Sausages have been made for centuries to preserve meat and produce delicious meals. All types of sausage are made from ground meat stuffed into a casing. Sausages are typically smoked and cured in order to preserve them and they're put into different types of casings depending on how they're prepared.
Today, we will discuss collagen casings which are a man-made type of casing that is edible. Other types of edible sausage casings are made from the lining of the intestine of the type of animal in the sausage. Collagen casings are made from collagen, which is most often derived from the hides of animals.
Edible Versus Non-Edible Sausage Collagen: Which Do You Need?
The decision to use edible or inedible casings largely depends on the type of sausage you are making. Typically, sausages that are served and eaten whole or sliced are encased in edible casings.
Sausages such as Spanish chorizo are cased in non-edible casings, which are removed before cooking. If you are making salami, you'll use a non-edible casing. Sometimes, hotdogs are made in non-edible casings that are removed from the weiners before packaging.
When buying pre-made sausages, you can look at the label to find the information about the casing you need. The United States Department of Agriculture requires sausage makers that use natural casings not from the same source as the sausage meat to include that information on the label. The packager must also disclose non-edible casings left on frankfurters in prominent letters near the product name.
Why Use Collagen Casings
There are some important benefits that artificial casings made from collagen bring to the table.
- Collagen casings don't require soaking like natural casings, so they are ready to use right out of the package.
- Collagen casings are packaged scrunched up, making them easy to install on your sausage stuffer tube. You'll usually have to unravel a big tangle of delicate casings when using natural casings.
- They are much more durable than natural casings, so they are less likely to rip or burst when you are stuffing.
- How collagen casings are made gives them a uniform shape, resulting in consistently sized sausages. Natural casings are, well, natural and not uniform.
- Collagen casings provide the firm bite and snap most people want in a good sausage.
Fresh Sausage Collagen Casings
You'll most likely use fresh sausage collagen casings more often. These are ideal for making bratwurst, breakfast sausage, and similar products. Fresh collagen casings are ideal for cooking in a pan or roasting but are too delicate for hanging in a smoker.
Fresh collagen casings are sold on a tube that makes it simple to load onto a sausage stuffer. These natural casing sausage tubes make it easy to size and control the finished product.
Collagen casing products make it easy for the average person to get professional results.
Processed Sausage Collagen Casings
In addition to the fresh collagen casing products, you will also find processed sausage casings that are meant for making smoked sausages. The processed sausage casings have a thicker wall and are less likely to tear, making them ideal for sausages you will finish in the smoker.
Examples of sausages you smoke include snack sticks, bologna, and summer sausage. The idea with these types of sausages is that you will smoke them in the casing, then remove the casings to serve. The heavier collagen casings are easy to remove once the sausage is smoked.
What Are Sausage Casings Made Of? The Four Different Types
There are four main types of sausage casings you'll want to know about before you start making sausages at home. The two main categories are natural and artificial casings, both with edible and non-edible variants.
As we discussed above, the type of sausage you make will determine the most appropriate casing. When selecting a casing, you need to know the benefits and drawbacks of using natural, collagen, fibrous, or plastic casings.
Natural animal casings are made from the inner mucosa lining of the small intestine. These casings can be from beef, hogs, lamb, or just about any other animal. Strict food safety standards mean you shouldn't worry about getting sick from the casing. The benefit of natural casings is the flavor and texture they provide.
On the downside, natural casings can be difficult to stuff accurately and often split when loading the sausage into the casing. With time and practice, you'll learn the right amount of pressure and speed to prevent split casings and unwanted air bubbles from getting trapped in the sausage.
Always look for the freshest natural sausage casings. The casings should be odorless. Before using a natural casing, you must soak the casings in water overnight. Some natural casings can be rinsed in warm water and used immediately, so be sure to read the product's label before you start making sausage.
Natural casings allow the sausage to breathe, resulting in a deeper smoke flavor and lower moisture content. This results in a delicious sausage with just the right amount of bite. Most often, beef sausages are stuffed in beef casings and so on. There are also different sizes available. Beef bung caps are used for large-diameter sausages like salami, while small-diameter sausages such as breakfast sausage use natural hog casings in rounds or middles.
Fibrous casings are inedible varieties that are ideal for cured and smoked sausages. The casings are made from wood pulp derived from the Abaca tree. Fibrous cellulose casings are very flexible and easy to work with but must be removed before eating. The most common types of sausage to make with fibrous cellulose casings include summer sausage, salami, and other dry-cured sausages.
Fibrous casings come in clear or mahogany and can be made with a printed logo or plain. The mahogany color adds color to the final product. Fibrous casings must be soaked in warm water before they can be stuffed. These casings are not edible and should be removed before serving.
Collagen casings are made from beef hide, bone, and other parts that have naturally occurring collagen. The processed casings are typically edible and are among the easiest to use. Edible collagen casings are ideal for making sausages that will be cooked like bratwurst or breakfast sausages. The casings typically do not require soaking before use, so you won't have to wait to start making sausage when using this type of casing.
Animal hides and bones are often discarded during the butchering process, so using these parts for making sausage casings is an environmentally sound practice.
Plastic casings are typically used for making sausages like hot dogs. Plastic cases should be removed before cooking the sausage and should not be eaten. Plastic casings come in various sizes to stuff anything from larger bologna to smaller sausages like beef sticks.
Plastic casings are durable but are not intended to be used for sausages that will be cooked. These are most appropriate for cured sausages.
Figure Out What Works for You
What often happens when a person starts stuffing sausages at home is they will end up buying several types of casings.
The reason is simple – some casings perform better for certain types of processing while other sausage casings are more appropriate for specific types of ground meat. The type of casing you use will also depend on what you want to eat and serve.
We know plenty of people that are grossed out by the idea of eating a sausage made in the intestine of an animal.
Collagen casing options not only make sausage stuffing faster and simpler, but they also provide an excellent casing for getting great flavor from the finished product.
We have a few different options and complete bratwurst-making kits available in the DIY section of our store, including: