Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sausage Cabinet: On At Home Dry-Curing

If you have followed my on and off internet ramblings over the course of the past decade or so (I really hope there aren't that many of you), then you will know that I have sort of an obsession with at home dry-curing. The idea of making homemade charcuterie out of our locally farmed meats has always delighted me.

When I bought my home 4 or 5 years ago I was delighted that it came with a dank, musky, creepy, fieldstone basement. I thought it might be perfect for home dry-curing. But as I experimented, I found that simply hanging things in the basement worked seasonally at best. There are a few months of the year when the temperature and humidity are right for some small diameter salamis. As for hams or large salamis the variance in temp and humidity are just too much. Another side effect of our Upstate New York weather.

So in a quest for a dependable all-year dry-curing chamber a monster was born. Literally. Meet "Franken-Fridge."

What a ridiculous person I am. I cobbled this thing together out of all sorts of bits and ends. It actually ended up working fairly well, but in the end it was too fussy. I was always having to fiddle with it and I had some catastrophic equipment failures that ended in the heartbreaking trashing of some lovely salamis.

So I cannibalized Franken-Fridge's guts for various other projects and his corpse lives in the corner of my basement awaiting transport to the dump.

Disheartened, I took a long break from the meaty wizardry of home charcuterie production. There are a few reasons for this hiatus I think. First, I am fickle in my interests. I flit between my various hobbies like a mad man. This very week I was researching how to make a small home kiln. I had a yen to start producing my own stoneware... I didn't even try to introduce that one to the wife.

Secondly, my philosophy on meat has changed in recent years. It takes quite a bit of meat to make a worthwhile batch of sopressatta or something. Lately I tend to purchase good quality meat in increasingly small quantities so it is hard to allocate the meaty assets for a charcuterie project.

The other week I decided to throw caution to the wind and get some pork to do a sopressatta. I had intended to do the salamis in standard hog casings and just hang them in the basement. The weather/humidity down there tends to be about right going into March. But then I had another idea. Salami cabinet.

I had some cabinetry lying around from a small kitchen remodel and it occurred to me that this one was just the right size for dry-curing some lengthy salamis. I drilled some holes in the top of the cabinet for air circulation and put a small bowl of salt water int he bottom for humidity.

I made the batch of sopressatta in hog middle sized collagen casings. It was a very simple recipe of salt, pink salt, black pepper, red pepper, and some bactoferm t-spx. I inoculated the surface of the salamis with some loukanika from the Cheese Traveler. Nobody recommends this method of surface mold inoculation but I have always had it work.

And there you have it. The drying sausages and the bowl of salt water keep the humidity about right and my basement stays at about 50-55 until June. The salamis are a few weeks in now and coming along perfectly. Almost covered in white mold and not a hint of any case hardening.

I won't be able to make salami all year long, but this is a great solution for the colder months.

Here is where I will wax philosophical about dry-curing salami and turn it into a metaphor for life...

For many years I have been trying to force the issue of dry-curing. I spent so much time, treasure, and thought constructing Fraken-Fridge. My creation ended up being a modest success, but in the end it was too complex and overthought. I had tried to play salami-god and have my own creation turn out salami year-round. I flew too close to the salami sun.

Now I have my solution. A simple wooden box that works for a portion of the year and does its job.

That is the rub. All things according to their own time and season. Don't overthink things. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Relax. Let time wash over you like waves at the beach. Leave your salami alone in the darkness and resist the urge to open the door. Let patience be rewarded. Enjoy the process as much as the result...


  1. I was just thinking about the Franken-Fridge the other day. I admire your ingenuity, but to my chagrin, I don't have the bootstrappy attention span to put one together - seeing this makes me feel less of a weenie. I've not managed to get brave enough to do dry cured anything yet, I'm pretty paranoid about wasting good meat and worried I'd get the temps and humidity wrong enough to encourage something bad. I am currently mulling whether I want to try making some cheeses, or concentrate on growing some mushrooms this year, those seem pretty lowkey comparatively.

  2. A cheese aging fridge is an equally headache-y project, haha! I've gone down that road as well... As for mushrooms, I drilled some shitake plugs into some logs near my little compost heap. It was last year before the fall before that horrible cold February. I have a feeling they might have gotten killed off. If not, they should pop up this season. I will post about it if I get any shrooms.

  3. What did you do to inoculate the surface? That "good" mold growth is impressive. I like the setup. Yet another one of your ideas I might have to steal sometime.

    1. Oh, I just rubbed it up and down the sides of the salamis!


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