BCU Plastics & Packaging Supplies
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Winchester, CA 92596
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If only Grandma Seher had a vacuum sealer and some plastic bags…………
Hello! My name is Roger Seher. My faithful companion, Casey, and I were just enjoying the breathtaking view of Mt. Shasta in Northern California. If you have a few minutes I would like to tell you the story about my Grandma Ida Seher’s old German Smoked Sausage recipe and how it was the inspiration for this website.
Oh, by the way, Casey is a mix of Queensland Healer and Australian Cattle Dog. Over the years I’ve taught her many tricks. In fact, I believe she knows every trick in the book. She may be smart but she still hasn’t mastered using the vacuum sealer on her own. And it appears she doesn’t like me using it either as she’s taken to barking at it. Why is this? She seems to realize that the more I use it to seal and store my left-overs the fewer left-overs she gets to eat. I told you she was a smart dog.
Back to Grandma Ida and her sausage. I still have vivid childhood memories of the entire Seher family getting together once a year to make a very large batch of great-tasting German smoked sausage. Using my Grandma Ida’s secret, old-world sausage recipe, everyone, children included, was involved in the sausage making process. It was a non-stop weekend of fun and hard-work. I still remember the stories the old folks would tell as everyone went about their sausage-making chores.
First, we gathered and washed all the tools necessary to make sausage…..including the large cutting knives, the meat grinders, the old sausage stuffer and the large, galvanized metal wash tub. If you’re interested, you can still find these wonderful old tools in antique shops and at flea markets.
With the equipment clean and ready for use, the older folks began cutting the large pieces of fresh beef and pork into smaller chunks. These juicy chunks of meat were then carefully fed into the hungry jaws of the meat grinders. I still remember the adults’ constant reminder to “watch your hands” as us kids placed these chunks into the grinder.
As the smaller containers were filled with the freshly-ground meat, we emptied them into the large wash tub, being careful not to spill a drop along the way. Of course, the family pets stood guard, tongues hanging out and tails wagging, waiting for one of us kids to spill some of the freshly ground meat on the ground.
Once all the meat had been ground and placed in the large wash tub, it was mixing time. Here’s where the fun really began. First, the secret spices were added to the tub of meat. This was not an exact process as the amount of meat in the tub seemed to vary from year to year. Once the first round of spices was added, kids and adults alike kneeled beside the huge tub. With bare arms and clean hands extended into the tub, we began mixing the spices and meat. This is one of those activities that seems fun at the beginning but quickly becomes boring as your arms and hands ache from all the squeezing of the meat.
But, the job was not done until Grandma Ida was satisfied the mixing was complete.
Us kids kept one eye on the tub of meat and the other eye on Grandma Ida, anxiously awaiting her command to stop mixing so we could rest our tired little hands and arms.
What came next was the long-awaited aroma of fresh sausage being cooked in huge iron skillets on the old kitchen stove. See, it was necessary to make a few patties, fry them and give them the taste test. Grandma had to be sure the right amount of spices had been added. The entire family gathered around for the taste testing. For the next several minutes everyone began speaking at the same time, offering their comments about the taste of the sausage. While Grandma had the last say, this was her way of training the future generations of Seher sausage makers.
“It needs more salt” one person would proclaim. No, “it needs more garlic” another would yell. “I think it needs more pepper” said yet another. After much back and forth a decision would be made as to the amount of each spice to be added to the remaining sausage mixture still in the tub. Once the spices were added, the hand-mixing started over. While we kids were not quite as excited about the second mixing, we joined the adults beside the tub to get the job done. It usually required a few sample taste testings to get the sausage mixture properly seasoned.
By now you are probably wondering why no one had simply weighed the ground meat and documented the exact amount of each spice used so future batches could be made more quickly. Perhaps it had occurred to someone but that would have spoiled the mystique behind the making of Grandma Ida’s old world, German sausage. After all, the journey is often as important, if not more so, than the destination.
Once Grandma Ida proclaimed the sausage mixture as being ready, the stuffing would begin. Stuffing sausage is an old-world art, passed down from one generation to another. Our old cast iron sausage stuffer held about 15 pounds of mixture at one time. Stuffing the sausage mixture into the special sausage casings (the skin) was a two-person job. One person turns the hand-crank on the stuffer while the other person carefully holds the empty casing as it quickly fills with sausage. As kids we loved taking turns trying to turn the crank on the old sausage grinder. We never lasted very long as sausage stuffers.
