Learn how to make homemade smoked ring bologna from scratch. A far cry from the processed slices you had as a kid, this coarse-cut country-style ring bologna has great fat content and particle definition, making it perfect for the frying pan. We love fried bologna medallions for breakfast, pickled bologna as a snack, or candied with BBQ sauce, butter and brown sugar on the grill.
What is Ring Bologna?
Bologna gets its name from its Italian ancestor, mortadella. Originating from Bologna, Italy, mortadella is a thick Italian sausage, speckled with pieces of fat, peppercorns, and oftentimes pistachios or green olives. When Italian bologna was introduced to the United States by immigrants in the 1800s, it took on a variety of different shapes and textures, most notably the emulsified and sliced Oscar Meyer version of ring bologna.
Unlike the traditional deli-style bologna chubs, ring bologna has a smaller diameter (typically about 40-43mm). A descendant of German ringwurst, it's packed into sausage casings formed into loops that can easily be hung in a smokehouse. Ring bologna is most often served sliced on the bias and pan fried until crisp, tossed into casseroles, or pickled.
Are you ready to make homemade bologna? With all the ring bologna recipes around, you can be sure that this is the most thorough. We'll show you how to prepare your sausage mix, stuff it into casings, and how to cook ring bologna.
Let's get started on our smoked bologna recipe.
Tools of the Trade
- Meat Grinder with 3/8” and 3/16” plates
- Meat Mixer or Your Hands
- Meat Lug or Large Food-Safe Container
- Stuffer (13 or 16mm horn)
Meat (and Fat) Instructions
For this ring bologna recipe, we will first make sure we have the right meat-to-fat ratio.
While most ring bologna is made from a blend of beef and pork, there are several variations, including venison and other wild game.
For the best results, we recommend a combination of 70% pork and 30% beef, or a range of 25-30% fat and 70-75% lean for your homemade bologna.
When working with venison, we recommend adding about 50% venison and 50% pork trim with 50% fat content . Pork trim, or the trimmings from the shoulder or butt, are typically available at your local butcher shop (make sure to call ahead!).
Grinding Ring Bologna
Since we're going for a coarse cut, we're looking to retain some visual separation of fat and meat in our final sausage. To get the right texture, we ground twice; the first pass through a 3/8“ plate then once through a 3/16” plate.
Pro tip: Remember to always keep your sausage stick's meat cold! We recommend popping your meat block back into the cooler between grinds to prevent smearing.
Ring Bologna Seasoning
Instead of measuring out individual seasonings, we've taken the work out by creating bologna mixes based on tried-and-true Old World recipes. For the classic ring bologna flavor, we recommend our No. 211 Blue Ribbon Bologna Seasoning or No. 665 Bologna Seasoning (the MSG-free version).
If you're looking for something different, our No. 958 Red Barn Bologna Seasoning has added heat, garlic and spices to add bold flavors and color to your product. No. 317 German Bologna Seasoning has added mustard seeds for a ringwurst flavor.
All of our bologna seasonings come complete with cure for up to 25 lbs. of meat. Nitrites help preserve the red in the meat in the absence of oxygen and also kill bacteria that can result in food-borne illnesses.
Add the appropriate amount of cure for your meat batch to your water and stir to combine.
Pro tip: If your seasoning doesn't have any larger pieces, you can season after the first grind and have the grinder do some of the distribution for you.
Mixing & Protein Extraction
Once each of your proteins has been ground and your seasoning added, you can begin mixing either by hand or by using a meat mixer. Because we're making a coarse cut bologna, mixing by hand until protein extraction is reached is perfectly acceptable.
The end results should be sticky and pasty, with seasonings well incorporated throughout. For emulsified sausages, we recommend mixing in a food processor or professional meat mixer.
Ring bologna can be made using either natural or collagen casings. While the natural casings are edible and give a nice bite, the collagen casings are easy to prep and stuff, and provide better uniformity.
The key to smoking any kind of sausage is to gradually increase the temperature to ensure there's no fat or additive loss inside the finished product.
For homemade ring bologna, we recommend using a high quality electric smokehouse, like the Pro Smoker PK-100, which uses sawdust as smoke fuel. Always refer to your manufacturers instructions for smoking times and temperatures, but as a general rule, our recommend processing schedule is:
- Set smokehouse to 120° F. Hung ring bologna and set in the smokehouse to dry for 1 hour (no smoke)
- Increase temperature to 170° F, add sawdust and smoke for 3 hours
- Increase temperature to 185° F and remove smoke
- Cook until internal temperature reaches 156° F
- Place ring bologna in an ice bath and cool until internal temperature reaches 110° F then refrigerate.
Once in the fridge, wait until the smoked bologna reaches an internal temperature of 39 degrees before vacuum packing or storing. If properly sealed and packaged, smoked bologna can last in the freezer for several months or in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.
Enjoy Your Homemade Ring Bologna!
Now that you have a fresh batch of smoked bologna, you can transform it into sweet and smoky Candied Bologna, Pickled Bologna, or a Fried Bologna Sandwich.