Italian sausage questions

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LOUSANTELLO
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Italian sausage questions

Post by LOUSANTELLO » Mon Jan 04, 2016 14:05

I am in the process of "reading the book", so please don't tell me to read the book. I am planning on making Italian sausage using natural casings. My dad used to let them dry for 4-5 days before he packed them up. It gave the casings a firmer 'Bite" At that time they were freezer packed and frozen to cook later. He used to also make Italian sausage that was completely dried cured. So here's my 3 questions. If I want them to dry/cure them thoroughly, do you use the same 2.5-3% salt? Do you use instacure #1 or #2? If I want to dry them slightly, then freeze them for cooking, what is the procedure for salts and Instacure? Is there a minimum or maximum time I need to dry them for this purpose? For making fresh sausage for instant cooking or foodsaver freezing, Is any of this necessary other than for taste? Thanks.
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Post by Tom » Tue Jan 05, 2016 04:02

Lou read the booooooooooooooooook :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: They don't mean anything by it it's just the way certain peoples mind sets are. The reason I joined this forum was for personal incite and experience, you have some or more correctly your father. My mother and father never wrote anything down but boy what cooks and preservers. Wish I had the chance to get this knowledge from them. Follow what your dad did if it's to your liking. Make things like your he did. After reading the book :mrgreen: you have the knowledge on how to make it using some modern safe procedures that may not been available in your fathers time. On the other hand he may have made everything perfectly safe. Tom
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Tue Jan 05, 2016 07:15

Well, I wish my dad was still around so I had the opportunity to ask these questions. Unfortunately, he is no longer living and when the family was making 300 pounds at one time, I was too busy partying and could care less about making sausage and soppressata. At any rate, I do know they used to make small piles of meat and for each pile, you used one handful of salt. Based on some YouTube clips I have seen, the people who still do it this way equates to about 2-2.5% salt. Nitrates were not used, although I will use instacure. For sausage, I did not know whether to use #1 or 2. I never remember seeing a fermentation area. They used to immediately hang it in the cellar during the winter months with the window cracked open. So, the temperature could have been in the high 40's to low 50's, but I can't imagine the humidity being anywhere near what the book is saying. I have also heard a lot about not using a culture due to the taste. What is the hurdle if I choose not to use bactoferm. If I choose to eliminate it, do you or should you still introduce the dextrose? Thanks.
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Post by Uxbal313 » Tue Jan 05, 2016 08:03

LOUSANTELLO wrote:Well, I wish my dad was still around so I had the opportunity to ask these questions. Unfortunately, he is no longer living and when the family was making 300 pounds at one time, I was too busy partying and could care less about making sausage and soppressata. At any rate, I do know they used to make small piles of meat and for each pile, you used one handful of salt. Based on some YouTube clips I have seen, the people who still do it this way equates to about 2-2.5% salt. Nitrates were not used, although I will use instacure. For sausage, I did not know whether to use #1 or 2. I never remember seeing a fermentation area. They used to immediately hang it in the cellar during the winter months with the window cracked open. So, the temperature could have been in the high 40's to low 50's, but I can't imagine the humidity being anywhere near what the book is saying. I have also heard a lot about not using a culture due to the taste. What is the hurdle if I choose not to use bactoferm. If I choose to eliminate it, do you or should you still introduce the dextrose? Thanks.
Or just use plain white sugar. Imo sugar is added so bacteria have an easily available food source for fermentation.
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Post by redzed » Tue Jan 05, 2016 09:22

LOUSANTELLO wrote:I am in the process of "reading the book", so please don't tell me to read the book. I am planning on making Italian sausage using natural casings. My dad used to let them dry for 4-5 days before he packed them up. It gave the casings a firmer 'Bite" At that time they were freezer packed and frozen to cook later. He used to also make Italian sausage that was completely dried cured. So here's my 3 questions. If I want them to dry/cure them thoroughly, do you use the same 2.5-3% salt? Do you use instacure #1 or #2? If I want to dry them slightly, then freeze them for cooking, what is the procedure for salts and Instacure? Is there a minimum or maximum time I need to dry them for this purpose? For making fresh sausage for instant cooking or foodsaver freezing, Is any of this necessary other than for taste? Thanks.
If you are making fresh sausage 2% salt is max. You can even use as little as 1.5%. And if you are not smoking, no need to add nitrite, but some do for the colour and for that "hammy" flavour. I would not recommend hanging the sausage for 4-5 days before freezing. Store in fridge for no more than two days, eat or freeze. I freeze mine only a couple of hours after making but some guys rest them in the fridge overnight so that the flavours would marry.

