What happens if you eat it in the Winter?

When I was a kid, this was the kind of question I would ask my long suffering mother and my silently simmering dad. Honestly, I don’t think I ever got a definitive answer. I do remember a stinging sensation above the nape of my neck. It could be that the explanation was knocked out of my head a mere moment after it had entered it. Good times.

For reasons that I STILL don’t understand, summer sausage is defined as any sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration. I guess that means that winter is cold enough so that all sausages can sit out. In the summer, only certain ones can, and those are called summer sausages. Somehow, that just isn’t a very satisfying conclusion.

I noticed that I only see summer sausage on the shelves in the summer. Ha ha, what? Does that mean that if you sell it in the off season, you’re going to get a visit from the Wurst Gestapo? Is there some sort of governing body that makes sure nobody is making May Wine in June? And what is May Wine, anyway?  A subject for another post, perhaps.

The word TANG has been ruined forever.

I remember before 1962. You could use the words “tang” and “tangy” to describe a flavor, a sensation, a characteristic of summer sausage and other things. But once John Glenn took some Tang along with him when he rocketed into space, the mental image conjured up by the word changed forever.

Actually, Tang was invented in ’57 and first marketed in ’59, but it took a buzz cut adorned astronaut in a silver suit to get people to take an interest in fake orange juice. There’s a lesson in there for all of us. Marketing is everything.

Summer sausage is supposed to be tangy, as a result of the lactobacillic fermentation process that makes it shelf stable. Nickel version, lactobacillus bacteria are introduced into the sausage (“Hi! Hi! Nice to meet you!”). Their life cycle creates lactase as a waste/by-product. Lactase is acidic. The presence of lactase discourages other bacteria from lingering. It even kills the lactobacillus, eventually. Like I said, lactase is acidic. So it’s kinda tangy.

Please don’t tell me my sausage fermented

People think that fermentation means the food went bad. Well, yeah, when food goes bad, fermentation is one of the processes that occurs, along with autolysis and bugs and worms and all kinds of things. But, without fermentation, we wouldn’t have beer or wine. Nobody seems to mind that. Sauerkraut is fermented, and so are pickles,  and kimchee, although there’s a way to make pickles without fermentation. You just add some acid. You see, ACIDITY was discovered BEFORE ACID, ain’t that a kicker.

Fermentation has been utilized for thousands of years, accidentally and otherwise. Fermentation increases the acidity of whatever it’s occurring in, which discourages bacteria. Once again. Introducing certain bacteria into organic matter and cultivating them will discourage OTHER bacteria from moving into the neighborhood. It’s a germ eat germ world. Well, the lactobacilli don’t really eat the other bacteria, they just out COMPETE them. Lactobacilli are like rabbits. You get a breeding pair (actually, they don’t even need each other to reproduce), and the next thing you know, lactobacilli ever’where!

So, hug a bug next time you see one. Bugs, lactobacillic ones, are our friends. They populate our appendices and digestive tract. They antagonize all the harmful bugs, like the Guardian Angels used to do on the New York Subways. “BACK OFF, CLOSTRIDIUM PERFRINGENS!  YOU TOO, LISTERIA!” Man, that takes me back.

We’re not gonna ferment anything today. I know, I kinda wish we were, now that we understand its awesome goodness. Intentional fermentation still needs to be practiced under controlled conditions, and most of us don’t have that kind of tech in our kitchens at the ready. Not much to it, but we’re just not set up for it. Maybe some other time. I guess I’m just a fermentation MONITOR. I don’t really DO it.

First, you have to make this stuff.

This is important, to be safe. Please. Pay attention to this part.

Norm’s basic curing mix:

First, you make a batch of the curing mix, which can be kept and measured out as needed. It consists of:

  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

The formula above MUST NOT BE ALTERED. It provides flavor, but it is not designed as a flavoring. It is a preservative, one of the oldest preservatives known to man. It is one of the safest preservatives known to man, too. But, you can not add more or less according to your taste.

Cure#1 has sodium nitrite IN IT. It is not pure sodium nitrite. It is sodium nitrite that has been premixed into salt so that you don’t have to measure the minute amounts that are actually required. It is toxic to bacteria and botulism. It is also toxic to humans in elevated doses. Do not TASTE this stuff. It does not taste good. It tastes metallic, or SO I HEAR.

Wash your hands. This is very important. MEASURE IT OUT WHEN YOU USE IT.

Once you have made your cure mix, assemble these ingredients and mix well:

  • 2 pounds ground beef.
  • 1 oz. white vinegar, to provide tang.
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seed.
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse ground black pepper.
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • 1 Tablespoon chervil.
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano.
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika.

Logs can be Fashionable!

