I love the unique flavor of aged pork sausage. I have even put the 2 pound plastic wrapped bags of store sausage in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks to let them age. This is probably a risky practice but it has worked in a pinch. The risk with any aged sausage is botulism (literally "sausage sickness", if that gives you a hint). By sealing the casing with fat, anearobic conditions are created. During natural aging, it is not unusual for meat to be in the "danger zone" at least part of the time. If botulism organisms are present and can out grow the benign aging organisms, a lethal product results. The good news is that both the organism and the toxin are destroyed by ordinary (160 deg. F.) cooking temperatures.
Many years ago, my father and grandmother taught me how to make and age bagged sausage. It is hung in the garage or shed or smokehouse for several weeks and the aging conditions are dependent upon the weather, therefore, every batch is a different experience. The trick is to get the full flavor without letting it get too strong. I have never had any spoil. This past winter I accidently re-discovered the value of smoke as an effective preservative.
Usually, we let the bags hang without smoking. We keep sampling until we like the flavor then freeze what we won't eat within a couple of weeks. Last winter we put up 66 bags weighing 2½ pounds each! Before they attained a real good flavor, we had a serious cold snap with lows in the single digits. Afraid that the sausage and the meat in cure would freeze, I cut a green hickory tree and built a smoking fire on the dirt floor of the smokehouse. I had a lot of trouble getting the kindling started and threw a few extra oak slabs on to get things hot enough for the hickory to catch. It was too cold to hang around and watch the fire. When I checked on it about three hours later, thick smoke was pouring from the eaves. On opening the doors I found a lively fire, heavy smoke and the temperature was up to 120 deg. F. The sausage was dripping fat and condensate was dripping from the roof. I managed to keep the fire smouldering for the next two days but I was afraid I had oversmoked during that first day. The sausage had a strong (not unpleasant but definitly dominant) smoke flavor). I sampled sausage over the next month and it was not getting that familiar aged flavor; nor was it going bad. It was very good but not what I was used to. In addition to being an excellent breakfast sausage, it was fantasic on pizza (even dominating anchovies) and made a killer spaghetti sauce. I finally froze most of the bags but kept a few back to see what would happen. It is now June; twenty weeks after we hung the sausage. I still have one bag hanging and one that I am using! There is no sign of spoilage and the taste and aroma is indescribable. I just fried some up to make sure it was still good - it's wonderful; kinda like the best lebanon raised to the third power! Next year I will try stopping the aging process with smoke after it is ripe.
25 lb Fresh pork sausage, seasoned 10 Sausage bags
Use only freshly ground seasoned pork sausage. If seasoned with a commercial mix, add extra sage to taste (we test fry samples as we season). Make bags of cotton feed bags or unbleached muslin. Cut rectangles 8" X 16" and stitch bottom and side allowing ¼" for seams resulting in a 3¾" finished bag. Soak bags in water. Stuff sausage by hand and squeeze down hard so as to eliminate air and squeeze fat through bag (some people waxed them). Twist end tight, tie and hang in cool place (smoke house or garage) until distinctive aged flavor develops. Do not allow to freeze during aging.
Temperatures should average in mid 30's; 38 is ideal. Weather with lows in upper 20's and highs in low 40's will age sausage in 3 to 4 weeks. If warm, check to see that sausage is not getting too strong or spoiling. May be cold smoked for 24 hours or longer at less than 100F using hickory or apple wood. Always cook aged sausage to well done. Do not wrap in plastic to store in refrigerator because of mold. Seal cut end with grease and store uncovered or hang.
Recipe By : dgill@...
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