Preparing the Casings - There are four basic steps to preparing casings for stuffing.

SALTED:

  1. Rinse salt from casings with fresh water.
  2. Soften by soaking in fresh water at room temperature (approximately 21 Deg.C [70 Deg.F]) for 45 minutes to one hour. When hanks are placed in water, gently hand massage them to separate the strands and prevent dry spots which may adversely affect the stuffing process.
  3. Take casings to stuffing table. Place in bath of fresh water. This water should be warmer to render a little of the natural fat in the casing. This will help to allow the casing to slide from the stuffing horn more readily.
  4. Preflush the casings by introducing water into the casings and allow to run through the casing. This will also facilitate getting the casing onto the filling horn and moving the casing smoothly during the filling process.

PRE-FLUSHED IN SLUSH: 

Requires somewhat less labor and time before stuffing, but all four steps should be followed.

PRE-FLUSHED WET PACK:

Goods are packed in a brine with lesser amounts of salt. Requires only steps 3 and 4. Pre-tubed goods (casings on plastic tubes to speed production) usually come this way. Tubed goods may require a charge of water after they are on the stuffing horn; this is done using a horn made specifically for that purpose.

PRE-FLUSHED IN SOLUTION:

Requires no soaking time. Only steps 3 and 4 need to be performed. Casings packed this way are more prone to damage in shipping and/or from temperature changes. These casings should be purchased in smaller amounts - usually a 2 to 3 month supply, although they can be kept longer. Barrels should be carefully inspected, with leakers used first, employing steps 3 and 4.

Tubed casings:
Tubed casings are a labor saving device for the sausage maker allowing increased speed and efficiency in his production. Because tubed casings can be prepared with multiple strands of casing, the result is faster handling and stuffing times. Whether on soft or hard tubes, they are still treated by any of the above methods, depending on the requirements of the sausage maker and the type of sausage being made.

Soaking instructions of tubed casings can vary widely depending on the condition of the casings. Many sausage makers soak the tube casings over night since it can take a lot longer for the water to rehydrate the tubed casings compared with normal salted casing.

Principles of Drying & Moisturizing - Once the product has been stuffed and moved into the smokehouse, the initial critical steps of drying and smoke application must be monitored very carefully. Before smoke is applied, the casing should be dried to the point where it is tacky:

  • If the casing is not sufficiently dried, the smoke will penetrate the casing and will be deposited on the meat surface, thereby permitting casing separation and causing a pale, dull appearance.
  • If the sausage casing is overdried, the smoke will essentially be deposited only on the outside surface with very little flavor penetration.

Tenderness of animal casings varies. Sheep Casings which are used for small diameter products are the most tender and should be handled very carefully.

Laminated Casings are mainly used for Dry or Semi-dry Sausage and may also be used for Cooked Deli Products.  Some Bolognas are made with laminated casings.

Pieces of hog casings or sheep casings are cut open and laminated on a form or mold. This sausage-shaped mold may be made to accommodate a variety of calibers. During the processing operation, high temperatures are used to eliminate any bacterial growth. The natural binding quality of the casing protein causes coagulation. After cooling, the casings are removed from the form or mold.

If desired, various nettings may be applied on the casings during processing. These tend to enhance appearance and serve to allow the hanging of these sausage products for easy display.

LAMINATED CASINGS
Diameter
(mm)
Max. Length
(cm)
Approx. Stuffing Weight
(grams)
42mm 30cm 275 g
45mm 50cm 320 g
48mm 25cm 410 g
52mm 50cm 550 g
58mm 50cm 680 g
65mm 50cm 1400 g
70mm 50cm 1800 g
78mm 50cm 1650 g
85mm 50cm 2000 g
90mm 60cm 2400 g
95mm 60cm 2900 g
105mm 60cm 3300 g
110mm 50cm 4400 g
115mm 50cm 4800 g
130mm 50cm 5800 g
135mm 50cm 6200 g
45 / 62mm 42cm 900 g
48 / 82mm 55cm 1800 g
65 / 90mm 60cm 2700 g
65 / 100mm 60cm 3200 g

Today, CASING RECOVERY - most often done in large slaughtering facilities - is both a precise science and an elaborate process. It requires high-level expertise, state-of-the-art machinery, and maximum sanitation and quality control procedures.

As the intrinsic value of the raw material represents a large part of the finished casing product, every inch of tract needs to be utilized. In the slaughterhouse, the viscera of each animal is removed, and the various parts of the intestinal tract are separated. This separation of parts is instrumental in creating a variety of products ranging all the way from pig chitterlings to sheep appendixes for pharmaceutical products.

The casings are prepared for the removal of manure, mucosca (raw material for the anticoagulant "heparin") and any undesirable elements such as fat, threads and animal fluids. This removal, facilitated in a series of both hot and cold water soaks, is accomplished by machine crushing under close "hands-on/eyes-on" scrutiny.

The fully cleaned casings are placed in a saturated salt environment to prepare for further processing. The casings are then sorted into various grades and diameters. The selection process is dictated by such factors as: type of animal, and criteria set by the casing processor and ultimately the sausage producers.

Measuring Casings - After selection, all casings are carefully measured, either by machine or by hand. Regardless of measurement method, both must be accurate since the measured unit becomes the sales pricing criterion.

Hog Casings and Sheep Casings are prepared in 91-meter (100 yard) hanks or bundles. Beef Casings, if not sold by the piece, are sold in 18-30 meter bundles for Beef rounds, and 9-18 meter sets for Beef Middles.Determining Quality - Qualities are determined in several precise and labor-intensive ways.

