Project “A” 2016 (Intro) – Fermented Sausages

Project “A” 2016 (Intro) – Fermented Sausages

Fermented Sausages: Introduction

Fermenting/Curing Chamber Design/Construction/Testing/Operating

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You can review the posts from the original Project “A” (135+ pages, divided into thirds ) by clicking one of the following:
Wisdom Gleaned from the Original Project “A” (part 1)     (part 2)     (part 3)

Many fermented sausage recipes are traditional, and their basic versions are well laid out. Not only that, but fortunately, the things you need to know in order to build a fermenting/curing chamber to produce them yourself are pretty straightforward. By and large, the requirements make sense- – you want to control the temperature, and you want to control the humidity. So…. you buy a refrigerator or freezer, and you buy a humidifier, and get out a few basic tools, you’re on your way.

…except that, at that point, the devil in the details starts to loom large. How will you control the temperature if it gets cold on the outside of the refrigerator? How do you control the humidity if it’s more humid outside than inside the refrigerator? The best solution is to wait until it’s warmer, right? …except that in many climates, the humidity can get too high. The real answer is to provide both a heating source and a cooling source, and similarly, a means of adding humidity as well as some way of getting rid of it. This is not always simple, but as we’ll see, it’s not too difficult either. These are problems faced in everyday life.

Let’s begin with a quote from Stan and Adam Marianski’s book, “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages,” p.3, Bookmagic LLC, Seminole, Florida, 2009.

“Making a regular sausage is amazingly simple: the meat is ground, salt and spices are added, and the mass is stuffed into a casing. If this is a fresh sausage, the process ends right there and the sausage goes into the refrigerator. Then it is cooked and eaten. If making a smoked type, the sausage goes into a smokehouse and then is cooked and consumed. This is a simple and fast manufacturing process and there is no health risk present at any time if basic safety precautions are in place. On the other end it takes a lot of effort to produce a high quality traditional fermented sausage.”

…but it’s not terribly difficult if you are willing to try a few extra things, and provide a little extra equipment. Read on!

Who Should Participate:
This short course is for people who have ventured into making sausages of the fresh and smoked type and enjoy making (and eating) them, but would like to take the process a step further. If you like summer sausage, Italian salami and pepperoni, Spanish chorizo and the like, read on. There is extra effort required to produce fermented sausages, but the rewards are extra. …and delicious.

A confession- – this short course will concentrate on the process (especially the mechanics) of making fermented sausages. For much of the food science background, we will refer to external sources because, frankly, this course is written by an engineer/handyman, a sausage making amateur. However, it’s backed by over 45 years of process engineering experience. The approach will be professional, I assure you. …plus, we’ll rely on Chuckwagon’s writings and advice.

This short course assumes that

  1. You have made sausage before, and have made enough of a financial commitment to the hobby that you are “hooked,” meaning that you have bought a grinder and a sausage stuffer.
  2. You have a desire to make other sausages that were beyond your reach before, such as your own salami, pepperoni, chorizo, or similar types of sausage.
  3. You should be willing to spend another hundred or so US dollars to build fermenting and curing equipment.

You will need a used refrigerator, freezer, or be able to build an insulated enclosure (typically USD $50 or less) to provide limited means of heating and/or cooling. You will need means of measuring temperature and humidity (inexpensive, typically USD $15 or less). Optionally but highly recommended, you will need means of controlling temperature. (Fortunately, humidity control can be inexpensive with a “Salt Marsh,” in which case a controller is not necessary. Expect to spend USD $25 to $50.)


The Plan:
We’ll divide this project into seven sections (if underlined, use these as links):

  1. Background – Control Theory – (two weeks)
    • Includes Chuckwagon on “Are ‘Fermentation Chambers’ and ‘Curing Chambers’ Really Necessary?”
  2. Control Design and Equipment Construction – (two weeks)
    • Includes “Chuckwagon on Microorganisms”
  3. Testing the Equipment – (two weeks)
    • Includes “Observations on Sausage” by Stan Marianski
    • Includes “Ordering Supplies”
    • Includes “More Wisdom from Chuckwagon”
  4. Summer Sausage “Live” Test – (two weeks)
    • A Reminder from Chuckwagon – “We Are Going to Purposely Spoil Meat”
    • Will include Appropriate Notes and Experiences
  5. Salami Production – (two to three months)
    • Will include Appropriate Notes and Experiences
  6. Pastrami, Pastirma, and Chorizo – (as needed)
  7. Wrap-Up – (concurrent with above)

There will be parts of these sections which, if you’re not interested, you can skip (some of the control sections, for example). Otherwise, follow along, and comment where you can. This is my first fermenter project, and I’m sure there other (perhaps better) way to do this. Your input is valued. Your own “tricks of the trade” make the difference. Thanks for participating.

