Otto Von Bismarck famously once said, “Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.”
But the Prussian statesman wasn’t in the sausage-making business.
Those who are, or simply experimenting at home with new methods, ingredients or recipes, need to know — and seeing is believing.
That’s what drew 15 participants from across Manitoba to a full-day workshop at the Food Development Centre here earlier this month.
They came to hear MAFRD meat microbiologist and food systems risk-mitigation specialist Gary Graumann talk about protein binders, smoking, piston stuffers, cooking temperatures and other things sausage makers need to know, such as the kinds of cracks and holes listeria likes to hide in and why.
That underlines why these are serious subjects for secondary meat processors who need an in-depth understanding of best practices for recipe formulation, production materials, processing equipment and techniques.
Sausage making is an age-old tradition with many prized family and cultural recipes. But there are also many critically important considerations for safe handling of processed meat.
They emphasize that point. Graumann noted that the word botulism is derived from the Latin word botulus, meaning “sausage.” That’s not a coincidence.
“I hope I’ve educated people on the safety aspect of it, and the functionality of all the ingredients, from what you’re adding and why, and provided a rationale,” he said.
Graumann didn’t just stuff heads with sausage theory. After time in the classroom, workshop participants donned white lab coats, hair and beard nets, and slipped fastidiously clean hands into bright-blue rubber gloves and got right to the meat of the matter, making an uncooked coarse-ground sausage (bratwurst), and a fully cooked, ready-to-eat frankfurter (hotdog) in the Food Development Centre pilot plant.
Some were there to update themselves, or train their staff.
Greg Woods, an experienced meat processor from Cypress River, said he’s confident about their sausage-making recipes used at Cypress Meats and More, which he and his family have operated for over 18 years. “But you can always learn more,” he said.
Others were there to improve the techniques they use at home.
“We’re making our own at home right now and looking at ways to improve our home product,” said Norma Windle of McCreary.
Virginia Enriquez of Winnipeg and Owen Byron from Lundar came to explore ideas for new product development.
“I want to make something very healthy,” said Enriquez who is currently developing several fish products.
“I’m here to learn about secondary processing for our underutilized species of fresh water,” added Byron, a commercial fisherman on Lake Manitoba.
There’s always room for more made-in-Manitoba sausages. Manitobans love them, and quickly become loyal to local processors’ products. There’s virtually no limit to what these small companies can create, with plentiful ingredients and tried-and-true recipes that can always be tweaked to make something new.
But developing or reformulating any recipe isn’t so simple.
Safe sausage making is more than a matter of simply knowing the recipe and which ingredients to use, but why those ingredients are used, says Graumann.
Use of nitrites is a case in point. Some consumers limit consumption of processed meat altogether out of health concerns that nitrites contained in them may contribute to cancer. The dilemma for a sausage maker, however, is that nitrites stop the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, enhance meat flavour and give it the characteristic pink colour that consumers expect.
“Processors sometimes want to remove nitrites from their recipes but aren’t sure why they’re adding them in the first place,” said Graumann. “You’re not adding them just for the sake of adding them.”
The Food Development Centre workshop also provided participants with an overview of all the services it can offer small-scale meat processors, as well as funding sources for those who want to make use of them.
This was a way to help a few more people familiarize themselves with the FDC and what it and the food commercialization branch of MAFRD can offer those wanting to start up a small-scale processing business, said Jayne Kjaalgaard, business development specialist in food commercialization and marketing with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD).
This is the first time hosting this kind of workshop, and there was so much interest, they hope to do it again, Kjaalgaard said.
“I really think there’s a demand for this.”
Funding through Growing Forward 2 helped subsidize the event, keeping costs for participants to $100 per person. Every seat in the house was full.
So were workshop participants. They ate their hotdogs later in the day.
Visit the MAFRD Food Development Centre website to learn more.