Many of today’s consumers like products that are unique. Small meat processors have the ability to produce unique products for local or regional markets; products that are unique in ethnicity, appearance, texture and flavor. During June and July of this year, I had the opportunity to work with Klaus-Peter Kreibig, marketing director of product development and application, Devro PLC, Scotland, as he prepared sausage products in conjunction with our 34th Annual Sausage and Processed Meat Short Course held July 16-20, 2012 at the Iowa State University Meat Laboratory, Ames, Iowa.

On Thursday evening, July 19, over 200 people gathered for a Wurstfest and had the opportunity to sample our 50 different sausage products that were prepared as part of the course activities. Many of the products were prepared by Klaus, a master sausage maker with over 45 years of experience in the meat industry. Klaus is noted for using inclusions to produce specialty meat products that both look good and taste great.

Inclusions are defined as large pieces of cheese, vegetable, fruit, nut or other food items that is added for both flavor and appearance. Inclusions can be utilized in semi-dry as well as fully cooked, not shelf stable products.

If you use cheese as an inclusion, it is best to use cubed or shredded cheese. Based on your personal preference you can use either regular or high melt cheese. Regular cheese will become soft during processing while high melt will retain its shape. High melt cheese works nicely in products such as luncheon meats, which will be sliced and served cold. Frequently, the amount of cheese used is in the 10%-12% range. It is fine to use a combination of cheeses.

Common vegetable inclusions are green bell pepper, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, potato (dehydrated, shredded potato or frozen French fries), olives, pickle relish, cooked wild rice or cooked white rice. Often dehydrated peppers are utilized. If fresh peppers are used they should be diced and blanched prior to use. Products such as olives or pickle relish that has been preserved in vinegar brine should be triple rinsed prior to use to lower the acidity. If it is not rinsed, there may be enough vinegar left in the inclusion to denature the meat protein around it and prevent the inclusion from staying in sliced product.

Cherries, dehydrated apple pieces, raisins and craisins are common fruit inclusions. Pieces of pecans, almonds, peanuts and walnuts can also be used as inclusions. Use some cooked macaroni and diced cheese in a loaf product and presto, you have macaroni and cheese loaf.

Make a 200-pound master blend of smoked sausage and then split it into four 50-pound lots. To the first lot add dehydrated apples and apple butter; to the second lot add wild rice; to the third lot add mozzarella cheese and to the fourth lot add cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper. You have easily created four distinctly different products.

Through the use of inclusions you can update and expand your product line and increase you profitability.

Remember: The use of inclusions in the manufacture of sausage products is limited only by your imagination.