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Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sausage casings

Natural sausage casings / sausage skins are made from the small intestines of an animal, in our case free range, grass fed, New Zealand sheep. They are cleaned and calibrated by hand and via machinery using only water. Sea salt is added to act as a natural preserving agent enabling them to survive outside of a fridge for relatively long periods of time.

Yes. The proper name for the outside of a sausage is a ‘casing’ but sausage casings are often referred to as ‘sausage skins’, or 'intestines'. The primary purpose of a sausage casing is to keep all of your sausage meat together. However, natural sausage casings also stop your beautiful sausage juices from escaping (meaning a juicer/less dry sausage) whilst simultaneously absorbing your BBQ flavours and aroma’s. Isn’t mother nature clever.

Yes they are. All natural sausage casings are edible. We only make natural casings that come from hog or sheep intestines, so they are edible.

However, not all sausage casings are edible. 'Synthetic casings', often used for salami's can be made from plastic or plant cellulose and are not edible.

Casings are the forgotten super-hero of the humble sausage. That’s because without a good sausage casing, you can’t have a good sausage. Your sausage casing is what keeps all your carefully chosen ingredients, flavours and juices in and it also dictates the texture and eating experience of your final sausage. Sausage making aficionados (aka gurus) are obsessed with having the right sausage ‘snap’ when you bite into a sausage, which all comes down to the casing you use. Natural casings give the best sausage snap. So don’t ruin your wieners, choose a natural casing.

The benefits of the natural casing are flavour and visual appeal. Natural sausage casings have an enhanced taste, tenderness and texture that no synthetic casing can match. Natural casings also provide a far superior consumption experience with that authentic snap when eaten. Because natural sausage casings breathe, the beautiful BBQ, smoking and cooking flavours can permeate the casing and infuse the meat, resulting in one very tasty sausage.

Only sausages made from natural casings have that trademark sausage ‘smile’. If your sausage doesn’t smile, it means its made from a collagen casing, or as we call them, an industrialised t**d.

Without a good sausage casing, you can’t have a good sausage. Sheep casings have the thinnest wall of any natural sausage casing (even thinner than hog) so are less prone to chewyness and have an amazing ‘semipermeable’ wall which means none of your special sausage juices escape but all of the beautiful BBQ/cooking flavours are absorbed. The end result is a sausage with great flavour, texture and the much prized sausage “snap” that you can only get from a natural sausage.

Casings are generally sold based on their diameter (often referred to as ‘calibre’). Natural sheep casings generally range from 20-30mm (0.8″-1.2″), sold as either 20/22 (as in 20-22mm), 22/24, 24/26 or 26/28. The measurement is the diameter of a casing once stuffed. Hog casings generally fall between 30-45mm/1.2-1.8″ (32/35, 35/38 or 38/42). The sausage casings in our online products are 24-26mm/1″-1 1/16″ (or 24/26). This means they range from 24mm diameter to 26mm diameter, and that your sausage will therefore end up between 24-26mm. This is about the same size as a NZ $2 coin or a US quarter. Certain sausages have traditionally used certain sized casings but at NZCC we are not size-ist. Our motto is that it’s not the size of your sausage that counts. What’s important is the quality of the finished product.

Sheep casings are not as wide as hog casings (aka they have a smaller diameter). As such, a sausage made with a hog casing will be a lot fatter/wider than a sausage made with a sheep casing. The wall of sheep casings are also thinner than hog casings which means they are less prone to chewyness/being rubbery. We believe sheep casings give the best sausage texture and delivery, with the much prized sausage ‘snap’ you only get from a natural sausage.

At The New Zealand Casings Co we always say ‘never trust a straight sausage’. That’s because if your sausage doesn’t smile, its made from a collagen casing. Collagen Casings are made from the highly processed hides of cattle or hogs and typically contain lots of yucky stuff like sodium carboxymethylcellulose, mineral oil (otherwise known as liquid paraffin, a highly refined by-product of petroleum distillation) and ammonium hydroxide. The result is a collagen casing with a wall like soft plastic which means they don’t breathe in any of those beautiful BBQ flavours and aromoa’s or match the much revered ‘snap’ of a natural casing. So don’t be a silly sausage, choose a natural casing.

