There are hundreds of various types of dry cured sausages out there, some of which are really excellent, but there is one kind that I am especially fond of. It’s called sujuk. Some other common spelling forms of this sausage are sudzhuk, sucuk or soujouk, depending on the country it originates from.
I was fortunate to experience Gornooryahovski Sudzhuk while traveling Eastern Europe a few years ago. It was love at first sight, or first taste if you will. I’ve had excellent results with dry cured sausages like Homemade Sopressata and Salami Milano, but sujuk was something else entirely. The traditional Gornooryahovski Sudzhuk sausage is a very popular sausage in Bulgaria and has a distinctive aroma, a spicy taste and is intended for direct consumption. This Protected Geographical Indication has a guarantee of high quality and is the result of the local population’s traditional skills. I loved the clean, noticeably tangy, beefy taste not overpowered by spices. Fairly hard and dry, sujuk reminded me of good beef jerky but it was less chewy, tangy and more fatty compared to jerky. I also tasted other types of sujuk while in Eastern Europe, some were excellent, while other ranged from mediocre to really awful.
Over here it’s almost impossible to find. What I could find was a remote resemblance of the real thing and was usually pretty bad in comparison. This forced me to venture into the unfamiliar territory of sujuk making. Luckily, I was able to find this official publication online that gives a very good idea about how to make dry cured sujuk. I used it as the base for making my own homemade dry cured sujuk – aromatic, delicious, with deep burgundy color that really shows under evening sunlight.
According to the publication, Gornooryahovski Sudzhuk is a compacted, non-perishable, raw, dried sausage manufactured from natural gut filled with machine-minced beef. The surface is evenly coated with a dry, white, powdery sausage mold. The sausage is cylindrical, flattened and bent into a horseshoe shape. Its ends are tied off and bound together with string. It is 35-40 cm in length and up to 40 mm in diameter. It is solid, elastic and has the same consistency at the periphery as it does at the core. It has an elliptical cross-section with an even, fine-grained texture on its surface. The meat filling is free of cavities, sinews or fasciae. The filling is marbled, its color varying from red to dark brown as is typical for beef. The fat is white in color. There is no dark-colored peripheral ring or grey discoloration in the interior of the cross-section. The flavor is distinctive, pleasant, spicy, moderately salty and free from any extraneous taste. The aroma is distinctive, with vivid tones reflecting its specific mixture of herbal seasoning (black pepper, cumin and savory). Physical and chemical characteristics: water content does not exceed 45 % of the overall mass; fat content in dry matter does not exceed 65 %; kitchen salt does not exceed 4.5 % of the overall mass; nitrites do not exceed 50 mg per kg; pH ≤ 6 and ≥ 5.1; and aW ≤ 0.88.
The first time I made the sudzhuk I followed the guidelines to a tee and was very pleased with the results, though I did see an opportunity to make a few changes. First, I am not big on using cumin unless I am making chili or pilaf. Savory? Maybe. I do like a little bit of garlic and onion powder in my beef sausages though. I made the substitution and loved the results. Either way is great, it’s just a matter of preference.
If you have the opportunity to cold smoke sujuk for about 12-24 hours, it’s definitely worth it. It can be done either during fermentation or drying as long as temperature and humidity conditions are met. While this is definitely against the official guidelines, the smoky flavor takes sujuk to the next level. I smoke my sujuk every time I can. If I make it during summer when ambient temperatures are high I smoke it during fermentation stage. When the weather is colder I pick a day when the temperature is between 59F and 64F (drying stage) and smoke then.
Traditionally sujuk is made without the use of starter cultures. This is fine when meat is handled properly, without the risk of cross-contamination, and is tested at various stages. When you buy it from the supermarket or your local butcher I feel that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I used a starter culture to ensure a controlled pH drop and to inhibit growth of some spoilage and pathogenic bacteria due to the drop in pH. Interestingly, here is the study that demonstrated positive effect on color, texture and taste in the production of Turkish sucuk – all the good reasons to use the starter culture.
By the way, check out my post on my upgraded Advanced Meat Curing Chamber. The upgrade made a huge difference in final product quality.
- 5 lbs / 2270 g beef chuck
- 51 g kosher salt
- 5.7 g Cure #2
- 5 g freshly ground black pepper
- 3 g freshly ground coriander
- 3 g garlic powder
- 5 g onion powder
- 1.5 g FLC starter culture activated in 60 ml distilled water
- Partially freeze the beef before processing to make sure it stays cold
- Cut beef into 100-150 g pieces, remove sinew. Grind through a medium size plate (3/16" or 4.5 mm)
- Mix the ground meat, spices and starter culture. Stuff into 28-32mm hog casings, making 18" (45 cm) links, and tie with twine
- Ferment at 71-77F (22-25C), 85-100% RH for about 48 hours in an area with good ventilation, until the meat firms up and turns dark red
- Dry at 59-64F (15-18C), 75-85% RH for 10-20 days with good ventilation, until target weight loss of about 55% is achieved
- Starting on day two of the drying stage, flatten sujuk by gently rolling it with a roller. Do not press too hard otherwise the casings may burst. Continue doing this once a day for about 5-6 days
- Optionally, smoke sujuk for 12-24 hours during fermentation or drying, ensuring temperature and humidity conditions are met