Smoked Sausage Step 3
Handling after Smoking
You've gone to a lot of trouble to make sure your smoked sausage is the best that you can produce. The way that you handle it now that it is ready to come out of the smoker will affect its final appearance.
These final 2 steps in your sausage making won't really have a bearing on the actual "flavor" of your links, but if you want the best looking sausage you can make (and I'm sure you do), don't forget to include them.
Remember, we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths!
Once your sausage has reached the correct internal temperature (152 degrees F.), it needs to be cooled quickly and thoroughly or the casings will shrink and shrivel.
This happens very quickly once the links are taken from the smoker, so you need to have things ready in place for the showering process.
Showering really just means cooling the sausage quickly with water.
If you have made a large batch, the most efficient way shower it is with a garden hose. Simply remove the sausage with the racks or smoke sticks and spray them with cold water. The goal is to cool the sausage down to 120 degrees as quickly as you can.
For smaller batches of sausage, I find that it is easier to take them out of the smoker and put them directly into a tub or basin of cold water.
I have a large, deep kitchen sink, and find that it works well for batches up to about 15 lbs. By using the sink, I'm able to keep cold water running so the water bath stays cool. You could also do this with a large pail or tub and a garden hose.
If your sausage does shrivel before you can get it cooled down, you should be able to plump it back up by reheating it in a hot water bath (160-170 degrees F.). It's a lot easier though to get it cooled off right the first time.
Your smoked sausage should now be nice and plump, and will have taken on a brown color from the wood smoke. To assure an even deeper and more uniform color though, you now need to "bloom" your sausage links.
Blooming is nothing more than letting your sausage dry and "age" at room temperature before you package it for storage.
For blooming, I put my sausage right back onto the smoke stick or racks (whichever I used), and suspend them over a couple of chair backs. You may want to put some kitchen towels or newspaper under the sausages in case they drip a bit of water before they dry.
The longer you bloom the links, the deeper and darker the color will become. I find that, in most cases, 2 to 3 hours of blooming seems about right.
There you have a fully prepared smoked sausage. Now is the time to package and refrigerate your links.
The sausage you plan to eat soon will keep well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you are going to store any for longer than that, the sooner you get it into the freezer, the better.
Frozen sausage normally tastes best when it is used within 3 months, but I find that by vacuum packing the product it will keep well for up to 9 months in the freezer.
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