Fermented Sausages: Salami Production
Includes Appropriate Notes and Experiences
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)
Having completed the “Sunrise Summer Sausage” recipe successfully and removed the summer sausage, I removed the NaCl/water tray, wiped out the interior of the chamber with a cloth soaked in vinegar, placed the KCl/water tray back inside, and set the temperature and humidity controls to 18 degC and 85%. Outside, rain poured down. I left the air pump unplugged.
Be sure to allow the equipment to run overnight in order to stabilize at the new conditions. I didn’t, and had to wait a bit. As it turned out, I waited until after making the sausage before reading the instructions on the Mold-600. It would be after midnight before the mold was ready to spray, so I left the sausages hanging in the kitchen at room temperature.
The recipe for salami d’Allessandro is clear and the work goes rapidly. (See our copy on Sausages.com, or review it in Stan Marianski’s book.) I followed the instructions as set out by Chuckwagon, especially the part about keeping everything cold or frozen and how to dice the fat back for grinding. I made a quarter recipe but probably should have made a half-recipe- -my yield was two 12” sausages and a “shorty.” Here’s the recipe for the full recipe on our website. Scale yours to fit your equipment or preference.
Recipe measurements are a little tricky at these low amounts of spices and herbs. Hopefully you have two good scales, one that measures to the nearest gram for meat measurements and another that measures to a tenth of a gram, better still a hundredth of a gram, for additives and such. My “drug dealer special” scale that I bought at a local pawn shop couldn’t resolve better than a tenth of a gram, and had an annoying offset such that it was useless below about half a gram. You can buy a better one for about the same price via mail order from American Weigh Scales, Inc, model SM-201, around 20 USD. This is essential for small measurements such as the T-SPX bacteria and Mold-600.
Packing the protein-lined 61mm casing was much easier this time. I loaded my stuffer, attached the largest diameter tube, and prepared the casings. In my case, I cut several 24” casings in half to give 12” lengths, and soaked them in water. For each, I tied one end with a butcher’s knot, folded the end over , and secured it with a second butcher’s knot, then crimped a metal casing clip over the fold + knot. There were only a few bubbles. However, we’re not home free- – in several spots, there is liquid. I did not pierce these, owing to SausageMaker Inc.’s claim that the mince will adhere to the casing. However, if these turn into air bubbles later…
I mixed up the Mold-600 according to Chr Hansen’s instructions listed on the package, scaling down to fit my batch size. I rushed it a bit, ten hours instead of twelve, but doubt that it matters. We will see in a few days. Misting it on drove the humidity reading way high. It will clear by morning.
Three Days Later: Where’s that dang mold? …guess it takes a while. At least the mold that grew on the summer sausage after three days isn’t there. That must be a good sign.
Humidity has been in the 95% range. I’ve opened the door a number of times to lower it, and it just keeps going high again. This means that there’s enough evaporation going on that water production is outrunning the equipment. I barely cracked the door and it held at 80% – 85% for a bit, but declined to 50% overnight. I shut the door again, and have now taken to opening the door and checking on the sausage every day or two.
I should be checking the pH by now, but as I mentioned above, I didn’t yet know the trick about holding back some mince for sampling. Now would be a good time to see if the pH is low enough, and where it’s headed.
Eight Days Since Start: I have settled into a routine of checking the sausages daily. Normal humidity with no water production from fermentation should read about 84%, and it’s been running 88% to 90%. I crack the door briefly to drop it, and the combination of fermentation and “salt swamp” drives it back to its proper level.
A nice crop of mold has developed and continues to spread. The “shorty” is in a location where air velocity and evaporation rate are a bit different and there’s no paper towel to redirect the air motion away from it. Interestingly, the mold development isn’t as strong on the “door” side, yet seems fine on the inside-facing portions of the sausages. All in all, it seems to be going according to plan.
Meanwhile, Shuswap and I had the following exchange regarding how quickly to stuff the sausages:
Shuswap: In reading Marianski’s book on fermented sausages I notice on page 59: “Once fast-fermented starter culture…has been added to the sausage mix, the mix should be immediately filled into casings.” I’m hoping Russ will explain why in Project “A” because Marianski didn’t. I’m sure most of us have the habit of creating the mix and holding it in the fridge overnight before casing.
El Ducko: I’ll hazard a guess that the fermentation takes off pretty fast, so you’d best get the mince cased right away. My salami d’Allessandro (test case for upcoming Project “A”) hung there in the fermenter overnight, then took off the following morning, as indicated by the percent humidity going from 84% into the high nineties by noon.
Looks like it could sit there in the bowl for a bit, but on the other hand, you’ll want to begin removing the generated water. If it sits there too long, you’ll probably soon have a bowl of mush.
Progress Report: The “Salt Marsh” Goes Dry: January 8th, instead of the humidity reading in the high eighties as expected, it was in the low 70’s. I reached in and, sure enough, the salt in the pan was dry. I poured a cup of water into the pan, closed the door, and the humidity rebounded into the mid-nineties. As salt re-dissolves, this will come down to the mid-to-upper eighties, where it belongs. …not to panic- – the cause was obvious, and there was no harm done.
