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Sausage Casings 101

Sausage casings are an essential part of making sausage. After all, a sausage isn't a sausage without something to stuff it in. But they're also important in ensuring your end product is flavorful, processed evenly, and has great texture. The type of casing used is typically dictated by tradition but also varies by processing technique, ingredients, and size. Most sausage casings are natural, collagen or fibrous, with a wide array of sizes and applications. 

natural hog casings
Natural Casings

Natural sausage casings are made from the submucosa of the small intestine, a layer of the intestine that consists of naturally occurring collagen. The use of this type of casing goes back centuries — it’s one of the oldest forms of sausage-making, a classic in the sausage tradition. They are the most popular choice today because of the “snap” they make when bitten. They’re also flexible, tender, easy to stuff, and are durable enough to hold up to smokehouse processing. They can be used for fresh sausage, smoked sausage, snack sticks, hot dogs, brats and more. 

Your natural casings will come either packed in salt or a saline solution. The saline solution is designed for quick use, so once you rinse them off, you can use them within about 30 minutes after soaking in warm water. If salt-packed (in other words, heavily salted), you need to rinse off the salt, soak them in cold water and run cold water through them. After about half an hour of soaking in warm water, they can be used for stuffing. These casings can be repacked in salt and stored in the freezer for up to a year.

Hog

Hog casings are the traditional choice when making any type of link sausage like bratwurst, Italians, and kielbasa. They are also used for making smoked polish sausages, ring bologna with a small diameter and landjäeger.

29-32 mm  Small Brats • Link Sausage Landjaeger
32-35 mm  Brats • Italian Sausage • Rope Sausage
35-38 mm  Polish • Kielbasa
38-42 mm   Bologna


Sheep

Sheep casings are the most tender of the natural casings. The smaller diameter of sheep casings makes the perfect for making small link sausages like breakfast sausage and hot dogs, to snack sticks.

20-22 mm  Breakfast Sausage • Small Snack Sticks
22-24 mm  Breakfast Sausage • Snack Sticks
24-26 mm  Small Hot Dog • Wiener
26-28 mm   Large Hot Dog  • Wiener • Landjaeger


Beef Rounds

Beef rounds get their name from their characteristic round shape. They have minimal fat and are ideal for fresh, cooked or smoked sausage such as Ring Bologna, Polish, Mettwurst, Holsteiner, and Blood Sausage. They are very heavily salted, so you need to rinse them in cold water then run warm water through them. The best treatment is to soak them overnight in cold water and soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes before beginning your sausage stuffing work.

Beef Middles

Beef middles are straight long casings that have a heavier texture wall with some fat. These casings are ideal for dry and semi-dry sausages like Salami, Liverwurst, Bologna, or Summer sausage.

Beef Bung Caps

Made from the end of a cow’s large intestine, beef bungs are large-diameter casings that are typically used for large bologna, headcheese, souse, capicola, and mortadella.

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collagen casings
Collagen Casings

Collagen casings are processed, edible casings produced from the collagen in cow or pig hides, bones, and tendons. While they don't give much of a snap, they’re inexpensive and give more uniformity in weight and size compared to their natural counterparts. Collagen casings are packaged in sheets around a tube that can easily be loaded on your stuffing horn, with no soaking required. They come in two varieties based on processing: 

Fresh

As the name implies, fresh collagen casings are used specifically for fresh sausages like bratwurst and breakfast links. These tend to be more tender casings that are unable to withstand hanging in a smokehouse.

Smoke

Smoked or processed collagen casing are a bit stronger and thicker than fresh collagen to hold up to the processing schedule in the smokehouse, and can be used for making snack sticks, ring bologna, hot dogs or wieners. Their durability holds up well when hung on smoke sticks during processing and are available in clear and mahogany colors (no taste variation).

 

19 mm  Smoke Mahogany  Small Snack Sticks
21 mm Fresh Clear  Small Breakfast Sausages
21 mm  Smoke Clear or Mahogany  Snack Sticks
23 mm  Smoke Clear  Large Snack Sticks • Small Pepperoni
26 mm Smoke Clear  Hot Dogs • Wieners
30 mm  Fresh Clear  Brats Link Sausage
40 mm Smoke Clear  Ring Bologna • Liver Sausage • Kielbasa
43 mm Smoke  Clear  Ring Bologna • Liver Sausage • Kielbasa

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fibrous sausage casings

Fibrous Casings

Fibrous casings are inedible casings made from a form of cellulose material that peels away easily when cooked. They are also made from a specific tree called the Abaca. The fibers in the Abaca tree are very strong yet easy to work with — they’re very stretchable. They’re most commonly used for making pepperonis, summer sausage, bologna, liverwurst, and other fine smoked sausages. Their durability allows tight stuffing, making them ideal for fine or emulsified sausages.

Fibrous casings should be soaked for at least 25-30 minutes in warm water (80-100 F). Lay the casings flat in warm water and submerge completely, with the tied ends lower so that any trapped air can escape. After soaking, squeeze excess water out before stuffing.

There’s two main kinds of fibrous casings — clear and mahogany. You can also get them printed with a design. The benefit of a mahogany casing is you’ll get a consistent color when you are smoking the sausage. 

1"   Thuringer • Pepperoni • Salami  Cracker-Sized Sausages
2-2.5"   Traditional Summer Sausage
4"   Large Summer Sausage • Hard Salami 
8"  Olive & Pimento Loaf • Mortadella • Deli & Sandwich Meats 

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