Although I technically could have used the stuffing attachment for my stand mixer to fill the casings on my recent foray into sausagemaking, I’ve used similar devices in the past and found it to be rather difficult to keep supplying the small hopper at the same rate as the stuffing was progressing, and when interrupting the process to refill the hopper it was difficult to avoid introducing air. As a result, I looked into other types of sausage stuffers and decided that the press style best fit my needs.
There are several brands and sizes of sausage presses available, and after some research I decided that a manually actuated, vertical press in the 5 – 7 pound hopper capacity was the right combination for me. Furthermore, I wanted a metal press plate (for durability) and plastic tubes (to aid in seeing the sausage during the initial fill). With this set of criteria the VIVO model STUFR-V003 came out as the best option.
It arrived fully assembled and well packaged. Prior to use I took all of the components which would touch food and thoroughly washed them to remove the light coating of manufacturing / preservation oil. I noted that there was some flashing on the exterior of the filling tubes, so I also took some fine sandpaper and smoothed those surfaces to avoid tearing the casings. After mixing up some sausage and soaking the casings, I clamped the press to the table with a couple of c-clamps and was ready to begin.
Loading the hopper was simply that – I used the paddle from my rice cooker to transfer the sausage from the mixing bowl into the hopper and gently compact it. Although the design allows for filling the hopper on the stand, I found it more comfortable to just hold it in my hand. From there it slid neatly into the mounting on the press body, and I attached the stuffing tube. I liked that the attachment nut was a substantial triangular shape, which is much easier to handle with slick hands than a round or hex nut.
Next I guided the press plate into the hopper and cranked it down until it made contact with the sausage. The press plate seal is a silicone band which incorporates a scraper in the design, which eliminated any squeeze-through on the sides. The air release worked well, but it’s important to note that if you have a finely ground sausage mixture and do not take care while filling the hopper to compact it that it is possible to have air pockets which even under pressure do not make it up to the area where the air release valve can assist – it’s mainly there for the initial crank-down.
The plastic stuffing tube made it very easy to see the progress of the sausage as it began to come out. By regulating the speed of cranking with one hand and the casing with the other, it was relatively easy to match the sausage flow with the casing and generate a well-filled sausage. I had made slightly more than the hopper would hold, so when I reached the bottom of the first load I started to crank the plate back up to enable the hopper to be re-loaded. I was surprised to find that there was a significant suction effect – then noticed that the air release had not opened. After pressing it open I was able to retract the plate with no further issues.
After reloading and pressing the remaining sausage it was time to start cleaning up. About 2 links worth of sausage were left in the hopper and stuffing tube; I was unable to do much with the sausage left in the hopper beyond pulling it out by hand and making a couple of sausage burger patties, but I was able to use the handle of a wooden spoon and a paper towel to make a plunger which worked well enough to get the sausage left in the fill tube into a casing. Cleanup turned out to be more of an effort than I had anticipated. I started off hand washing all the food contact parts as they came off the press, but quickly realized I needed to disassemble the press plate. With the seal ring and air release valve removed I at least had access to all the parts, but that lead to realizing that there were more issues to be worked. The press plate appears to have been shot blasted during production, with the result that instead of a smooth and easy to wash surface it has a highly indented surface. The tube locking nut uses fairly fine threads, which makes cleaning them a challenge. The exterior of the hopper is polished, but the interior has more of a brushed finish which, like the press plate, makes it much harder to clean by hand. The scraper on the seal ring, while it works great during pressing, ends up containing a ring of compressed sausage meat that took quite a while to extract. The small parts of the air release valve are difficult to adequately clean as well. As a result, the best way to clean the hopper and press plate are in the dishwasher with a fairy aggressive detergent.
All in all I am satisfied with the press and very happy with the way it presses sausage into casings, but with the amount of effort involved in cleaning it after use it makes sense to hold off on using it until there is a large quantity of sausage to make.