Topic of the day: on processed meats

This was originally posted last year, but we thought we’d revisit it in light of recent news referring to “processed” meat. Although it is a “process” – there is nothing really “processed” about our sausages.  We thought we’d explain a bit more…

“There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make ’em: laws and sausages.” – Leo McGarry, The West Wing

We disagree… at least when it comes to sausages.

Sausages often get a bad reputation for concealing the meats and procedures behind their creation. We’d like to demystify the process so you can truly appreciate your Walden Local sausages, as there is really not much to it. Some folks avoid “processed” meats for a variety of reasons – and although creating sausages is a “process,” at Walden we don’t do any processing that alters the composition of the original product, with the exception of added herbs and spices.

When making our chorizo, bratwurst, sweet Italian, or other sausage varieties we start with trimmings and boneless cuts from our Walden pork.  When you trim a boneless pork chop, for example, there is a lot of excess meat that might otherwise go to waste.  Note that for us, this might come from a handful of animals, all from the same couple of local farms, whereas industrial sausages can contain meat from hundreds of animals from operations around the world.

First we cut the meat into roughly equal sized chunks, and then it is passed through a grinder. A rotating blade slices the meat into fine pieces, leaving it at the same consistency as ground beef.

The ground meat is then placed into a mixer.  Using our own recipes (which we continue to evolve based on customer feedback), a custom spice mix is evenly mixed throughout the meat. We don’t use additives of any kind – no MSG, hydrolyzed soy protein, artificial colors or flavors, or preservatives – only fresh herbs and spices.  The only thing you might not immediately recognize is a non-dairy lactic acid starter culture in fermented varieties like Pepperoni, which is naturally produced in the human body – this is similar to using yeast in bread.

The finished mixture is then loaded into a sausage stuffing machine. Beginning in a large funnel, the meat passes through a small tube on the side of the machine into a casing. We use natural lamb or pork casings, which are twisted at equal increments to form a string of links. For fresh sausages, this is the final step – they are then packaged and ready to go.

In our smoked varieties, links are hung inside a smoker until the meat is fully cooked. The smoker stays below 160˚F so as to not melt the essential fats inside the sausages, but hot enough to ensure the meat has hit the proper internal temperature.

To finish, the sausages are air dried in a cooler for several hours, as they bloom and deepen in color they lose additional moisture, which helps to concentrate their flavor.

…And that’s it! There’s something special about a delicious sausage made from the highest quality meats with no weird ingredients – and nothing scary about the process.

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