It is assumed that you already have a copy of “Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages” by Stanley and Adam Marianski, Bookmagic LLC, Seminole, Florida, 2010, 686 pages, and are familiar with its major concepts. (We will refer to it periodically.)

Also, you should have a copy of “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages” by Stanley and Adam Marianski, Bookmagic LLC, Seminole, Florida, 2009, 262 pages. We will refer to it for background material not covered in the course but highly desirable to know.

We will supplement this course by providing references to a previous “Project ‘A’ “ course conducted by good friend “Chuckwagon,” CEO* of website. “Chuckwagon,” veteran commentator on meat smoking and sausage production was, until recently, associated with the English version of Wedliny Domowe (“WD”), a sausage interest group associated with the Marianski family. Though not many people completed the project, those who participated learned a good deal about fermented sausages and produced some good salami.

This course is a re-write of the earlier version. The author, “el Ducko,” arrived at WD too late and without the sausage making experience to participate in the original course. …but we’ve all moved onward and upward in our sausage making skills since then. “El Ducko” is the tech guy behind the website, and also the sometimes confidant/antagonist but longtime friend of… (and the guy still learning from the font of knowledge about sausage making who is…) “Chuckwagon.” (…but prone to overly-long compound sentences like the previous one.)    * CEO = “Curmudgeon-To-Excess” Officer

Your Reading Assignment:
For now, review the material in Chapters 1 through 3 of “The Art of…” These cover the basics- – the history of making fermented sausages, some new concepts (compared with non-fermented sausage making), and a chapter on bacteria. We’ll cover what is involved in making fermented sausages and what sort of bacteria are employed.

Then, you should read Chapter 4, “Fermentation Step-by-Step,” which outlines the process. The interaction among the various factors of water activity, pH, sugar, and culture are well-explained there. After a little control discussion, we’ll move on into what the types of cultures and sausages are in detail.

As part of the course, we will make the following popular sausages:
• Summer Sausage (semi-dry, fast-fermented, smoked & cooked)
• Salami d’Allessandro / Genoa salami (semi-dry, medium-fast-fermented)
• Spanish Chorizo(dry, slow-fermented)

We will start off with a naturally-fermented sausage, then use starter culture T-SPX. The reasons for using a starter culture are well-explained in “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages,” Chapter 5, titled “Starter Cultures.” To understand the meanings of the various types of fermented sausages and what conditions are used to make them, please read Chapter 6, “Types of Fermented Sausages,” also.

That ought to keep you busy! We will, of course, cover a bit of it in these postings, and you can probably cheat and put off reading all this stuff until we bring it up, but for a thorough understanding of what’s going on, try to do the reading, please.

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15 thoughts on “Project “A” 2016 (Intro) – Fermented Sausages

  1. Please sign up and let us know if you are interested in participating in the new Project “A.” For about a hundred bucks (USD) you can build a fermenting/curing chamber and start turning out (slowly, of course) delicious fermented sausages. We’ll make some summer sausage to test the equipment, then make salami d’Allessandro. From there, who knows- – chorizo, or pepperoni, or something else of your choice.

    I just finished making salami. (…figgered I’d better prove out the equipment, or you might come after me.) It turned out to be so dad-gum delicious that I’ll never buy the commercial stuff again. It’s like moving from black-and-white low-def television to high-def color, only for your taste buds.

    So, if you’re interested, jump in. You’ve got some readin’ to do, plus a little bit of scrounging and building. All in all, an enjoyable, relatively simple project, one that will yield delicious results.

