it again!"