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Posts posted by pedrissimo

  1. Thanks David - I think I've got the cooler staying in the right range of both. But I am still looking for input on air circulation and contamination risk - Is opening it every day to change the ice too much air circulation, or too little?

    Has anyone had problems with mold in chambers that got opened often?

    Big blocks of ice frozen in disposable 2qt containers kept in a small cooler in the big one keep it in the low 60s for a day and a half at a time so far. Humidity is easy with a tub of salt and water - mostly salt.

    Thanks for the link to McGee's column! I miss some of them as they come out irregularly. I had just been reading in his book about enzymes in country ham, and I've bookmarked the Newsom's site for the fall, when they'll have more aged hams from this past winter.

    I would worry about actually starting the hanging while it is warm, or soon to fluctuate. All the traditionally made country hams, whether from Germany, Spain, Italy, or the U.S. were made with pigs slaughtered in cold weather. And it stayed cold a while, right? Once a good chunk of the water is gone, I am happy to let the enzymes do their stuff breaking down proteins in varying temps, but until then the risk of growth of microbes would worry me...



    While it's good to get the temperature down to the 60s, it's not necessarily fatal if you can't do it.  I've made pancetta, saucisson sec, and bresaola in a coolish cabinet, but I kept a thermometer/hygrometer in there, and temperatures often were in the 70s.  When humidity was particularly low, I would spray the meat with water once every day or two, particularly during the first week of drying, so the outside wouldn't form an impermeable skin that could cause the inside from drying properly.  So far, this has worked for me.  Here are some photos--



    I was encouraged to read Harold McGee's recent article in the _New York Times_ about small scale dry-cured ham producers in the South who have tradtionally hung meat at ambient temperatures, sometimes going into the 90s.  After all, they did this sort of thing before there was air conditioning--


    I've been thinking of making dry curing a seasonal spring/autumn project, when ambient temperature and humidity are best in New York, but these country hams hang for a year or more, so the temperature variations contribute to the flavor of the product.

  2. I'm looking for a (very) inexpensive way to do a difficult thing - dry cure in Houston - and I'd really appreciate some advice/guidance on my idea - curing in a cooler using ice to get to the right temperature.

    What do you think of this idea? Has anyone tried such a thing? Supposing I solve the temperature issue, my worries are air circulation (maybe too much from changing ice every day??) and contamination - I've thought of turning it on its side, or even hanging it upside down to keep mold spores from falling in... like Pasteur's famous broth experiment - open to the air only through a gooseneck it kept sterile for weeks.

    I live in an apartment with no space for a second fridge. The air temperature in the closet under the stairs (coolest spot I can find) is a stable 72.

    I've got the meat for a coppa curing for another few weeks, so I've got time to problem solve, or change course if I am making a big mistake...

    I've started experimenting with ways to control the environment, but assuming I can solve them, I'd still need to open it every day or so to replace the ice. Humidity shouldn't be a problem, if I get the right diameter bowl of watery salt, right?

    On temperature - I've tried ice packs and frozen bottles of water so far, and they get the air temp. down into the sixties. So now I'm trying a tiny cooler absolutely filled with ice inside the larger one - to keep it cool longer. I believe that I should be able to get the temperature to the right range long enough... I hope!

    What do you all think?


  3. Two things:

    I too would love to learn from you all about how to tell when a piece of meat has cured- I imagine by touch, but I suppose weight could be used, even when it is in a dry cure- messy as that would be. There ought to be many years of experience among the members of this board by now, especially some of you who mess around with more than one project a week like me!

    Also- Salt. Reading this book and Mark Kurlansky's book on salt have filled my imagination for the last six months. First, where can one get large quantities of un iodized salt? Neither Costco nor the more evil twin of it seem to carry it (though I once was able to get unbleahed flour at 25lbs/$5). Any ohter ideas? Also, where might one find other salts? I am happy to pay a bit of money for hand-made salt, but would really love to find interesting salt with mineral 'impurities' for better than the boutique prices I would pay now- after all, natural salt is not all that rare...

