You’ll be getting to grips with curing salt and the curing process if you’re making cured sausages, such as summer sausages. You know it takes time for the curing salt to work on the meat. But how long exactly must you let sausage cure before smoking?
If you are making summer sausage by hot smoking, use Prague Powder no. 1 and let the links cure for a minimum of four hours before smoking. If you are making dry summer sausages by cold smoking, use Prague Powder no. 2 and let them cure for around three days before smoking.
When using Prague powder (curing salt), giving it enough time to cure the meat is vital. Failure to do so makes the meat a botulism risk and therefore unsafe to eat.
However, knowing exactly how long is long enough can be tricky. Find out how to stay safe.
The Length Of Time Needed For Sausage To Cure
The length of time it will take for the sausage to cure depends on which curing salt you are using, which depends on whether you are hot smoking or cold smoking.
Hot Smoking Cure Time
You are probably hot smoking the sausage to an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit to make typical Midwestern-style summer sausage.
You will need to use Prague Powder no. 1, which is 93.75 percent salt (sodium chloride) and 6.25 percent sodium nitrite.
As temperatures rise during the smoking process, the sodium nitrite changes to nitric oxide and begins gassing out at around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the sausage has been smoked, only approximately 10-20 percent of the original nitrite is left over.
This method is for a sausage that you will only hang to dry for a short time after smoking for a quick ferment.
Because such sausages are cured by sodium nitrite, they only need to be cured for a short time before smoking. Therefore, let them cure for a minimum of four hours, preferably overnight.
You can also let it cure for around three to five days. Doing so does not impact food safety but does lead to a more pronounced cure flavor.
Cold Smoking Cure Time
If you are cold smoking the sausage to make old-school hard summer sausage, you will need to use Prague Powder no. 2, 89.75 percent salt (sodium chloride), 6.25 percent sodium nitrite, and 4. percent sodium nitrate.
Doing so will allow you to dry your sausage for weeks after smoking to ferment slowly. The endogenous bacteria in the sausage (or starter culture you have added) work on the sugars and break the nitrate down into nitrite.
If you use Prague Powder no. 2, you will need to let the sausages cure for approximately three days before smoking, although anything between two and five days is acceptable.
After smoking, hang your sausages at 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit at around 85 percent humidity to ferment.
The Reasons For Using Curing Salt When Making Sausage
Curing salt, also known as Prague powder, InstaCure, or pink salt (due to its dyed color), is primarily used to prevent botulism.
Botulism is food poisoning caused by botulinum toxin released by anaerobic bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. It is a severe and often deadly form of food poisoning.
These bacteria are commonly found in soil and water, and their durable spores drift through the air. If they settle on a substrate suitable for their growth, they multiply.
The conditions C. botulinum requires are low acid, little to no oxygen, and typical ambient temperatures. Smoked sausages offer the bacteria precisely these conditions, so we need to use some means of controlling their growth.
We can control them by heating to 240-250 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes, using acids such as vinegar, using high concentrations of sugar or salt, keeping food at temperatures below 38 degrees Fahrenheit, or by using nitrites or nitrates.
Nitrites inhibit anaerobic bacterial growth, while beneficial bacteria in the meat break down nitrates into nitrites over time, providing a slow-release of nitrites.
As previously mentioned, there are two different curing salts, namely Prague powder no. 1, which contains sodium nitrite and salt, and Prague powder no. 2, which contains sodium nitrate as well.
We use these for different purposes.
What Are Curing Salts Used For?
We use Prague powder no. 1 for curing meats that will need to be cooked, smoked, brined, or canned, including bacon, ham, luncheon meats, pates, corned beef, poultry, and fish.
We use Prague powder no. 2 for dry-cured meats such as hard salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, and dried sausages. We do not need to cook, smoke, or refrigerate these products.
It is possible to make a smoked summer sausage that crosses over in style with dry-cured sausage, so we have given you the information on how to do so.
An alternative formulation of salt and nitrite is available, namely Morton’s TenderQuick. This formulation contains sugar as well. As the concentration of sodium nitrite is not the same as in either Prague powder no. 1 or no. 2, you cannot substitute one for the other.
We strongly urge you to find a recipe from a reliable source and follow it, as you cannot substitute the different curing salts for one another. Failure to follow a reliable recipe could result in botulism, a severely unpleasant and frequently fatal form of food poisoning.
How To Stay Safe When Using Curing Salts
There are a few things you should note when using curing salts. The first is to use a reliable recipe and follow it properly to avoid the possibility of botulism.
The second is to ensure that you do not exceed the correct dose of curing salts, as sodium nitrite is quite toxic to humans, with a lethal dose of around 4 grams.
The correct dose for Prague powder no. 1 is one level teaspoon per 5 pounds of ground meat. The dose for Prague powder no. 2 is the same. Do not use the two together. Use proper measuring equipment (a teaspoon measure and an accurate scale for the meat).
You will probably be working with Prague powder no. 1 to make a smoked summer sausage that hangs for a couple of weeks. We recommend leaving it to cure overnight before smoking, although longer cure times will result in a more pronounced cure flavor.
If you decide to try a fully dry summer sausage, you will be working with Prague powder no. 2, in which case you will need to leave it for three days to cure properly before smoking.
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