Monday, 10 October 2016

Gluten Free Sausages

The beauty of making your own sausages is being able to have 100% control of what goes in. Many commercial sausages have grains incorporated as binders, extenders etc. This typically brings gluten into the mix. A number of commercial spices also contain gluten (I only learned this recently).

I am fortunate enough not to have a gluten intolerance. Others not so lucky generally don't get to tuck into good old pork sausages (porkies). Hence I decided to make a batch of gluten free porkies for a family lunch the weekend.

Although in all likelihood most if not all of my homemade sausages are gluten free, I was just more aware of not adding any ingredient containing gluten.

The recipe for these was a simple batch of pork trimming cubed and mixed with:

  • Salt
  • coarse milled black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Sage
  • minced Garlic fried in a little butter
  • Chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Chopped fresh chives

After giving this mix a couple of hours in the fridge for the flavours to infuse, the mix was ground, mixed well (±2 minutes in Kenwood Mixer) with iced water then stuffed and ready to braai and add to the lunch menu. I like to make sausages the day before to allow them to stand in the fridge for flavours to properly blend. I also prefer to cook my garlic a little before adding; this changes the taste completely and removes any pungent garlic undertone.

Freshly stuffed gluten free pork sausages

This was served with a little pot of warm home made sweet jalapeno chilli chutney 

Porkies off the braai

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Logo time

Part of improving my charcuterie skills involves the distribution of (mostly the giving away of) the successful products to friends and family. This is part of what makes this an expensive venture but allows you to get critical feedback on what you have right and what you need to improve on.

For me, critical constructive criticism is worth ten times someone just saying "wow, its great" unless of course it is just great.

To this end I decided it is time to create a logo so I hit the drawing board and came up with this:

What do you think?

This is the logo in action (note, date corrected. gosh, how time has flown since my first cured bacon):

Thursday, 1 September 2016


At the same time as making Chorizo, I made a batch of Salami. These I stuffed into artificial casings - the only salami size casings I could find.

When using these casings, soak them for a couple of minutes. I pretty much just wet them for a few seconds as I wasn't sure. This worked fine but soaking is probably better. I must say, these casings were easy to use and worked very well.

Artificial Salami Casings

The recipe I followed for this is a basic Milano salami recipe. I am not sure where this originates so I am not posting it here.

This is a fermented salami in which I used 3% salt for curing and safety along with the required prague powder addition for safety and CHR Hansens Bactoferm TD-66 as a fermenting bacteria and then sprayed on CHR Hansen MOLD-600 to get the good mold growing.

Right or wrong, I added the Bactoferm TD-66 to some distilled water a few minutes before using and to help distribute it evenly through the meat mix. This seemed to work OK.

The Mold-600 I made up in a clean spray bottle with tepid distilled water a couple of ours ahead of using. This was sprayed on when hanging.

I wasnt sure how much to "work" the meat after grinding so in error kept this to a minimum. I have since found I should be almost kneading the meat before hand. Next time I will mix this in the Kenwood mixer as I do with fresh sausages.

Stuffing the casings was easier than I thought. These stuffed really well and were firm with no air pockets at all. I tied them off with a bubble knot. There are some other knots if you google it. You should do a proper knot like one of these to prevent your salami slipping out over time if you hang it from that side. don't forget to prick the casing lots all over with a sterilised needle or sausage pricker.

Salami labelled and hanging

I hung this initially at around 20°C and 90% RH (See the Chorizo post for the temperature ranges and times etc. This was hung together so the same conditions prevailed); then 15°C and 75 to 80% RH

After 48 hours the mold was starting to grow well.

Mold at 48 hours

Within a week there was a really good mold covering. It got even thicker after that.

Mold at 1 week

Over time I carefully checked for any other "bad mold". On a couple of occasions in the early weeks some fluffy mold started. This was wiped off with a cloth and some spirit vinegar and never became a problem. No horrible green or black mold was found. I also increased my air movement inside the chamber with the intermittent running of a fan to help prevent bad mold growth.

The drying rate is as shown in the log below:

On hitting the >35% weight loss mark and being eager to see if I would have the texture problems I found with the Chorizo I sliced open and sampled one of the small Salami.

Salami Sample 1

In these photo's you can see how well the mold continued to grow as the salami cured. The fat distribution and size is also exactly what I was targeting.
The shrinkage around the outside results in a wrinkly skin and when peeling the casing off the meat does tend to stick slightly to the casing.

