country living skills


Cold smoked sausages "Uncle Vlado"   [NOTE]


 Meat selection and preparation 

Type of meat: approximately equal amounts of beef and pork: you may substitute the beef with venison or other big game. Meat positioned closer to the bone is usually tastier, but it is more difficult to remove the tendon and tendon membrane surrounding the muscle. You cannot go wrong with a good cut such as the chuck (neck) or shank (shin).

Fat content: The sau-sages may be "too dry" if the meat consist of less than 30% fat. Should this be the case, it is recommended that you add some pork fat (such as that removed by butchers from other cuts of meat), and it should measure about 10% of the total weight of the meat mixture.

Quantity: For a small household it is recommended to use about 5 kg (11 lb) of meat. This quantity is practical for preparation (you need to have a big enough bowl to mix the meat and spices), smoking (in a small smoker) and storage (the sausages only keep for so long).

Preparation: The meat should be coarsely ground; some gourmets even finely chop the meat rather than grind it. If the pork and beef are ground together (butchers typically won't do this because they need to separately ring up the cost for each type of meat), then there is less mixing needed later. Store the ground meat at <50C (<410F), and preferably no longer than 36 hours before making the sausages.

 Salt and spices 

General guidance: The quantities of salt and spices are in large part a matter of taste. When you have prepared the mixture, you can make a small patty and fry it in a pan with a bit of oil or butter in order to evaluate the saltiness and spiciness and make subsequent adjustments. For this purpose, Uncle Vlado would usually eat a bit of the raw mixture (but don't try this yourself, he had fresh meat from his own farm).

Quantity (measured as a percentage of the total weight of the meat): spice% of weight of meat

salt                   2.25

pepper               0.175

sweet paprika     0.3

hot paprika         0.03

marjoram           0.05

garlic                 1.0

NOTE: The amount of salt used may depend on local climate conditions. For example, in arid Colorado, the salt is actually saltier (has lower water content) so you may prefer to set the amount of salt to 2.0% of the weight of the meat. Some like a lot of garlic, and add up to 5%; such sausages are called "čenjovke" ("čeanj" means garlic).

Preparation: Mix the salt and spices (with the exception of the fresh garlic). It is recommended that you place the salt on the scale first, and then add the other spices (if the maximum of your scale permits). This is because most scales will more accurately measure 1 gram from 100g to 101g, than from 0 to 1g. If you don't have an accurate enough scale, you may use measuring spoons (see a cookbook for equivalent measures). The garlic should be pressed or finely chopped; a garlic paste can also be used.

Sausage casings

Type of casings: It is best to use pork intestines, although beef intestines can also be used; artificial casings (dry, usually made of cellulose) would have to be removed before the sausages can be eaten. Fresh (raw) casings are better (and cheaper) than dry ones. The best casing diameter is 2-3 cm (~ 1 inch); wider casings are used for salami, which has a somewhat different drying process.

Quantity (needed casing length) can be approxi-mated as the height of a cylinder with 2.5 cm (1") diameter and volume that corresponds to the mass of the mixture in cubic centimeters (assuming a density of 1g/cm3), plus 10%.

Preparation: If using dry casings, leave them to soak in water overnight. Salted fresh casings should be rinsed in cold water (so that you don't remove the little bit of grease that helps in filling them). Any excess casings should be immediately resalted (if there is a sufficient quantity and you plan to prepare more sausages in the same season).

 Preparing the sausage stuffing mixture 

Mixing: Clean hands are adequate, but thin latex gloves are even better, because meat and grease come off them more easily, and it is easier to fit the casings over the feeder attachment. In a big enough bowl place two or three fistfuls of pork and approxi-mately the same amount of beef, sprinkle with a portion of the mixed spices and salt, a portion of the garlic, and let this be the first layer. Add additional layers of meat and salt and spices until you have used the full amount. If you only place the spices on top of the entire quantity of meat, it will be difficult to achieve an even mixture.

