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Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

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Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

Postby scarkner » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:27 pm

I have made sausage from Geese, Deer and even Turkey over the last few years and am really struggling.

I have gone online, read books, watched videos... but the end result of my efforts is always the same: Great spices, decent flavour... but dry as sawdust and usually with lots of air bubbles.

I have gone as high as 70% pork butt... still dry.

Recently a friend told me that, as a teenager he worked for a summer at a butchery and he recalls that their sausage mix was so wet, it was like a slurry. He said they never had problems with dryness or air bubbles. Yet many of the online videos make no mention of the consistency of the meat, most don't even show the meat, they just show a bowl of ground meat and the next scene jumps to the stuffed sausages. I have not yet tried this method of making super-wet sausages.

I have also read several times that you have to mix and mix and mix to break down the fats... but other people don't even mix at all! They just grind and stuff.

So here are my questions:
- Are sausages made from game meat ALWAYS going to be dry compared to store-bought?
- What consistency should the meat be when I am stuffing it?
- How long do you mix it (if at all)?

If anyone has cracked the code of making great, moist and delicious sausages and will be making a batch in the next couple weeks... would you mind having a "helper" in your kitchen so I can learn the right techniques first hand??? (Ottawa).

Thanks!
Last edited by scarkner on Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby fatluke » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:33 pm

I am sure I can get you on the right on track.

I need to ask you a few questions before I can offer some pointers.

As for the dryness:

When you say sausage, I assume you mean "fresh sausage"? Fresh sausage meaning one you need to cook (not salami, kielbasa or anything like that which has curing salts in it).

Do you add any water or liquid of any sort (wine, brandi, etc)?

How do you normally cook them?

And likely the most important question, and the root of you problem, are you using a meat thermometer when cooking them? And to what internal temperature are you cooking them?

As for the air bubbles....

What type of stuffer are you using?

Are you "pricking" them after stuffing?

Are you letting them rest in the fridge before packaging/freezing?
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby scarkner » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:29 pm

When you say sausage, I assume you mean "fresh sausage"? Fresh sausage meaning one you need to cook (not salami, kielbasa or anything like that which has curing salts in it).
--> YES Fresh.
Do you add any water or liquid of any sort (wine, brandi, etc)?
--> I follow the recipe, some call for liquid, some dont. Example the brats had meat that was almost a paste.

How do you normally cook them?
--> Typically either boil-then-fry or BBQ. I cook them the same as store-bought.

And likely the most important question, and the root of you problem, are you using a meat thermometer when cooking them? And to what internal temperature are you cooking them?
--> No - but again, I handle them the same as store bought (and sometimes when they are still a little pink in the middle, they are still dry).

As for the air bubbles....

What type of stuffer are you using?
--> I used to use the grinder attachment, but two batches I upgraded to a vertical-piston stuffer. Made stuffing much easier, but didn't change anything else.

Are you "pricking" them after stuffing?
--> Yes, but only the big bubbles, there are too many small ones.

Are you letting them rest in the fridge before packaging/freezing?
--> Typically there is no room, but i have tried it. I have also tried hanging them outside to "tighten up" on a cool day. That actually seemed to help a bit.

I also forgot to mention that I typically do a course grind of the meat, mix the seasonings, then do a second coarse grind. I have also tried using a stand-mixer to really mix for a long time. A number of people say that the second grind should be done finer than the first, so that is something else on my "to try" list.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby fatluke » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:57 pm

OK.
I don't see that you are doing anything wrong in the making, it's int he cooking.

It is a sin to boil sausage before you cook them.

If I BBQ, they go straight on the grill. If I fry (and I am short on time), I sear them a bit, add a little water to the fryer pan (1/8"-1/4"), cover and "steam" them for a 4-5 mins, remove cover, let water evaporate, and then brown/crisp them. I would only use the water/steam method in a frying pan if I was short on time. Normally I would sear on high in frying pan, turn heat down and cover. Sausages and water and not meant to be together, but cheating a little in the frying pan doesn't hurt. I can honestly say I have never boiled a sausage before. It's just wrong. lol

The difference between store bought all pork sausages and the wild game ones you make at home is the fat content. A pork sausage is typically made from the shoulder (butt), which is typically 30% fat content. Even at mixing your wild games sausages with 70% pork but, you are still not close to 30% fat content. Hence why cooking your wild sausages the same as your pork sausages leads to different results.

There are a few things you can do to fix this. The most important is to use a meat thermometer. 160 is a safe temperature that kills all bacteria. I would cook your sausages to somewhere around 155-157 and pull them. They will rise to 160. And please have some respect for your sausages and stop boiling them first. :-)

If you want to up the fat content in them, I suggest mixing in some pure pork fat. Check out the local grocery store's meat departments. Talk to the butcher and ask if they can hook you up with some scraps. (Pm me and I can tell you where I used to get mine when I lived in Ottawa).