Each casing was cut to a length of approximately 20 to 25 feet. Now that’s one long sausage. As each casing was filled with the sausage mixture, other family members were assigned the job of taking the filled casing and carefully measuring and cutting it into sections approximately 20 inches long. The casing on each 20 inch section was then quickly twisted on each end to seal the sausage. Finally, the sausage was again twisted in the middle, creating two sausages of equal length. For now the two sausages remained together so they could be hung over wooden rods for further processing.
Because of the large amount of sausage made each year, it was necessary to hang as many sausages as possible on each rod. I remember holding my breath, hoping the rods wouldn’t break under the weight of all that fresh sausage. I just didn’t want to see all our hard work lying on the dirty ground while the dogs circled, hoping to move in for the feast. Fortunately, the adults had years of experience in sausage making to ensure such accidents didn’t happen. Plus, I suspect no one wanted to have Grandma Ida on their bad side for making such a mistake.
Once all the sausages were safely hanging on the rods, the next, very important, step was overnight drying. The next morning, the rods of sausage were carefully moved to the special smoke house where they would remain while undergoing the smoking process. This is what gives home-made sausage its special taste. A taste that is missing from most store-bought sausage. After the sausage was smoked to taste, the sausage was cooled and carefully wrapped in freezer paper to be frozen until it was cooked and served at breakfast, lunch and supper.
So what does all this sausage making have to do with a vacuum sealer and special vacuum sealer bags?
In 2003 the family gathered to make its annual batch of Grandma Ida’s old-world German sausage. Unfortunately, Grandma Ida was no longer around to preside over the festivities. We were on our own this time. We decided it was necessary to make a very large batch of sausage so each participating family would have enough for several meals.
Of all the steps in sausage making, the one most disliked was the final step of wrapping all that sausage for storing in the freezer.
Traditionally, we would wrap the sausage in butcher paper or freezer paper. Freezer paper is not cheap. And we used a lot of it each year. See the photo above! That one rod alone holds about 280 individual sausages or 140 of the 20 inch sections described earlier. Since we wrapped the sausages 2 per package, it would mean making 140 freezer packs per rod. And, we had several rods of sausages. Not only was this wrapping time consuming, it required lots of freezer paper. Unfortunately, last year we ran out of freezer paper and had to use saran wrap for the remaining sausages. Both saran wrap and freezer paper work only for short-term freezer storage. While the other family members were happy with their fresh batch of Grandma Ida’s German sausage and did not appear concerned with the wrapping, I was bothered with the job we had done on the wrapping step. I felt Grandma Ida’s sausage deserved a better, more secure wrapping---one that would ensure the fresh taste after many long months in the freezer.
Over the next several days I continued thinking about a better way to wrap and store our special home-made sausage. I searched the internet for ideas. I looked through catalogs. I asked family and friends if they had any suggestions. I then remembered my cheap, discount store vacuum sealer I used on occasion for sealing survival items I would take with me on hiking and camping trips. Perhaps I could use this sealer to protect Grandma Ida’s sausage for both short-term and long-term freezer storage.
Excited about my idea, I called my cousin Robert and asked him if he would help me make another, smaller batch of Grandma Ida’s sausage the next weekend. I wanted to try the vacuum sealer idea and couldn’t wait. You know the feeling when you get a great idea and have to test it right away? I was all pumped-up about the thought of improving on Grandma Ida’s sausage making process. Or should I say Grandma Ida’s sausage storing process?
Robert and I proceeded to make a smaller batch of Grandma Ida’s sausage the next weekend, if you call 50 pounds a small batch. Following Grandma Ida’s handwritten instructions as carefully as possible, the only exception to her instructions we made was in shortening the length of each piece that got twisted in the middle to make 2 sausages. Robert and I ended up with 74 double links that needed packaging.
Next was the fun, experimental part. I had to make 74 vacuum bags, each measuring 8” X 12”. Earlier I had gone to the discount store and purchased 4 rolls of plastic vacuum bags, each costing me $11.99 before sales tax. It took all of three rolls and part of the 4th roll to make the 74 bags I needed. Not only did it take a long time to cut and make all 74 storage bags, it was quite expensive. I was able to make 22 12” bags from each roll. Doing the math, it was costing me over 54 cents per bag or almost $40 just for the freezer bags. The fun soon turned to concern over the cost of the plastic bags. I thought there had to be a better, more cost-effective way to obtain the freezer bags I’d need for my vacuum sealer. But, for now I had to stay focused on getting my fresh sausage into the storage bags and into the freezer.
