How long is vacuum sealed summer sausage good for?

Vacuum sealed summer sausage can last quite a long time if stored properly. The exact shelf life depends on a few factors, including the type of sausage, ingredients, storage temperature, and packaging. With optimal storage conditions, vacuum sealed summer sausage can stay fresh for several weeks to several months past the printed sell by or use by date.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about how long vacuum sealed summer sausage lasts:

  • Unopened, refrigerated: 2-3 months past the sell by date
  • Opened, refrigerated: 1-2 weeks
  • Frozen: 6-12 months
  • After thawing frozen sausage: 1-2 weeks
  • Properly dried, vacuum sealed sausages: 2-3 months refrigerated, 6-12 months frozen
  • Store-bought, pre-packaged: Follow use by date, then 2-3 weeks refrigerated after opening
  • Homemade: 1-2 weeks refrigerated, 2-3 months frozen

Factors Affecting Summer Sausage Shelf Life

There are several key factors that determine how long vacuum sealed summer sausage stays fresh and safe to eat:

  • Ingredients: Summer sausage made with preservatives like sodium nitrite will last longer than those without.
  • Curing/drying method: Sausage that is fully cured or dried will keep longer than fresh sausage.
  • Storage temperature: Refrigeration extends shelf life. Freezing stops bacteria growth for even longer storage.
  • Packaging: An airtight vacuum seal prevents oxygen exposure which causes spoilage.
  • Preparation: Contamination and handling after opening can decrease sausage shelf life.

Ingredients for Preservation

Traditional summer sausage recipes use curing ingredients like salt, sugars, and sodium nitrite. These all help prevent bacteria growth and oxidation that leads to spoilage. The nitrites also give summer sausage its characteristic pink color. Without these curing agents, sausage won’t last nearly as long.

Curing and Drying

Properly cured and dried sausages have an even longer shelf life. Drying sausage to remove moisture creates an environment where bacteria can’t thrive. Summer sausage can be purchased fully dried or semi-dried. The drier it is, the longer it will store without refrigeration. Vacuum sealing prevents reabsorption of moisture and helps preserve the dried sausage.

Proper Storage Temperatures

To extend the shelf life as long as possible, vacuum sealed summer sausage must be stored at the proper temperature:

  • Refrigeration: Stored sealed in the fridge, summer sausage lasts 2-3 months past the sell by date. Once opened, it lasts 1-2 weeks.
  • Freezer: Frozen storage stops bacteria growth almost completely. Sealed sausage stays good 6-12 months in a 0°F freezer.

Packaging

Vacuum sealed packaging makes an enormous difference in how long summer sausage stays fresh. It prevents oxygen from reaching the sausage which slows oxidation and bacteria growth. Well-sealed sausage lasts months, while loosely wrapped sausage only lasts 1-2 weeks.

Handling After Opening

Once opened, keep the summer sausage stored in the fridge and tightly wrapped to prevent drying out. Use clean utensils each time you take some out to prevent contamination. Don’t leave the sausage sitting out for more than 2 hours. Proper handling extends the opened shelf life to 1-2 weeks.

Shelf Life of Different Types of Summer Sausage

Here is more detail about how long different kinds of vacuum sealed summer sausage last:

Store-Bought Pre-Packaged

For pre-packaged summer sausage purchased at the grocery store:

  • Unopened, refrigerated: Follow the “use by” date, then keeps for 2-3 weeks beyond that.
  • After opening, refrigerated: 1-2 weeks
  • Frozen, unopened: 6-12 months past the printed date.

These sausages usually contain preservatives and are fully cooked during manufacturing. Keep them sealed and stored properly, and they will stay fresh for weeks to months past the date on the package.