If you are going to make dry cured sausage use 2.5-3% salt (with the curing salt included), and use #1 if you are going to dry for 30 days or less, and use #2 if you are going to dry for longer. Since you are a novice at this, I don't recommend making a sausage without a starter culture, but if you make a thin sausage you might be successful.
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Tue Jan 05, 2016 14:44

Thank You to all. So, let's assume I am going to dry cure it using instacure #1 and using bactoferm. I assume I use the same procedure for fermentation monitoring the PH? and to what value? Do I still follow the same 35% weight loss value for curing? I also assume that if I follow the 35% weight loss rule, this shouldn't be longer than 30 days? I ordered the Aubern 2 channel temperature controller and seperate 2 channel humidity controller yesterday. I was planning on using a small ceramic heater for heat for fermentation process, cooling as normal for cooling, a humidifier for humidity and I'm still confused on the best way to dehumidify if needed. I am ready to take the non-drybag plunge. The soppressata test is still in the refrigerator and I am losing about 1% per day. They are about 20-23% weight loss right now......Still soft feeling, yet they are still losing weight and color looks good. Even if they don't turn out, I at least know where my issue was,,but at this point, I see no reason to use dry bags in the future for these purposes, although for sub primal dry aging, they seem to work well and makes it much easier than changing cheesecloth every other day. My brother still makes his soppressata the old way. although he has a better "basement environment" than I do and he can only make it during the "season" He is very much interested in the newer processes because they can be made in 15-20 pound batches more often versus making a huge amount once a year. I am really curious as to the taste differences due to the nitrates and bactoferm requirements. Also, as seen in a lot of videos and discussions, people fry some up before casing them for taste. I have concerns as to frying and tasting with fresh nitrates and bactoferm in the mix. Do you fry it up, then after tasting, add and mix your instacure and bactoferm last? I do also already understand that the bactoferm needs to be diluted using distilled water to "wake it up", so no need to remind me about that. I know this is a lot of questions, and yes, the book is helpful to understand the cause and effects, so I thank you for your experienced replies.
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Post by Uxbal313 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 02:47

LOUSANTELLO wrote: I have concerns as to frying and tasting with fresh nitrates and bactoferm in the mix. Do you fry it up, then after tasting, add and mix your instacure and bactoferm last? I do also already understand that the bactoferm needs to be diluted using distilled water to "wake it up", so no need to remind me about that. I know this is a lot of questions, and yes, the book is helpful to understand the cause and effects, so I thank you for your experienced replies.
Don't worry about frying it even with fresh nitrates and bactoferm. You will just fry up a very small portion for tasting anyway so nitrosamines wont be an issue and the bacteria present in the meat including bactoferm will just die. So its totally safe. Or just boil the meat with little water if you are still worried. I myself taste the seasoned meat raw but thats just me.
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Wed Jan 06, 2016 06:44

Can someone explain to me the details as to original PH measuring of meat, the dextrose dosage to lower the ph, to what safe level and how often you measure during fermentation. Do you just put a bag of spare meat in a ziplock? Once the ph gets to that low desired point, does it stay there once you move to curing chamber?
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Post by redzed » Wed Jan 06, 2016 17:27

Hi Lou,
Frying and tasting meat for salami will hardly give you an indication as to what the end product will taste like. It works to some extent with fresh or even smoked sausages, but it takes weeks or sometimes months for the fermented dry cured sausage to develop its complex flavours. Start with 2.5 percent salt and .25% #2. That will give you a salt content of 2.7%, rounded. Make a small batch, take notes, and see what it will taste like. If the salami loses 40%, your salt content will be 3.8%. If it's too salty you can lower the salt to 2.3 which will bring the total to 2.5%. And I would not go lower than that.

As to how much dextrose, I already pointed out that it depends on the particular starter culture you are using and the type of usage you are making. Tell us what you will be making and what recipe you are following, and we will go from there. Test your pH after 24 hours and then every 12 hours. After stuffing there is always a baseball sized ball of meat left over and I place it into a small ramekin dish, cover it with paper so that it can dry to some extent, and use that to test my pH. A lot better than poking one of the cased sausages. As soon as you reach the desired pH you move the salami to the curing chamber. You can test the pH occasionally when it's in the curing chamber. The pH might drop a bit more, then stabilize for a while. Eventually the pH will rise, but by then the water activity will be low enough to make it safe.

http://www.meatsandsausages.com/sausage ... ed-sausage
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Wed Jan 06, 2016 17:58

Thank You redzed for the reply. As far as recipe. I want to do a very simple Calabrese style soppressata and dry sausage. For the soppressata, I know for a fact the recipe was comprised of nothing but salt, whole black peppercorns and red pepper flakes to taste. That's it. There were no dosages in those days. It was one handful of salt per "pile" of meat with red pepper flakes to taste. I don't know what they did for the sausage. I assume it was similar without the peppercorns and adding fennel seeds. Using the scientific way, which is not what they used to do, I will use insecure #2 even for the sausage? As far as culture, I have T-SPX in stock and dextrose. Based on that, I will use your recommendation as to the dosages for the T-spx and dextrose. As far a fermentation, I will heat the chamber to 72 degrees and induce humidity to what level? As far as curing, I will cool the chamber and maintain humidity of what level? Using all natural casings, no dry bags. Don't I also have to measure the PH originally of the meat, then there's a calc for the dosages of dextrose based on the decreased PH level I want? Again I ask, what level of PH is my goal when I move them to curing chamber? 4.8-5.0? I also assume, unlike the dry bags, you do want to pinhole the casings? Thanks again.
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Post by Bob K » Thu Jan 07, 2016 14:46