    Thanks again for this wonderful resource!

    This week I made my first successful confit. That duck seemed to be half fat! But oh, how tasty it was, all garlic and sage and juniper and salty

  4. Mike,

    I should have posted that I, too, have found my pork bellies at the Hong Kong market. What is the 'new MT'?

    By the way, there is a farmer at the Austin farmer's market who will sell pork bellies, and jowls, and everything else- in season. It is Peach Tree farms.

    The in-season bit may sound surprising now, but pigs (and all livestock) put on fat naturally in the fall, and until factory farming and feedlots began in the twentieth century, farmers waited until fall and early winter to slaughter- both for the body fat in the meat, and because it would have been crazy to butcher meat in this weather!

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing the difference in the fall.



    This thread died a few months ago. Yimay suggested an Asian meat counter. In fact, that is THE place to find pork bellies of any dimension, with, or without attached rib bones. I'm red-cooking some belly I bought this afternoon at the Hong Kong Mkt on Research. I've also used their bellies for Italian roasted "pancetta" which is absolutely scrumptious. The new MT on N. Lamar has belly also. And other pork cuts we don't always see in the "whiter" sections of Austin. Damn, my local HEB rarely even stocks a simple pork roast of any sort. But I live in the suburbs and we know pork ain't healthy! 


  5. I just picked up some jowl bacon from the farmers market. To me, the meat tastes a bit sweeter, there's a lot more fat and the rendered fat is more gelatinous (higher collagen content?).


    What are you thoughts on jowl bacon? Are my impressions accurate? Do you prefer it to belly bacon?


    Where did you get the bacon? Who was the farmer? I have been looking for some (really, just the pre-cured jowls) here in Austin.

    Jowl bacon is called guanciale in Italy (though cured differently). You can find a lot about it on a thread called Cooking wth Charcuterie. That is a cookbook by Michael Ruhlman- who is kind enough to give advice from time to time..

    Guanciale is supposed to be delicious. I haven't had either guanciale or jowl bacon yet (though i have seen the latter in Elgin at one of the BBQ meat markets, and in east Texas).

    Well, be sure to post a follow-up on how it tastes!

  6. Pedrissimo - how long a 'run' do you get? It strikes me that you'd be unpacking the whole kaboodle to put in another handful of wood...

    But it certainly does show that while nice toys may be fun, they aren't the only way to have fun...  :biggrin:

    I get about 1 1/2 hours out of a good handful of chips or a few chunks. Now i have to fine tune my dial- I did the whiskey glazed chicken, and it turned to rubber last night! :sad:

    The temp was too low too long because the chips bring the temperature down. Oh well- the glaze was awesome- like Mexican candy!

    Now I will have smokey chicken stock. Live and learn- keep the temperature up around 200! I figured it could just go slower, as the pink salt would remove my worry about botulism. Turns out there are other reasons to keep the temperature up.

    By the way, you do have to take it apart- but it isn't hard, and the ceramic holds the heat well.

  7. Pedrissimo - that's a really cute little smoker, I've never seen that done before.  What's the diameter?  I'm amazed that you could do bacon or a brisket in something so small.

    Abra, the diameter is somewhere around 18 or 19 inches- the same as the Weber Smokey Mountain. It is enough for a full size untrimmed brisket straight from the packing plant (with a squeeze at the beginning). It would easily hold 3 full size bellies or a belly, a ham, and a chicken. it has done 5 lbs of sausage, and will do 10- provided you aren't picky about the grill marks (they didn't mask the color, unlike what others have seen).

    The Bradley sure is nice, especially the digital, for picking a temperature and keeping it there. This takes some dialing in, but it does tend to keep temp with all that ceramic. But those of you who want to smoke but are leery of the investment and space..., this is an easy afternoon project. It won't cold smoke, though. Yet!

