Saturday, April 3, 2010
Mr. Dave and His Sausage Cave
My birthday is fast approaching, so I decided to get a little pre-birthday gift for myself. As you may have guessed from some of my writings I am something of a charcuterie fan. Pursuant to the quest of creating my own dry cured meats in the safety of my own home, I purchased the makings for a small sausage cave.
I started by purchasing the above Haier 18 bottle, thermoelectric, wine fridge. I didn't buy the one listed on Amazon, I managed to track it down for about 120 bucks on some random website. There have been a bunch of articles flying around the internets about wine fridges being suitable for dry curing, and it seemed to make sense. To me this particular fridge was the right combo of relative low cost and size. The height of the thing will allow a nice amount of salami hanging room.
To complete my cave, I needed a couple extras. First I bought a cheap hygrometer (for keeping track of the humidity) and a refrigerator thermometer. I kind of stuck them together with the sticky magnet that came with the hygrometer.
As it turns out the optimal conditions for dry curing sausage are fairly similar to those for storing good cigars. That is to say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 deg./70% humidity. I found that they sell humidor beads that keep the humidity of a small space around 70%. If you are going to get some of these, search them on Ebay (much cheaper).
I put the beads in a little tupperware deal at the bottom of the wine fridge.
I kind of wanted to do a low cost salami test run to make sure the jury rigged setup is actually feasible for the curing process. I decided to make a bare bones salami/sopressata kind of thing to give the sausage cave a whirl. What is the saying about people not wanting to see laws or sausages being made? Anyhow, I will spare you the gory details here and only share a brief synopsis. If you are truly interested in the nuance and detail of home sausage making then I recommend Len Poli's site. It is probably the seminal online resource.
I used some salami sized, collagen casings.
For the cure we have the obligatory (for dry cured salami type salsicca) Prague Powder #2. For the starter culture I am using Bactoferm T-SPX. Both of these products are widely available online.
For seasoning we have a mixture of red wine, dextrose, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Pretty simple here, nothing fancy.
I used a mix of rump and brisket (beef this time, about 5 lbs.) due to the fact that this is what I had on hand in my freezer. If the wine fridge actually works well for this purpose I plan on purchasing some fresh and quality meat for future formulations. In this case I wanted to cut my losses if the batch turns out crappy.
The meat made 4 approx. 10" sausages. I rubbed the skins with some vinegar and water and hung them up in the fridge. I put a little drip pan under them as to not contaminate the humidity beads.
As it stands now, the temp is running a little low (about 65 on the warmest setting) and the humidity a little high (75%), but still well within an acceptable range (I think). Now there is but to wait. Hopefully I come out of this with a decent product, but if not, what the heck. Me and the wife drink wine, so the Haier will just have to revert to its original purpose as a wind refrigerator if it does not pan out as a sausage cave.