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Why Did We Make Better Sausages Before

Well, there are three answers to this question and the one can be found already in the first step of sausage making - the meat selection process. Good meat cuts make good meat products, everybody knows that. 1. Meat quality.

The flavor of the meat, especially the pig, depends on its diet. If the animal eats a lot of barley its meat is firm and fat. If the same pig will be fed with corn, its meat will be softer and fatter. Meat of pigs that were fed with kitchen meal leftovers or fed mainly with potatoes or beets, will contain more water in it.

Famous Spanish Serrano hams even today are still made from pigs that graze freely on grass and eat a lot of oak acorns. Change that diet and you will change the quality of the ham. Old sausage makers were well aware of those factors and for them meat was quality food and they strived for the best.

Today all pork tastes the same as it is mass produced, growth hormones and antibiotics are added, the pigs movement is restricted, all that technology to grow animals as fast as possible. That large piece of meat that we buy from a supermarket will be most likely already individually packed and injected with liquid. If you read the label it will say: "up to 12 % of patented solution was added to improve tenderness and juiciness". And the ingredients are listed on the label: potassium lactate, sodium phosphates, salt, sodium diacetate. Pig meat was perfect for thousands of years and now suddenly our plants want to improve it? Well, the truth is that this patented solution was added to improve meat's shelf keeping qualities and preserve color, but that does not sound as nice as saying: to improve "tenderness and juiciness".

2. Adding water. It seems that today's meat technology is obsessed with adding the maximum amount of water that the meat can hold inside.

Entire labs with college educated scientists are working on better and more efficient ways of trapping water inside. Check out any meat equipment supplier and you will see that half of all equipment manufactured today is related to injecting meat with curing solutions and shaking it in tumblers to uniformly distribute this liquid. You can shake it all your life and it still will not distribute the solution so evenly as immersing a ham for 30 days in a container. And the final result? Of course more juiciness, after all you are eating more water now. But what happened to the original meat flavor? Well, it's gone now so you have to use all kinds of flavor enhancements to compensate for it.

Let's assume that for many years you have been drinking your favorite Earl Grey tea and you have always used one tea bag per cup of water. What will happen if you still will use one tea bag but add 50 % more water to your tea? Will it taste the same or will it taste weaker? I believe the answer is self-explanatory. The same happens to the meat, it may be juicier but it will have a watered-down flavor. Commercially prepared curing solutions allow introduction up to 80 % of the solution into the meat. In simpler terms you can add 8 lbs of solution (water, salt and chemicals) into 10 lbs of meat. After cooking, smoking and other processes the finished product will weigh 13 lbs what constitutes 30 % gain in relation to the original weight of meat 3.

Extra ingredients. Looking at the original recipes you will see how little spice was needed to impart a required flavor to a particular sausage. And this is how they were made and they were great. No binders, fillers or chemicals were used, only meat, salt, pepper, sugar and spices.

The only chemical that was used was potassium nitrate and that ingredient was mandated by law in Poland and everywhere else in the world. Nitrates are still used in every country, although in its different form called nitrite. If you look at the sausage label you will see how many ingredients go inside of the factory made sausage. All those extras have a certain cumulative value and will distort the flavor of the sausage. To compensate for that we have to increase the amount of spices and use flavor enhancers.

We are not picking on meat plants that make those products as we understand that they have to walk a very thin line between profits and quality. Our aim is to convince you that you can make those sausages at home the way they were once made. And this is what more and more people do.

Adam Marianski has co-authored two books on meat smoking and making sausages. He runs the web site Wedliny Domowe where you can find more about making quality meats at home.

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