First slices close up


Texture: OK. I wouldn't say perfect but a lot better than my Chorizo. This was a relief and somewhat a surprise. The texture certainly doesn't have any of my of my chorizo raw meat texture problems evident. Absolutely no case hardening is happening so the air flow, temp and humidity seem OK. Looking closely at the meat around the fat you can clearly see the error I made of not massaging / mixing the meat up properly before stuffing. Despite having read so much before making this first batch I slipped on this one and only got that clear in my head the next day. I suspect this is causing a lot of my problems. Next time the mixture gets a good mixing before stuffing (much like fresh sausage mixing).

Here is a close up showing hot the meat is more like compressed mince meat rather then typical salami:

Close up of salami

Taste: Well, this is two fold. The salami flavour is great. The black pepper has added a good spicy zing to the meat. The only problem is there is a slight "Oven Cleaner" taste which is left in your mouth. This is definitely not a taste associated with rancidity so I was not worried about that. The smell is also fine from a health perspective, nothing going bad. Reading up on the web there are a number of comments around ammonia being produced - Aaaah light on, this is the taste I am getting. In addition to this, although the mold is not said to impart any flavour; I can definitely taste the mold. This is much like the mold taste when eating a nice Brie or Camembert cheese; not a bad thing but definitely there.

From my exploring on the topic some say the salami just needs to breath a bit to allow the ammonia to dissipate. To help with this I skinned the balance of the salami and hung it back up again for a couple of days (apparently it should breath out in a few minutes - I doubt that so went with a couple of days)

The result of this: 
Better but still not a great taste. I still get a bit of the ammonia flavour coming through and a strong mold flavour. I have now put this in a brown paper bag in my normal fridge to give it a week or so.

Update to come on that result. No great expectations though.

I also found a comment on where they say " Salamis with mold will have a distinctive cheesy-moldy flavor " I guess this part is then normal. Its also not an unpleasant flavour like the ammonia.

I am going to continue to let the Salami dry some more. I'll expand here as I go

Lessons learned:

  • Mix the meat properly to the right texture before stuffing.
  • Don't open the fridge to find one of your ingredients left there (the beef portion) after stuffing and cleaning up. It's a lot of work to de-stuff, combine and re-stuff then clean up all over again!
  • Don't do a 4,5kg batch on your first attempt. if it goes wrong as it likely may, its a lot of waste.
  • I would like to get less mold growing next time (less of the good mold, while still none of the bad). I'm not sure if this is possible, I shall have to test.
  • Don't get disheartened - try again using what you have learned

Absolute final results:

Rather disappointed. I ultimately threw it all away. The taste did improve a bit but not nearly to the point of it being enjoyable. The "oven cleaner" ammonia side dissipated a lot at the end (3 months after stuffing) which is interesting. 

The big one I sliced was the best of the lot. I am not sure the influence of size on taste etc. or if this was just luck. 

I'll try again for sure but need to wait until after the heat of summer and December break.

For interest, final weight loss leveled out at 45% loss. to get this lower I guess I would have to lower the humidity. No real need though.

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Working with weights is far more accurate and repeatable than working with volumes. This especially holds true when curing and adding curing agents in the correct proportions. This is also important when looking for repeatability in the addition of dried herbs and spices into things like a simple fresh country sausage.

Ideally there are 3 size scales worth having in the kitchen

  • 0 - 10kg with an accuracy of 50g or better (most would be better*)

  • 0 - 5kg with an accuracy of 10g (also most are better*) 

  • 0 - 100g with an accuracy of 0.1g (most to 0.01g)

*Just because a scale shows a 1g accuracy on the display. this does not necessarily make it accurate to one gram

Out of all of these and unless you are planning on doing somethign large scale, the only one you can get away without is the 10kg scale.

The last on this list is typically marketed as a jewelers scale and this is why you need it:

Prague powder is a blend of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate chrystals at somewhere around 10% blended in sodium chloride (table salt) which has been coloured pink for safety - if it weren't coloured and you confuse it with table salt you could very easily kill yourself.

With Prague powder (NOTE this is for the one I purchase, different suppliers may have different blends) you are looking at an addition rate of 0.375% of the mass of the meat. Lets say you are curing a half belly slab of bacon at 1,32kg. This will require the addition of 4.875g Prague powder into the cure. you cannot measure this accurately with a 5kg digital kitchen scale.