Lou-
LOUSANTELLO wrote:Using the scientific way, which is not what they used to do, I will use insecure #2 even for the sausage?
If the sausage is to be cured/dried for 30 days or longer use cure #2
For "fresh" sausage that will be cooked fresh or after freezing - no cure is required
For sausage that will be cooked/smoked at low temps for a long period of time (hours/days) use cure#1
LOUSANTELLO wrote: As far a fermentation, I will heat the chamber to 72 degrees and induce humidity to what level?
As high as you can 90% plus
LOUSANTELLO wrote:As far as curing, I will cool the chamber and maintain humidity of what level? Using all natural casings, no dry bags.
You would usually want to start around 85% and gradually decrease to 80% or even lower. 6-8 weeks is normal drying time for dry cured with casings 60mm or less. Everyone's chambers vary, as there setups are slightly different. You will have to learn what your chamber likes. The goal is to dry without dry rim or case hardening.
LOUSANTELLO wrote: Don't I also have to measure the PH originally of the meat, then there's a calc for the dosages of dextrose based on the decreased PH level I want? Again I ask, what level of PH is my goal when I move them to curing chamber? 4.8-5.0?
The Ph of the meat should be measured so you have a starting reference point.

Again sugars are culture related but if you are using T-SPX and fermenting at 72° f keep the total sugar + dextrose at .6% or below for a mild flavor. Ex. .3% sugar +.3% dextrose = .6% total sugars.
Calculating the Ph drop from the amount of sugar added can be done but is not really necessary for the home sausage maker.

The safety hurdle is 5.3 or below as far as moving from the fermenting to drying stage.
5.0 is a good safe place and the sausage will have little little if any tang or sour flavor.

LOUSANTELLO wrote: I also assume, unlike the dry bags, you do want to pinhole the casings?
Yes.
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Thu Jan 07, 2016 15:06

Thank you Bob. Probably the most refined straight forward answers I was looking for. Thanks again.
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Post by LOUSANTELLO » Thu Jan 07, 2016 19:02

Bob, on a side note, I was the goof that forgot to put the correct dosage of salt in the soppressata. The instacure #2 IS the correct dosage and the bactoferm and dextrose IS the correct dosage. These are in dry bags and not regular casings at 36 degrees in a refrigerator. I am at 21 days now and they are continuing to lose more than 1% per day. Some are at 26%. Some larger units are as low as 17%. I opened one yesterday. They are still soft but getting much better. The color is good and the ONLY reason I opened one was to smell it. The meat has no sign of foul odor. I threw that one away obviously not tasting it yet. If the instacure is the correct dosage and it's somewhat a slower time released curing agent AND the meat is still losing water weight, can I assume we are safe if we get to the 35% weight loss within 35 days providing they firm up? Whatcha think?
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Post by Bob K » Thu Jan 07, 2016 20:21

Lou-
The Bottom line is this:

You made the error of not adding the correct amount of salt.
That is the main reason your sausage is mushy. It will eventually dehydrate and become safer to consume but how palatable I do not know.
LOUSANTELLO wrote:Ok. I really don't know what this is telling me now being I did not test the PH when I filled the bags, but let's try this. My book is on the way, in the meantime, I received my Milwaukee MW102 with the meat probe today. I performed a full calibration. I cut one of the one pound soppressata's in half and tied the ends off of each one making 2 halves. I had about 4 oz of meat between the two that I used for my PH test. Yesterday was day 14 in the refrigerator after the 72 hour fermentation. The weight loss is anywhere from 13-17% weight loss per unit. The meat has no signs of odor and the PH is reading 5.53. Opinions? Thanks
The Ph did not drop as expected.

What is saving you from spoilage is the low refrigerator temps.

You really can't compare the UMAI method to what was traditional for your family.

If it were me I would procrastinate giving it the Heave Ho, but having screwed up several times in the past I would ...wait till the bitter end, knowing full well the eventual outcome.

That's my opinion.
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Jan 07, 2016 23:36

LOUSANTELLO wrote: I know for a fact the recipe was comprised of nothing but salt, whole black peppercorns and red pepper flakes to taste. That's it. There were no dosages in those days. It was one handful of salt per "pile" of meat with red pepper flakes to taste.
Lou, I know what you are talking about and I know someone who makes it this very same way but they now use cure to be safe. When I was a boy the stores here carried what was called curing salt for hams and such. This came in large sacks. This salt was a raw unrefined salt unlike the salt we buy today. Many of the salts today are refined pure sodium chloride with the impurities extracted. So when you say your father didn't use anything but salt might not be the same as you only using salt because we may be comparing apples to oranges.

If for some reason you wanted to follow your father's recipe to the letter then it would be wise to use a sea salt because it will contain impurities. To shore your bet on this you could look at some of the high end Italian salts. Some of these manufacturers even tell you the amount and type of impurities on the label so you can be sure you are using some form of nitrate whether its potassium or sodium.

Just something to think about.
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