Problems with my dry cured snack sticks

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tinbutcher
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Problems with my dry cured snack sticks

Post by tinbutcher » Sun Mar 05, 2017 06:58

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We've been making sausage for a long time and I have never had this problem with my snack sticks. We have covered every possible scenario in the process we use and we can't figure out why these sticks are turning gray at the bottom and hollowing out,sometimes halfway up the stick,sometimes it's just at the tip of the stick. The first time it happened we tossed a 200 lb. batch.We use 21 mm collagen casings.
Is this a bacterial problem ??
We have been making these for 25 years ,same seasoning company mixture,same nitrite 4oz. per 100 lbs., same smokehouse using hickory, same drying process, and we use no starter culture.
The seasoning we use does not contain sodium erythorbate, but some of the different flavors we make do have sodium erythorbate and those turn out perfect and we make all kinds of snack sticks on the same day.
We have made 100 lbs. of our sticks and then made 200 lbs. of deer sticks . After smoking the first batch of ours goes bad, but the deer turns out fine, and we use the same seasoning in both batches......
What can be causing this ?????

Thanks for your input
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Post by tinbutcher » Sun Mar 05, 2017 15:49

Thanks for adding me to the forum !!!!

Here is the process for 100 lbs. smokies:
50 lbs. 90% beef trim
50 lbs. 72%-75% pork pics

grinding plate is 3/16 ( Biro grinder)
we double grind all sausages
meat temp at time of mixing is around 38 F
spice ingredients: salt,corn syrup solids,spices,msg,garlic,spice extractive, not more than 1% soy bean oil added to prevent caking, 4 ozs. speed cure (6.22% nitrite)
Seasoning weighs 5 lbs. 14 ozs.
I put about a quart of distilled water in my mixing bucket, put the speed cure in the water and dilute it
then I add the seasoning and make a soupy, slurry out of it and pour it over the meat.
I have a Mainca 200 mixer that is set to run 5- 30 second mixing cycles, then it runs 5- 23 second kneading cycles. The mixer alternates the cycles,mixing /kneading/mixing /kneading and does that 5 times. BTW, I do not use a starter culture....

In the past I have had to add more water to get the snack sticks to flow better through my Mainca hyd. stuffer.( I have to add at least 2 gallons of water per 200 lbs. of deer smokies to get them to flow at a reasonable rate out of my stuffer or I would be there stuffing all day, BUT I have never had a batch of smokies go bad no matter how much water I added.) BTW, I would never recommend a Mainca stuffer.......

The snack sticks are stuffed in 21 mm clear collagen casings.
We loop the stuffed smokies over poles and cut them at the bottom of the loop to make a 9" long stick.
I put the smokies in my incubation room which is around 62 degrees F and around 40% humidity and let them in the room over night.
Next morning I put them in my smoke house that is made of glazed tile.
Start my fire using hickory wood only.
I keep the fire low ,temp around 60-70 degrees and gradually build the heat up to 90 ish over a 5 hour period. I only need to smoke them for 5 hours or less.

I then place the smokies in my drying room until they are dried down.
I do not have a PH meter but we had the Purina labs test our product last year,.
results are as follows:
PH level-4.87

We have an old plant folks and in 99 years of business we have never had any formal training in butchering,sausage making,etc. We learned what we know the hard way and when it comes to sausage making we do the same thing,the same way week after week and it always turned out great until a month ago.

I am at my wits end trying to figure out what is going wrong with my snack sticks.
I have steamed,bleached,high alkaline treated,and scrubbed everything involved in my process and it still turns out the same.
You can see in one of the pics how the color is grayish and in the gray areas the stick actually hollows out. What is really weird is when you pick up a pair of sticks that are connected, one side has the grayness and the other side isn't as bad.

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[URL=http://s1159.photobucket.com/user/red-l ... c.jpg.html]Image

In the first pic you can see my sticks after sitting overnight in my incubation room. the stick on the left has basically the same seasoning only it contains sodium erythorbate. the stick on the right is the stick made with the previously mentioned recipe.
Can you see the gray ring around the edge of the stick on the right ?
This never happened until a month ago....

If you need more info , let me know.
Thanks again for all the input. I'm very glad I found the forum !!!!
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Bob K
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Post by Bob K » Sun Mar 05, 2017 17:12

Wow. Since the S. Erythorbate is used a s both a cure accelerator and an antioxidant (color preserver) that may explain some of the discoloration, but not that extreme.

Meat for both types also from the same source?
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Post by Butterbean » Sun Mar 05, 2017 18:23

I hesitate to attempt to offer any advice since its obvious you make more sausage than I do and with that in mind I will just offer what I would think if it were me.

