After doing my 'homework' here in the forums and some separate reading, in a book recently purchased, I started my first batch of fresh sweet Italian sausage, destined for casings. (I have made fresh breakfast sausage before, but never in casings.) I needed a recipe that wasn't too heavy on fennel, caraway or anise - none of which my household is fond of - but are the main flavors of a good many Italian sausage recipes. I found one in the book, but made a slight adjustment to the spices, and set forth to conquer another one of my kitchen challenges. This batch called for only 2.5 lbs of ground pork - the perfect size for my first trial. Meltdown #1 avoided: I emptied the package of salt-packed casings onto a plate to start the search for an end. Grumbling menacingly, as I groped through the tangle for about three minutes, I discovered there was actually two pieces in the package. Yay! Once rinsed and stretched out, the small tangle was just about the right length for what I needed. I guess I was silently happy my hank was actually two. Meltdown #2 avoided: Several rinsings and a soak later, I set out to send water through one of the ends to rinse out the inside. That was all fine and good, but I couldn't actually get the end [I started with] to open up to get the water to run though it. What the??? I thought to myself: This shouldn't be this difficult - why am I fighting this so much? After another moment, I realized the end I was handling was actually kind of ripped and a bit ragged, and that's why I couldn't get a good opening. Go to the other end. Ah-ha! Much easier. Using the sausage stuffing attachment for my Kitchenaid, I cautiously moved forward - slowly and patiently. It was an almost nerve-wrecking 15 minutes. I finished without any blowouts or incident. Yay me! What the "S" view doesn't show you, is my newb start, which was easily remedied with a pair of kitchen scissors and a new knot. No one -really- has to know. After the picture, I actually tied off one more link, and detached it from the rest. The links will be given to my boss - the rest will be cooked for dinner on Monday night. Whew! It can only get easier from here.... right???