Jewelers scale with Prague powder

Another mod I have done with one of my 5kg scales to allow me to weigh hanging meat (like Salami) reducing contact with any contaminating surfaces:

Frame to hang salami under scale

Saturday, 13 August 2016


Having last made a batch of cabanossi cured dried sausage two years ago it was time to do this again.

Cabanossi is a very popular South African snack. This is a variant on "Kabanos" which originates from Poland (Kabanosy -plural). It is a cured and dried sausage snack stick which is also smoked and has a wonderful flavour. Anything this rich and fattening must be good.

My first round of doing this involved making a 7kg batch using a Kenwood Chef with a mincing attachment. Although the end result come out well, this process felt like it took all day and the Kenwood got really hot. The mincing feeder (the spiral screw inside the mincer) also kept jamming up with the fat having to be stripped and cleaned and the fat got more mushed than I would have liked even being kept almost frozen. 

As the flavour was so incredible I used the same mix this round. This involves the use of a Crown National Cabanossi batch pack. This includes all the spices, flavours and curing agent (Prague powder). I may make my own spice mix at some point in time but this is so delicious and easy I stuck with it.

Using a large mincer (TK-12 mincer which does 150kg/h) and decent stuffer (5L vertical) makes this a very easy process. As you mince the batch 3 times, don't attempt this with a large batch and small equipment - trust me, lesson learned. The texture was also better this round with more mincing, less mushing.

What I learned

The main reason for this post is to share what I learned and what the process looks like when it looks wrong but is actually OK. When making the first batch I was sure things were going horribly wrong as the colour was a bland white fatty greasy looking mess. I was worried but had nothing to lose to keep going. I am thankful I did. Going through the process below you will see what I mean and how this turns out in the end (worth it)

Ingredients (7.5kg batch)

1.5kg Pork leg trimmings 80/20 (80% meat, 20% fat)
3.5kg Beef trimmings 90/10
2.25kg Pork back fat (Spek)
Crown Cabanossi batch pack to suit
Sheep skin casings
250ml iced water


This is the fun part. Remember, your meat must be extremely cold and kept that way between grinds. Your back fat should be almost frozen. Your mincing equipment must be freezing cold. The Crown guideline is to return your meat to 0°C between mincing.

Pre-mince your beef and pork trimmings through your 8mm plate into a BIG tub.

Separately mince your back fat through a 5mm plate then put it in the freezer until needed (don't however go out to lunch now, you want the fat semi frozen, not completely frozen).

Add your spice batch with your included prague powder to your minced beef and pork trimmings, mix well then mince this mix through your 5mm mincing plate.

Add your pre-minced back fat to this along with the iced water and mix it through. This is what you should have:

Blend before final mincing (its ±40% fat)

You now mince this batch through your 5mm mincing plate. This leaves you with a rather white and horrid looking mix (through the Kenwood it looked like white slop):

Final mix before stuffing

Stuffing, setting, smoking and drying

Its now time to stuff this lot into sheep skin casings:

Cabanossi before colour setting in on curing
After stuffing, put into a closed container in the fridge overnight to help giving the curing agents a chance to get active then into your cold smoker for around 3 hours.

Cold Smoking for 2,5 to 3 hours (Smoked with European Beech)

After smoking, hang in your biltong drying cabinet. It will take about a week to ten days to cure and dry. The colour shall start going pink after a day of drying. This was a huge relief first time round. When done the skin should crack when bitten or bent and the inside should have a wonderful cured texture and not taste "fatty" on your pallet; this is due to the change the fat undergoes during curing.

Colour starting to set in after 24 hours hanging

When drying and curing, keep your temperatures fairly low; not much above 20°C. This gives your sausage time to cure while drying.

Colour changes

On my first round the fat got slightly over worked and made the initial sausage much whiter than this batch. This was scary as I thought I had wasted a huge amount of time and money.

Fortunately this was not the case. The sausage starts pretty white / bland coloured. There is no change over night in the fridge. There is little to no change when cold smoking. The colour only really starts to set in and go pink after approx 24 hours of hanging and drying. The colour improves over the drying process and the lovely dark pinky brown is only there at the end.

Colour change after 1 week

Friday, 12 August 2016


As the most important ingredient in curing this deserves some attention.

We cant get "Kosher" Salt in South Africa - well at least not the kosher salt available in the USA and referred to extensively as the salt of choice in curing. This led me towards many a session looking into salt to determine what to use etc.

