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Charcuterie – dry curing in less than ideal conditions


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#1 TylerK

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:31 AM

I've been dabbling in charcuterie over the past year or so and been fairly successful with things like fresh sausage and simple bacon recipes, but I've been thinking that I'd like to try my hand at some dry curing. The problem is, I live in a pretty standard high-rise condo and have no basement/cellar, and no space for specialized equipment. Basically I have my cupboards which are usually 66-68 F (19-20 C) during the winter and my refrigerator.

Am I nuts to even think about trying this? If not, do you have any idea what my limitations would be or how I might mitigate the less than ideal conditions? Has anyone had any luck producing something edible under my conditions?

I tried surfing the charcuterie index for info on dry curing but it seems to be broken. It looks like the main thread was broken up into several parts at some point, and now most of the links are taking me to the end of part 1.

#2 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 09:21 AM

A curing chamber is essential for serious curing.

http://curedmeats.bl...ng-chamber.html

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#3 TylerK

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 09:43 AM

Wish I had room for the bar fridge modification. I've already looked into a lot of the equipment people use and I just don't have the space. Are you saying that I shouldn't even try or that I just wouldn't end up with commercial quality results? Given how ancient and widespread charcuterie is, why would such a precise control of conditions be an absolute requirement?

#4 JBailey

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 10:42 AM

Look at the Dry Bag website. Also, have you looked at Polcyn and Rulhman's books?
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#5 TylerK

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:00 AM

I have Charcuterie, but I have yet to purchase Salumi. I do have one book at home more specific to dry curing, but the name escapes me right now. I'll have to check when I get home from work. I know there's some information that would help me out - I remember reading it a couple years ago in the gigantic charcuterie thread, but it's so big I'm having trouble finding the information. I'm going to keep looking, but in the meantime I was hoping to catch the eye of someone who's given it a try in similar conditions.

I'll have to check out the drybag site more carefully, but without too much reading, it looks like would serve much the same purpose as a sausage casing. I can see how it would help slow down the drying process in the fridge for something like pancetta, but would it do much for an already encased sausage?

#6 Syzygies

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:12 AM

Look at the Dry Bag website.

http://www.drybagsteak.com/
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#7 FeChef

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 12:49 PM

I use dry bags from drybagsteak and they work great. I was just going to mention it until i saw Jbailey and syzygies post. I wonder would it would produce if you were to use a dry bag with your meat of choice and fill it in with curing salt? Heres a beef tenderloin i did a few months ago, it aged for 3 weeks in my fridge.

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Edited by FeChef, 04 January 2013 - 01:35 PM.


#8 HungryC

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:23 PM

Given how ancient and widespread charcuterie is, why would such a precise control of conditions be an absolute requirement?

Yes, charcuterie is ancient and widespread, but it is micro adapted to prevailing conditions. Hence the incredible regional variations in product. Prosciutto exists in places where the raw materials are available and the climate/conditions are ideal. It isn't made in warm, moist, coastal Sicily, for example. If you don't have ideal conditions for the desired product, you will need to simulate them somehow.

#9 Chris Amirault

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 02:56 PM

Several of us around here did all sorts of crazy, ill-advised things in our basements back before curing chambers were available on the market. Here's my set-up, and you can read down that topic for a screwball description of my "method"; here's the result.

It's easier if you can control the environment, of course, but I have to say I miss the good ol' days. That first batch of peperone was a labor of crazed, dangerous love.
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#10 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:08 PM

Wish I had room for the bar fridge modification. I've already looked into a lot of the equipment people use and I just don't have the space. Are you saying that I shouldn't even try or that I just wouldn't end up with commercial quality results? Given how ancient and widespread charcuterie is, why would such a precise control of conditions be an absolute requirement?


Because the places where it really took off, unless you count the rare product that's quickly (by charcuterie standards) dried in warm areas (see also: biltong), weren't places that were warm during the depths of winter. Same with hanging game meat and a whole lot of other things that involve just leaving food out.