January 15th, the humidity has been fluctuating with temperature, of course, topping out at 91% or so. This is typical of normal operation. I opened the door (I do this every couple of days), swept the condensed pool of water from the bottom of the compartment, looked the sausages over, then closed the door again. The mold was spreading upward nicely. The water tray had free water plus KCl in it. Water condenses and drips down into the low point of the chamber, which I’ve tilted so it runs toward the front. Maybe I should try my paper towel trick again. Everything looks good.
January 21st (photo at left), there’s a nice crop of mold on the sausages. I took them out and weighed them. , put some water in the water tray, and put them back in. Weighing required a bit of inventiveness, since I didn’t want to disturb the old growth. I put a 5-gallon bucket on a kitchen scale, and hung each sausage in turn on it, dangling it into the bucket from a dowel. From left to right, they had lost 22%, 26%, 32% weight. If you approximate Aw by the remaining weight, that means water activities ranging from the biggest sausage (Aw = 0.78) to the smallest (Aw = 0.68). …pretty good.
The 5 gallon bucket was so large that it obscured the scale reading. With patience, I could deal with it, but I wanted something better. I bought a 10-inch-high glass cylinder at the local Wally World for $3, robbed a plastic cup out of our vast accumulation of the things (one which would fit snugly on top of the glass), and drilled a ¼” hole in the exact center. Through the hole, I extended a coat hanger wire with a small hook bent into it so the loop of string on the sausage would hang there. I bent the top into a handle affair so it wouldn’t puncture my hand when I handled it. (See “summer sausage” picture at right.) Hang a sausage on the wire, draw it up into the plastic cup, and hold it there with a clothes pin or small clamp. Then hang the sausage down into the glass cylinder so it won’t be too top-heavy, and weigh the whole thing.
You will, of course, need to “tare” the equipment without the sausage, in order to calculate the weight of the sausage. By subtracting that weight from the beginning weight, then dividing the result by the beginning weight, you will have computed the weight loss in percent. Subtract that number from 100% to get an estimate of Aw, the water activity.
I reinstalled a paper towel, to see if it improves humidity control. The free water that condenses on the coils and drips onto the bottom of the compartment is actually distilled water, so it has pure water’s vapor pressure. Channeling as much as possible back into the salt pan should improve humidity control, dropping it closer to the expected 85%.
January 29th… still truckin’. I open the door every day or two, sweep out any water condensed on the door seals or accumulating in the bottom, make sure that the KCl “salt marsh” isn’t dry, and close the door. On days when I need to add water, I move the sausages to the side so I won’t hit them with the tray, then pull the tray out. I add water, then stir everything up so the water and salt have good contact and the salt can dissolve into the new water. Then I put the tray back in, put everything back the way it was, and close the door.
Measuring pH: I don’t have means of sampling so I can measure pH, but did find some information on how to sample in the future (withhold samples, as described earlier) and do the measurements. My measurement choices are (1) buy some paper pH test strips or (2) buy a pH meter. The whole idea of this project is to avoid buying expensive, limited-use equipment, so pH paper it is. One nice resource is a booklet put out on-line at https://ourdailybrine.com/how-to-test-the-ph-of-food-and-drink/ which was shared by Phil “Shuswap” Clark. It lists sampling methods, which I noted above, and discusses pH instrumentation in detail. I don’t wish to interrupt my fermentation with destructive testing, so I elect to wait until later.
A note from my wife, after I offered to show her what I was doing in the garage: “It’s as exciting as watching paint dry. …or maybe, watching the grass grow.” She’s always willing to eat the products, though. …last laugh? …last word? …not in this family.
Target Conditions: At this point, you likely are wondering when this moldy-looking thing is going to end. I sent Chuckwagon a note, just to clarify:
Hey, ya ol’ coot! I’ve got salami in my fermenter/dryer that’s been there since 12/30/15 at 20 degC and 85% humidity. Looks like it’s past time that I turn it down to 14 degC (oops!), so I did that today. Weight loss at 1/29/16 is 22%/24%/32% (the last sausage is the little one). Weights have dropped only minimally since previous weighing, on 1/21/16. All three have a great crop of Mold-600.
- what are target weights to pull ’em out and move on to something else? (Instructions say 30% to 35%.) …or is the target a time instead? (Instructions say 2 to 3 months.) …or both? or “one or the other”?
- (2) instead of storing at 13 degC and 75% humidity, I plan to seal ’em in Foodsaver vacuum bags and keep ’em in a 4 degC refrigerator. Will this “do no harm?” Should I scrub the mold off, or leave it as-is?
His reply probably should have been “read th’ dang directions!” Looks like I need another month to two months, in that case. He replied:
Terrific! Good goin’ pal. I’m glad to see you becoming involved in air dried stuff. It’s goooood… if you do it correctly. And it looks like you have!
