All I wanted was a little fresh Italian sausage, so I went to the market to take a number to stand in line to pay an outrageous sum of $4 a pound.
Hold on. Did I just see sugar in the list of ingredients? And sodium nitrite?!
While this chemical will prevent the growth of bacteria, it can be toxic for mammals. (LD50 in rats is 180 mg/kg.) For this reason, sodium nitrite sold as a food additive is dyed bright pink to avoid mistaking it for something else. Cooks and makers of charcuterie often simply refer to sodium nitrite as “pink salt”.
Various dangers of using this as a food additive have been suggested and researched by scientists. A principal concern is the formation of carcinogenic N-nitrosamines by the reaction of sodium nitrite with amino acids in the presence of heat in an acidic environment. Its usage is carefully regulated in the production of cured products; in the United States, the concentration in finished products is limited to 200 ppm, and is usually lower. In about 1970, it was found that the addition of ascorbic acid inhibited nitrosamine production. U.S. manufacturing of cured meats now requires the addition of 500 ppm of ascorbic acid or erythorbic acid, a cheaper isomer. Sodium nitrite has also been linked to triggering migraines.
Time to make my own sausage, the way I like it, with lots of Not Sugar and extra No Preservatives!
Talk to your butcher. Ask her for some nice, fresh, boneless pork. Trim any excess fat and membrane, and push the cold pork through your grinder. Add seasoning if you wish, but do grind it a second time.
Leftover sausage deteriorates quickly, so if you’re not going to use it within 2 days, store it frozen, pressed flat in a zipper bag.