Natural casings

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Natural casings

Postby senorkevin » Wed May 14, 2014 3:18 pm

Can I freeze natural hog casings?
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Re: Natural casings

Postby Tasso » Wed May 14, 2014 4:00 pm

Some people say they do, but I've seen many more sources say it will weaken the casings. Casings can be packed dry in pure salt (no iodine) or in a saturated salt brine solution to cover, and stored in the refrigerator for years.

Caveat: I'm a new sausage maker, not an experienced old hand.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby senorkevin » Wed May 14, 2014 4:15 pm

What do you mean by weakening the casing?
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Re: Natural casings

Postby Tasso » Wed May 14, 2014 9:07 pm

I don't know, senorkevin. I have read emphatic warnings (in capital letters) on the web sites of major suppliers of casings here in the US, such as alliedkenco.com, butcher-packer.com, and thesausagemaker.com. They mostly don't say why not to do it, except to say that it will weaken the casings. The only one I found that actually offers an explanation is here: http://www.butchersupply.net/sausage_ca ... asings.php

It says "NEVER FREEZE natural casings. Freezing for long periods of time can cause the natural oils in the casings to leach out leaving them dry, brittle, and useless or nearly so."

I have no idea if what they say is true. I have read on forums that some people do it anyway. Since casings can last 4 or 5 years in the refrigerator either packed dry in salt or in saturated saline solution, I am not inclined to try to freeze them.

I bought a hank of casings in June of 2010 that I just opened yesterday. I've kept them in my refrigerator in their original sealed bag of brine solution all these years. I opened them yesterday, and they seem as fresh as a hank I bought earlier this week. For me, I see no advantage in freezing them.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby vagreys » Wed May 14, 2014 10:18 pm

Freezing is NOT recommended for natural casing, because freezing damages the casing. Anytime you freeze meat or other soft tissues, like casing, ice crystals form in the cells that make up the meat or tissues. The size of the ice crystal depends on the temperature (and speed) of freezing: the warmer the freezing temperature, the slower the freezing time, and the larger the ice crystals; the colder the freezing temperature, the faster the freezing time, and the smaller the ice crystals. The larger the ice crystals, the more damage the ice crystals do to the cells. Home freezers are fairly warm, rarely getting colder than -5°F. When casing is frozen at home, some of the cells that make up the casing will be disrupted, and the overall structure of the casing weakens and may be prone to burst or shred when filled and linked.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby wheels » Wed May 14, 2014 10:52 pm

Can I ask, why do you want to freeze them?

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Re: Natural casings

Postby senorkevin » Wed May 14, 2014 11:02 pm

I have already frozen some!
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Re: Natural casings

Postby vagreys » Thu May 15, 2014 2:51 am

I've used previously frozen casing, and mostly, what I experienced was lots of burst casing during stuffing and linking, and shredding of casing during cooking. While I had some good links out of it, I had a lot more failed links and rework.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby wheels » Thu May 15, 2014 1:58 pm

I agree with Tom.

They're much better salted for storage.

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Re: Natural casings

Postby senorkevin » Thu May 15, 2014 2:14 pm

Where I buy them they aren't in a packet they are loose but salted.
Should I just put them into a zip lock bag with the salt they come with or do I need to add more salt? If so what type of salt?
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Re: Natural casings

Postby johngaltsmotor » Thu May 15, 2014 3:42 pm

Yes, a ziplock bag works well.
I would transfer as much of the salt as you can, plus add some to compensate for what sticks to the original packaging.
In reality you can't have too much salt. Worst case it may require an extra change of rinsing water before using so they don't impart an extra salty flavor to your sausage.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby senorkevin » Thu May 15, 2014 3:56 pm

But what kind of salt should I add? Table salt?
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Re: Natural casings

Postby Tasso » Thu May 15, 2014 5:31 pm

Any fine-grained salt without iodine or other additives. A plain pickling and canning salt, or any salt that is fine grained that is just plain salt. Don't use salt with large or sharp grains, like many kosher salts or coarse salts.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby vagreys » Thu May 15, 2014 9:25 pm

You'll want a non-iodized, fine grain, pure salt, preferably without anti-caking agents/powders added. Depending on how much casing I removed, I'll add a tablespoon or less of new salt, when I pack it up, after a run.
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Re: Natural casings

Postby Thewitt » Fri May 16, 2014 2:18 am

I don't think grain size has any impact on casings, just make sure the salt is not iodized.

I recently purchased supplies from a sausage maker gone out if business and this included large bulk packs of salted casings that were in some cases more than three years old. We've had no issues using these. Strength and flavor are fine. Salt was very coarse.
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