  8. By the way, I am sort of interested in a Bradley smoker, but it costs a chunk of change, and I have made a deal with my lovely wife and business manager that my hobbys have to be cheap. Eventually, if my hobbies taste really good, the money can come out of the foood budget. Seems fair to me- I get to play, but have to be judicious. Anyway, I made Alton brown's flower pot smoker from Good Eats, with a few little changes that make it perfect for summer time charcuterie:

    I took out the switch from the hotplate that supplies the heat (it cyclled 50 degrees up and down) and put a dimmer switch in an extension cord. I couldn't find his suggested lid of a round flower pot, so I used a five dollar wash tub. I had trouble with fat dripping on my pie pans that hold my wood chips (smoking fat smells baaad), so I use heavy duty aluminum foil to deflect the fat.

    Total cost: $17 flower pot, $5 lid, $6 smoker grate (also at home depot), $7.50 hot plate at Walmart the evil, $5 dimmer switch, $1 switch box, deep fry thermometer already in the drawer, power strip already have 10 of those...= $41.50

    I don't have to buy those biscuits to smoke, and in the winter i will rig up a new lid with dryer duct to a cardboard box for cold smoking.

    It works fantastic- I can choose my temperature, I have made a 12 pound brisket, a few pork shoulders, a pork loin (see the book), and most excitingly, my bacon. Man, that bacon! That was the key to getting my hobby paid for :biggrin:






  9. So, I am getting ready to make the Whisky Glazed Smoked Chicken, using a little bird I got at the farmer's market yesterday. I had extra brine, as the bird is so small, and I decided it would be neat to brine some eggs. I have been listening to the book Salt by Mark Kurlansky, and all the descriptions of salt cured fish, meat, vegetables, and even eggs made me want to try...

    My question: there is a bit of pink salt in the brine. What are the safety issues involved? I carefully wipe up all the dry cure that spills, and wash everything..., but I know that it eventuallly gets transformed in the meat. Will it get transformed in the eggs? :unsure:

  10. The difference is huge. The hickory I am using has a bit of an odd metallic edge to it- just a touch, and is strong and familiar. I smoked kielbasa last night with it- it is awesome- tender, brown on the outside, pink on the inside, ready for my wife's white bean, kielbasa, carrot and kale soup. But the cherry is fragrant and just as intense, but more subtle, if that makes sense. The smell of it leaps out of the bacon, and it is intoxicating. I have only started to experiment with smoking this spring, and besides a brisket, some pork shoulders, and a few links of cajun-style boudin, the bacon and the kielbasa are my first relatively un-spiced smokings. I have heard that many of the fruitwoods are milder, but I didn't realize that they could still impart such intense flavor. I wouldn't smoke a brisket in cherry, though. Probably mildly spiced pork, chicken, and fish. On the other hand, mesquite and hickory can stand up to beef and heavily spiced meats. Does that make sense?




    By the way, I just made my first bacon- cherry smoked with brown sugar in the cure, and it smells AMAZING- I fried up a few thick chunks and diced them into a potato salad with mayo, green onions, green beans, and salt and pepper. Served it warm. Mmmmmmmm.



    Thanks, Peter. I had the feeling that it was still worth it for the taste. On the bacon, how did you like the flavor of the cherry wood? I used hickory when I did it and thought it was a bit harsh. I'm thinking about apple or cherry next time.

    And Abra, I know how frustrating the BP stuff can be sometimes. The day I got my order, I realized I wanted to order the M-EK as well to try to get some white mold. With their shipping as expensive as it is, I feel like I should wait until I need a bunch of stuff before I order. Oh well!

