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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 06-30-2008, 03:34 PM   #1
yelonutz
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Default Nitrates

I have recently gotten a request for sausage made with out nitrates. They say it give them headaches. I told him I could make fresh sausage (breakfast, Chorizo ect.) but nothing smoked. I am know wondering why is it that we can't smoke sausage for a few hours without nitrates but we can smoke ribs and butts for hours without them? Any help out there from you smart guys (or gals)?

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Unread 06-30-2008, 04:07 PM   #2
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The nitrates are a preservative right? Maybe you can find a substitute.
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Unread 06-30-2008, 04:28 PM   #3
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As long as you do your smoking without leaving the sausage in the danger zone too long you can do it. It will be smoked, but it will not be preserved. It will be just like ribs or brisket and should be consumed immediately.
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Unread 06-30-2008, 08:27 PM   #4
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If I remember my Serv-Safe class, we are allowed 4 hours between 40 and 140 deg. I take it you are saying that if I were to get it above 140 within 4 hours then freeze it, I would not need nitrates? Can I do bacon and pastrami the same way?

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Unread 07-01-2008, 12:13 AM   #5
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I just took the ServSafe test last week, and naturally they didn't get into this level of detail. So basically, I don't know and I'm curious to hear the answer too.

I found this sausage making page on Wikipedia which says,

"All smoked sausages are cured. The reason for this is the threat of botulism. The bacterium responsible, Clostridium botulinum, is ubiquitous in the environment, grows in the anaerobic conditions created in the smoke house and thrives in the 40 F to 140 F (5 C to 60 C) temperature range. Thus, for safety reasons, the sausages are cured before smoking."

That said, there are commercially produced bacon made without nitrates / nitrites, like the stuff from Niman Ranch. So I imagine Niman has some other way to control the potential for botulism. That might be an interesting angle to chase down.
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Unread 07-01-2008, 01:21 AM   #6
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Prof; Do you take this to mean that since we have oxygen passing thru our smokers when we do Briskets or Butts that this is not a concern? If I were to smoke my sausage in the gator pit or WSM would it be safe?

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Unread 07-01-2008, 07:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yelonutz View Post
If I remember my Serv-Safe class, we are allowed 4 hours between 40 and 140 deg. I take it you are saying that if I were to get it above 140 within 4 hours then freeze it, I would not need nitrates? Can I do bacon and pastrami the same way?

NUTZ
It is a lot more complicated than that. 140 is a hold temperature, not safe at temperature. You have to take most things above 165 and then hold at 140. You also need to get there as fast as possible. Actually 140 is good as well, but needs to then stay there for a certain amount of time I believe rather than the 15 seconds at 165.

Cooling from 140 to 40 has time ranges. 2 hours to get down to 70, 4 hours for the rest of the way.

That 70 to 140 range is where this all gets critical. That is when the cooties create spore pods, (i think that is what they are called), that are impervious to moisture, that now won't get destroyed unless taken to boiling temperature for 15 minutes. A process that will ruin any about any meal.

Back on topic. When we first started up, the health inspector wanted to see a HACCP plan before allowing us to use the smoker. I explained that the smoker we had does not cold smoke and we take most everything that will go in there to 190. He said we were good.

Since the lowest temperature setting on Fast Eddy is 140 we can't even do this type of smoking. I am sure the HACCP plan would have included nitrite/nitrate ratios to pounds, time cured before smoking, times in the smoker etc.
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Unread 07-01-2008, 07:20 AM   #8
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I go to this book anytime a have a question about sausage or curing meat.

http://books.google.as/books?id=De2e...um=1&ct=result

In the chapter about making smoked sausage he discusses making sausage without using chemical preservatives,

What Is Smoke?

