Recipe: Liver Sausage
One of the great things about liver sausage is its versatility and the fact that so much of the animal is used that normally will go to waste or sold as cheap products.
Liver sausages can be classified as:
- Regular liver sausages – coarsely comminuted through 5 mm grinder plate and cooked in water.
- Delicatessen type liver sausages – finely comminuted through 2 mm grinder plate and emulsified.
- Pâtés – liver sausages which are not stuffed, but placed in molds and baked or cooked in water. Molds are often lined with pastry and pâtés are covered with decorations and gelatin.
Composition of Product
“Liver is an organ that works hard by filtering blood and as an animal grows older, the liver becomes darker and might develop a slightly bitter taste. Think of it as it were a filter that would become dirtier in time, the difference is that not the dust, but atoms of heavier materials like iron or copper will accumulate in time within its structure.” (meatsandsausages.com)
Calf is slaughtered at the age of 4 months, a pig at 6 months, but a cow may live a few years. Because it is older the cow’s liver or blood is of much deeper color and will induce a darker color to a finished sausage. On the other hand veal, pork or poultry liver will make a sausage lighter and will make it taste better. This does not mean that you can not use beef liver at all and up to 25% of beef liver may be mixed with other livers without compromising the final taste. As the name implies a liver is an essential ingredient in the recipe but which one is the best?” (meatsandsausages.com)
Schematically, the composition is represented as follows:
A key to good liver sausage is the kind of liver used. Here is a guide of good and bad livers for liver sausage.
(Graphs by meatsandsausages.com)
“The way you will process liver, fat and meats will have the biggest impact on the quality of your sausage and the selected spices will add the final touch. Best liver sausages are made from livers of young animals. Up to 25% of beef can be added as it is tougher and will darken liver sausage. Poultry such as goose, duck or turkey will make a fine liver sausage, but chicken liver is not the best choice.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Liver must NOT be cooked. In many recipes liver is cooked briefly (blanched) in hot water for up to 5 min to remove any leftover blood but there is no real need for that. Blanching will cook some of the liver proteins and less of them would be available for emulsifying fat and water. Instead, liver can be rinsed and soaked in cold water for one hour to get rid of any traces of blood and remaining gall liquid. Soaking liver in milk is an old remedy for the removal of some of the liver’s bitterness which can be noticeable in beef liver.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Meats used for commercially made liver sausages are first cured with sodium nitrite to obtain a pinkish color and the characteristic cured meat flavor. Liver sausages made at home in most cases employ meats that are not cured with sodium nitrite and the color of the sausage will be light yellow. That will largely depend on the type of liver and spices used.”(meatsandsausages.com)
“It is advantageous, especially when making coarse type liver sausage, to use meats with a lot of connective tissues such as pork head meat, jowls (cheeks) or skin. Those parts contain a lot of collagen which will turn into gelatin during heat treatment. During subsequent cooling this gelatin will become a gel and that will make the sausage more spreadable with a richer mouthful texture. Meats commonly used in commercial production are pork head meat, jowls, meat trimmings and skin. Although pork head meat may not appeal to most people as a valuable meat, it is high in fat and connective tissues and contains more meat flavor than other cuts. For those reasons it is a perfect meat in liver or head cheese production.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“If skinless pork jowls or skinless head meat is used about 5-10% of skins are added to the meat mass. Keep in mind that too many skins may make the texture of your sausage feel rubbery. As long as the proper proportion of liver and fat are observed the remaining meats can be of any kind: pork, beef or veal.