  11. Rob,

    It seems to me that the bacteria don't just kill bacteria- as far as I understand it, they share that duty with your curing salt (in this case #2, right?). For us, who have fridges, in the modern world, the most important thing they bring besides another measure of safety is that they completely change the taste of the meat! They are a mix of bacteria that is much like the bacteria used to make yogurt, and some cheeses. I know that the stuff from BP includes at least one strain from Lactobacillus, which is the same genus as you find in most yogurt. Yogurt sure does taste different from milk, and the low pH allows it to be more stable. At the same time, just like your body, or yogurt, you want your sausage to be colonized by benign bacteria, not nasty kinds! That, in addition to the low pH will reduce the risk of later infection by the unhealthy ones!

    By the way, I just made my first bacon- cherry smoked with brown sugar in the cure, and it smells AMAZING- I fried up a few thick chunks and diced them into a potato salad with mayo, green onions, green beans, and salt and pepper. Served it warm. Mmmmmmmm.



    This, then, brings up a question I've had for a while.  If the drying is being done in an environment below 40 degrees, is it necessary to use bacteria (Bactoferm) at all?  In other words, is there any threat of botulism if the sausages spend their entire drying time within the so-called "safe" temperature range?  Any thoughts?


  12. ronnie the 1st time i ordered culture it came with a freezer pack..it was melted by the time i got it, but at least an attempt was made...the 2nd time it was just boxed...and both cultures seem to work equally well.

    I think it has a shelf life of some period at room temp...and much longer period if held cold.

    I just asked a lab tech used to using bacteria. We have two freezers here- -20C and -80C. She thinks that if you divide the packet up into little amounts and don't open each little packet until you are ready, they ought to be able to last for a few years at ~-20C. You should actually check your home freezer- my normal freezer at home gets to -24C if you crank it down (some people MAY not like their vegetables to freeze in the fridge, though!)

    I will divide my bactoferm into little plastic tubes, but it strikes me that press and seal ought to work perfectly for making tiny little packets.

  13. What about a bunch of ice in a bowl in that fridge- it might lower the temp enough in the giant sealed cooler that is a fridge, and raise the humidity... I have no idea how long a bag of ice would last, but if your other fridge has an icemaker....

    Lovely plate Abra!

    I put in my first order of Bactoferm and some collagen casings yesterday from BP and I am ready to do some dry curing this weekend. Problem is where to start....


    Tuscan Salame



    too many choices

    Elie, what are you going to use as a curing chamber? I think uptopic, Abra said she got several kinds ready at the same time, and felt that it was faster than doing three or four separate "getting everything ready" sessions.

    And Rob, welcome to the party! You've done a very impressive job of getting going, and I'm going to have to try the hot plate method.

    Being in Houston, humidity is more than available. My problem is the hotter than ideal temperature (probably in the 70s) in my house. So I am not too sure but I think I will try a large cardboard box to start with and see if it works out. If not then the extra fridge in the garage (too low of a temp and humidity) that I used for the Braseola way back when might have to be my chamber.

    Any other -inexpensive- ideas?

  14. Start simple and easy! The hook for me was the miraculous transformation of the first piece of fatty pork into a pancetta-like object with a bit of salt, spice, and nitrite. It goes from cheap by-product to this amazing thing that will make the house smell heavenly when you fry it up to start a soup....

    My first dry cured meat will be a coppa- I won't cut it up. Part of the reason I am starting simple is that I am trying to learn from my mistakes, and i don't want my disasters to come in the form of a sausage that I made from meat i carefully trimmed, chilled, ground, mixed, stuffed, and hung. I am trying cure, cure, hang.

    Lovely plate Abra!

    I put in my first order of Bactoferm and some collagen casings yesterday from BP and I am ready to do some dry curing this weekend. Problem is where to start....


    Tuscan Salame



    too many choices

  15. I have been playing with this for a week, and I think I have found a relatively easy solution for regular people. My crock pot is holding temps perfectly, within a degree, for hours.

    I'd be curious to hear which temps you been using it at? Is it as stable at, say, 100f as say, 200f?

    Although you'd never use 200f for sous vide, I'm still curious if it's stable over a wide range of temperatures.