I would not change a thing you are doing in the making process, just work on the cooking process. I can tell you right now it's the fat content and over cooking. My good buddy is a pig farmer and we have killed a few pigs this summer and made a few hundred pounds of sausage. One of the pigs we killed we ended up with 70lbs of boneless meat. We ground and stuffed all of it. What I didn't consider at the time was the fact that I was really screwing the the fat to meat ratio. Mixing in the loins was enough to throw the ratio off and resulted in dry'er sausages. 160 was the key, and the very fine line between a moist (yet way too lean) sausage, and dried out sawdust stick.

As for the air bubbles, you shouldn't be getting them with the vertical stuffer. Do you have an actual sausage pricker or what are you using?

Also, are you soaking your casings long enough in warm water prior to stuffing?
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby CBB » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:14 pm

My Dad always took all our geese and made sausage and it was as good as store bought. He always added pork and pork fat to about 50% goose and 50% Fat Pork and it was good considering the goose in it. He just always put it into patties but it could have been stuffed. All wild game needs a fat added when made into sausage. My buddy always adds beef fat to his venision hamburg and it is just like regular hamburg from a store. Usually any butcher shop that cuts beef and pork will have fat trimmings you could get as it goes to the rendering companies or us guys that feed a bunch of hounds.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby scarkner » Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:37 am

CBB wrote:My Dad always took all our geese and made sausage and it was as good as store bought. He always added pork and pork fat to about 50% goose and 50% Fat Pork and it was good considering the goose in it. He just always put it into patties but it could have been stuffed. All wild game needs a fat added when made into sausage. My buddy always adds beef fat to his venision hamburg and it is just like regular hamburg from a store. Usually any butcher shop that cuts beef and pork will have fat trimmings you could get as it goes to the rendering companies or us guys that feed a bunch of hounds.


I need to find a better butcher. I did buy pork-fat cuttings once from a small butcher and he charged me MORE for the cuttings than it cost at Sobey's to buy an actual pork-butt roast. I will certainly ask around more.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby Maple » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:29 am

Even after reading all the suggestions above it's hard to pinpoint the problem. Is it perhaps just a matter of perception?

For my part, I use the garlic sausage spice binder mix from "YES GROUP" meat processing supplies (item # 123327) via mail order from Toronto. Sometimes I add extra ingredients but this, through experience, is my go-to process. It's not expensive and comes with instructions.

To 20 lbs of venison, not overly trimmed of natural fat, I add only 10% pork butt or shoulder, not fat, and my sausages are great, not dry at all. People love it.

For yours I would suggest:

-Grind the meat while still frozen, or partially frozen to prevent it from becoming mushy and losing moisture. I put my 10 lb bags of venison trimmings in a cooler overnight so they are kinda warmer, but still completely frozen, then cut them into smaller chunks to fit into the grinder. Comes out still frozen and firm.

- Add 1.5 litres of ice water (water + ice cubes) to the 20 lbs. of meat after the first grind, if you haven't already. Keep it cold. So cold it should be painful on the hands to work with, close to freezing.

-Extra mixing is not necessary and actually warms the meat too much. The quicker you get it processed the better. Put in fridge/freezer if possible between steps.

Good luck.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby scarkner » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:03 am

Maple wrote:- Add 1.5 litres of ice water (water + ice cubes) to the 20 lbs. of meat after the first grind, if you haven't already. Keep it cold. So cold it should be painful on the hands to work with, close to freezing.
-


This sounds more consistent with what my friend who worked at the butchery when he was a teenage said, that they added LOTS of water. Yet few recipes actually call for this much water.

I certainly do try to keep things very cold and grind the meat frozen (helps prevent the fat from accidentally rendering if the blades are warm too). But adding ice-water is a great touch.

All good advice.

Instead of making my sausage all at once this year I am going to make several small batches so I can try many of the suggestions above.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby fatluke » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:05 am

scarkner wrote:
CBB wrote:My Dad always took all our geese and made sausage and it was as good as store bought. He always added pork and pork fat to about 50% goose and 50% Fat Pork and it was good considering the goose in it. He just always put it into patties but it could have been stuffed. All wild game needs a fat added when made into sausage. My buddy always adds beef fat to his venision hamburg and it is just like regular hamburg from a store. Usually any butcher shop that cuts beef and pork will have fat trimmings you could get as it goes to the rendering companies or us guys that feed a bunch of hounds.


I need to find a better butcher. I did buy pork-fat cuttings once from a small butcher and he charged me MORE for the cuttings than it cost at Sobey's to buy an actual pork-butt roast. I will certainly ask around more.