In sheep, for example, an "A" quality casing is determined during selection, and is defined as a casing with no holes or weakness. This casing can be used for the finest frankfurter emulsion. "B" quality casings are of acceptable strength and quality for coarse ground emulsions such as those used in Pork Sausage.

With Beef Casings, the term "Export Quality" is sometimes used. This term describes casings as free of nodules (pimples) or scores (windows).

With Hog Casings, there is a single quality standard with several specifications for length. Where the various hog casings originate from - taking into consideration factors of species, climate, and diet - will generally determine the different characteristics of the casings. Some will be "white" or virtually transparent / clear; others will be darker and more opaque and will have more visible veining. These characteristics also have an effect on the tenderness or "bite" of the casing.

Clear Hog Casings are generally used for fresh products. Thicker and stronger casings such as Chinese Hog Casings are generally best suited for smoked products, because these casings better withstand the smoking process and because casing appearance is not as critical a selling feature, due to the smoking process itself.

Test Procedures - The traditional methods for grading and testing Natural Casings are: water testing for Sheep and Hog Casings, and air testing for Beef Casings.

The casings are appropriately filled with water or air and periodically expanded under pressure, to check for size and quality. The casings are then cut to final sizes and quality specifications are confirmed during quality control.

Shipping Casings - Casings are prepared and preserved in various forms for shipping to the sausage makers, Some Examples include:

  Dry Salt Pack: Excess moisture is removed for semi-dry state. This is usually appropriate for long distance travel and/or prolonged storage at ambient temperatures
  Slush or Preflushed Packed: In this convenient form, casings are very soft and flexible and do not require flushing prior to use
  Pre-tubed Casings: Each strand is shirred on a tube to allow one-step loading of the casing directly on the sausage filling horn - without the need for flushing - by the processor

Casings should be stored in a controlled, cool environment. Special care should be taken to avoid excessive heat. A neutral temperature of 4-10 Deg. C (40-50 Deg. F) is ideal.

We feel strongly that Natural Casings are the sausage makers' Best Choice because:

  • Natural Casings readily permit deep smoke penetration
  • Natural Casings have excellent characteristics of elasticity and tensile strength, to allow for high efficiency production and expansion during filling
  • Natural Casings protect the fine flavor of sausage, without contributing any conflicting flavorings of their own
  • Natural Casing Sausage has that special "snap" and tender bite that's like no other man-made product, and is so highly demanded by today's knowledgeable consumers
  • Natural casings enhances and complements the natural juices and quality of the meat and spices
  • The osmotic quality of Natural Casings permits superb cooking and allows the proper drying (curing) and shaping of salami and sausages, thanks to its porosity
  • Natural casings give the best flavor and appearance to the final product
  • Natural casings are the best possible growing fields for the noble molds which properly add natural seasoning and flavor to salamis and sausages
  • The term "Natural" is, and continues to be, one of the most powerful words influencing consumers' buying decisions.

For Sausage Makers, these characteristics yield high quality products that are uniform in flavor. For Retailers, the endothermic quality of Natural Casings means that the casing draws heat from the sausage and cools it below the temperature of surrounding air, providing better shelf-life and maintaining a juicier, fresher appearance. For Consumers, the osmotic quality allows an intermingling of flavors inside and outside the sausage while sizzling in the skillet. It also allows the wonderful scent of fine sausage to enhance appetite appeal, whether cooking in a skillet, under a broiler, or over an open flame on the barbecue grill.

Other less well known characteristics of Natural casings are:

  • Superior tensile strength enables maximum yields
  • Sausage in Natural Casings has a well-filled appearanc
  • Natural Casing Sausages have a fine appearance at link ends
  • A variety of product shapes contribute to an inviting appearance, and give sausage in Natural Casings strong display appeal

Natural Casings (a definition): Natural Casings are made from the submucosa, a largely collagen layer of the intestine. The fat and the inner mucosa lining are removed. Since small intestines are collagen in nature, they have many of the same characteristics common to all types of collagen, particularly the unique characteristic of variable permeability.

Natural Casings are hardened and rendered less permeable through drying and smoking processes. Moisture and heat make casings more porous and tend to soften them, which explains why smoking, cooking and humidity must be carefully controlled.

Before studying the numerous kinds of Natural Casings, it's important to understand that casings can vary in quality. Better casing suppliers and the sausage manufacturer will determine the specifications required based on the sausage manufacturer's purposes.These variables include:
1. equipment used for filling
2. type(s) of sausage being manufactured
3. coarseness of the grind

Fresh sausage is made from chopped, ground, or even pureed uncooked meat. It usually, but not always, needs to be refrigerated until used.

Cooked sausage (or pre-cooked) like hot dogs, frankfurters, bologna, mortadella, and many German-style "wursts" are usually made with smooth, even pureed fillings. Although these sausages are always cooked after filling, sometimes the fillings are partially cooked before being stuffed into the casing. These sausages are still heated up or cooked by the consumer to bring out the best flavor.

Smoked sausages like andouille, kielbasa and cervelat can be eaten as-is, heated, or cut up and used in other dishes.

Cured or dried sausages are sausages made fresh and then salted and air-dried for some time, depending on the type. For well over 2000 years, sausages have been created to preserve meat. Without the modern technologies we enjoy today such as refrigeration, meat was cured or dried, and packed in natural casings to prevent it from spoiling. This allowed it to be stored for later use. The meat is cooked by the salt and air over time. Spanish chorizo, coppa, and Genoa salami are just a few examples of cured sausages.

Together, the casing supplier and sausage manufacturer can determine the criteria to be used when ordering, testing and inspecting the casing.

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