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#11 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:36 PM

Wish I had room for the bar fridge modification. I've already looked into a lot of the equipment people use and I just don't have the space. Are you saying that I shouldn't even try or that I just wouldn't end up with commercial quality results? Given how ancient and widespread charcuterie is, why would such a precise control of conditions be an absolute requirement?


Good meat is expensive and the wait is long.
Cutting corners is risky.
It's wise to do all you can to ensure success.


~Martin

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#12 ninagluck

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:54 PM

Tyler,
I do dry cure in not so perfect conditions, and the result is perfect, give it a try!
My lomo embuchado is perfect, just don't start with a salami!
feel free to ask!

#13 TylerK

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 08:42 PM

Several of us around here did all sorts of crazy, ill-advised things in our basements back before curing chambers were available on the market. Here's my set-up, and you can read down that topic for a screwball description of my "method"; here's the result.

It's easier if you can control the environment, of course, but I have to say I miss the good ol' days. That first batch of peperone was a labor of crazed, dangerous love.


Thanks for the link Chris. I'm jealous of quite a bit when I browse through that thread. Food safety is certainly always important to keep in mind, but was it ever really established if the danger was that great? With the nitrites/nitrates the danger is pretty much limited to surface contamination if I'm not mistaken. I was reading through a thread on here about surface molds that was questioning how dangerous even that was.

#14 TylerK

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 08:43 PM

Tyler,
I do dry cure in not so perfect conditions, and the result is perfect, give it a try!
My lomo embuchado is perfect, just don't start with a salami!
feel free to ask!


Thanks for the encouragement :) Would you mind describing your setup/conditions?

#15 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 09:09 PM

Do you have room for a small apartment size fridge?

~Martin

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#16 TylerK

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 09:16 PM

Do you have room for a small apartment size fridge?

~Martin


Unfortunately not at the moment. I've been looking at a dual chamber wine fridge thinking that I might be able to use one of the compartments as a drying chamber, but I'm having trouble finding a place to put it. 800 sq foot condo here with a typically small condo kitchen. I'm saving for a renovation that will turn an awkward nook off my dining room into a bar... once that's done I'll likely be able to put something like that in there.

#17 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 09:33 PM

I thought that I had the world's tiniest and most limiting kitchen!!!! LOL
This tiny house is just 400 square feet.
Bummer you can't find a spot for a small fridge.


~Martin

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#18 ninagluck

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 08:49 AM

My Lomo Embuchador
Pork Tenderloin, trimmed

per kg meat:
30 g Nitrit curing salt ( I am European, in the states i would recommand 6 g cure Nr 2 and 24 g normal salt)
2,5 g Dextrose
8 g Pepper
6 g Smoked paprika powder
2 g Garlic powder

mix everything with a little water and rub it onto the meat. Wrap it into clingfilm and put it in the fridge for a week of up to 10 days depending on the size of your ternderoins.
After the period take it out of the clingfilm, attach a string and hang it into a room not more than 18° with a humidity around 70%
How I get there? I use a laundry rack to hang my sausages and put wet towels on top plus i use a humidifier in addition.
Check for mold every day and if you see white spots, just wash them away with some high percentage Alcohol.
After 2 -3 weeks you can enjoy them or you leave them longer if you wish them to be more dry.
Needless to say, that no Insects should be around..........

my friends find my home produced lomo better than what you get at the deli stores and i hope you try it!
ninagluck

#19 Chris Amirault

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 09:33 AM

Thanks for the link Chris. I'm jealous of quite a bit when I browse through that thread. Food safety is certainly always important to keep in mind, but was it ever really established if the danger was that great? With the nitrites/nitrates the danger is pretty much limited to surface contamination if I'm not mistaken. I was reading through a thread on here about surface molds that was questioning how dangerous even that was.


Opinions and practices vary widely on these subjects, and you're always trying to deal with risks within various ranges, not in a binary way. I like to remember that charcuterie started in caves and dirt basements, and not in stainless steel chambers, and that helps. ;)
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#20 adlapointe

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 06:22 PM

Opinions and practices vary widely on these subjects, and you're always trying to deal with risks within various ranges, not in a binary way. I like to remember that charcuterie started in caves and dirt basements, and not in stainless steel chambers, and that helps. ;)


I like that vision. I just listened to a podcast about charcuterie two days ago about doing charcuterie the traditional way, using a wooden block, bare hands, and only salt water to clean the surfaces. The idea was to make sure not to kill all the bacteria but instead to encourage the good ones. This way of doing things was described by a butcher (link to his blog) who gets hams hung up to age in his kitchen, so that would not be ideal conditions by most people's standard.

