It’s always a good idea to keep a supply of cured meats on hand, especially if you like to host large gatherings. Summer sausage makes a nice contribution to a charcuterie platter when it’s served with assorted cheeses. But how long is summer sausage good for, and when should you think about tossing it?
How Long is Summer Sausage Good For?
An unopened package of summer sausage can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 weeks. If you keep it in the refrigerator, it should stay fresh for 6 months. After opening the package, you should consume the sausage within 3 weeks. To extend the shelf life, store opened or unopened packages in the freezer.
What is Summer Sausage?
In America, this term refers to any sausage that won’t spoil when it’s kept at room temperature. It can be smoked or dried, depending on the brand, and it’s almost always made with curing salt. which can give it a distinctive reddish hue.
Summer sausage usually contains both pork and beef, but sometimes other game meats (such as venison) are included. Note that if the label describes the product as “beef summer sausage,” then it’s made from beef only. The seasonings may vary, but black pepper, garlic salt, and mustard seed are common ingredients.
Because the product is typically fermented with a low pH, it can keep longer than some other types of sausage. That’s because the lower pH levels help to inhibit bacterial growth. The ability to remain fresh even in warmer temperatures is what gives summer sausage its name.
How Long Does Unopened Summer Sausage Last in the Fridge?
For optimum freshness, summer sausage should be stored in a cool, dry area. If it’s kept in the pantry, it should last for 4 to 6 weeks. When it’s kept in the refrigerator, its shelf life can extend to 6 months.
If you know it will be a while before you’ll have a chance to serve the sausage, consider storing it in the freezer. In its frozen state, summer sausage will be good for up to 10 months. For best results, wrap the sausage in heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer paper beforehand. Make sure it’s had a chance to fully thaw before you serve it.
Note that the 10-month window is only a suggestion–the sausage should keep indefinitely in the freezer, provided that the temperature holds steady at 0 degrees Fahrenheit the entire time. However, the quality may begin to deteriorate past the 10-month mark.
Once you’ve defrosted the summer sausage, you should serve and consume it immediately. Refreezing is not recommended, so only thaw as much as you think you’ll need, and discard any leftovers.
Is It Safe To Eat Summer Sausage Past The Expiration Date?
Yes. As long as the packaging is intact and the meat has been stored properly, summer sausage can still be safe to consume after the date stamped on the package. This “Best By” date isn’t a safety indicator, but rather a note from the manufacturer estimating how long the sausage will maintain its peak flavor and texture.
You can extend the life of summer sausage by following the recommendations for storage and consumption. When it goes bad, it’s usually because the meat has been kept for too long in warm, humid conditions, or because it’s outlived its shelf life.
Before serving, check to make sure the meat isn’t showing any signs of spoilage, such as visible mold, a slimy texture, or a rancid odor. If you have any doubts, discard the sausage at once.
How Long Does Summer Sausage Last Once It’s Opened?
Once you’ve opened a package of summer sausage, be sure to keep it in the refrigerator. Wrap any leftovers in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or place the sausage in a resealable plastic bag. Under these conditions, it should stay good for 2 to 3 weeks.
It’s fine to store an opened package of summer sausage in the freezer. The meat needs to be tightly wrapped before storage, and we would recommend using a freezer bag as extra insurance. Again, it’s best to consume frozen summer sausage within 10 months.
Remember that while summer sausage will last longer than other types of sausage, it will go bad eventually if it’s kept for too long. It’s especially important to refrigerate the leftovers once the package has been opened. Otherwise, consuming the sausage could lead to food poisoning.
Is Summer Sausage Bad For You?
Sausage is a good source of protein, which aids in the production of red blood cells. Because summer sausage is pre-cooked, it’s also a convenient option for picnics and cold lunches.
That said, cured meat products are also high in sodium and saturated fat, which means it’s important to keep an eye on your portion sizes. It’s fine to consume a small amount of summer sausage now and then, but it shouldn’t be considered a main course. In fact, the recommended serving size measures in at just 1 ounce.
Are Summer Sausage and Salami The Same Thing?
No, there’s one key difference that sets the two types of sausage apart. During the cooking process, salami loses about 25 percent of its moisture content. Summer sausage, by contrast, loses only 15 percent. That means that salami has roughly 10 percent less moisture content than summer sausage once the products are ready for consumption.
Can You Cook Summer Sausage?
While there’s no need to cook or reheat summer sausage before eating it, a quick saute can help bring out the flavor. We would suggest taking this step if you’re planning on using the sausage in a hot dish–as an omelet filling, for example.
Start by slicing the summer sausage crosswise, cutting each slice about 1/4 inch thick. Heat a small amount of neutral oil (like canola or peanut) to 350 degrees. Add the summer sausage, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry the sausage, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the slices and let drain on paper towels.
Summer sausage makes an excellent pantry staple. Since it has a relatively long shelf life, you can buy a few different varieties and keep them on hand all summer long. Just make sure to keep them away from heat and light until you’re ready to serve them, and refrigerate or freeze any leftovers right away.