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What's a "dry" sausage anyway?

Posted By: Joe Ames
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2000 at 4:13 p.m.

Dry Sausage

Semidry sausages are smoked and cooked to varying degrees, whereas dry sausage is not cooked, and only with some products is smoke applied.
The manufacture of dry sausages is more difficult to control than that of semidry or more conventional type sausages. Overall processing time may require up to 90 days. As a result of this prolonged holding the sausage is vulnerable to chemical and microbiological degradation. However, when prepared properly, the finished sausages are usually stable and can be held with little or no refrigeration. The salt, acid, and moisture content, as well as specific types of organisms associated with the product, make for the characteristic flavor and texture of dry sausages. The raw materials and the sequence of events must be carefully controlled. Dry sausages are the “ne plus ultra” of the industry and the dry sausage maker is truly an artist.
The initial dry-sausage mixes are held under specified conditions of refrigeration to establish a medium for bacterial culture. After this, the mixture is stuffed into casings of suitable size. With animal casings the sausage is usually held in a stockinette through at least one-third to one-half the drying cycle, or until the dry casing can retain the weight of the sausage without stretching at the hanging tie. With cellulosic casings it is not necessary to use stockinettes for support. During the drying cycle the products will lose about 25 to 30% of their weight. The temperature, relative humidity, and air flow must be controlled so that drying proceeds properly. Air flow may vary from 15 to 20 changes per hour in the drying room. If drying is too slow the texture may be soft, the surface may discolor, and some molds or yeast may develop on the product. If drying is too fast, a surface crust develops and a brown or dark ring appears under the surface and at times marked ridges or invaginations occur at the sausage surface.
The proper ratio of fat to lean is important to give good conformation to the sausage. It is important to use well-trimmed meat to avoid glandular tissues. Lipase in glands often splits or liquefies fat; as a result, fat drains from the sausage later in the process, producing a series of small honeycombs or pin-holes in the body of the sausages. It is important to eliminate or reduce air pockets during stuffing since the meat around these pockets will discolor. Upon continued drying, large pockets may develop in the sausage body, or a cobweb-like structure may form. Any of these conditions makes for an unattractive dry sausage. As a guide for drying conditions the Meat Inspection Service of the U.S.D.A. defines the time and type of drying depending on the diameter of the sausage.

Hard salami is cooked; Genoa is simply air-dried, while pepperoni may be either cooked or air-dried. These sausage mixes should be stuffed as cold as possible and with a minimum of pressure. This keeps the fat particles intact and reduces smearing. Fat smearing can markedly increase the incidence of rancidity and surface discoloration.
Mortadella, a dry sausage prepared in a beef bladder, illustrates very precisely the problems and limitations imposed on sampling dry sausages. The surface or periphery is considerably different in composition from the center of the product. This condition occurs in sampling all types of sausages, but is more pronounced in dry sausages.
The mortadella analyzed was a pear-shaped product with a 2.5-in. diameter at the small end and 4.75-in, diameter at the large end, and measured 11 in. in length. This analysis, which is given in Table 7.2, also illustrates some of the mechanisms operating during production of dry sausages. Drying occurs from the outside inward, with pronounced surface drying. Some fat may render from the surface during the drying process. Also, it is obvious that the small end of the mortadella dries to a much greater degree than does the larger-diameter area under essentially the same conditions of drying.
The equipment used to manufacture dry sausages is relatively simple. Nevertheless, considerable control is needed, and some basic understanding of the fundamentals of raw material composition and of processing and handling is important for achieving this control. The problems associated with drying a meat mass to give a smooth cylinder and an organoleptically acceptable product have been discussed. The long processing time required to manufacture dry sausages makes it difficult to define the various factors involved in manufacture.

Table 7.2

MORTADELLA ANALYSIS

Moisture % Protein % Fat% Ash%
Large Diameter
Center 49.2 18.4 24.1 6.6
Surface 33.5 27.4 30.4 5.2
Small Diameter
Center 35.3 21.8 32.8 7.1
Surface 26.7 29.1 33.1 6.3

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