The right grocery store will give them to you for free. Pm me.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby Kerrazy » Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:52 am

Hats off to Fat Luke!

He is 100% right. You are murdering your sausages.
Any fat content you may have had, is now lying on the top of the water you boiled them in.

Don't break the casing until you are nearly finished cooking. Avoid it at all costs. As this will just see all that rendered fat escape and turn it into an over cooked bit of meat.

As game meat is always typically leaner than domestic animals, you need real fat or oils to allow it to be moist. If you're light on fat, add some olive oil to aid in keeping things moist.

Also, don't over grind, as it truly turns it quickly into a meat substitute rather than a bouquet of flavours.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry

Postby scarkner » Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:06 am

Kerrazy wrote:Hats off to Fat Luke!

He is 100% right. You are murdering your sausages.
Any fat content you may have had, is now lying on the top of the water you boiled them in.


Actually, I am cooking them exactly as Fat Luke does. I called it "boiling" but it's what he does, just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, steam for a bit then fry. Preference is on the BBQ and I take them off in-tact if possible and try to take them off while still a tiny bit pink in the middle, they finish cooking before they hit the table.

I should also add that when I have had venison turned into sausage at a game-processing butcher, those sausages were always great. I know the butcher mixed in lots of bacon. Sadly, he retired and I have no way to get more details about the magic he performed on them.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

Postby scarkner » Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:47 am

Produced a batch of sausage that was moist and delicious with a great texture. Probably my first time where the family cleared the plate!!!

I did several things differently and it was probably a combination of factors that fixed things. Several tips from the group, once again FH helps!!!

1) FAT
I dug out some of the pork fat that I was using last year and realized that what I was counting as "100%" fat was in fact closer to 70% because it still had some solid pork meat in it. In fact, even bacon (which I have used in the past) isn't 100% fat and when I did some calculations I was really surprised the difference it can make! For example I would normally have used 2kg of Goose and 500g of "fat". This would, supposedly give me 20% fat, the magic number needed for moist sausage. But in reality if the fat I am using is only 70% fat and 30% meat then the result is 350g fat and 2.15kg meat = 14% fat. Well below that critical 20%.
So I was VERY CAREFUL to estimate the actual amount of fat I was adding, meticulously weighed everything and aimed for 22% fat content.

2) COLD MIXING
Lots of sources talked about grinding the meat twice, but said that you have to be very careful not to smear the fat. If the fat smears it means the mix is getting too warm. So I put all equipment and the grinder in the freezer prior to grinding and cooled everything off between batches. Also doing a smaller batch meant that equipment wasn't overheating. The result was fat chunks in the mixture, it simply looked more like what I see in the stores on on youtube videos of good sausages.

3) SALT
I usually cut the salt wayyyy down. But several places indicated that going below 1% salt can cause sausages to become dry. There was a bunch of chemistry and meat-breakdown stuff around this number. So I kept to the 1% salt rule.

4) AIR
When loading the meat into the stuffer, I used a potato masher and would layer the meat into the stuffer and then I used the masher to gently push the meat down eliminating the air. Ended up with almost no bubbles. While big bubbles are easily seen, I am sure the myriad of small bubbles in my sausage last year didn't help the dry feeling.

5) DRYING - AGING
Once stuffed I hung the sausage for about 8 hours to dry out a bit and so the casings would tighten up. Again, I think this helped make them become slightly denser and therefore moister. I then moved them to the fridge and let them age another 24 hours before freezing them.

6) COOKING
Minimum cooking time, just enough to clear the pink from the center.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

Postby fatluke » Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:41 am

Glad it all worked out for you.
I would be very cautious hanging meat out for 8 hours without curing salts in it. I would never hang fresh sausage at room temperature for 8 hours. Dry them in the fridge.
Meat without added curing salts (nirtrite) should be be more then 4 hours between 4 and 40 degrees. Anything outside that opens up the possibility of the bacteria that causes botulism.
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

Postby scarkner » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:55 pm

fatluke wrote:Glad it all worked out for you.
I would be very cautious hanging meat out for 8 hours without curing salts in it. I would never hang fresh sausage at room temperature for 8 hours. Dry them in the fridge.
Meat without added curing salts (nirtrite) should be be more then 4 hours between 4 and 40 degrees. Anything outside that opens up the possibility of the bacteria that causes botulism.


It was 4 degrees outside. Perfect temperature, with just a slight breeze. Kept a close eye on it, was worried the squirrels might try to eat it!
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Re: Sausage Help - Why is it always so dry - SOLVED?

Postby bradford2 » Sun Nov 06, 2016 11:18 am

Sounds great!

For what it's worth, I do not find 20% fat content high enough in fresh sausage for our household, and am usually closer to 30%.
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