Below are instructions for preparing our pre-tubed and pre-flushed natural sheep or hog casings. If you have sourced casings elsewhere, follow the manufacturers instructions.
It is essential to rinse all visible salt off the casings. Do this by running the casing under the tap using cold water. Try to massage between the folds. Do not remove the casing from the tube provided.
Once rinsed, you must soak your casings in fresh, warm water, ideally 37°C (which is your body temperature). Make sure they are fully submerged and avoid water any hotter than 40°C. Soak your casings for at least 45 minutes. Alternatively, casings can be soaked overnight in cold tap water.
One of the most important things to remember when making sausages is to keep everything cold. A great tip from Matty Matheson is to use meat and fat that is ‘almost frozen’ – in his own words ‘if you grind meat that is warm or room temp it will turn into sludge, cold meat just grinds really nice’. This is because warmth ruins the emulsification (structure) of the meat and prevents both liquid and fat from absorbing into the meat. This leads to a dry, crumbly and less flavourful sausage. We recommend putting your meat and fat into the freezer until it is 'hard chilled' - that is slightly crunchy frozen on the outside and very cold on the inside before you start your grinding and sausage making. This will take about 20 minutes. If you have a large batch of meat, keep anything you can’t fit into your grinder/sausage maker in the fridge until you need it. Put your grinder blade and plate into the fridge at the same time so these are also really cold.
If you are making your sausage seasoning from scratch and your recipe contains any spices, we recommend toasting them in a skillet over medium heat until slightly golden and you can smell them. This releases the flavour from the spices.
Trim and discard any sinew, nerves, gristle or silver skin from the meat. The hard fat is fine to go into your sausages. Cut meat and fat into cubes (about 2.5cm/1 inch).
Using your hands, combine the diced meat, fat, seasonings and any other ingredients (salt, pepper, herbs, spices, garlic, mustard etc) except for any liquid (water, stock, beer, wine, cream, eggs etc) in a big mixing bowl. Give it a really good mix through - this will ensure the spices/flavour is distributed evenly throughout your sausage.
Grinding your sausage meat is a key sausage making step and although it's pretty hard to completely stuff it up, your choices here will impact the texture of your final sausage. Simply put, finely ground meat = a smoother sausage with a finer, spongy texture and no visible 'bits' eg a saveloy or hot dog. Coarsely ground meat = coarser sausage with more visible 'bits' and a more 'crumbly' texture.
We always recommend grinding twice. This will help your sausage bind together. Our preference is to simply grind all your mix through a 4.5mm plate twice. For a medium-coarse sausage, you can grind the first time with a 8 or 10mm plate, then follow with a 2nd grind through a 4.5mm plate.
Gradually feed meat into the grinder, combining it with pieces of fat to achieve an even blend of meat and fat. Make sure you chill your meat in-between grinds (put in freezer for minimum 10mins) Click here for more info.
Add your water, liquid or eggs to the minced mixture and thoroughly mix by hand until all the liquid is absorbed by the meat mixture. This is a really important step as it helps the sausage bind, so don't be tempted to take short cuts. Keep mixing until the sausage mix starts getting sticky. You know the mix is ready when you grab a burger pattie sized handful and tip your hand upside down. If it sticks to the palm of your hand before slowly dropping off, it is ready. If it falls off straight away / doesn't stick, keep mixing. Click here for more info.
Assemble your sausage stuffer. Wet the inside or your meat canister with some water or a little oil (this stops the meat from sticking). Place the sausage mix into the stuffing machine sausage meat canister. Press down and compact the meat to get rid of any air pockets. Put any meat that doesn’t fit back into the fridge until you are ready for it.
Different sized casings need a different sized sausage maker nozzle (also known as funnel, stuffing tube or stuffing horn), otherwise you could get tearing in your casing. Sheep casings require a smaller nozzle than hog casings. We strongly recommend the following nozzle sizes:
- Sheep 19-21mm (our Snack Stick Casings) = 10-13mm diameter nozzle (13mm is the width/diameter of the nozzle at its tip).
- Sheep 24-26mm = 13-16mm/0.5" diameter nozzle.
- Hog Casings = 19-25mm/0.75"-1" diameter nozzle.
Our casings have been threaded onto a pipe for easier use. Remove the casing from the water and slide the casing tube onto the piping nozzle. If you are using our hog casings, thread the end of the tube with the fold on first. You can dab a bit of vegetable oil on the end of the casing and nozzle to make this easier. Slide the casing off the casing tube onto the nozzle until you come to the other end of the casing. Tie a knot in this end of the casing and slide the knot right up against the end of the nozzle. You are ready to start filling. For more details instructions and a video, follow this link.
Press the knot at the end of the sausage casing firmly against the end of the sausage nozzle. Begin piping the sausage mix into the casing, ensuring the meat is filling the casing evenly. Maintaining some pressure on the meat in the feeder will help and will prevent air bubbles in your sausages. Pinch the casing every 15cm/6 inches to make a space to later create links in the sausages. When all the meat is fed into the casing, turn off the machine and tie a secure knot at the end of the casing. The amount of fill is a balancing act you will get better at it the more times you do it. Ideally, you want to find the sweet spot where the casing is filled with meat and a little amount of air remains but not so full that it will burst when you begin twisting or the skin will snap open when you cook it. However, generally speaking, it’s better to very slightly over-stuff than under-stuff your sausages, since some fat and moisture will escape during cooking, making the meat shrink. Watch Luke filling sausage here.
To make the links in your sausage, pinch and twist the filled sausage casing with thumb and forefinger approximately 15cm/6 inch apart, then spin the sausage between your fingers (kind of like a skipping rope). Move your way along the filled casing, making sure to spin the sausage in alternating directions for each sausage.
Once you’ve mastered all of that, you need to rest your sausages overnight in the refrigerator. This helps the sausages to bind and the flavours develop to their full potential, givng you a tastier, jucier sausage. Put them in a bowl and cover them with paper towels. Do not put them in an airtight container or cover with glad wrap.
There are 3 golden rules of storing sausage casings:
1. Keep salted
If you have left-over casing and have washed the salt off then remove any excess water by running your fingers down the casings then generously re-coat with any finely ground table salt (not rock salt or flaked salt). The easiest way to do this is to put your casing in a bowl and sprinkle a generous amount of salt over it, then roll the casing around in the salt. The salt will stick to the residual moisture on the casing. You want the casing to be completely covered in salt. More salt is better than not enough so if in doubt add more, excess salt will not harm the product.
2. Keep air tight
Wrap in clingfilm/gladwrap and put back into the pouch packaging provided or into a container.
3. Keep cool
Technically casings can be stored at room temperature but we highly recommend storing your sausage casings in a cool, temperature-controlled environment of between 5°C and 10°C – ideally in the fridge. Store casings away from direct sunlight and heat at all times. We do not recommend freezing your casings.
Remember not to prick your sausages or cook too hot, otherwise your sausage casing may split and all your beautiful sausage juices and flavours will escape, making your sausage dry. Follow this link for tips on how to cook the perfect sausage.