    Best regards,
    Duk 😀

  2. I have to bite the bullet sometime. I will have to see the equipment first as I am cramped for space. There are only the two of us to eat the sausage. El Ducko let see a picture of your set up

  3. Here ya go. It’s a used 19″ x 19″ x 19″ Haier dorm refrigerator. …seems to be a common size for these little guys. It’s on a workbench in our garage. Like you two, there are only the two of us, so I don’t need to make much at a time, or make it very fast either. We go through maybe a pound of summer sausage and (estimated) a pound of salami per year. What I’m after is variety and flavor, more than anything. This ought to be the answer to both challenges. …or you could always hide away a six pack of something.
    Duk 😀


  4. Look’s great. I am going to look into that fridge, just the right size. A real ignorant question, is that fridge functional. for controlling the temp as summer is coming. Need more school housing on fermenting. (bite the bullet as they say)

  5. Yup, fully functional. The temperature controller (top, left) uses the refrigerator guts to cool and a soldering iron for a heat source, so you can hold any temperature between the lowest that the refrigerator can go and the highest that the soldering iron can go. So far, it’s held set-point at 12 degC in ambient garage conditions between 15 degF and 70 degF. Our garage hits high 90’s in summer, so we’ll see how it does, but it has way more cooling capacity than it needs for fermenting temperatures.

    “All will be revealed” during the course write-ups. In fact, the temperature and humidity controls are the next topic in the series, comin’ up in about a week. As for the fermenting part, we ALL need more on that topic, so I’ll be borrowing heavily from ol’ Chuckwagon as we go. As they say, “stay tuned.”
    Duk 😀

  6. I checked at walmart, they have that size. It sells for $79.00 new, not bad. At one time I was looking at finding one with a glass door in front. They have them in the check out line, used for selling pop. Any comments.?

    1. Sounds like a great price for a new small refrigerator. If you live near a college town or a larger city, you can usually find several used ones for sale on Craig’s list.

      I too tried to buy one of those glass front refrigerators like you see at checkout aisles in grocery stores. Looks like they would have plenty of vertical room for longer sausages. The store manager said to email the distributor. I emailed the distributor, asking if they’d sell me one. They referred me to a regional distributor. I emailed the regional folks, offering to buy one. They sent a form letter saying that they didn’t have any more donations budgeted, and to try again next year. I wrote back , saying that I wanted to buy one, not have one donated, and that surely they have used or outmoded ones they needed to get rid of. They never replied. So… good luck.

      There should be no problem obtaining a used small or full-size refrigerator on Craig’s list. Freezers are also fairly common. Whatever. Either one works fine. You’re going to over-ride the cooling function anyway (also over-riding the frost-free feature in a refrigerator), so no biggie. I recently had a chest freezer that I used as a “drink-o-rator” for home brew keg storage. …wish I still had it- – it’s ideal for either freezing sausage production, or for fermenting/curing use. Unfortunately (sniff) it died.
      Duk 😀

  7. I got one of those display fridges (an old coca cola one).
    I intend to use that one for fermenting etc. It is a very humid fridge though.
    Will that cause a problem?
    I have bought a temperature controller and a humidity controller, so I should be ready to rock and roll (as soon as I can afford to buy another fridge to replace the display fridge.
    If I the humidity indeed turns out to be too high, what can I use best to de-humidify?

    1. Congratulations. I tried to buy one, but never could. That’s the ideal size!

      We’ll talk about humidity control shortly. …VERY shortly. Have a look at the next topic, which I just enabled- – Project “A” 2016 (1) – Background and Control Theory. Look for “salt.” Try getting a pan and some rock salt. If you pour in water, but not enough to completely dissolve the salt, the mixture will control the humidity to 75%. Magic…? You bet! (Actually, physical chemistry- – the salt ties up water molecules weakly, reducing the vapor pressure. …but you knew that, right?) We’ll actually need to control the humidity to 85%, which you can do by using potassium chloride “lite” salt. I hope it’s available in grocery stores there. If not… well, we’ll think of something.

      …sure is good to hear from you again. As ol’ CW is fond of saying, YeeeHaww!
      Duk 😀

  8. Patience pays off while the worm turns slowly. Today I got the nod to build a curing chamber – yahoo! I’ve got the fridge and temperature controller to get started. Sunday is my b’day – did she see the Milwaukee pH meter on my amazon wish list ???

    1. Congratulations and happy birthday too. That temperature controller that you described a short while ago ought to do nicely. (Can you make it do double duty, controlling your smoker with it too? …or perhaps teach it to dance and sing “O Canada” while it’s doing its thing?)

      I’ve posted the next piece of the puzzle, titled Project “A” 2016 (1) – Background and Control Theory. It describes a bit about what we’ll build, plus it includes some of Chuckwagon’s wisdom on the subject that they used during the first Project “A.” I assume that you’ll do what I did and get started with a pan of salt and water before trying to control the humidity electro-mechanically. That’ll get you started pretty fast.

      Just one taste of the salami and you’ll know it was worth the effort. …not to mention all the subtle hints that Marilyn had to put up with!
      Duk 😀

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