My cheap, discount store vacuum sealer did a pretty good job of sucking all the extra air out of each bag during the sealing process. Unfortunately, the entire process took a long time as I had to let the vacuum sealer cool down after each bag was sealed. I didn’t want to burn-out the pump and the sealing wire was getting so hot it started melting the bags I had made. Overall, I was concerned the plastic was becoming too hot on the outside as I sealed each bag. It occurred to me that my vacuum sealer needed some sort of internal fan to keep the pump cooler while eliminating the heat build-up I was experiencing. It worked for simple jobs requiring only one or two packages to be sealed. But, it was not up to the task of sealing all of Grandma Ida’s home-made, German sausages.
While I really liked the added freezer protection provided by the vacuum sealer and special vacuum sealer bags, I was very concerned about both the sealer itself and the cost of the bags. I was now on the hunt for a better sealer and lower-cost bags. After all, Grandma Ida’s now-famous German smoked sausage deserved the finest wrapping possible. I had the technique; I just needed the right equipment.
Once again I embarked on my search for a better sealer and vacuum bags. Over the next several months I bought a number of bags from different sources and tested them all on my vacuum sealer. Some worked and others didn’t. Just about the time I was about to give up, I found some great bags made in Italy, from the same company that made my current sausage stuffer. I took a risk and ordered some of their bags. They worked great. The only problem was I had to buy them in case lots in order to get them for a reasonable price.
I began telling my family and friends about the great bags I had found in Italy. You know how it is when you’ve been searching for that one right thing and you finally find it? You tell everybody about it. They immediately started asking me to sell them some of my bags. It then occurred to me that if I could find enough people to buy bags from me, I could order them in huge quantities. We could all share in the price break from my buying them in quantity. The next logical step was a special website devoted to vacuum sealers and vacuum sealer bags. I could share my finds and everyone would benefit from my research into the best sealer and the best bags, all at lower costs.
I began thinking about the price I should charge for the bags from Italy. It was at this point that I remembered a Grandma Ida story that has been told many times. It seems Grandma Ida was shopping for a new car. A member of my family accompanied her to a local auto mall where they proceeded to shop for a new car. At one dealer, Grandma was approached by a salesman who proudly bragged: “We have more cars on the lot than any other dealer.” As the story goes, Grandma Ida immediately shot back: “If you lowered your prices you wouldn’t have so many.” She made an excellent point.
Keeping with the Grandma Ida tradition, I am going to keep the prices of my special vacuum sealer bags as low as possible while still making a small profit. That’s the advice Grandma Ida would have given me. I firmly believe that if I can sell you vacuum bags at the lowest possible cost, you’ll continue to buy them from me. And, you’ll tell all your family, neighbors, friends and co-workers about my website and special, low-cost, high-quality vacuum sealer bags. This way we all win. We’ll all save 40% or more on bags that work right the first time. Why, even I would have been able to save almost 50% on bags had my site been available when I did my vacuum sealer testing back in 2003.
Thanks to Grandma Ida and vacuum sealing, I can still eat her great-tasting German smoked sausage long after it’s been made and placed in the freezer for eating months later. And, now you can take advantage of all the research and testing I’ve done by buying your vacuum bags from me and saving 40% or more. And, if you’re in the market for a better vacuum sealer, I’ve found one of the best at a very affordable price.
Like the bags, it, too, is made in Italy. Which gets me to wondering why the Germans don’t make a great vacuum sealer and vacuum bags?
Now you know the story of Grandma Ida, her special German smoked sausage recipe and my discovery of the best vacuum sealer bags. Bags that you can purchase at prices 40% or less than you are paying today for those rolls of bags at the local discount store. And, who knows where those bags are made?
Thanks for taking the time to read about Grandma Ida and her famous German smoked sausage recipe. I still enjoy making her sausage and sharing it with family and friends. While my family tells me they like the taste of my sausage, they are quick to remind me, “it doesn’t taste as good as Grandma’s”. Every time I hear this, I simply smile and remind them, “yea, I know and it will never taste just like Grandma’s.” Still, I am proud to say my family continues to enjoy the fresh taste of German smoked sausage made from Grandma Ida’s recipe. The Seher family tradition lives on.