Summer sausage is a beloved dried meat product that is often enjoyed during the holiday season, despite its name suggesting otherwise. Originating in Wisconsin, summer sausage is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes.
However, many people are curious about the ingredients that go into making this delectable treat. The most common meats used for summer sausage are pork, beef, venison, or a combination of these meats. Spices such as pepper, garlic, and coriander are often added to enhance the flavor, while cheese is also a popular ingredient used in summer sausage.
Whether you enjoy it on its own, paired with crackers and cheese, or incorporated into your favorite dish, summer sausage is a delicious addition to any meal. So why not try making your own and experimenting with different ingredients to create your perfect version of this tasty delicacy?
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Discovering the Origins of Summer Sausage
Summer sausage has its origins in Germany, where sausage-making has been a long-standing tradition for centuries.
During the autumn and winter months, when animals like pigs and livestock were slaughtered, people would make sausages as a way to preserve the meat for future consumption.
In the past, refrigeration was not available, so curing and smoking the meat was the best way to make it last longer. This preservation technique allowed people to store the meat for a longer period, even in hot weather conditions.
Hence, the name “summer sausage” came about because people mainly made this sausage in the colder months for consumption during the warmer months. Nowadays, summer sausage is manufactured year-round, making it available in any season.
What Is Summer Sausage Made Of?
Summer sausage is a delectable food that has three key components: Meat, spices, and casing. If you’re planning to make summer sausage at home, it’s crucial to know these main ingredients.
Meat is the most crucial element of summer sausage. The two primary types of meat used to make this sausage are beef and swine, but you can also use either of them individually.
Summer sausage is cured at low pH to prevent bacterial growth and extend shelf life while producing a sour taste. You can mix pork and beef at a ratio of 75% : 25% or 25% : 75%, depending on your preference.
You can duplicate the exact flavor of the sausage by using crops to ferment the subsequent batches. The whitish substance you see on your sausages is mold, which is unique and beneficial for the fermentation of meat.
Adding the meat with this mold eliminates any dangerous mildew and preserves the product. The meat is then ground, seasoned, and processed before being stuffed inside animal casings.
The sausages should have a fat proportion of 20 to 30 percent to mix lean meat and fat as accurately as possible.
Spices are another critical ingredient in summer sausage. Salt is a must-have spice as it facilitates curing and improves the meat’s rich flavor.
Other seasonings include ground red and black pepper, garlic, mustard, nutmeg, coriander, and sugar.
However, the classic summer sausages offer a mild flavor, but you can make them spicier by adding paprika and cayenne.
Summer sausage seasonings may differ depending on the desired flavor. To achieve a unique taste, some manufacturers use more or fewer spices.
The freshly ground meat is mixed with the seasonings, and most of these spices aid in curing, making them best used throughout the sausage-making process.
Finally, the casing or sausage skin is the stuffing material used for summer sausage.
Animal intestines, mostly pig or beef, have traditionally been used to make these casings.
Collagen is the most popular synthetic variant, while cellulose casings are produced from plant materials, making them a vegetarian-friendly substitute.
Plastic casings are also popular for preparing and storing summer sausage, and they are relatively inexpensive but inedible.
Is Summer Sausage Casing Edible?
If you accidentally eat the casing with your summer sausage, there is no need to worry as they are safe to eat. However, they are not nutritious and may have a strange taste.
The Shelf Life of Summer Sausage
It depends on how you store it!
If you keep unopened sausages in cool and dry places, they can last for about a month at room temperature. However, if you want to extend their shelf life, you can refrigerate them, and they can last for more than six months.
But, once you open the sausage, it’s a different story. The sausage’s lifespan will drastically reduce since the meat is exposed to the air, and any bacteria that were sliced open after the casting will cause it to deteriorate more quickly.
In the fridge, opened summer sausages can last for about a month, while at room temperature, they can only last for one to four days.
Sliced summer sausage spoils more quickly when a large surface portion is exposed, so it’s best to consume them on the same day. Cooked sausages also have a short shelf life and only last for a few hours at room temperature, and about a week in the fridge.
The type of sausage also affects its shelf life, and defrosted sausages must be consumed immediately since they don’t last long in the freezer.
Manufacturers must dry, ferment, salt-cure, and smoke the meat to preserve the red color and prevent Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism food poisoning, from growing. The salts also impart a unique flavor to the sausage.
However, at extreme temperatures, nitrates and nitrites produce cancer-causing nitrosamines, so it’s better to use ascorbate or sodium erythorbate to cure the meat. Citric acid is used to recreate the sour flavor that fermenting provides the sausages.
In conclusion, Summer sausages outlast many other food products due to their exceptional preservation techniques, such as fermentation and the incorporation of preservatives that can considerably extend the meat’s life span in the refrigerator.
With the knowledge of the ingredients used to make summer sausage, you have the freedom to choose your preferred meat and seasoning to elevate your next dining experience.
Whether it’s a breakfast or dinner gathering, summer sausage makes for a tasty addition.
For a classic pairing, enjoy summer sausage with cheese and crackers. However, you can also use it as a substitute for bratwurst or other fresh sausages and pair it with tomatoes and eggs for a hearty meal.
The possibilities are endless, so let your culinary creativity run wild with this versatile meat.