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How hydraulics make the best sausages ben lee

A strange concept, on the surface of it perhaps, but actually commercial sausage stuffers use a hydraulic ram to ensure easy and consistent filling of sausage skins.  You may not see the sausage machine in a butcher’s shop; they are heavy and require easy access to a wall socket for power (unfortunately many manufacturers do not provide a long enough cable to give the butcher much freedom or choice in where to place the machine) but you can certainly hear them working away as the ram raises and lowers.


A hydraulic ram pushes a flat plate through a larger cylinder that is filled with sausage meat and then closed firmly at the top, providing the resistance against the hydraulic power.  The resulting pressure inside forces the meat through a tube in the lid and out into the skins at a speed decided by the user; each machine has a speed control that determines the speed at which the hydraulic ram pushes the flat plate through the cylinder, in turn pushing the meat out. 


Regular servicing and changing of the hydraulic oil inside the machine is important, if the machine is to operate correctly, as failure to properly maintain the machine leads to inconsistent filling of the skins, which then has to be corrected manually, resulting in wastage of the skins.  If the plate is moving in a jerky fashion it is very hard for the butcher to make decent sausages without it taking a long time.


In days gone by, sausage machines were operated by hand; the design of a cylinder with a flat plate that pushes the meat through is not a new one, but before modern hydraulic sausage machines were developed this was done by hand.  A handle turned the flat plate down a thread inside the cylinder pushing the sausage meat out through the tube at the end and into the skins, but this process can take a lot longer than the hydraulic machines, especially if there are a lot of sausages to be made.


Once the meat is inside the casings, they are linked by hand in butcher’s shops (although supermarkets use a fully automated process that fills and links the sausages with minimal human interaction), a skill that reminds anyone of The Generation Game (are you old enough to remember this TV programme?).  Hydraulic power is used again to strip and clean the machine, as the raising and lowering of the ram helps remove the plate (which is screwed into the ram) for cleaning.  Next time you tuck into a sausage sandwich or plate up your bangers and mash remember the role that hydraulic power has played in your dinner.

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