Rob Russell’s Sausage Making Workshop Fall 2010

 How it all began: 

Sausage making dates as far back as 900 BC.  The Romans called it “salus” meaning salted or preserved.  The Romans were known to have made fresh sausage of pork, white pine nuts chopped up very fine, cumin seed, bay leaves and black pepper.

 By the middle ages, sausage making had become a commercial practice in many localities.  Many of the early sausage makers became so adept in spicing and processing distinctive types of sausage that their fame quickly spread throughout Europe.  A sausage that originated in Frankfurt, Germany became known as the Frankfurter.  Another produced in Bologna, Italy became known as Bologna Sausage. If there is a sausage, it is usually named after its city of Origin.

Because refrigeration was unknown, and the canning process not yet developed, the dry type sausages were made.  In colder regions, people made a semi-fresh sausage that could keep for some time.  The “Summer sausage” expression comes from the fact that it was made to be eaten in the summer. 

As immigrants traveled to America, they brought their knowledge of sausage making and their preferences with them.  For many people, making sausage is fun, but to the more dedicated, it is an art.  There are various techniques to learn in curing meats or sausage, along with smoking procedures and cooking. 

Curing Meat 

Probably the least understood subject in the world today is the curing of processed meats and sausage.  References to the use of nitrate as a cure can be traced back several hundred years.  When using nitrate to cure meat, it combines the pigment of the meat to form a pink color and flavor the meat as well. 

For example: A leg of hog is better known as ham to most people.  When this leg is roasted its known as roast pork.  When hot smoked to internal temperatures of 200 degree F., it is known as pulled pork.  However this very same leg, when injected or pickled in brine, becomes “ham” after being boiled or slow, cold smoked in a smokehouse.  It is the nitrate that has the ability to impart special flavors.  Without it, there would be no hams or bacons, only cooked or roasted pork.  Also, nitrates help prevent rancidity in the storage of meats from botulism.  The botulism poisoning we are talking about is the most deadly form of food poisoning known to man.  Botulism can produce a deadly toxin even without a foul odor or other sign of contamination. 

Therefore cures are critical in the manufacture of cold smoked meat to prevent food poisoning.  Botulism spores are found in every type of meat or vegetable.  They are harmless and cause no problems.  Lack of oxygen, low acidity, proper nutrients, moisture, and temperatures in the range of 40 degrees F. to 140 degrees F., however, are where the problem begins.  As sausage and meat are consistently smoked in these temperature ranges, the sausages are moist, and the smoke or heat eliminates the oxygen, creating perfect conditions for food poisoning if you do not use cures. 

However for home use and smoking at temperatures above 140 degrees F., it does not require a cure.  I would suggest you start smoking the sausage at 200 degrees F.  This high starting temperature prevents botulism spores from surviving. 

All sausage done in the today’s class will contain no cure and is intended to be fresh sausage to be cooked or hot smoked at temperatures above 140 degrees F.


Casings come in a variety of sizes and are usually sold by the hank, bundle, cap or ounce.

Lamb or sheep casing

These casings are very tender and used for breakfast sausage, frankfurters, and fresh pork sausage. (20-22 mm)

 Hog casing

This is the most popular casing, and can be used for almost any sausage.  It’s also the easiest one for home sausage makers to find.  (32-35 mm)

Beef Bungs, Rounds, and casing

Use this for sausages that require thick casings, such as bologna and salami.

Collagen Casing

This casing is made from the gelatinous substance found in connective tissue, bones and cartilage of all mammals.  This substance is reconstructed in the form of a casing.  Most sausage in the USA is stuffed in this casing.

Fibrous casing

This casing is used to make dry and semi-dry sausage.  This fibrous casing is very strong and used to stuff sausage that is very tightly packed.  The inside of the casing is coated with protein that allows it to shrink with the meat as it dries out.

Muslin casing  

 This casing is made from muslin, and is used for sausages such as liverwurst, blood sausage, salami’s and bologna’s.

 Cellulosic Casing

This is an artificial casing, made from solubilized cotton linters.  It is very uniform, strong and not quite as susceptible to bacteria as other types of casings.  Skinless hot dogs are made with cellulosic casings.

Synthetic Casing

This casing is made from alginates, and requires no refrigeration.  It is used by mass producers and can be made in different colors.  Red is for bologna, clear for some salami’s and white for liverwurst.  It is very uniform and strong.

 Four steps to preparing natural dry salt packed casings:

  1.  Rinse salt from casings with fresh water
  2. Soften the casings by soaking them in fresh water at room temperature for 45 minutes.  When you place the casings in the water, massage them to separate the strands and prevent dry spots.
  3. Rinse the casings by putting one end over the faucet and running fresh water through the casing.
  4. Take casings to the stuffing table.  Place in a bath of fresh water.  This water should be warmer (110 degrees) to render a little of the fat in the casing, which helps the casing slide easier on the stuffing horn.

1 pound of meat will stuff about 2 feet of medium sized hog casing.  (32-35 mm)

 1 pound of meat will stuff about 4 feet of medium-size lamb casing.  (20-22 mm)

 We have lightly touched on the old days when meat was smoked as a means of preservation.  Today ice is plentiful, as well as coolers and refrigeration.  The need to have meat on hand that requires no refrigeration is less.