    So far, but I haven't had time to develop lots and lots of experience. However, since there is no cycling thermostat, and because the current going into it is steady, I don't see an obvious reason for unsteadiness- perhaps at 200 you would be adding more water to replace evaporation than at other temps. I have some pork belly at 180 that has been like that all day...

  16. Oh my goodness. I have been reading this thread from the beginning, in awe. I never said anything because it's unlikely that I will ever do anything remotely Charcuterie-ish.  :laugh: (If only I had a Kitchen Aid, a backyard and a smoker...)

    You can do wonderful bacon in the oven. In fact, although I do have a smoker, that's how I do all of mine.

    Not only that, but the book starts and ends with many simple recipes that have no grinding- from bacon on- and some, as Michael Ruhlman points out, involve nothing but adding salt! The salmon and the lemon confit, for example, are simple, and all you need for equipment is tupperware!

  17. Has there been any movement towards consumer-grade baths? I'm uncomfortable using recycled lab equipment when I don't know what it was doing before, and I'm unwilling to spend the amounts required for a new circulator.


    I have been playing with this for a week, and I think I have found a relatively easy solution for regular people. My crock pot is holding temps perfectly, within a degree, for hours. Don't get the ones with digital controls, because I plug the thing into an extension cord that i have wired a dimmer into. The dimmer wiring is easy (really!) and safe. The next step is an aquarium air pump- they are $10 for a 5gallon tank. The beauty of an air pump is that you don't suck hot water into the pump- it is one way, and you get plenty of water movement. You need a wired probe thermometer- i got my no-name one for $15 at the local grocery. With the $30 for the crock pot (I would get the oval shaped one!), you are looking at ~$60 plus vacuum sealer.

    I have yet to experiment with the air pump- but it ought to do the trick. I keep this setup on a shelf in my utility room off the kitchen- as all the prep happens in the kitchen and all that i do with the cooking is drop stuff in and set the timer. By the way, the addition of even frozen sous vide packets doesn't change the temperature much, and it goes back to temp quickly.

    It isn't hard, and it works- certainly as well as any consumer level product i have ever owned!


  18. Peter, yes, i've used as little as 0.57g per 5lbs. I have a scale at home ( a pretty crappy one) that does 1/100 of a gram, so i have weighed out 0.6g or so..(usually with a little extra in case the scale isn't accurate, since more doesn't hurt, normally about a gram).

    I would divide the bag into 1g "shots"...but i don't know how long they survive in air (in a test tube). I store mine in a vac. bag in my chest freezer.

    That is just my personal experience. If you try, and your salame doesn't acidify, and you have no way of checking it (i have a pH meter), and get sick, don't blame me!


    Thanks Jason! I have a vacuum sealer, so that is no problem- how do you package them? As for pH, maybe I am a dodo, but how does one check the pH of a piece of meat? I am good with liquids...



  19. Dave, Ronnie, Chris, i thought we had a conversation way way back in the topic. When i first read the book i was very thrown off by the 1/4 cup requirement, and if i remember Michael acknowledged it was too much.

    I've always used exactly what is needed (based on the whole packet making 220lbs of meat), plus a tiny bit more, and have never had a problem with acidification.



    When you say exactly what was needed, do you mean, say .57g bactoferm/5 lbs of meat? (given the packet has 25g/220 lbs). I am considering dividing my bactoferm in 44- I work at a lab with a fantastic balance and many tiny plastic tubes we use for storing bacteria at -80 C all the time. Even if I double the amount- shouldn't I have billions of the little guys mixed in water when I mix it with my meat? So, from experience, have you found that there is such a thing as too little?


  20. Richard, what was the name in Spanish for the pork belly? I went to both Mexican and Asian markets today, and found some to start at the Asian place- it was called pork belly there. I like the feel (smell) of the Carniceria better, though. I know we are making semi-rotten food, but I like to control the rot!


    btw, the photos in this thread are AMAZING, and inspirational, too! The glistening fat in the last two photo posts......