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Liver sausages contain a large percentage of fat (20-40%) which largely determines their texture and spreadability. If pork fat is used it makes no big difference whether a hard fat (back fat) or soft fat (bacon) or other fat trimmings are utilized. Beef fat or pork flare fat (kidney) are not commonly used as they are hard and not easy to emulsify.” Liver sausages contain a large percentage of fat (20-40%) which largely determines their texture and spreadability. If pork fat is used it makes no big difference whether a hard fat (back fat) or soft fat (bacon) or other fat trimmings are utilized. Beef fat or pork flare fat (kidney) are not commonly used as they are hard and not easy to emulsify.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“To make fine spreadable liver sausage, fat should be dispersed in the liquid state at warm temperatures. To achieve a final chopping temperature of around 95° F, (35° C), fat or fat trimmings are usually poached at 176° F (80° C). Then when still warm they are ground. Liver and lean meat are emulsified at cool (or room) temperature. Then warm ground fats are mixed with liver, lean meat and spices together.” (meatsandsausages.com)
Salt and Spices
“Liver sausages contain less salt than other sausages, the average being 12-18 g (1.2-1.8%) of salt per 1 kg of meat. Those sausages are of a much lighter color and for that reason white pepper is predominantly used as it can not be seen. Homemade style liver sausages and pâtés are usually made without sodium nitrite and the final color remains greyish in sharp contrast to pinkish commercial products. Sodium nitrite has some effect on extending the shelf life of the product and for that reason alone it is used by commercial processors.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Most liver sausages are not smoked and for a home sausage maker there is no need to use nitrite. If a smoked flavor is desired, sodium nitrite will have to be added as the sausage will be lightly smoked with cold smoke. Liver sausages are cold smoked after being cooked in hot water. The purpose of smoke is to impart a smoky flavor only and smoking has no effect on the preservation of the product which happens to be highly perishable.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Fresh onions are frequently used in homemade liver sausages but are a poor choice in canned products and can create a sour taste. Milk or sweet cream is often added for a milder taste. Like in other sausages, sugar may be added to offset the salty taste. Vanilla is often added to create an aromatic sweet taste. Commonly used spices are: nutmeg, mace, allspice, marjoram, white pepper, sweet paprika and ginger. Port or brandy are often added.” (meatsandsausages.com)
Precooking, Grinding, Emulsifying
“Precooking meat. Commercial plants cure meats with sodium nitrite regardless whether they will be smoked or not. Liver sausages made at home contain meats that are traditionally not cured although if a smoked product is desired, sodium nitrite should be added. Pork skin should be clean without any remaining hair or excess fat. They are cooked at 85º-90º C (185-194º F) in a separate vessel as much longer cooking time is needed. If the skins are undercooked, they will be hard to emulsify and hard pieces will be visible in a finished sausage. If overcooked they will break into pieces. When the skins are properly cooked they should hold their shape but you should be able to put your finger through them.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Pork heads are normally cut in halves and are cooked at 85-90º C (185-194º F) until all meat and fat can be removed by hand. If they fall off the bones by themselves that means that the pork head was overcooked. All cartilage and gristle must also be removed. If pork head meat will not be used the same day it should be frozen. If jowls came attached to the head, they must be removed and cooked separately as different times are involved. Fats and other meats are cooked at 85-90º C (185-194º F) until internal meat temperature reaches 70º C (158º F). Don’t discard leftover meat stock (from cooking meats), it can be added to meat mass during emulsifying or grinding (about 0.1 liter – 0.2 liter, or 1/2 cup) per 1 kg of meat.” (meatsandsausages.com)
Dr Francois Mellett has been able to avoid the first cooking step by using citric acid to denature the proteins. This beautifully reveals the reason for the procedure of “double boiling” of liver spread. The first time is to denature the proteins after which they are chopped up. This leaves them spreadable. The second time is to sterilize them and since the proteins have been denatured, they lost their ability to coagulate during the second cooking step.
The same principle is at work in liver sausage production.
