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A Beginners Guide to Sausage Casing
Sausage casings are an essential part of making wieners at home. Their job is to encase the sausage meat so that the sausage holds its shape. Sometimes they also add flavor to the sausage such as smoked casings for hot dogs. they’re also important in ensuring your end product is flavorful, processed evenly, and has great texture.
When you start out making sausage it can be a bit daunting. There are so many options! Whether it’s the cooking style, the ingredients or those sausage casings which seem to be available in 100 varieties. Don’t fear, we have all the information you’ll need to get started without all the mistakes we made the first time.
What is sausage casing made of?
Natural casings: The most natural sausage casing. Made from cow, pig or sheep intestines.
Collagen sausage casings: Highly processed animal collagen that is extruded
Cellulose csausage asings: Vegan casings primarily derived from plant cell walls.
Natural sausage casings
Sausages made at home are commonly cased in sub-mucosa – the intestines removed from the cow, sheep or pig. It doesn’t sound appealing, I know. But keep in mind this is a very natural method of encasing sausage that has been used for centuries.
Natural sausage casings are sporadically shaped because the intestines are scraped on the inside and out. They tend to be porous and fragile when wet. When dried they become much more resilient. This is the reason casings are often dried when stored and sold at the store.
You’ll find that pig casing is the most commonly used option in the popular sausage regions of Europe such as Italy and Germany. Sheep, goat, beef and, dare we say, horse intestines are used in other parts of the world.
The benefits of the natural sausage casing are flavor and visual appeal. Because the natural casing breathes, it results in a deeper flavor and richness in the sausage—the smoking and cooking flavors can permeate the sausage casing and infuse the meat. Since the sausage casings are all-natural, the sausages are very natural looking, being somewhat irregular in shape and size.
Collagen sausage casings
Although these casings also come from natural products, they are a lot more processed. Animal collagen is processed and then extruded to make different sized casings.
Collagen sausage casings come in a wide range of variations: some common options include fresh, processed, rounds and middles.
Cellulose sausage casings
This is derived from plant cell walls and produces a resilient, translucent casing. These sausage casings are ideal for those on a vegan diet. They are also used by commercial manufacturers to make skinless sausages.
Fibrous suasage casings are made from wood cellulose (essentially paper) permeated with protein. Fibrous casings are the toughest casings produced and are inedible. They are used where maximum uniformity of the finished product diameter, whether sausage or smoked meat, is desired. The uniformity of product stuffed in the casings make them ideal for slicing for prepackaging. These casings do not require refrigeration.
Synthetic sausage casings are made from alginates, and the sausage casings themselves require no refrigeration. Synthetic sausage casings are used by mass producers and can be made in different colors. They are the most uniform and strong of all types of sausage casings.
Alternative sausage Casings
If you do not have access to natural or artificial sausage casings, or just don’t want to use them but still want to make sausage links, you can make sausage casings from strips of muslin. To form casings about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cut strips about 6 inches wide and 16 inches long. Fold lengthwise and stitch edges together to form tubes.
If you do not use sausage casings at all, you can still form links by rolling up the mixture in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerating until firm. You will need to add a binder (bread crumbs, soy protein concentrate, etc.) to the sausage mix, normally 5% to 10% of the mix, to keep the meat from separating during cooking.
Are sausage casings edible?
All sausage casings are safe to eat. Whether they’re all enjoyable to eat is another question.
Cellulose sausage casings and some natural sausage casings are perfectly fine to eat. The chances are, if you’ve ever bought sausages from the supermarket they would have a casing that you ate.
However, some sausage casings are not meant for eating as they are simply too thick or aren’t enjoyable to eat. Some collagen sausage casings are produced for the purpose of encasing salamis and larger sausages. They are always peeled off. Skinless franks are encased in a cellulose sausage casing which is also removed after cooking.
Beef sausage casings are all inedible and are used for casing meats such as large sausages, mortadella, hard salamis and liver sausages.
How should sausage casings be stored?
Salt enables sausage casings to last a long time before going rancid. You can easily store sausage casings in the fridge for one year.
How to prep sausage casings?
It’s very important to prep sausage casings before stuffing sausages at home. They come packed in salt so you’ll need to wash all of that off first.
Once you have finished rinsing each casing, place it in a bowl of water with one end dangled over the side of the bowl. That way you won’t waste time trying to find the opening to each casing.
When you soak the sausage casings, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the bowl for each cup of water you have added. This makes the sausage casing softer and transparent.
Once your sausage casings are prepared you can start making sausage. It’s time to pull out your sausage stuffer and get stuffing!
How to remove a sausage casing?
When making homemade sausages you’ll need to remove the skins on some of your creations. For example, the casings of Italian sausage are often removed.
Removing the sausage casing isn’t always an easy task. It tends to stick to the meat, break into pieces and cause a lot of headaches if you’re skinning a lot of them.
If possible, it’s best to peel sausages when they are frozen. Simply run the meat under warm water for a few seconds first then follow these steps:
Making sausages can be very rewarding. You get amazing tasting meat that’s super fresh and doesn’t have the added fillers. I find that some newcomers to sausage making find it daunting trying to understand which casing to use and how to use them. My advice is to simply jump in and experiment. Learning from your mistakes will help you pick up the art and science of sausage making much quicker than reading what someone else has to say. So dust off your sausage stuffer and see where this fun pass-time takes you.