Casings are the forgotten super-hero of the humble sausage. That’s because without a good sausage casing, you can’t have a good sausage. Your sausage casing is what keeps all your carefully chosen ingredients, flavours and juices in and it also dictates the texture and eating experience of your final sausage. Sausage making aficionados (aka gurus) are obsessed with having the right sausage ‘snap’ when you bite into a sausage, which all comes down to the casing you use. Natural casings give the best sausage snap. So don’t ruin your wieners, choose a natural casing.
Natural versus Collagen Casing
Sausage casings generally fall into two camps – natural casings or collagen casings. Natural casings are made from the intestine of an animal – usually hog or sheep. The craft and use of natural casings dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome, when the philosophy was about honoring making use of the whole animal. More recently, man has developed the collagen casing, which is made from highly processed hides of cows or pigs and has still to this day can not match the tenderness, texture and the all important sausage ‘snap’ of a natural casing.
Sheep verus Hog Casing
Sheep casings are not as wide as hog casings (aka they have a smaller diameter). As such, a sausage made with a hog casing will be a lot fatter/wider than a sausage made with a sheep casing. The wall of sheep casings are also thinner than hog casings which means they are less prone to chewyness/being rubbery. We believe sheep casings give the best sausage texture and delivery, with the much prized sausage ‘snap’ you only get from a natural sausage.
Whether you’re new to the craft or an experienced hand, it’s always good to keep up with a few tips and tricks when it comes to sausage making so we’ve given Luke (the owner of The New Zealand Casings Co) a bit of a spruce up and set him loose in front of the camera to do what he loves to do best – making great tasting sausages using our 100% natural sausage casings. Make sure you listen right to the end to hear his number 1 tip.
Casings are generally sold based on their diameter (often referred to as ‘calibre’). Natural sheep casings generally range from 20-30mm, sold as either 20/22 (as in 20-22mm), 22/24, 24/26 or 26/28. Hog casings generally fall between 30-45mm (32/35, 35/38 or 38/42). The sausage casings in our online products are 24-26mm (or 24/26). This means they range from 24mm diameter to 26mm diameter, and that your sausage will therefore end up between 24-26mm. Certain sausages have traditionally used certain sized casings but at The New Zealand Casings Co we are not size-ist. Our motto is that it’s not the size of your sausage that counts. What’s important is the quality of the finished product.
Store 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.
Before stuffing your sausages, it is essential to rinse all salt off the casings by soaking them thoroughly in fresh water. The ideal bathing temperature is between 20°C and 30°C. Avoid water any hotter than 30°C as it may promote bacterial growth and damage the strength and integrity of the casings.
Sheep casings need to be soaked for at least 45 minutes.
Hog casings need to be soaked for at least two hours, or better still overnight.
It's better to very slightly over-stuff than under-stuff your sausages, since fat and moisture will escape during cooking, making the meat shrink. Just be careful that it’s not too much or the skin will snap open when you cook it.