" It is strange to think of smoke as a preservative, but hiding in the clouds of smoke are tiny droplets of various natural chemicals such as aldehydes, phenols, ketones, and carbolic acid. Threse chemicals condense on the food being smoked. Some will be absorbed into the liquid of the meat and will make their way into the meat itself. Others will settle on the the meat surface, giving a wonderful smoky flavor. These natural chemicals also kill or check the formation of bacteria, yeast and mold microorganisms which are the little devils that start decay. Phenols in the smoke prevent the oils and fats from turning rancid. Do keep in mind that smoking will not turn deteriorating meat into some mouthwatering tidbit. If you begin with bad meat, you will invariably end up with bad meat!"


from the sausage-making cookbook
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Unread 07-01-2008, 07:21 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yelonutz View Post
Prof; Do you take this to mean that since we have oxygen passing thru our smokers when we do Briskets or Butts that this is not a concern? If I were to smoke my sausage in the gator pit or WSM would it be safe?

NUTZ
It is the chamber temp that is the important variable. The Wikapedia discussion is about cold smoking in a smokehouse. If you are hot-smoking in a bbq cooker at temps of 180+ for relatively short times, curing is not necessary. But you do have to treat the finished product just like any other fresh meat, and use, refrigerate, or freeze promptly. Also need to confirm that internal temps of the sausage has reached safe level before removing from cooker.
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Unread 07-01-2008, 12:34 PM   #10
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Short answer to your question, "if I were to smoke my sausage in the gator pit or WSM would it be safe" is yes and no.

Yes if you are serving the sausage immediately afterward. No if it's going to be cooled, and pacakaged for retail sale.

I might be confused on your question, but I think the reason why brisket, butts and ribs can be safely smoked and packaged for retail without nitrites is because they're solid muscle meats, not ground meat.
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Unread 07-01-2008, 03:43 PM   #11
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Well I am just about, no wait, more confused than when I started . I think that in my case the best answer is to tell this guy if he doesn't want nitrates, don't buy smoked sausage. I don't want to make potentially hazardous food just to satisfy one customer. I will stick to the tried and true method while I continue to research this.
Prof., I make all of my sausage from pork shoulder, but I agree that running it through a grinder, into a tub, adding and mixing spices, putting into a stuffer ect. greatly increases the chances for contamination. I will continue using Tender quick and Pink salt as recommended.

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Unread 07-02-2008, 12:57 PM   #12
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Aloha, Yellownutz,... Sodium Nitrates is the one biggie that causes my wife to have massive migraines, why? not sure..but MSG, or anything that is "Hydrolyzed" creates MSG...also is a trigger food...Try going grocerey shopping! Almost all cold cuts, sandwich meats, sausages have nitrates...even ham...Not sure what brand has sandwich meats, "all natrual" I believe it was armor? Anyways no nitrates, but funny, they last almost as long as the the regular cold cuts...
I know its not quite the same process, but I make my own "sausage meat" for fatties, same ingredients, no preservatives, and just freeze them, and she eats them without a problem...just an idea...
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Unread 07-02-2008, 07:20 PM   #13
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I have to wonder how much of this is a safety factor for the big boys. Kind of like if you go into a restraunt they have a three place sink. The third tub has a sanitizer in it. How many of you, growing up, had mom wash the dishes, run them thru a sanitizer then rinse and put away. By the same token, how many times did Mom give you a glass with lipstick stains? How many home cooks hit everything with a bleach solution after working with chicken? My Mom never did and no one in the house ever got sick. I will cop out and put pink salt into my smoked sausage but it will bother me until I have a concrete answer.

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Unread 07-02-2008, 09:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yelonutz View Post
I have to wonder how much of this is a safety factor for the big boys. Kind of like if you go into a restraunt they have a three place sink. The third tub has a sanitizer in it. How many of you, growing up, had mom wash the dishes, run them thru a sanitizer then rinse and put away. By the same token, how many times did Mom give you a glass with lipstick stains? How many home cooks hit everything with a bleach solution after working with chicken? My Mom never did and no one in the house ever got sick. I will cop out and put pink salt into my smoked sausage but it will bother me until I have a concrete answer.

NUTZ
The word botulism comes from botulus, the Latin for sausage. This toxin has been killing people for that long. There's a good reason sausage needs be cured / fermented / dried with care.

Pass it on. yelonutz handles his sausage with care.
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