Preparing Natural Casings
For casings packed in salt:
Step 1: Rinse salt from casings with fresh water.
Step 2: Soften by soaking in fresh water at room temperature approximately 21ºC (70ºF) for 45 minutes to one hour. When hanks are placed in water, gently hand massage them to separate the strands and prevent dry spots, which may adversely affect the stuffing process. Dry salt packed casings should be soaked for 12 hours or more.
Step 3: Take casings to stuffing table. Place in bath of fresh water. This water should be warmer to render a little of the natural fat on the casing. This will help to allow the casing to slide from the stuffing horn more readily.
Step 4: Pre-flush the casing by introducing water into the casings and allow to run through the casing. This will also facilitate getting the casing onto the filling horn and moving the casing smoothly during the filling process.
For sheep casings in a Pre-Flushed Wet Pack:
Casings are packed in brine with lesser amounts of salt. Required only Step 3 and 4. (Tubed casings are usually packed in this manner.)
Preparing to Stuff Natural Casings
In general, all casings can be handled in essentially the same manner; however, there are a few intrinsic variations. For example, beef casings, being fleshier, can withstand more soaking and warmer water than sheep casings.
Beef Rounds: Soak overnight in water. Then 30 minutes before use, put casings in 38ºC (100ºF) water.
Hog Casings: First, rinse with fresh water. Then soak in 30ºC-32ºC (85ºF-90ºF) water for at least 30 minutes prior to use. Hog casings are usually packed in a wet brine or a dry salt pack. The wet brine reduces the soaking time required prior to stuffing (30-60 minutes is sufficient) however the dry salt pack must be soaked for 2-4 hours, to allow the casings to re-hydrate.
Sheep Casing: First, rinse with fresh water. Then soak in 30ºC-32ºC (85ºF-90ºF) water for 30 minutes prior to use.
Principals of Drying and Moisturizing
Once the product has been stuffed and moved into the smokehouse, the initial critical steps of drying and smoke application must be monitored very carefully. Before smoke is applied, the casing should be dried to the point where it is tacky.
If the casing is not sufficiently dried, the smoke will penetrate the casing and will be deposited on the meat surface, thereby permitting casing separation and causing a pale, dull appearance.
If the sausage is over dried, the smoke will essentially be deposited only on the outside surface with very little flavour penetration.
Tenderness of animal casings varies. Sheep casings, which are used for small diameter products, are the most tender and so should be handled with care.