If you already make fresh sausages, you might have a favorite recipe you like to make over and over again. James and I have a few favorites, but if I would have to pick, I might say Ruhlman’s ginger breakfast sausage is my fave. It doesn’t taste anything like breakfast sausage (to me), but it is delicious, and a nice excuse to eat sausage for breakfast.
So I was thinking–if you’re going to make the jump from making fresh sausage to fermented, maybe it might be nice to start out with your favorite recipe. Or maybe you’re just curious what the difference is between the two types of sausage. Either way: I’ve got you covered. Because I’m going to explain how to turn any recipe for a fresh sausage into a fermented one.
How to ferment a sausage:
Fermented sausages (or salami) aren’t that different to make from fresh sausages. There are some extra ingredients you might want to include, and then there’s the step of fermenting them, and then the drying. But really, if you’ve got sausage-making down, you can easily transition to fermenting them.
Though all recipes for fermented sausage follow a similar procedure, there are different techniques or ingredients that can be used to change the final outcome of the product. Personally, I’m a fan of the slow-fermented sausages that have a more traditional taste (such as this recipe for soppressata, which, incidentally, I can never remember how to spell). These take a little more time to make, but are a little less in-your-face about their fermented flavor.
This, however, is not actually the type of sausage I’m going to describe today. If you want to turn any fresh sausage recipe into a fermented one, I would recommend a technique more similar to that of making summer sausage. This is a quicker process of fermentation, and the final sausage is cooked. It’s easier, quicker, and more likely to “go right.”
How to convert a recipe:
Salt: When making a fresh sausage, you can add as little or as much salt as you like. But if it’s going to be fermented, be sure to add at least 2.5% salt (that is, 2.5% of the weight of the meat). Adding salt preferentially disposes the sausage to accommodating beneficial, salt-tolerant bacteria.
**Side note: Not sure what I mean when I say add 2.5% salt? That means add 2.5 g of salt for every 100 g of meat or fat in the recipe. I give a more detailed explanation on this page, when I discuss how to alter a recipe.
Cultures: When fermenting sausages, you will want to add cultures to ensure fermentable activity. I recommend the culture F-RM-52, added at the rate of 0.13% (or 2.6 g for every 2 kg of meat in the recipe). Be sure to dissolve the starter culture in a few tablespoons of filtered water. Let this sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to fully rehydrate before adding to the meat.
Dextrose: In order to feed fermentation activity in a fast-fermenting sausage, dextrose can be added at the rate of 1.5%. Dextrose is a type of sugar that is easily digested by the sausage cultures.
Cure #1: Also known as pink salt, this is a source of sodium nitrite. In fermented and smoked sausages, sodium nitrite is vital, as it protects against botulism. Add at a rate of 0.25%.
Procedure: As you might expect, the difference in a fermented sausage is more than just the sum of the ingredients used. You will have to change your procedure for making the sausages as well.
How is a fermented sausage different than a fresh sausage?
First, the similarities: When making a fermented sausage, you will grind your meat in the same manner as you would for a fresh sausage. You will add your salt and seasonings (and any extra ingredients, like cultures) to the meat in the same manner. You will stuff into casings just like you would for a fresh sausage. From here, things go just slightly different.
1. After stuffing the sausages, prick all over with a sterile needle to reduce air pockets.
2. Once sausages are stuffed and pricked, ferment in a warm and humid place for 12 hours. Aim for 85ᵒF and 90% relative humidity.
3. After fermenting, smoke slowly (or cook slowly) to an internal temperature of 150ᵒF.
4. After cooking, you may eat your sausages immediately, or you can hang to dry for a few more days at 60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity.
Here’s what I did:
I used this recipe for Greek sausages from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. And then I made both fresh and fermented versions to compare. I had never made this particular sausage recipe before, but I loved it: it’s citrusy and unusual and just the right sort of flavor combination that I would never come up with on my own.
And how did it turn out? Both versions were delicious. I’m so indecisive that I couldn’t tell you which version I liked the best. Of course, the fermented version had a tangier, more sour flavor from being fermented. Yet in the fresh version, you could taste the citrus flavor more strongly. As I said, both were tasty versions of the same thing. It’s always fun to experiment and try new things.
I think next time, I will have to try my favorite breakfast sausage recipe to taste what happens when it becomes fermented. I have a feeling that particular recipe would lend itself even better to fermenting.
And of course, if you’re at all interested in making salami, you should check out our tutorials on fermenting and dry curing meats. We have plenty of recipes and explanations to help get you on your way to fermenting sausages, even if you’ve never done this before.
What about you? Has anyone out there converted a fresh sausage recipe to a fermented one? What has been your experience?