 How does smoke preserve meat?  Smoke consists of tiny droplets of various chemicals such as aldehydes, phenols, and carbolic acid.  These chemicals condense on the meat that is being smoked.  Some of the chemicals make their way into the meat, whereas others settle on the surface.  This serves two purposes, first, to give the meat a smoky flavor and second, these natural chemicals stop the formation of bacteria, yeast and mold microorganisms, which start decay.  Phenols in the smoke prevent the oils and fats from turning rancid

Tips for Preparing and smoking fresh Sausage

 When smoking fresh sausage, always hang dry before smoking.  If the sausage has moisture on the surface of the casing, you will end up with a mottled surface on your finished product.  Make sure the sausage stays cool or bacteria will form.

 After hot smoking, remove the sausage and shower with cold water, this keeps the meat from shriveling up.  Hot smoking means the sausage is flavored and cooked.  Make sure your sausages do not touch when smoking.  Always keep meat as cold as possible, almost to the partially frozen state to aid in ease of cutting and grinding.  After grinding, return to refrigeration to chill down again.  Work quickly when the meat is out.

 Keep meat covered while in refrigeration.  Form a water mixture with your spice prior to mixing in with the ground meat.  Add slowly to the meat when mixing in the meat.

 Freezing meat does not kill existing bacteria!!!!  If air pockets form in your sausage casings, prick with a pin to remove air.  Cook sausage to sample prior to casing your entire batch.

 Polish Sausage

  • 2 lb Pork butt or shoulder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/3 cu. plus 1 tsp. ice cold water

 Cut pork into 1 ½ cubes, trimming all gristle and bones.  Pass through grinder with coarse blade.  Mix dry spices in small bowl.  Using your hands, toss the meat while adding the spices, a small amount at a time.  When half the spices are in, add half the ice water.  Mix keeping the meat as loose as possible.  Add remaining spices and water as above.  At this point, fry a small patty in a pan to test for seasonings.  Adjust if necessary.  Refrigerate over night in covered container.  You are ready to stuff.

Herbed Wild Boar Sausage

Makes about 5 pounds, or about 20 sausages

  • 4 lbs. wild boar meat
    1 lb. pork shoulder (make sure it’s fatty)
    2 tbs. sugar
    3 ½ tbs. kosher salt
    1 tbs. garlic powder
    1 tbs. dried thyme
    1 tbs. minced fresh rosemary
    1 tbs. minced fresh sage
    1/2 cu. ice water
    1/2 cu. white wine
    hog casings

Chill the meat until it is almost frozen by putting it in the freezer for an hour or so.  Take out some hog casings and set in a bowl of very warm water.  Chop meat and fat into 1 inch chunks.  Combine the sugar, salt, garlic and herbs with the meat, mix well with your hands and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.

Grind through your meat grinder (you can use a food processor in a pinch, but you will not get a fine texture) using the coarse die. If your room is warmer than 69 degrees, set the bowl for the ground meat into another bowl of ice to keep it cold.

Add the wine and water, then mix thoroughly either using a Large Electric Mixer on low for 60-90 seconds or with your (very clean) hands. This is important to get the sausage to bind properly. Once it is mixed well, put it back in the fridge.

Stuff the sausage into the casings all at once. Twist off links by pinching the sausage down and twisting it, first in one direction, and then with the next link, the other direction. Or you could tie them off with butcher’s string.

Hang the sausages in a cool place for up to 4 hours (the colder it is, the longer you can hang them). If it is warm out, hang for one hour. Once they have dried a bit, put in the fridge until needed. They will keep for at least a week in the fridge.

If you are freezing the sausages, wait a day before doing so. This will tighten up the sausages and help them keep their shape in the deep-freeze.

Basic Beef or Venison Jerky

This is a very basic recipe.  You can leave out the Instacure if desired.

  •  3 lbs. Lean beef or venison
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Instacure No. 1
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ cu.  soy sauce
  • 1/3 cu. Worcestershire sauce

Mild and Smoky Venison Jerky

This recipe is for 2 pounds of lean, sliced venison. There is no hot pepper seasoning added to this recipe, so it’s nice and mild. The liquid smoke can be left out if you dry this one in the smoker.

  •  ¼ cu.  soy sauce
    1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
    ½ tsp. Tender Quick®
    ¼ tsp. black pepper
    ¼ tsp. garlic powder
    ¼ tsp. onion powder
    ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
    2 tbs.  Brown sugar
    2 tbs.  Liquid smoke

 Hot and Sweet Venison Jerky

This jerky recipe flavors the venison with the heat of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, and is balanced by the sweetness of brown sugar and molasses. The recipe makes enough marinade for five pounds of sliced venison. *Make sure that the sugar and salt are completely dissolved before adding the marinade to the venison. Marinate at least one day, and up to two before dehydrating.

  • 1 cu.  Soy sauce
    ½ cu. brown sugar
    ¼ cu. molasses
    ¼ cu. Worcestershire sauce
    2 tbs. garlic powder
    2 tbs. onion powder
    2 tbs. canning salt
    1 tbs. red pepper flakes
    1 tbs.  Black pepper
    2 tsp.  Morton® Tender Quick®
    1 tsp. Powdered cayenne pepper