Monday, March 9, 2015

Using Muslin Cloth for Sausage Casings

A photo I took while at an old sausage shop in Germany

Dave from Elkridge, MD wrote in: 

Back in the early 60's, we used to butcher the hogs to make sausage and stuff them in muslin cloth. Now, can we use non bleached muslin cloth that has been sewn into 2 inch tubes? We get our muslin cloth from a fabric store. Also, how well would venison sausage keep in the cloth? Should we freeze it or do you have a better idea?

Thanks for the question Dave! I also like the old fashioned cloth sausage casing! I haven't made sausage that way for a long time, but it really looks good in the cloth casings. Reminds me of trips to the sausage shops in Germany where they still use a lot of the cloth casings.

If you want to make your own casings, you can do that for sure or you can do a search on the computer for cloth sausage casings and there are several companies that can supply them to you.

When freezing I would still recommend using a Weston Vacuum Machine with their thick, commercial grade bags to prevent any quality loss on smoked products. Smoked products don't keep as well as fresh products in the freezer, so the vacuum machine and a good quality bag will help a lot!
Thanks again for the question Dave!

Friday, March 6, 2015

How Much Trimming Is Too Much?

Jon Lindner of McArthur Ohio asked:

I just watched your TV show where you smoked a ham from the rear quarter to make some lunch meat. When you took it out of the cooler after aging you "trimmed" it - but the video showed what you trimmed, and it still had quite a bit of silver membrane on it. I have been processing my own deer for 8 years, and have always trimmed ALL the silver skin off - even what goes to the grinder. takes forever, and I feel like I waste a lot of meat. Every piece of meat that goes to our freezer or grinder is completely free of any fat or silver skin. I have done this because I believe deer fat and silver skin leave a "wild" flavor. Am I overdoing it? Will leaving some silver skin give a wild flavor - even on steaks and stew meat? I have all your DVDs - I don't remember you addressing this specific question. Thanks!

Thanks for the question Jim,

You are exactly right on the fat! Trim all the fat that you possibly can. Wild game fat does not store the oils in the same fashion that domestic animals such as beef, pork and lamb do. Wild Game fat has an undesirable flavor and an equally nasty texture to it.

Now the silver skin, or connective tissue, that's a different story. You're not going to notice an off flavor from the silver skin, just a really bad texture and no one likes a bunch of chewy gristle in their hamburger, roast or steaks. We have a saying in the meat industry called "Trim the Heavy." What this means is: if it's heavy gristle trim it out! The reason we use this method is for the exact reason that you're noticing. If you try to trim every little bite, you end up losing a lot of good meat in the process!

So with that being said, "Trim the Heavy" and let the grinder handle the rest. You can only do so much. When I say let the grinder handle the rest I mean: Weston Grinders do a great job of separating the silver skin when grinding. What happens is: the gaps in the grinder blade allow the gristle to wrap around the blade and not go out through the grinder plate and into your finished product. One downside is that you'll have to take the head apart if the grinder starts slowing down on the grind and remove any gristle from around the knife, reassemble the head and start grinding again.

Now, fat, on the other hand, can be much easier to deal with than gristle and silver skin. So I do my very best to trim all the fat possible. You can use a good boning knife and remove the fat much easier with less waste than gristle.

Thanks for the question and good luck this season!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fat Ratios When Using Pure Fat

Scott Marsden from Hartsel, CO asked:

I'm planning on making some elk summer sausage and breakfast sausage links, but have a question about fat ratios. In your DVD, you use an 80/20 mix with 50/50 pork for the breakfast sausage and an 80/20 mix of 50/50 beef and bacon ends for the summer sausage. I'm having trouble finding any 50/50 mix at any meat markets so far. Everyone is offering straight beef or pork fat. My question is: if I use straight fat instead of 50/50, would I use a different ration than the 80/20? Thanks in advance.

Hello Scott, Great question!

Yes your blend will be different. If you're going to use 100% fat, I always like to cut the amount back.

Let's start with the first step. Be sure you request back fat and specifically tell your butcher that you don't want "tallow". Back fat comes from steak trimmings on beef and pork chop trimmings on hogs. Tallow comes from the kidney fat inside the animal and under heat will render away to nothing but grease, and you don't want that inside the casing of your sausage product.

When adding pure fat, I will mix 9lbs of good lean game meat with 1lb of pure fat. Always be sure to cut the fat into very small pieces before grinding, this way you can get the fat blended well with the lean meat during grinding. If you grind the fat in large pieces, it takes a lot of mixing to get the fat blended into the lean game meat.

Always use pork if you're making a product that is primarily made of pork and beef if the product is primarily a beef product. For example, if you are making sausage, which is usually made from pork - add pork fat. If you are making hamburgers, which are a beef based product, use beef fat.

I never have trouble finding 50/50 trim. If you ask at a custom butcher shop, you should have no trouble. At a grocery store, they may not do enough actual processing and grinding to have 50/50 available. If you visit a local custom butcher shop they should be able to help you with some trim that has fat and good lean meat mixed together. These trimmings will usually come off the ribs or brisket on beef and from the shoulder and fresh side on hogs.

 Good luck with your products and let us know how it turns out!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Long to Cook Stuffed Back Strap?

Fred Heydorn from Burlington, NJ asked: 

On your show this week, you cooked a stuffed back strap. You said 280 degrees, but never how long. So my question is: how long did you cook it?

Thanks for the question Fred,

The length of cooking time really depends on how thick the meat is that you have wrapped around your stuffing. If you're working with a thin back strap you may only need 60-90 minutes. Also remember that preparing your wild game on the medium to medium rare side never hurts either. If you want to get technical, you can always use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature. 156°F is going to be well done, and around 140°F will give you that medium texture with a little pink in the middle.

Good luck Fred and thanks for the question.