Three key factors I believe are of utmost importance when selecting the salt to use are:

  • Naturally made (i.e by nature not in a chemical factory by man)
  • The correct crystal size to distribute evenly through your meat
  • Knowing how much salt you are adding. 

Naturally made

All salt found in nature has at some time originated from the dissolved salt mineralisation in the oceans. Natural salt can therefore be sourced from producers evaporating sea water to crystallise salt or from rock salt mined. This salt will have been formed into underground salt formations millions of years back after trapped sea water evaporated over time in trapped caverns - or something like that.

I have read opinions on salt produced from the oceans now risking contamination like radiation from Fukushima and other pollutants etc. I have no real opinion on this at this time.

Man made chemical salt (table salt) has a few problems for me - It's unnatural, the crystals are typically too small and there are usually flowing agents, anti-caking agents and often iodine added. I don't want those.

Crystal size

You need to be able to evenly distribute your salt through your meat when making salami, Chorizo, fresh sausage etc. To do this effectively it is easier to have the right size salt crystals. From what I have read this is the main reason Kosher salt is selected for use.

Not being able to purchase Kosher salt locally I started using Maldon see salt (basically a fleur de sel) which I would lightly crush. This distributes well and is a lovely salt. Unfortunately as this is more of a finishing salt it is expensive to use in curing. Solution - I am now using fine ground Himalayan rock salt. This has a chrystal size similar to Kosher salt. It distributes well and I have found this to work very well.

Addition amount

Adding the correct amount of salt is critical to curing. Too little and you can have unnecessary spoilage. Too much and you will have a salty tasting end product.
The amount of salt required is typically calculated as a percentage of the mass of the final meat product. Hence this is a mass (weight) calculation and not a volumetric calculation.

Different salt's have different bulk density's (weight to volume ratio or say the weight of a teaspoon of salt), a gram of salt will add the same amount of saltiness no matter what salt you choose to use. You should therefore ensure you always calculate the salt requirement on mass and not volume.

Different Salt Crystal Sizes

Pink Salt

Prague powder (also known as pink salt) is something completely different. This is a curing agent to help protect against botulism. Although Himalayan rock salt is pink, this is NOT prague powder. Prague powder is a blend of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite with table salt and pink colouring for safety. This is poisonous in the wrong concentration (the wrong concentration is not very much). As a safety precaution, do not store this where children or other adults can confuse this as a form of table salt and eat it.

Although some people don't believe in using prague powder in curing, my opinion is that I would rather not risk botulism when giving cured meat to family and friends. Botulism kills; I will protect against that. The active ingredients (nitrites and nitrates) occur in natural food sources too so we consume them eating healthy products anyway. Besides these chemicals break down and dissipate over time through the curing process. Common sense and safety.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Pork Sausages One

This last weekend was time to make some more sausages. I followed two recipes this round and then cold smoked half of the second recipe. This is an experiment to see how much smoke flavour I can get into a pork sausage.


The first recipe was "BREAKFAST SAUSAGE WITH FRESH GINGER AND SAGE" from the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. see books tab.

Unfortunately I could not find fresh sage and mine has not survived the winter or the puppies so I had to substitute with dried sage. For the rest I followed the recipe closely and must say this is a delicious sausage. I do believe the fresh herb would add another dimension to the flavour - next time.


The second recipe was a simple sausage focusing on a strong thyme flavour. I also cold smoked half this batch.

3kg 80:20 pork shoulder
1tsp garlic powder
8g white pepper
53g salt (I used fine ground Himalayan rock salt)
3Tbsp Dried Sage
2tsp onion powder
3g dried thyme
300ml iced water

After blending the dry spices with the chopped meat I ground this through the mincer small plate then mixed for about 2 minutes in the electric mixer (Kenwood) adding the water until this was all looking nice and sticky. This was then stuffed into hog casings and linked.

Half this batch was then put into the cold smoker for 2 hours of cold smoke contact. After this the sausages are bagged, tagged and left in the fridge for a day for the smoke and flavours to blend.

The thyme flavour is well pronounced in this sausage. The cold smoke also penetrated well giving this an interesting additional flavour for a fresh sausage. Adding smoke like this to a bacon and cheese sausage would work very well.

The smoke was not a dominant or overpowering flavour but also tamed the thyme somewhat. The cold smoke also didn't make the sausages very rich like I find hot smoking them does.

The texture and flavour here was wonderful and I will definitely add a splash of cold smoke to sausages on occasion going forward.