What strikes me first is the hollowed caves and the overly wrinkled casings. This would tell me there was too much free water in the sausage and you got a poor bind. But then you say the same process worked fine till a month ago and you also had no trouble with the 200 lbs of venison you made but only the 100 lbs of yours - I assume this was made from pork. You also say you don't use a pH meter.

This leads me again to think you are experiencing a water binding problem. Red meats like venison tend to bind more water than lighter meats so this could explain the venison working well and not the pork. But since you've been successful with this same process till a month ago I can't help but wonder if your source for pork hasn't changed or you possibly got a bad batch of pork. When I say bad, I don't mean unsafe but pork with a high pH. Higher than normal. This can be the result of killing of stressed animals or it can be geneitc and since you don't use a pH meter to test the ingoing meat you really have no way of checking this to take measures to correct and since you don't use a starter culture it very well could be you didn't reach the needed pH drop to insure of the proper bind or this drop occurred to fast due to PSE.

Here is some info on the PSE
Accelerated pH decline and low ultimate pH are related to the development of low water-holding capacity and unacceptably high purge loss. Rapid pH decline resulting in ultimate or near ultimate pH while the muscle is still warm causes the denaturation (loss of functionality) of many proteins, including those involved in binding water. The most severe purge or drip loss is often found in PSE (Pale, Soft, and Exudative) product from pigs that have inherited a mutation in the ryanodine receptor/calcium release channel (halothane gene) in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This mutation results in impairment of the ability of this channel to control calcium release into the sarcoplasm of the muscle cell, particularly under periods of physical stress. Accelerated release of calcium causes rapid contraction and an increase in the rate of muscle metabolism and in the rate of pH decline. This particular mutation in the halothane gene can be identified in parent stock. Because a commercial test for this mutation exists, the United States industry has virtually eliminated this gene in most commercial herds.

The Halothane gene is but one example of a condition that can result in PSE. Other factors can cause PSE meat to occur. Before harvest, short-term stress in normal animals can accelerate their metabolism enough that the postmortem metabolism in the muscle is accelerated, causing a more rapid pH decline than is seen in non-stressed animals. While the condition may not be as severe as that caused by the Halothane gene, protein denaturation does occur, and drip losses can be greater than in muscle that has a normal, slower rate of pH decline. It should be noted that while the pH of these muscles falls faster than normal, the ultimate pH may not be below normal ranges.
I've been smoking this thing over as I am going to be snaring wild pigs and the effect this stress might have on the sausages has been my concern. You might be more familiar with what is known as dark cutters in beef but its not limited to beef nor is it just an aesthetic thing but a biochemical thing as well. Its a rare circumstance but so does sound your dilemma.

Also, I think the while the dark cutter and the PSE end with the same results I think the dark cutter situation is a slow thing and the starting pH is higher so natural unassisted pH drop never occurs where the PSE happens so fast the water isn't bound so I think you could test the dark cutter phenomena with a pH meter where the PSE you could not.

I hope I offered some reasonable food for thought and good luck figuring this out. Hopefully someone else can shed some better light on this but this is the best I can do.
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Post by tinbutcher » Sun Mar 05, 2017 18:31

Bob K wrote:Wow. Since the S. Erythorbate is used a s both a cure accelerator and an antioxidant (color preserver) that may explain some of the discoloration, but not that extreme.

Meat for both types also from the same source?
Yep, it's all the same stuff.....
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Post by tinbutcher » Sun Mar 05, 2017 18:45

Thanks butterbean ,

Here is another scenario,
This is really weird....but it seems like the first batch of the day we make is the one that goes bad.
We made a 200 lb. batch one day, then we made a 100 lb. batch of jalapeno and pepper jack cheese sticks. The same seasoning was used , the first batch of 200 lbs. went bad, the second 100 lbs. of JPJ sticks were fine.

We haven't been having a problem with deer sticks because we always make them after our own sticks.
Last week we made 200lbs. of deer sticks, then we made a 100 lb. batch. We made deer only that day.
The 200 lb. batch had some of the graying at the end of the sticks,but not as bad as ours,it only showed up 3/4 of an inch up the bottom of the stick.
The 100 lb. batch was perfect !! So go figure ????? AND, everything we make after the first batch is all ok....

My sticks dry too fast, but I just don't have the right climate controlled rooms I need. Sometimes the stay perfectly round when they dry, and sometimes they shrivel up like you see in the pics.
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Post by Butterbean » Sun Mar 05, 2017 20:00

I still think it has something to do with water with it being in the ends. But I don't know.

When I make sticks I'll stuff and hang them - sometimes - to ferment. Then I put in the smoker and lay smoke on them then raise the temp to reach the internal temp then shut it down and let them hang for a day. After a day of hanging the water activity is where they are shelf stable.

I have had some trouble with the meat separating from the casings but this was remedied by reducing the liquid some and stuffing more firmly. The end product is about as good as yo can get I think.
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