Our natural casings only come from New Zealand farms, where the animals are free range, grass-fed and fully traceable from from farm gate to plate.

At The New Zealand Casings Co, we believe that Mother Nature does it best. So why mess with it. That’s why our sausages have only 2 ingredients – natural sheep intestines and salt.

No chemicals, no additives and no nasty stuff. In fact, water is the only thing we use during the processing of our natural casings.

Yes. All the animals our casings come from are killed according to Halal regulations. A copy of our Halal certification can be presented prior to order.

We sell three products on our website:
– 20m/65ft ‘The Craftsman’ (2x 10m/33ft lengths) threaded onto hard pipe. This product makes approximately 6kg/13lb of sausages or 100 sausages
– 40m/131ft ‘Home Pack Hero’ (4x 10m/33ft lengths) threaded onto hard pipe. This product makes approximately 12kg/27ft of sausages or 200 sausages
– 90m/98yd ‘Butchers Best Friend’ (9x 10m/33ft lengths) threaded onto soft tube.  This product makes approximately 28kg/60lb of sausages or 460 sausages

1kg/2.2lb of Meat requires 3.2m/10.5ft of Casings. To work out the length of casings you need, multiply your KG of meat by 3.2. This will give you the length of casings you need in Metres eg I have 12.4kg of Meat. 12.4 * 3.2 = 40m of Casings required.
Assumes 24-26 Sheep Casings. 14cm sausages. Numbers are a guide only.

Yes. All natural sausages casings (sheep and hog) are edible.

Although we believe natural sheep casings deliver a better sausage, they do have a thinner wall then hog casings so are more delicate and prone to tearing. As such, if you are a first time sausage maker, we would recommend using hog casings, which will give you a fatter, chunkier sausage. Once you get the knack of it give natural sheep casings a go, your sausage will thank you.

1m/3.3ft of Casings makes 311g/0.7lb of Sausages. To work out how many sausages you can make with your casings, multiply your metres of casings by .311. This will give you how many KG of sausages you will produce eg I have 20m of Casings. 20 * 0.311 = 6.2kg of Sausages.
Assumes 24-26 Sheep Casings. 14cm sausages. Numbers are a guide only.

Check out our handy sausage casing calculator here.

Put simply, your casing size will dictate the size of your sausage. History and tradition usually guides which sausage casings to use for each type of sausage. However, there really is no technical reason that sausages have to be certain sizes, and therefore use certain casings. 
For example, an English Pork Sausage will effectively taste the same whether it is in a 32-35 hog casing or a 24-26 sheep casing. Sheep casings make slim sausages so are traditionally used for breakfast sausages, frankfurters, hot dogs, landjaegar, makanek, chipolatas, cabanossi (kabana), bockwurst, nurnberger, chicken, pork, venison or halal sausages. Hog casings make fat, chunky sausages and would traditionally be used for Italian sausages, bratwurst, knockwurst, kielbasa, fresh or cured chorizo, andouille, chicken, pork, venison, lamb or beef. Both our sheep and hog casings are suitable for fresh or cured sausages and smoking.

Yes, natural sheep and hog casings are the best for dried/cured/fermented sausages such as snack sticks, chorizo or salami as the casing will naturally shrink with the meat. Collagen casings are not ideal as they do not shrink so you may end up with a loose casing.

Once rinsed, you must soak your casings in fresh, warm water, ideally 37°C/99°F (which is your body temperature). Make sure they are fully submerged and avoid water any hotter than 40°C/104°F. Soak your casings for at least 45 minutes. Alternatively, casings can be soaked overnight in cold tap water.

It is important to have the right nozzle size for your casing, otherwise you could get tearing in your casing. Sheep casings require a smaller nozzle than hog casings. For our casings we strongly recommend:

Sheep 19-21mm = 10-13mm / 0.4-0.5" nozzle.
Sheep 24-26mm = 13-16mm / 0.5-0.6" nozzle.
Hog 32-35mm = 19-25mm / 0.75-1" nozzle.

