Wednesday, July 6

The skin of the sausages, can it be eaten?


Sausages are part of our culinary tradition. Fuet, chorizo, mortadella, salami, etc. are products prepared from meat, minced or not, subjected or not to curing processes, added or not of offal and fat, seasonings and spices, which are introduced in natural or artificial casings, a kind of envelope that allows better preservation these products.

Why is Serrano ham more fattening than York ham if it is the same meat?

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One of the issues that still generates debate about how we should take certain sausages and that causes conflicting opinions revolves around the skin (or the gut). Can it be eaten or is it better to remove it? The answer is that it depends because it depends on the type of skin with which the sausage is made (either fuet, chorizo, longaniza, etc.) and, in some cases, the personal preferences of each one.

Different skin types

The first thing to keep in mind is that not all skins or casings used in making sausages are the same. The composition can vary from one product to another. A distinction is often made between artisan production and traditional of the industrial processing.

Thus, we distinguish two main types of casings:

  • Natural casing: they come from the intestines of different animals, such as pig, sheep, beef, horse or goat. The most used is the layer of the intestines called submucosa, very rich in collagen. They go through a thorough cleaning process. As the International Association of Natural Casings for Sausages (INSCA), like fresh meat and meat products, natural casings must be produced from animals fit for human consumption and effective hygiene requirements must be applied to avoid any contamination.
  • Artificial casing: It can be made of collagen (of animal origin and the most similar to natural), cellulose (usually used in cooked sausages such as Frankfurt sausages) and plastic authorized for food use (used especially in large-caliber cooked sausages such as mortadelas), waterproof and that insulates the sausage.

How can we know if the guts are natural or artificial?

One of the visual signs that can help us distinguish them is that the natural ones have irregular shapes, they are curved with the ends tightly closed, sometimes tied by hand with a string. The final sausage has certain irregularities and points that are thinner or thicker than others, and they give off a particular aroma.

The artificial ones, on the other hand, tend to wrinkle at the ends and open a little. In addition, they have a much more uniform appearance, without irregularities or imperfections, with a neutral flavor. The label can also help us to distinguish between them because it indicates the nature, materials and composition of the casing.

The Quality standard for meat derivatives establishes that the natural casing, as it is considered one more ingredient, must appear on the labeling. On the other hand, the regulation 1169/2011 on food information tells us that, if a sausage is wrapped with inedible products, it must also be detailed on the labeling.

Therefore, whatever the case, it must appear on the label.

Can you eat the natural guts?

As we have seen, these are products of animal origin, therefore, they are suitable for human consumption. In fact, they are collected in the European standard 852/853 of 2004 as food, therefore, they are considered to be edible and easily digested.

However, whether to do it or not depends on the preferences of each of the personal tastes. Some people choose to remove the skin from certain dried and cured hot dogs.

Can artificial guts be eaten?

The recommendation is that it is better to eliminate it before ingesting it because neither the cellulose nor the plastic used in this type of casing are edible, although if we eat a little it will not have negative effects on our health. If the label indicates that the product is made from synthetic leather, it is advisable to discard it and not consume it.

Why in some cases does a kind of white powder appear on the skin?

The issue of skin, whether it is better to remove it or not, is not the only issue that generates controversy. The presence of a kind of moldy and whitish layer that covers the skin of some pepperoni and fuets it is also a matter of debate. This aspect is given by Penicillium nalgiovense, a mushroom in the same family as that of some cheeses such as brie and camembert.

This mold is the one that produces the white fluffiness that we associate with certain sausages. This fungus colonizes the surface and prevents other contaminants from growing and spoiling the product. This fungus needs specific conditions of temperature and specific humidity that many artisan producers do not have, hence many artisan products do not have this appearance.

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