An Adventure in Home Salami-Making February 20, 2014 16:07 2 Comments

There is already a wealth of information available online about making your own sausage, so I won't cover all the details here.  What follows is a set of photos of my first attempt to make salami at home.  Actually, it's my husband's salami. For Christmas, I assembled a kit for him containing everything he would need to make his own salami (except the meat; we bought that fresh). The recipe and method that we used are described at length here.  So as not to waste too much meat and money on our first attempt, we halved the recipe, starting with 3 lbs. pork shoulder and 1/2 lb. back fat. And, although it can be done all at once, we decided to spread the work out over three evenings. The first night, we prepped the meat and tossed it with the salts, dextrose, and seasonings.  We also placed the grinder and stand mixer parts into the freezer with the back fat.  The following night, we just ground the seasoned meat and placed it back into the refrigerator. On the third night, we thoroughly mixed everything in the stand mixer, stuffed the casings and tied them up.
 Removing fat and sinew from meat.  It's partially frozen to make cutting easier.
Removing fat and sinew from meat. It's partially frozen to make cutting easier.
 Clockwise from top-left: kosher salt, dextrose, curing salt #2;  sausage casings soaking in water; spice blend (ground black peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds)
Clockwise from top-left: kosher salt, dextrose, curing salt #2; sausage casings soaking in water; spice blend (ground black peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds)

 

 Mixing the cubed meat, salt, cure, dextrose, and spices.
Mixing the cubed meat, salt, cure, dextrose, and spices.

 

 The grinder parts were kept in the deep freezer for several hours prior to use to ensure meat would stay as cold as possible.
The grinder parts were kept in the deep freezer overnight prior to use to ensure meat would stay as cold as possible.

 

 Stand mixer parts were also frozen before use to keep meat mixture cold and prevent fat from smearing.
Stand mixer parts were also frozen before use to keep meat mixture cold and prevent fat from smearing.

 

 We used a bacterial starter called Mondostart, which we let stand in filtered water for 30 min. to "wake up."  The water and bacteria were mixed into the ground meat along with a chilled port wine and some of the frozen diced back fat.
The original recipe called for bactoferm T-SPX starter culture, but we used a culture called Mondostart instead, which we let stand in filtered water for 30 min. to "wake up." The water and bacteria were mixed into the ground meat along with chilled wine and some of the frozen diced back fat.

 

 To get an even mix, the fat was added a little at a time.
 To get an even mix, the fat was added a little at a time.

 

 This wasn't the easiest way to stuff a sausage, but it worked.  Yes, that's my canning funnel.  Beware of trapped air with this method.  Just in case, I poked holes in the casings once they were stuffed.
This wasn't the easiest way to stuff a sausage, but it worked. Yes, that's my canning funnel. Beware of trapped air with this method. Just in case, we poked holes in the casings once they were stuffed

 

 Leave enough excess casing to fold over for a "bubble knot."  This will prevent the contents of your sausage from spilling out onto the floor.
Leave enough excess casing to fold over for a "bubble knot." This will prevent the contents of your sausage from spilling out onto the floor.

 

 Tying the sausages helps them keep their shape, which means they'll dry evenly.
Tying the sausages helps them keep their shape, which means they'll dry evenly.

 

 Incubation of the fermenting bacteria requires warm temperatures and high humidity.  We placed our sausages on a rack in a storage container that we filled with warm water.  Heat was supplied internally by an aquarium heater and the whole set-up was placed on op of the refrigerator.
Incubation of the fermenting bacteria requires warm temperatures and high humidity. We placed our sausages on a rack in a storage container that we filled with warm water. Heat was supplied internally by an aquarium heater and the whole set-up was placed on op of the refrigerator.

 

 After a 36-hour incubation period, the texture of the meat has already changed as the rising lactic acid levels cause the meat to coagulate.
After a 36 hours, the lactic acid produced by the bacteria had already begun to coagulate the meat.  The texture was no longer squishy like raw meat, but was firm like salami.

 

 An unused and unheated basement shower now doubles as the sausage curing room.  The wire sensor hanging between the sausages leads through a hole in the door to a Hygro-thermometer that reads the ambient temperature and relative humidity of the room.  A standard household vaporizer provides moisture.
An unused and unheated basement shower doubles as the salami curing room. The wire sensor attaches to a hygro-thermometer that reads the ambient temperature and relative humidity of the room.  A standard household vaporizer provides moisture.

 

 For the first two weeks, the salami cure at relatively high humidity to prevent case hardening.  After 2.5 weeks, the salami are now firm to the touch; the humidity has been lowered and the casings are beginning to dry and shrink.
For the first two weeks, the salami cure at relatively high humidity to prevent case hardening. After 2.5 weeks, the salami are now beginning to dry and shrink.

We found that breaking up the work over three days allowed us to take our time, be more careful and have more fun than if we had stayed up late into the night doing it all at once. The whole process was pretty straight forward and easy to do, although the same cannot be said for maintaining constant temperature and humidity levels. The instructions we were following said to cure the salami at 80-85% relative humidity (RH) for the first two weeks, which proved impossible to achieve with our humidifier--except on really rainy days.

After that, the RH is supposed to be lowered to 70-75%, which is still difficult to manage even if we run the humidifier 24/7.  After reading a lot of online forums, I've come to the conclusion that people are able to produce great fermented sausages in a wide range of conditions and what works for one person doesn't always work for others.  We'll continue to let our salami cure at about 50-60% RH, depending on the weather, and we'll see what happens. I'll post a follow-up when they're ready!

Update: There's a Fine Line...