The Lost Art of Sausage Making

This past weekend, my husband Phil and I had the opportunity to try our hand at sausage making.  We have been taking our game meat to Old Country Sausage Shop in Raymond, Alberta for a number of years to be processed and every year Phil pesters Mary-Lee to teach us to make sausage.  This year we were invited to do just that and what a great day it was!

Fresh Old Country Store Sausage,Nourish With Karen

Klaus is a professional sausage maker who learned his craft in Germany, starting his apprenticeship at the age of 14.  He has decades of experience and has won many awards for excellence in his trade.  Klaus and Mary-Lee believe in producing only the finest quality products using natural ingredients, in a traditional manner.  Their sausage and other meat products do not contain any binders or fillers like wheat, or chemicals like MSG or nitrites.  Their products are made the traditional way.  The way they were meant to be made with meat, sea salt and spices.  That is it!    

Like so many foods that are now mass produced, the cold cuts, weiners and sausage we buy in our mainstream grocery stores are doused in chemicals to speed up processing; add flavour to cheap, often truly inedible meat scraps; and ensure bacteria cannot grow in the products.

One popular brand of weiners I looked at in the grocery store contain mechanically separated chicken, pork, beef, water, wheat gluten, salt, sodium phosphate, spice, dextrose, corn syrup solids, sodium erythorbate, garlic powder, onion powder, sodium nitrite, smoke.

The ingredient list on commercially made turkey breast luncheon meat lists turkey, water, corn syrup solids, salt, potassium lactate, flavour (modified corn starch), carrageenan, sodium phosphate, sugar, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, spice. Glaze: Caramel. May contain wheat.

If the motto is "eat only what you can pronounce", these two products can be struck from the list.  

While none of these additives is desirable and one questions their use, the one that is least desirable is the sodium nitrite.  One of the problems associated with nitrite salts and nitrate salts, is they can react to form compound called nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. During the heating process nitrosamines form when nitrites react with amines which naturally occur in meat. Since nitrites are often used as meat preservatives, nitrite-cured meat contain the necessary ingredients for nitrosamine production.  Research has found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia, a USC epidemiologist has reported in a cancer research journal.(1.)

Do not be fooled by the "Country Natural" or "Natural Selections" products now being produced by under two different names, but both of which are actually owned by Maple Leaf Foods.  These products contain large amounts of celery extract which is a source of nitrites that produce the same effect as the chemical nitrites.  The ingredient list on these packages goes something like this: Just the Good Stuff:  Turkey, Water, Sea Salt, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Potato Starch, Cane Sugar, Cultured Celery extract, Spice.  This packaging gives you false confidence in these products and in fact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “currently reviewing the use of certain claims used in conjunction with meat products made with cultured/modified celery extract,”.

That is part of the reason we are so excited about our experience!  We came home with great sausage, fresh ideas and the satisfaction of knowing that our sausage contains only antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat, sea salt and spices!  Sausage made traditionally with top quality meat, love and care.

The Old Country Sausage Shop sells their products at a number of Natural Food Stores in both Calgary and Edmonton.

1, Peters J, et al " Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA)" Cancer Causes & Control  5: 195-202, 1994.