Monday, April 13, 2009

the skinny on sausage casings.

Okay everybody, say it with me...
Ha! That's not so bad, is it? Even if you don't want to think about it, when you eat any (well, any non-vegetarian) sausage, you are eating a combination of ground meats and spices stuffed into natural casings, meaning intestines. You're okay with that, right?
So the next question is, what kinds of casings are there? And are all casings created equal?

With all of the varieties of sausages, I'd imagine casings differ vastly.
Thus far, I've only used hog casings in my sausage experimentation, which I have found to be excellent for beginning to intermediate sausage makers. They are available at my trusty butcher shop for a pretty reasonable price (about 10lbs of meat will use about $10 of casings) and are pretty forgiving- nice and stretchy and not at all unpleasant to eat.
Lamb casings seem to be a good option for the slightly more advanced sausage stuffer. They are more delicate and narrower (think: breakfast sausages) but I hear they are incredibly tender and tasty. They also tend to cost twice as much and harder to find.
Beef casings are another option for sausages of the larger variety. They are thicker and smoother and have a snappy bite (think: bologna) and are ideal for your big, meaty sausages- chorizo, blood sausages, kielbasa, etc.
And vegetarian casings, well, give this a shot. Report back.
So, the good news is, nowadays, you can buy anything on the internet! Here's a great site that sells all sorts of casings- and they're cheap. They offer a great selection of hog, sheep, and beef casings in different diameters and dyes. I would imagine the procedure would be similar to ordering meat online, they would package it up nicely on dry ice, but casings hold up pretty well, so... here's the sketchy part.

"Salted casings have a very long shelf life when stored properly. Un-refrigerated, these salted casings quickly begin to give off a strong odor even though they are not spoiled. Put them back under refrigeration and this odor for the most part subsides."
Hmm... I don't know how my doorman would feel about accepting a package of stinky animal parts. But for the price, it is worth a shot!

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