Fresh Summer Sausage

Fresh summer sausages without curing agents have a much shorter shelf life:

  • Unopened, refrigerated: 1-2 weeks
  • Opened, refrigerated: 3-5 days
  • Frozen, unopened: 2-3 months

Store fresh sausage in the fridge for no more than 1-2 weeks. Once the package is opened, use within 3-5 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage

Well-dried summer sausages last the longest:

  • Refrigerated, unopened: 2-3 months
  • Refrigerated, opened: 3-4 weeks
  • Frozen, unopened: 6-12 months

The drying process preserves these sausages for extended storage, especially if kept sealed. Refrigerate for up to 3 months, or freeze for up to a year.

Homemade Sausage

Homemade summer sausage generally has a shorter shelf life than commercial products:

  • Refrigerated, unopened: 1-2 weeks
  • Refrigerated, opened: 3-7 days
  • Frozen, unopened: 2-3 months

Keep refrigerated for no more than 1-2 weeks before freezing for longer storage. Once thawed, use opened homemade sausage within 3-5 days.

How to Tell if Vacuum Sealed Summer Sausage is Bad

Over time in storage, summer sausage can spoil and become unsafe to eat even if sealed. Here are signs to look for:

  • Mold growth – any visible mold is an indication of spoilage
  • Discoloration – greenish, gray, or brown tinges
  • Sliminess – sausage looks wet or sticky
  • Dry texture – sausage is hard and shriveled
  • Rancid smell – sausage smells unpleasant or bitter
  • Off tastes – bad or bitter flavor

Sausage that displays any of these characteristics should be discarded. Always inspect summer sausage closely before eating and never taste meat that looks or smells spoiled.

Can You Eat Summer Sausage After the Sell By Date?

Sausage that has been continuously refrigerated or frozen usually remains safe to eat for some time past the sell by date, as long as it has no signs of spoilage. For store-bought, vacuum sealed summer sausage, it’s generally fine for 2-3 weeks beyond the date if kept sealed. Homemade or opened sausage has a shorter usable life past its prime.

How to Store Summer Sausage to Maximize Freshness

To get the most shelf life out of your summer sausage:

  • Refrigerate unopened packages at 40°F or below.
  • Freeze unopened packages if not using soon.
  • Ensure vacuum packaging is intact with no air leaks.
  • Store opened sausage tightly wrapped in fridge.
  • Allow refrigerated sausage to reach room temp before serving.
  • Avoid frequent temperature changes which accelerate spoilage.
  • Use clean utensils to remove portions to prevent contamination.
  • Consume within 1 week of opening.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze summer sausage?

Yes, summer sausage freezes very well for long-term storage. Vacuum seal, then freeze unopened packages for 6-12 months. Thawed sausage retains its texture and flavor if used within 1-2 weeks.

How long can opened summer sausage be unrefrigerated?

An opened package of summer sausage is safe at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After that, bacteria can multiply quickly. For longer storage, refrigerate or re-wrap tightly and return to the fridge.

Does summer sausage need to be refrigerated?

Most summer sausage does need refrigeration to slow bacteria growth. Well-dried sausage can be stored for several weeks without refrigeration. However, refrigeration extends the shelf life of all types of sausage.

Can expired summer sausage make you sick?

Eating spoiled summer sausage past its use by date can potentially make you sick. Properly handled sausage that shows no signs of spoilage is unlikely to cause illness even past its prime. However, sausage that looks or smells bad may contain harmful bacteria and should always be discarded.

How can you tell if thawed sausage has gone bad?

Signs that previously frozen sausage has spoiled include off or rancid odors, sticky or slimy texture, dryness or shriveled appearance, green or brown discoloration, mold, and unpleasant bitter taste. Sausage with any of these characteristics should not be eaten.

Conclusion

Vacuum sealed summer sausage keeps well refrigerated for 2-3 months past the sell by date if left unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge for no more than 1-2 weeks. For maximum shelf life, freeze sausage up to 6-12 months. Properly dried sausages last the longest. Keep packages tightly sealed and store at 40°F or below for best quality and safety. Discard any sausage with signs of spoilage.

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