Tips for Stuffing Fibrous Casings
Stuffing Summer Sausage
PREP-WORK FOR STUFFING FIBROUS CASINGS
Fibrous casings are the most popular choice for making summer sausages and some other larger-diameter sausage-like products. They are made from a paper product and are generally easy to work with, but here are a few tips to make sure you are making the best product possible.
First, make sure your fibrous casings are soft and pliable before you attempt to stuff them. They need to be soaked for 30 minutes at 90-100°F to soften them up. Choose the largest stuffing tube or horn that you have that your casings will fit over; with larger fibrous casings, this is generally your largest stuffing tube. Doing this will allow your casing to stuff evenly and prevent swirling inside the casing, which can cause an odd appearance when you slice your summer sausage.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM STUFFING FIBROUS CASINGS
Since Fibrous casings are so strong, blowouts really are not a major concern here, so feel free to stuff the casing until it is smooth and full while minimizing backflow. Backflow is when sausage comes back up around the tube before going into the casing; so make sure you are holding the casing on tightly and near the end of the tube.
As you are stuffing your fibrous casing, make sure that you leave at least a few inches at the end of the casing so you can clip it closed with Hog Ring Pliers, a Bag & Casing Clipper, or a Max Pac Stapler. Twist the end of the casing as tightly as possible and place your hog ring or staple as close to the meat as possible to keep the meat tightly in the casing.
MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO STUFF FIBROUS CASINGS
Now, most of the fibrous casings that we sell are prestuck, which means that small holes are already present along the casing. This allows for the pressure to bleed out during the cooking process and for the casing to form tightly to the meat. If you purchased one of the few fibrous casings that are not prestuck, you will need to get something like a sausage pricker and make some holes up and down the summer sausage.
The casings already have a loop of string on the opposite end to hang it in a smoker, so your hog ring will be responsible for keeping the casing closed while the weight of the meat is pushing down on it, so make sure it is as tight as you can make it.
One other thing to make note of here, even though it is not technically part of the stuffing process, if you do not run a shower cycle or an ice bath to cool your sausage down, the casing is going to stick to the meat when you try to peel it. If you have run an ice bath and it is still sticking when peeling, try putting it in the fridge overnight; that will often allow the casing to peel away cleanly.
How to Store Sausage Casings (And How Long They Last)
HOW TO STORE NATURAL HOG AND SHEEP CASINGS?
These will be sent to you either packed in salt if you purchased the home pack or kept in a salt solution if you purchased the 100-yard hank. The salt will keep the casings fresh throughout the shipping process, but they should be stored in a cooler or refrigerator when you receive them until they are ready for use. Once you have taken them out of the package and rinsed and cleaned them, they can be put back into the salt or salt solution and vacuum-packed again, at which point they will have the original shelf life.
Shelf-Life - If they are unopened and stored in a refrigerator or cooler, you can expect to get 12 months from these casings but remember, these are natural products, not manufactured ones, so times can vary. The casings might have an unpleasant smell to them, but that is to be expected. If, however, the smell is truly rancid, then the casings have gone bad and should be disposed of. The difference between the slightly unpleasant normal smell of these casings and spoiled casings is unmistakable.
HOW TO STORE COLLAGEN CASINGS?
They should be kept in a dry place that is between 40-60° F and left in the original packaging until they are ready for use. Once they have been opened, you should reseal the casings and always store them in an airtight container. The older the casing is, the more brittle and prone to blowouts it will become.
Shelf-Life - Collagen casings should have a shelf life of between 12-24 months, depending on how they are stored. If the casing feels excessively brittle when you are putting it on the stuffing tube, or you are experiencing an unusual number of blowouts, your casings might have gone bad and should be disposed of. You can slightly rehydrate older collagen casings by taking them out of their package and storing them in the refrigerator the night before they are going to be used. Once you have used how much you need, you can reseal them in a bag. Do not vacuum pack them, though, as this will crush the casings.
HOW TO STORE FIBROUS AND CELLULOSE CASINGS?
They should be kept in a cool, dry environment and out of direct sunlight.
Shelf-Life - These casings do not really go bad; you should get at least a few years out of them if stored correctly.