Summer sausage is a meat product that is commonly made from pork, beef or a mixture of the two meats that are ground and mixed with sugars, herbs and spices. This type of sausage can also be made from poultry, such as chicken and darker meats including deer and venison. It is classed as a semi-dry meat product, and you can store it with or without refrigeration, because the nitrates within the sugars kill the majority of dangerous bacteria while the sausage is fermenting. If you are storing store-bought sausage, be sure to read the label for storage instructions and an expiration date, because some might have special guidelines that you should follow.
This is a semi-dry sausage, meaning that it usually is fully cooked, and smoking is done as an optional extra. The fermentation process takes place overnight at about 90° Fahrenheit (32.2° Celsius), and the sausage is edible the next day. Each sausage is stuffed into a fibrous or beef middle casing for the fermentation and storing of the product.
Unlike dry sausage, such as salami, summer sausage can be stuffed into fibrous casings for cooking and storing because there is less shrinkage. A dried summer sausage can be stored for months without refrigeration, which is why it was once popular among agricultural workers. The sausage was fermented during the winter and hung for storage until the summer when it was eaten as a meal during agricultural field work.
When stored in a refrigerator, a semi-dry sausage can be stored for up to three months unopened to ensure the meat is not contaminated with dangerous bacteria. After the product is opened and partially consumed, the recommended refrigeration period is no more than three weeks. When placed in a freezer, a summer sausage that has been opened can be safely stored for one to two months.
The guidelines on the packaging should be followed when you are handling and storing store-bought summer sausage. When the sausage can be stored without refrigeration, as with most dry sausages, the packaging does not commonly contain handling or storing instructions. The use of dates to guide the store and consumer about the shelf life of a sausage product is voluntary and might indicate the date by which the sausage should be sold or used. When prepackaged summer sausage comes with storage and use-by guidelines, the guidelines should be followed to ensure that the sausage is safe to eat.