Resting : the well mixed meat and spice mixture should be set aside to rest for at least 12 hours (24 hours is even better) at <50C (<410F). You can do this in the (future) smoker so that the mixture is protected from wildlife, but you can also put it in an unheated and closed garage. If you place it in the refrigerator, seal the mixture well, because it has a strong aroma. You will need to mix the mixture again right before stuffing the sausage

 Sausage stuffing 

Preparing the casings: The casings should be pulled and gathered over the nozzle of the stuffer; how much you'll be able to place on the nozzle depends on the width of both nozzle and casings. If you manage to get more on, you'll have fewer inter-ruptions in your sausage stuffing. It helps to lightly grease the nozzle with hands/gloves greasy from the meat mixture.

Stuffing the casings: Four hands are almost a necessity if you are using a hand-powered stuffer (admittedly, Uncle Vlado could do this on his own). The first person turns the crank with one hand and adds the meat mixture with the other, lightly pressing the mixture down into the stuffer while also helping the casings to slide off the nozzle as needed. The second person supports the sausage as it is extruded in a nearly horizontal position (so that it is evenly and sufficiently packed) and ties off the sausage at appropriate intervals. Ideally, the meat pushing through will pull the casing off of the nozzle. If this is not occurring, one can "assist" the casing off of the nozzle, making sure that the mixture is pushing the casing at least in part, because it is important that the sausage is densely packed.

Tie the sausage off with a thick string or thin twine. You should fill the entire length of the casing (that which is slipped on the nozzle at one time), tying it off at the length of the sausage rather than cutting the casing. At the start, pull about 5 cm (2") of the casing from the nozzle, crank the stuffer, so that some of the mixture protrudes into the casing, and then tie the first knot as close as possible to the mixture; you can squeeze out excess mixture after tying the knot and put it back into the stuffer.

Sausage length of around 30 cm (1 ft) is recommended. It is practical to dry the sausages as pairs, created using the following procedure: after every 30 cm of filled casing, tie two knots separated by 2-3 cm (1") of empty casing. That empty part of the casing is cut after every two sausages (to make sausage pairs), and the middle "bridge" comes in handy for hanging the sausages for drying and smoking.

Leftover mixture: Some of the meat will always remain in the stuffer and nozzle. You can just stuff it in the casing by hand (producing a rather lumpy and uneven sausage), or you can make patties (burgers), which you shouldn't overcook because as they lose their grease, they may become too salty.

 Drying and smoking 

Generalities: In the entire process of drying and smoking it is essential that there is free air flow around the sausages at temperatures of <100C (<500F). Should you encounter warmer weather, you'll need to temporarily move the sausages to the refrigerator. The process will last two to three weeks, depending on environmental conditions (the airflow due to wind, the relative humidity, and the regularity of the smoking). This is a cold smoking process (with cold, or rather cooled, smoke).

First airing: Sausages that have just been stuffed should be left hanging, to air dry, at least 6 hours (12 hours is even better) before smoking for the first time. It is best to hang and air them in the smoker, to be ready for the smoking.

Smoking schedule: This is a cold smoking process (with cold, or rather, cooled, smoke). If you have an appropri-ate facility for the cold smoking (i.e. one with an adequate smoke cooling conduit), smoking sausages is very simple: do only four or five smoking sessions, couple of hours each, on the first, third, fifth, eighth, and maybe eleventh day of the smoking/drying process; just remember that good airing is an imperative in-between the active smoking hours. As for the selections of wood for burning, see the general comments on the smoke source. If you have a small smoker on your patio or deck, weaker and shorter fires, lasting only 10 to 15 minutes, but then two in sequence (20 to 30 minutes apart) per smoking are needed. Here is suggested schedule for a small smoker (+/- an hour or two):

time period                      frequency                  

first 72 hours (3 days)      every 12 hours (2x/day)

next 96 hours (4 days)     every 24 hours (1x/day)

2nd week +                     every other day

After 2 weeks, start checking if the process is done. In the meantime, unfinished sausages can be used for cooking.

Storage: If the temperatures are below 160C (<600F), it is best to actually leave the sausages hanging in the smoker until you're ready to eat them. Temperatures up to 200C (<680F) may be OK if the airflow around the sausages is good. Otherwise, store them in the fridge, well wrapped to make sure they don't get moist (otherwise they'll get moldy).


UPDATED : 2008-06-01

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