    That did the trick. I don't know why I did not think of this first. A 60 second discussion in Spanish and English with the two butchers at Latino Market and I walked out with 3.3 pounds of pork belly at $1.99/lb.

    There are many asian and hispanic markets that butcher pigs on site, so if you're having trouble getting a belly, this is an alternative. I would still like to get some kind of farm-raised pork belly, but at least this will be a start.

  21. Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

    Sooooo simple!

    Where do I find the probe? Is it essentially like the end of my electronic oven thermometer, yet cheaper (from what i gather from similar conversations on this or another thread)?

    Would i just make all the little lines out of regular wire?

    Pack it all into a plastic box?



    Hi Peter

    On this website you can purchase Rope heaters in various lengths to make your own vessel. Click here and scroll down.

    The following is a diagram for a PID. It's much simpler than it looks.


    R5 represents the heating element

    R4 is the probe.

  22. Sooo,

    This work 'hook' you use. I suppose it only seems magical because I have no idea where the signal circuit for the alarm is, nor what it looks like, nor what would be involved in 'hooking' just exactly what into it?

    I am willing to try, but please, sir, I only teach ninth grade science! I get series circuits, parallel circuits, resistance (this is what light bulbs and heating elements do), and how to connect thick wires with wire nuts and MAYBE how to use a soldering iron.


    What thing do us simple folk hook into this signal circuit?

    How do we find said circuit?

    I assume we solder to actually do the 'hooking'.

    Cheers! And thanks!


  23. I am no genius, and have only a basic understanding of heat and of electric circuits- no electronics for me.

    Here is what I have done so far to make a sous vide device that can hold a stable temp.

    Go to home depot and buy a dimmer switch ($5) and a box that light switches go in in the wall ($1)

    Go home and dig out one of the ten extra power strips I have (free). Cut the cord in half.

    Wire the two black wires on the back of the switch into the black wires in the cord. (handily, the switch comes with electric nuts to connect the wires) Wire the three green wires all together to complete the ground. Wire the two white cords in the powerstrip cord back together, with no connection from the switch. Screw the dimmer switch into its holder.

    Go to goodwill and pay too much for a crock pot. Take it apart to remove the switch. Put it back together again when I find that the switch doesn't do the stupid temperature cycling thing. By the way, the heating element on the simplest crock pots is just a long wire wrapped around and around the thing from top to bottom. So it is already designed to do nice even heating.

    Plug the crock pot into the powerstrip, and add water (to the INSIDE of the pot!). When the temperature stabilizes after a few hours (you can speed this up by adding hot water), mark the temp on the dial of the dimmer. Then find several different temperatures one would want, and mark them.

    The ten dollar device keeps temperature perfectly for hours and hours- overnight... Just keep the lid on, and always fill it to the same height.


    No water circulation, and an earlier post gave good reasons for that- the temperature DOES change when I jiggle the temperature probe around- within 3 or so degrees, though.

    Size (I will look at garage sales for a 6 qt crock pot- that ought to be enough.

    No automatic temperature control- a piece of fish would not get up to your ideal temperature as fast as you might want. A large piece of meat that would cook for a long period of time would even out after some time (I don't have a hypodermic thermometer, so I cannot tell you from experience how long), but it might take its sweet time getting through the danger zone.

    On the water circulation- would an aquarium pump melt toward the upper end of things? Any other cheap ideas?

    On the automatic- it sure would be nice if the engineers would enlighten us (in English!) about how a PID could actually be wired into this? I imagine this would replace my dimmer switch.



    Anyway I join the call for all the electronic and mechanical geniuses to come up with a MacGyver/Homebrew version. Bring 'em on.

    How about re-wiring the controls on a fry-o-later for use with water which likely wouldn't have hot spots because of high circulation due to convection currents and high recovery, seems more economical to me than having a hundred gallon tank heating, and stirring it, with a 25 pound slate base to heat up as well on start.

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