Hot-Dog Tutorial

It’s a while since I’ve done any sausage-making, what with trying to convert a bedroom into a work space and not feeling too good. We really need to make a trip to buy meat but in the meantime, I raided the freezer to make some hot dogs.

“Hot-dogs”, you ask, “Why would you want to make horrible fast food?”. Well, my dear reader, there’s a vast difference between what you buy on a Friday night when the clubs close and a good homemade hot dog in a quality bun; ask any American! They virtually have wars over there as to which style is the best!

Now, I’ll not make any bones about this, the process isn’t easy; there are certain rules that have to be obeyed to get a good product (and the one pictured isn’t a good product – but more of that in my next post). That said, it isn’t too difficult if you obey the rules. Yes, it’s more time-consuming than you’d think, but the result is worth it.

A word about equipment: as well as the normal sausage-making equipment that I’ve talked about before, you’ll need a food processor – the more powerful the better. Emulsifying sausage meat to a paste will soon take its toll on an underpowered machine.

The recipe used is adapted from one by ‘Big Guy’, and is here:

Hot-dog recipe

Firstly, set your mincer up with a medium-sized plate. Mine is a large mincer so I’m using a #6 plate. On smaller mincers use a #8 or #10 plate. We don’t want the mincer to strain itself when it grinds the meat as this will heat the meat up, something we want to avoid.

Then get your beef and fatty pork very cold. I put mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Mince the meat.

…and then mince it again.

Put the meat back into the freezer whilst you change to a small mincer plate. Ideally, you’d use a #3 but as I don’t have one, this #4.5 will have to do.

Make sure that the meat is really cold, then mince it again.

Check that the meat is still really cold, then mince it yet again.

Check that the meat is still really cold, then mix in the other ingredients except for the water. Either mix them very well by hand or put them through the mincer again to mix them.

Put the meat back into the freezer, clean down and set up your food processor. Now for this bit, we want our meat really cold. The food processor will heat the meat up quickly. We need to keep it below 15°C (59°f) otherwise it’ll split and be ruined. We’re effectively making meat mayonnaise!

When the meat is really cold, just above freezing, put as much of the meat as your food processor can cope with easily into the machine.

Add a proportion of the iced water/slush and mix. Check the temperature as you do this to ensure it doesn’t go above 15°C. I had to use around double the amount of iced water in the recipe; I think that this was because my meat wasn’t as fatty as it should have been. Do the same with the other meat you have.

It should form a smooth paste. Ideally, smoother than this!

Now quickly set up your stuffer

…and stuff the sausage meat into 25-26mm collagen or sheep’s casings – these are sheep’s. If you want perfectly straight hot dogs use collagen ones.

Twist the casings every 125 – 150mm (5 – 6 inch) and tie with string at the joints to ensure that they can’t come undone. Then hang them to dry for an hour or so until touch dry. Place them in the smoker with the heat very low, around 40°C (104°f) until the casings are perfectly dry – around 30 minutes. Then apply heavy smoke at 50 – 60°C (112 – 140°f) for an hour.

Then you can either, gradually raise the temperature of the smoker over the next hour or so to a maximum of 80°C (176°f), or poach the sausage in water below 80°C (176°f), until they have an internal temperature of 72°C (162°f). I actually just held mine in a ‘steamer’ over hot water. The temperature around the sausage was 80°C (176°f).

Cool the sausage in iced water or by spraying with cold water, then cool further in a freezer or fridge. You want to get the temperature below 5°C (41°f) as quickly as possible.

The Whole Truth

My post above will make great hot dogs, but as I intimated, that wasn’t exactly so this time.

So what went wrong? Or, it may be more pertinent to ask: “What didn’t go wrong”.

Firstly, the pork was nowhere near as fatty in reality as I remembered when I put it into the freezer. You really need a good 20 – 25% fat to make a good hot dog.

But that was just one thing…

…now, when you make anything you’re best to get all your tools assembled before you start. If you do, you won’t then get to the stage where you want to stuff the sausage and remember that you gave the sausage tube that you need to your nephew to straighten out because you dropped and bent it! A 4 – 5 hour delay while you wait for said nephew to get back from work is not conducive to a good temper!

Once you’ve made the mistake though you shouldn’t then try to rush things to catch up. This leads to sausages of uneven lengths (even if you choose to make some longer ones), insufficient drying of the sausage prior to smoking so that the smoke doesn’t ‘take’ to the hot dog, smoking the sausage in the dark so you can’t see what the hell’s going on, and finally managing to cook them at too high a temperature so that they are ‘grainy’ on the tongue!

Other than that, these were perfect!

OK, perhaps I’m making these out to be worse than they are; the kids still seem to like them, but they’re not up to my normal standard.

It’s a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”!

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