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Suddenly fresh sausage too salty!

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 04:52
by Thewitt
I've encountered a strange problem after making several tons of sausage....literally.

We make fresh sausage with a dozen or so different recipes. Volumes are high for a boutique shop, with both wholesale and retail account.

A couple of weeks ago I started getting complaints that several of the sausages are too salty. We use a standard ratio of 18g per 1kg of meat/fat mix, and have not changed the salt supplier or type.

At first I thought maybe someone had mixed incorrectly. We mix our spice mixes in advance and so combining these in the mixer is a simple process of 20kg of meat to one spice mix. I went back and weighed the spice mix bags that have already been prepared and they are all correct.

So... I made up a small batch of fresh Chorizo using the same recipe that's we've been using for over a year. It's too salty....

Now I'm really confused....

We made one change in the process in the last month. We used to age the fresh sausage for 3 days in bulk in the refrigerator before stuffing. We changed to stuff immediately and age in the casings before freezing. Same amount of aging time, but just inside the casing rather than in bulk.

The Chorizo I made rested for an hour before stuffing and I cooked it immediately.

I'm going to reduce the salt to 15g in another test batch this afternoon, because I'm not sure what else to do... There is no Cure in these sausages.

It's possible that the batches were frozen before the 3 day aging period was over, as some employees may not have been fully briefed on the change as the old process was to stuff and then immediately freeze than vacuum pack.

Any ideas?

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 05:43
by Gulyás
My sausages got too salty ones, when I used Hormel meat, because it was injected with a salty solution.

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 05:56
by Thewitt
I butcher the pigs myself, so there is nothing going into the sausage meat that I don't control directly.

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 15:35
by sawhorseray
I've always thought the sausage spices could "marry" inside the casing just as well as sitting in the fridge overnight, can't see the difference. Could it be a situation of what your hog supplier has been feeding his stock? RAY

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 15:37
by ssorllih
Have you checked the calibration of the scale. Do you have a known kilogram weight?

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 15:50
by Thewitt
We have three scales and they all weight out the same within 0.1g though I don't have a calibration weight. I actually guessed this might have been the issue at first so I checked that right away,

I also mixed up a standard brine mix and checked it with a hydrometer. It was within normal variation so the salt seems to be "normal" at least with regards to the specific gravity.

Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 16:26
by ssorllih
and the mystery deepens>

Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 02:56
by Thewitt
I have tried going back to the old process of aging outside the casings, and it seems to have made no difference.

I dropped the salt to 14g per 1kg of meat/fat and these taste just like they used to... I sent the customer who complained a sample batch and she is back now with a sizable order.

One of the commercial sausage makers whom I highty respect has informed me he uses between 12-14g per 1kg in pork sausage for fresh sausage with no cure, and that has made me feel a little better about my decision.

I'm still a little concerned, but with the next step being a bacterial growth test - which will take a few weeks to complete and understand - I at least have a path to go down for the time being.

Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 07:15
by sambal badjak
It's still weird, but good to hear your sausages are fine again.

It almost sounds like your salt has become salter.....

Re: Suddenly fresh sausage too salty!

Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 21:53
by Butterbean
Thewitt wrote:At first I thought maybe someone had mixed incorrectly. We mix our spice mixes in advance and so combining these in the mixer is a simple process of 20kg of meat to one spice mix. I went back and weighed the spice mix bags that have already been prepared and they are all correct.

Any ideas?
Its hard to "see" what you are doing so I'm merely offering a thought.

You say you pre-mix the spice and then ration out the correct weights. I've done this myself but ran into a problem doing it this way but I caught it before it got too far. What I found was I was measuring the spices and dumping in a bowl. Once the bowl had the mix in it I began grinding a cup at a time. The problem with doing it this way was the cup of spice I was putting in the mixer wasn't thoroughly mixed so each cup portion would not be correct but it wasn't that noticeable.

So in your case, if you made a lot of spice mix you may have some bags that have too much salt in them and others that don't have enough. Checking the spice mix itself in a brine I don't think will tell you the correct reading with all the other stuff in there.

To fix this, I mixed the ground spices again whit a whisk then reground to be sure it was mixed properly.

Just a shot in the dark.

Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 22:34
by el Ducko
sambal badjak wrote:It almost sounds like your salt has become salter.....
Thinking like the old chemical plant guy that I was "in a former life," I think she may have something here. Feedstock changes used to really tear up our process.

Do you have any of the old salt you could test? Maybe it's not all sodium chloride. Some people substitute potassium chloride as "lite" salt. Some of the less-refined salts have unusual impurities in them. ...tough to analyze, though, without hiring a chemist with access to an AA spectrometer. It may no longer matter, though, now that you've adjusted to the new salt level. The old stuff is probably gone.

Did you buy the same brand? Was it non-iodized salt? Is it reasonably pure? If there's a new batch of salt soon to be used, can you hold out some of the old batch in case there's a change? Is the supplier reputable, or might he use road salt one time, then kosher salt the next, then sea salt from a different part of the sea...? (Yikes!) Some of the lesser-refined salts can have quite a few impurities, and variability could be quite high.

Good luck. This sort of problem is usually either real easy to solve (somebody fouled up), or real hard to solve (subtle change). Aaarrrggghhh! Keep us posted. (We'll all go nuts together.)

Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 13:06
by Thewitt
Thanks for all the comments, I appreciate every idea and thought.

The spice mixes are mixed in advanced in single batch mixes, not mixed in large quantities and portioned out. We did that for a short time and had some real issues with quality.

The reason we mix ahead in individual batches is two-fold. One is to protect the recipes. We already had one early employee steal a recipe and try to go into competition against us... The second is to ensure consistency by only allowing the more experienced staff to mix spice blends. Not that any of my labor is stupid, but I would say there are different levels of attention to detail among them.

This is a new batch of salt, a 100kg bag from the same supplier, same brand, same supposedly quality. I don't have any of the original salt remaining, but I am going to sample and salinity test each new bag from here forward just to keep from being surprised.

The new salt levels have been very well received and things are back on track again.

Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 13:54
by el Ducko
Thewitt wrote:The new salt levels have been very well received and things are back on track again.
Great! THAT's what is important.

One possibility that I dreamed up last night- - maybe a different size scoop is now used to load the salt. ...although you're probably weighing the ingredients. So much for that idea. Is the scale clean, so it doesn't "hang up" when first used? I think you mentioned that it had been calibrated recently, or at least checked for consistency, so we'll rule that out. Maybe it was a one-time shift as, say, a chunk of something fell out. (...salt crust?)

...and there's a good chance that the shift was a one-time event for which you'll never find the cause. If it has heightened everyone's awareness, that's good!

...sure hope you'll keep us posted.