“Grinding. Warm pre-cooked meat should be minced with a small grinder plate 3-5 mm (1/8-3/16”). Liver is ground cold. As it contains a lot of water and blood, the ground liver is easily emulsified. Grinding of meats, especially liver with a small plate increases the surface area and improves spreadability.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Emulsifying. To achieve a fine texture, ingredients that compose a liver sausage are cut in a bowl cutter which requires crushed ice or cold water. As raw liver is a natural emulsifier, this task is greatly simplified. During the comminution process the fat cells become ruptured and the free fat is released. Fat does not dissolve in water or mix with it well. The purpose of emulsion is to bond free fat, meat and water together so they will not become separated.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Times between grinding/emulsifying, mixing and stuffing should be kept to the minimum. Longer delays will lower the temperature of the sausage mass considerably, which should stay at least at 35º C (95º F) as at below this temperature fat particles will clump together. That prevents them from being properly coated by emulsified liver protein and increases the risk of fat separation during the cooking process. Another reason for keeping short processing times is that a warm sausage mass surface area is high in moisture and sugar (liver may contain up to 8% of glycogen which is a kind of glucose sugar) that makes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If pre-cooked meats are to be processed at a later date they should be frozen. Then they should be thawed and re-heated in hot water before going into the grinder. Fresh or chilled liver tastes better than a previously frozen one.” (meatsandsausages.com)
General Procedure for Liver, Rind and Fat sausage.
“Liver, rind, and fat are used as the only ingredients, but the same basic procedure will apply for any kind of liver sausage.
Prepare a liver emulsion from the liver. Take the liver, as fresh as possible. From yesterdays slaughter. Into bowl cutter and run until you see air bubbles. As soon as you see the small air bubbles, add salt and as soon as you see large air bubbles – out!
Take rind and remove all the fat. Make sure this is done properly. There can be no fat.
Boil the skin in water till it breaks at the touch. (Can be done in a steam cooker also, as long as it is extremely soft. The softness is the secret)
As hot as possible, throw it in the bowl cutter.
While it is cutting, add boiling water from the cook pot into the bowl. Enough to make it pasty. No more. Don’t add to much water. Add salt. No phosphate since there is no meat. The emulsion must be as put as possible – so, work fast! 🙂
Add spices and onion and whatever taste you prefer. As soon as you have a nice paste, slow down. Now add liver in it. The temperature will plummet. As soon as its done, fill into sausage for liver sausage.
The skin will make it rubbery. If you intend slicing it, the more rubbery, the better. If not, you may find fat and liver alone too rubbery. The more fat you add, the more creamy and spreadable it will become. If you do that, make the skin emulsion first (separate from fat), then add collar/ neck vat. Take big chunks and place in boiling water for 5/10 minutes. The fat must still be raw inside. Add the fat on top of the skin emulsion and mix it all in till you have a nice paste.
If you want bigger liver chunks in it to change the texture, cut some of the liver into cubes and treat the same way as the fat. If you do that, add it very last.
20% liver and 80% base.”
(Method by Diedrich van Nieuwenhuyse)
“Better quality sausages are cooked in the stock that has been obtained during cooking meats. Cooking temperature stays below the boiling point, usually about 176º F (80º C) otherwise casings might burst open. After a while the layer of fat would accumulate on the surface of the stock. It is a good idea to remove this fat when using stock for poaching sausages. The reason is that the top sausages may burst open due to the fat’s higher temperature than that of water. Cooking water absorbs meat flavor and is usually saved for making soup.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Sausages are usually rinsed with tap water and then placed in cold water. Then they are spread on the table to cool. Finely comminuted liver sausage may be gently massaged at this stage between the thumb and index finger. This will prevent the possibility of accumulating pockets of fat inside of the sausage. When the sausages are cool, they are placed in a refrigerator.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Once the sausages have cooled down to 30º C (86º F) they are sometimes submitted to a short (30 min) cold smoking process (20 – 30º C, 68 – 86º F) to impart the generally liked smoky flavor to a product. This will also provide an additional degree of preservation on the surface of the sausage against bacteria. After smoking, sausages must be placed in a refrigerator.” (meatsandsausages.com)
“Liver sausages should be kept at the lowest temperatures above the freezing point possible: 0 – 2º C (32 – 34º F) although in a home refrigerator the temperatures of about 3 – 4º C (38 – 40º F) can be expected.” (meatsandsausages.com)
Refer to The Unknown Cook Book (of Steve Berman): Liver Sausage for comprehensive recipes.
Diedrich van Nieuwenhuyse: Private communication