Sure, you’re supposed to stuff the sausage into casings and so forth. I have a lot of friends who buy the casings, and have the humorously named sausage stuffers. They take great pride in the perfect shape of their chubs, but I can’t be bothered. Usually I just try to roll it out into a cylinder, wrap it in plastic, and then put it in a Ziploc Gallon Freezer Bag. That works fine. But this time I had a little fun. I loaded it into a glass loaf pan, and then sealed it into a vacuum bag with my chamber vacuum.

These things are great, but crazy expensive and not necessary. When you turn the machine on, it removes not only the air from the chamber, but it removes it from the sausage mixture or meatloaf, or the watermelon, or whatever you’re doing in there. It’s cool not to have any bubbles, and, if you’re fermenting (which we’re not), bubbles are considered undignified and maybe even dangerous.

I took it out of the bag, out of the loaf pan, and THEN I rolled it up in plastic and vacuum bagged it. It was a slow news day.

Process @

129Fx4 hours.

Lately I’ve been siphoning the hot water out of the vessel, and then refilling with cold water. Cold tap water is about 70F/21C, so as long as your package didn’t exceed half of the total volume of your vessel, one or two refills of tap water should get everything down to 70F/21C. I just siphon it out again, refill it, wait 15 minutes, and proceed.

If you have two packages of whatever in the tank, you hold them together and put your probe thermometer between them. In a few minutes, that will tell you the internal temp without cracking open the bag.

I use Lipavi racks for pretty much everything, so after the final siphon, I lift out the rack and move it right into the fridge on a sheet pan. This keeps it away from everything else while it finishes cooling. It’s a great thing.

This is the brisket that I did, comfortably nestled.

So, here’s how it looked after sv processing. Pink, paprika pink, not rare pink. It’s actually good like this, and you can just brown it in the oven and enjoy it, but we’re gonna roll like they do out in the country.

Sheet pan, parchment, Lipavi rack.

There is no reason to let your stuff drip all over the inside of your smoker, other than the temporary benefit of smelling it. Admittedly, that is pleasant, but we all know how it goes. New barbecues are like orchids in bloom. When you get one, take a picture, because it’s never gonna look like that again.

You don’t have to clean it if it don’ get dirty, and I have found that smoke has a way of coming in contact with anything anywhere near it. If you leave the lid down, you are going to get plenty of smoky wonderfulness. You might not stink up the neighborhood as much, but that may actually save you money in the long run.


This is the smoker that I’ve been using. I’ve never met a smoker I didn’t like, and I’ve used a lot of them in my time. The thing about smokers is they are smoky. I smoked cigarettes, like an idiot, so now I get to drag an 02 hose around that gets tangled up in everything. I thought smoking would just kill me outright one day, no such luck. So, barbecuing became problematic.

And that’s the great thing about pellet smokers in general, and the RecTec 680 in particular. This one has a PID controller, so you just turn it on, set the temp, and walk away. I have this whole rant about how you shouldn’t open the smoker while you’re using it, but I will spare you. The thing is, I can really limit my time inhaling all that delicious CO and NO.

Set the controls for:


Put the stuff in and come back in three hours. I don’t drink beer, so there’s no reason for me to stand out there and fidget. It’s not gonna burn in three hours at that temperature. How much beer has been consumed in the name of making sure the smoker was working properly?

The summer sausage is already pasteurized. Once we get color and bark, you can be sure that it’s hot. After three hours UNDISTURBED, at 180F/82C it will be. If you open the lid every fifteen minutes, all bets are off!.

Remove it from the smoker and chill it again. That’s right. Why not just put it in a Ziploc gallon bag and shock it like we did when it came out of the tank? WHY NOT INDEED!
Do that.
 It’s a good idea to combine tasks, too. Smoker temps are pretty forgiving, I did this SV brisket flat at the same bat-time, same bat-temp, same bat-duration. If you have other stuff to put in there, go right ahead. Sous Vide Corn, Sous Vide Onions, Smoke tomatoes, all good. I put everything in at the same time and pull as needed, rather than time it the other way around. Ovens have good warmers these days.

RIP, Adam West.


Once out of the smoker, this looks really terrific…

The closer you get, the better it looks. And it’s tasty hot, but the smoke comes out more after it’s been chilled. This thing was made to go with mustard and pickles. It’s like a hot dog with class.

So, then, you know, you get the classic presentation…

Sous vide carrots, sous vide celery, raw onion, chervil, EVOO, and I made some white wine mustard, so easy.


And as if that wasn’t enough…

It’s only summer sausage, but it can be very versatile, incorporated into a totally sinful thing that we mistakenly refer to as “Antipasto.”

Artichoke hearts, potatoes, celery, carrots, smoked brisket, and Lord knows what else, EVOO, Himalayan salt, this that and the other thing, I left the bread off because I would have had to eat it before the camera ever crossed my mind.

Hope you dig it.