So what’s the difference between Italian sausage and ground Italian sausage? The casing. It’s exactly the same thing, except that ground Italian sausage isn’t stuffed in pork (or synthetic) casing. Why make separate products? Well, the quick answer to that would be to save time. Italian sausage, aside from being enjoyed as a sausage, is also being used as a substitute for regular ground meat because it’s pre-seasoned and oh so darn tasty. By offering it as bulk ground meat, producers save time and money by no longer stuffing it in casings, and consumers save money and time by not ripping the meat out of the casing before using it. Convenience!
Ground Italian Sausage Trivia
- The main spice that stands out in Italian sausage (and ground Italian sausage) is fennel.
- Ground Italian sausage can be used in any preparation that calls for ground meat.
- The Italian sausage was thought to have originated in Luciana, southern Italy.
Ground Italian Sausage Buying Guide
When choosing ground Italian sausage, check the packaging for any curing nitrates or nitrites. Since ground Italian sausage is meant to be used immediately, there should be no need for curing salts to be added to the product.
Once you’ve picked a brand that doesn’t use any unnecessary ingredients, check the packaging for any damage. Damaged packaging can lead to contamination and spoilage of your sausage. Check the color of the meat and avoid those that are starting to turn gray (or heavens forbid other colors). The color of the meat should be at the very least, a healthy pink color.
Ground Italian Sausage Production & Farming in Texas
Commercially Produced Ground Italian Sausage.
This is a very tricky subject because since it is technically a sausage and not just ground meat, the standards for ground meat does not apply to it. By law, ground meat shouldn’t have any added water, binders, or fillers. But since it is labelled as sausage, commercial ground Italian sausage makers can get away with adding all sorts of extenders to their product.
Be sure to check out the labels for commercially produced ground Italian sausage for any additives aside from what you would usually add to your ground meat at home.
Small Batch/Artisanal Ground Italian Sausage Production:
Specialty butchers or artisanal sausage makers will usually have ground Italian sausage on a per-order basis. They would be happy to grind up meat according to your specification (or their recommendation) and season the meat to turn it into Italian sausage meat.
Preservatives and Chemicals:
Here are some of the preservatives, chemicals, and additives that we’ve gathered from the labels of some of the top ground Italian sausage manufacturers that are available in most supermarkets.
- Corn Syrup – This is basically liquid sugar. (This is in addition to the sugar that is added and listed on the ingredients panel)
- Sodium Lactate – An acidity regulator and bulking agent used to make the meat appear plumper and redder for longer periods.
- Dextrose – Another form of liquid sugar or glucose.
- Natural Flavors – Typically pork, chicken, or beef broth. This is used to enhance the taste of the meat, to mask off any unwanted odors from the product.
- Food coloring – Self-explanatory, makes the meat more attractive to the buyer but totally unnecessary.
- Calcium Stearate and Silicon Dioxide – Anti-caking agents that prevent the meat from clumping together. Retains that “freshly ground” look even after days on the shelf.
- BHA – Prevents the meat from becoming rancid.
- Propyl Gallate – Prevents the meat from becoming rancid and prevents oxidation.
For fresh (not frozen) ground Italian sausage, these are usually packed in rigid plastic trays and then covered with thick cling film. Frozen ground Italian sausage is traditionally packed in vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
For small-batch ground Italian sausage, since they are usually made and sold within the day, require no special packaging aside from wax butchers paper.
Enjoying Ground Italian Sausage
Since it is raw and uncured, ground Italian sausage must be fully cooked before consumption.
Ground Italian sausage without any preservatives must be used within three days from purchase, and they have to be stored in the fridge. They can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month.
Commercially produced ground Italian sausage that contains preservatives can last for up to a week in the fridge (or up to their marked best before dates) and up to three months in the freezer.
Ground Italian sausage has many applications. The most basic way to cook them is to treat it like any other ground meat. Just heat up a pan to medium, put in the meat and break it up into as many pieces as possible.
Ground Italian sausage is the perfect addition to spaghetti, lasagna, meatloaf, chili, and almost any dish that uses ground meat.