(the measurement is the width/diameter of the nozzle at its tip)

Our casings come with a 365 day shelf life if stored according to our storage instructions below…

1) Keep Salted. If you have left over casing and have washed the salt off then remove any excess water by running your fingers down the casings then generously re-coat in finely ground salt eg normal table salt (no fancy flaked salt or rock salt here thank you). The easiest way to do this is to put your casing in a bowl and sprinkle a generous amount of salt over it, then roll the casing around in the salt. The salt will stick to the residual moisture on the casing. You want the casing to be completely covered in salt. More salt is better than not enough so if in doubt add more, too much salt will not harm the product.
2) Keep Air Tight. Wrap in clingfilm/gladwrap and put back into the pouch packaging or into a container
3) Keep Cool. Store your sausage casings in a cool, temperature-controlled environment of between 5°C and 10°C / 41-50°F – ideally in the fridge. Store casings away from direct sunlight and heat at all times.

Technically you can freeze your casings. However, we do not recommend it as it does damage their structure and will weaken them. We recommend storing in the fridge according to storage instructions above.

Tubed casings are casings threaded onto soft or hard plastic tubes or pipes for easier application onto the stuffing nozzle. Casings on either tubes are less prone to tangles but casings on hard tubes are the easiest to use. Salted casings are casings in their original form and have not been threaded onto a tube so need to be carefully untied to avoid tangles and carefully threaded onto the sausage casing nozzle (you can use some cooking oil to make this easier). For beginner sausage makers, we recommend buying casings that have been threaded onto a tube.

‘Shorts’ are any short off-cuts of sausage casings that could vary from 1 metre -6 metres (3.3-20ft) in length. There are a number of manufacturers out there who cheekily package and sell these. What they mean for you is more time, more waste, more mess and poor value for money. We only use ‘A grade’ casings for the products sold on our online shop and we are proud to have a no ‘shorts’ guarantee for these products. All our casings come in lengths of 10 meters, which means a better sausage making experience for you.

A hank is 90m/98yd of casings. This might be made up of a number of shorter pieces that add up to 90m in total. For example, a hank of natural sheep casings could contain 3 x 30m lengths of casings or 9 x 10m lengths (as our online products do)

Some Casings suppliers thread their casings onto plastic tubes that allows for easy transfer of casings onto the filling horn/nozzle of your sausage stuffers/maker. This minimizes the risk of tangling or tearing and saves you time.  These tubes can be soft or hard, with hard tubes being the easiest to transfer. We thread our 20m/65ft and 40m/131ft product onto hard tubes. Our 90m/98yd product is threaded onto soft tubes.

The grinder plates or die will determine the coarseness or smoothness of the sausage meat and the final sausage. Essentially, bigger grinder plates = bigger holes = coarser sausage with more visible 'bits' and a more 'crumbly' texture. Smaller grinder plates = smaller holes = smoother sausage with finer texture (no visible 'bits') and firmer texture eg a hot dog. As a guide 1/8" = fine ground for Franks or Hot Dogs. 3/16" = medium grind for breakfast sausage, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage. 1/4" or 5/16" = coarse grind for Bratwurst, Chorizo, Salami, Summer Sausage.

Our casings can be ordered direct from us, we ship locally as well as anywhere globally where top quality sausage casings are required, contact us now at sales@nzcasings.co.nz.

The New Zealand Casings Co can supply natural casings 52 weeks of the year. We know year-round availability is vitally important.

‘Product of New Zealand’ is New Zealand sourced raw material that is shipped to China and other various countries for processing and packing, often being mixed with product from other countries along the way. It is then on-shipped to the market to be sold in. Sadly, most New Zealand originating raw material is sent to China to be processed.
‘Made in the New Zealand’ is a New Zealand sourced product manufactured and processed right here in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Casings Co casings are all ‘Made in New Zealand’. They contain 100% sourced New Zealand product and are 100% processed and packed in New Zealand.

Because we know you don’t like to muck around, we’ve found a 3PL partner in the  USA who is storing our product and at the ready for your orders. We offer free standard shipping on all orders over $20 (USD) which takes 3-5 business days.  Please click here to read our full Shipping Policy & Info.