#21 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:43 PM

My family has cured hams, bacon, etc. the old way for generations, once hams are properly cured they can be hung in the kitchen at room temperature and average humidity to age for months without trouble.
Not so with many other things, case hardening and it's associated drying issues being the biggest problem.


~Martin

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#22 ninagluck

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 05:03 AM

I forgot something, you could also dry your meat in charcoal ash. Just take a big shoebox, put abt 5-10 cm sifted ash in it, put in the cured meat and put another 10 cm of ash on top. store in a cool place for several weeks (depending on the size of your meat und how dry you want it) This old method works under any conditions.

#23 radtek

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 10:49 AM

I like to use vinegar instead of alcohol to get rid of the mold. Just use a cheap spray bottle and spritz the meat down if you see mold-spots. I don't worry over much about white mold but signs of green and black have me using the vinegar immediately. And the vinegar flavor doesn't translate into the finished product.

One should use cure #2 with the nitrate as insurance if one wants to avoid spoilage at room temps.

Also one should avoid squeezing and touching the hanging product with bare fingers. At a minimum hands should be squeaky clean and I prefer to use disposable gloves. Handling and testing by palpation is a sure way to invite bad mold onto the surface of the meat. And, I've also found that if the resulting surface is a bit overdry then vacuum sealing the meat and placing in the fridge or freezer will redistribute the moisture.

A 4cu fridge doesn't take up much space even in a small apt. My fridge has a 21"x21" footprint.

#24 TylerK

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 07:43 AM

My Lomo Embuchador
Pork Tenderloin, trimmed

per kg meat:
30 g Nitrit curing salt ( I am European, in the states i would recommand 6 g cure Nr 2 and 24 g normal salt)
2,5 g Dextrose
8 g Pepper
6 g Smoked paprika powder
2 g Garlic powder

mix everything with a little water and rub it onto the meat. Wrap it into clingfilm and put it in the fridge for a week of up to 10 days depending on the size of your ternderoins.
After the period take it out of the clingfilm, attach a string and hang it into a room not more than 18° with a humidity around 70%
How I get there? I use a laundry rack to hang my sausages and put wet towels on top plus i use a humidifier in addition.
Check for mold every day and if you see white spots, just wash them away with some high percentage Alcohol.
After 2 -3 weeks you can enjoy them or you leave them longer if you wish them to be more dry.
Needless to say, that no Insects should be around..........

my friends find my home produced lomo better than what you get at the deli stores and i hope you try it!
ninagluck


Thanks, it sounds very tasty. I've never tried lomo before. What final texture should I be going for? Have you tried hanging in the fridge to dry? The inside of my fridge is more humid than my house at this time of year. Alternatively, would an oiled cheesecloth work to slow down the drying?

I forgot something, you could also dry your meat in charcoal ash. Just take a big shoebox, put abt 5-10 cm sifted ash in it, put in the cured meat and put another 10 cm of ash on top. store in a cool place for several weeks (depending on the size of your meat und how dry you want it) This old method works under any conditions.


Interesting. What purpose does the ash serve?

#25 ninagluck

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:00 AM

The texture of the lomo should be like a soft Salami. I guess drying in the fridge won't work, as temperature is too low. As I said, humidity can be easily obtained by wet towels.
When using ash you don't need to controll temperature and humidity, the meat will dry slowly as the ash takes over the moisture of the meat. Good results you get with a duckbreast, should be done including curing within 4 weeks. Just salt it, wrap it in clingfilm for 2 days, take it out, wash and dry, dust with white pepper and bury it for 3 weeks. Take out, brush away the ash and enjoy.

Edited by ninagluck, 15 January 2013 - 08:01 AM.