I’d say 30% or directions instructions if any different. Sometimes at thirty percent it can appear just a little “underdone” and must be dried just a bit further. This is when you will find out if your chamber is working properly. If your project is not quite ready, simply put it back in the chamber and remember to slice off the hardened end before you feed it to anyone when you get it back out. That hard end will break a tooth!
If you put it in bags, remember it will not continue to dry. Yes, wipe off the mold and store it away. Remember to eat it – it won’t store forever.
So, it’s going to be a while yet. At least, it’s easier now. I found that, at the lower temperature, the heater doesn’t stay on as much, and that mainly there’s no more condensation around the door seals. This was causing much of the free water that accumulated in the bottom, raising the humidity. Today, February 2nd, I removed the paper towel and replaced the oval metal pan with a 12” by 12” silicone baking pan, and added a wire grate back in which had come with the refrigerator to extend the rear shelf further toward the door. The new pan extends completely under the freezer coils, and will catch any condensation that used to drip onto the floor of the compartment, the stuff that I was trying to catch with the paper towel. This new setup not only handles all the drips, it is not subject to salt corrosion like the metal tray. Combined with the lack of condensation on the door seal, this should help control humidity closer to the desired 85% level.
Mold Explained: It always helps to consult those who have gone before you. Here’s part of an exchange with “Butterbean” who, like me, had mold concerns.
Butterbean wrote: …My biggest problem at first was wild molds. And the swamp has many of them but thanks to a customer and friend who is a retired microbiologist my fears of “off color” molds were soon put to rest. But with time, my “closed system” aka my barn is full of white mold – white swamp mold for sure. It gets on anything I don’t smoke or wipe down with vinegar. (Just cutting the fool about it being swamp mold. I know where I got it. I bought it and inoculated a few batches and it has since taken over.)
Now my next hunch is, that anyone who is first getting into curing via a chamber or whatever will typically have problems with wild molds till they build up an onsite spore inventory and when this happens life will get simpler after each curing because not everyone has a local spore expert who can just look at it and say – don’t worry. I know I worried enough at one point. Not that I’m being discriminatory about the color of mold because I learned just because a mold has color doesn’t necessarily make it bad and I had some colorful stuff at one time. Slime is what he cautioned.
I replied: Aha! In my vast experience of one batch in a new “closed system”… well… uh… I feel better now. …I think. The second batch, this time with a healthy squirt of Mold-600, looks lots better (whiter) than that first batch with the patches of blackish-green slime. I wiped ’em off with vinegar, and vowed never to tell anyone. So maybe confession IS good for the soul, huh? (…and not as bad for the health as I had worried.) Thanks, BB.
That first batch, the summer sausage, referred to above (“Some mold grew on the sausage casings…”) in the summer sausage portion of the write-up. I have heard from others that, after several batches, the right population of mold and bacterial species builds up in the fermentation/curing chamber. My experience seems consistent with it.
February 11th Weighing The square pan has worked nicely. I gave up on paper towels, which deteriorate after a while, and used aluminum foil to route the drops downward as well as deflect most of the air flow from the “salt marsh” tray. Since that time, I have not had to add any water, and the bottom of the chamber has no collected any condensate. The equipment has been “cruising” at around 85%. As you can see from the picture, the mold has never looked better.
The weights are all 30% or better less than “green” weight. According to Chuckwagon’s criteria and the recipe, they meet the weight loss criteria if not quite the two-to-three month curing time. So… now what?
Well, for starters, I’m going to measure the pH. (See my earlier-listed adventures. …no sense repeating them here.) Colors are hard to judge, but it looks like something between 5 and 6, which is right where it should be. I’ll say it again, though- – buy your pH test strips ahead of time, from one of our sausage supply houses. Running around at the last minute, looking for test strips, is almost guaranteed to fail.
I recall reading in our sausage bible, “The Art of…” that in San Francisco, they like to leave the mold on, but most other places wipe it off with a cloth soaked with vinegar,” so I wiped off the smaller of my three sausages, the one that I’d cut in half. The other two, I vacuum-packed in a FoodSaver bag, mold and all, and put into my drink-o-rator, right next to the summer sausage.
Taste Test: …time to describe the taste. Here, I discover what it’s like to be a connoisseur of wine, or maybe a “sportscaster.” Trite phrases jump to mind. “Bold, yet understated.” Perhaps “…like an autumn in Tuscany, all luscious with…” Yeah. Right. …like a musty barnyard in the month of May, maybe, with a hint of limestone dust in a cement factory. Hell, I’m no good at this sort of writing.
But let’s just say, buy a sausage from that place in the mall, slice it open, and try a bite. Then, slice one of your own production open and try a bite. Yup, that’s the sound of heavenly harps playing while birds chirp and angels sing. There’s a fullness of taste that you won’t believe, a slightly tangy taste, a delicious flood of flavor that reminds me of… uh…
It reminds me that I have never tasted a sausage so rich and delicious, and it makes me wonder what next wonders I’ll experience, using this equipment and style. Damn, that’s good!