A hearty breakfast featuring smoked sausage is a winter time favorite. However, don’t think of smoked sausage as only a breakfast item, as it is also an excellent entrée for either a noon or evening meal.

If you currently make a traditional smoked sausage, perhaps you can boost sales by adding a specialty smoked sausage to your product line. Specialty smoked sausages include black pepper, jalapeno and hot and spicy. You might also add some cheddar or mozzarella cheese to your product. You can combine a couple of added ingredients and produce a black pepper with cheese or a jalapeno and cheese sausage. Let your imagination come up with other possibilities.

In preparing your specialty smoked sausage, you can use a specific blend of seasoning for that product or add some extra ingredients to your standard smoked sausage. If you are adding cheese, normally 7 to 14 percent, based on the meat weight, works nicely. Typically a high-melt cheese is used unless you want melted cheese to be part of your finished product characteristics.

If you add mozzarella cheese make sure its use is boldly labeled so customers recognize it as cheese, not large chunks of fat. If you make a black pepper smoked sausage I suggest you use a coarse ground pepper that is easily visible in the finished product. Adding 2 to 3 ounces of butcher-grind black pepper per 100 pounds of mild smoked sausage makes a very tasty product.

Add diced dehydrated jalapeno peppers at a level of 4 to 5 ounces per 100 pounds of meat. If you use dehydrated peppers, rehydrate them at a ratio of 1 part dehydrated pepper to 10 parts water before adding them to the sausage to get maximum flavor from the peppers and prevent them from being hard chunks in the finished product (an additional 0.5 to 1 ounce of ground jalapeno pepper will intensify the jalapeno flavor). If you use a combination of cheese and jalapeno pepper, typically the total amount of your inclusions is 10 to 14 percent.

You can turn a regular smoked sausage into hot and spicy by adding 2 ounces of crushed red pepper and 1 ounce of ground red pepper to 100 pounds of mild smoked sausage.

A good formulation for an all-pork smoked sausage is:
• 93 lbs 80/20 boneless pork (72% chemical lean)
• 7 lbs 50/10 pork trim (42% chemical lean)
• 12-15 lbs water (maybe more depending on smokehouse shrink)
• 2.0 lbs salt
• 2.0 lbs dextrose
• 6 oz sodium phosphates
• Appropriate seasoning
• 4 oz curing salt (6.25% sodium nitrite)
• 7/8 oz sodium erythorbate

Most combinations of skeletal meat work well if you maintain an overall fat content in the raw meat block of 30 to 32 percent fat. Beef and turkey also work nicely in smoked sausage.

In my opinion, the most common mistake made in manufacturing smoked sausage is insufficient water used in the formulation. Water contributes significantly to a juicy texture in the finished product and has a significant impact on finished product yield (cost). Your finished product should yield at least 105-108% of the starting meat weight. Too low a yield will result in a dry, tasteless product that is expensive to produce.

Remember: Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.