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Cellars & Chambers for Curing and Aging


maher
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Perhaps I should just repeat my contention that some sort of humidity meter is pretty important - so you can know what sort of humidity you are getting.

You can't tell the humidity level without a meter, and without knowing what the humidity level is, you can't know what to do about it.

I'm not saying its impossible to learn to deduce conditions from the smell of the meat - but I am saying that, if it were possible, it would only be after a vast amount of trial and, inevitably, error.

TWO humidity meters might sound like overkill, but it allows you to see whether or not your humidity is grossly non-uniform (by moving the second one around in the fridge, and comparing readings with the static one).

Note that you can overcome some non-uniformity by shuffling things around in the fridge ...

Among the things that a fan could do is to make the general humidity closer to the humidity immediately above your wet salt tray. Moving the air over the tray makes the tray effectively much bigger, more powerful. (A salt tray is not naturally a very powerful, fast-responding humidity controller.) This also means that you need to keep a closer check on your salt initially dissolving and later drying out. More air contacting the tray means conditions in the tray change faster!

But a fan is optional - and anyway cheap. Even bought new, a cheapo timeswitch, wall-wart and cpu fan needn't cost more than about £10 here, call that $15 US. (Hint: look for an obsolete cpu!)

The chances are that you'll have more value of meat in your fridge than that ...

The timeswitch is important, because you only want it running intermittently, to stir the air around and gently mix it. You really don't want a steady draught blowing on the meat.

A fan can be easily mounted with hot melt glue, or for prototyping (its not permanent) good double-sided sticky tape.

However - don't get hung up on worrying about a fan.

Its icing on the cake. Not essential.

On the other hand, I'd strongly suggest that the first $15/20 gets spent on some means of quantifiably measuring humidity. (And that you record those measurements in your log.)

Try to keep the humidity between 60% and 75%.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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... I can't see so I can't read the meter. I think I will try making a small batch and see how it turns out.

1/ I don't know of any talking humidity meters (maybe they exist). But I do know of computer-attachable USB thermometers and hygrometers (humidity meters). I'm thinking that those might be usable since this forum is accessible to you. Some work only when they are plugged into the computer, not ideal but maybe better than nothing.

This one is an example of a logger that records how temperature and humidity vary with time (while detatched from the computer - just leave it in the fridge!)

http://www.amazon.com/Lascar-Temperature-Point-Datalogger-Humidity/dp/B0017QLPNM/

The Lascar EL-USB-2 seems to be about US $80

It will export its data to an Excel worksheet, where it should be about as available as any other data on a computer ...

Its more expensive than a cheapo meter, but it ought to be workable for those unable to read a standard meter. I'm sure similar things could be found a bit more cheaply with a bit of searching.

1-a/ Some types of seaweed (like Bladderwrack, I think) can give a tangible indication of humidity. But I don't think that would be a workable solution for Denver, Colerado! (And I've never tried to calibrate the stuff anyway.)

2/ Yes indeed - just give it a go, and find out what happens! :smile:

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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hey out there, thought this was cool....didnt see this link elsewhere but also didnt look very hard.

http://www.sausagemaker.com/tutorials/chamber/curing_chamber.html

This looks very simple too. pine box with a ac unit attached. talked to the chef today and he said he uses cambros with saltwater to control the humidity. You can see his cabinet towards the end of the video.

http://www.starchefs.com/cook/content/how-make-cured-lomo?sub=Charcuterie

while I'm at it heres another one. Towards the end of the video he shows the units he has set up for fermenting and drying. pretty cool stuff.

http://www.starchefs.com/cook/content/how-make-soppressata

Edited by cigno1 (log)
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Yeah, so do I. However, I also like to have hard copy. That means , for me to print out the referenced article and its ;links, references. and their links as a minimum. I'm annoyed because I can't figure out how to make it format to the page I want. My loss.

It does, however, look like it is a way that will work for me.

I shall try it.

Old and fine thread. Thanks to all of you.

Robert

Seattle

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Well mates I finally got some one to drill a hole in my little fridge so I could install my johnson control to regulate the temp. I was thinking about hanging say peperoni. Lets say I make one link and pinch it off in the middle to form two links that will be separated by a piece of casing. Now the top shelf of this fridge is a wire shelf. I was thinking of those metal shower hooks but thought they might degrade or rust with all that humidy. I don't want to use string because I want to be able to take it off and weigh it to see how it is coming along. Also I understand that the links should not be touching is that right. Now don't send me any pictures. So what is the best way and idea to hang the meat in a 4.4 cubic foot fridge. thanks

Steve the Blind meat Cutter

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I see a trip to the hardware store in your future :-) Plenty of hooks of all kinds there, stainless too. I doubt you'll get rust. It's best if they don't touch, so the air can flow around them. I have seen clusters curing in photos, but that's probably better left to a pro setup. Just enough room for them not to touch should be fine. Maybe you can build some contraption with hooks that you can set fix in place, so you won't move them around when you take one or the other out. Or just tape them down up there.

What's a Johnson control, will that shut the cooler off? A regular fridge is too cold for curing AFAIK, which is why some use wine fridges. Curious what you're working on, can you share some detail?

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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So I just put together something and have been running it for the past 2 hours. So far so good and it couldnt have been easier.

I plugged an old freezer into a temperature controller set at 55. The probe is attached to a thin wire so no need to drill anything. I bought a cigar humidifier (hydra electronic humidifier, the big one) that is effective up to 16 cubic feet. It also has a ribbon cord that fits when the door is closed, again no drilling required.

A thermometer and hygrometer as of now read 55f and 70% respectively. Am I missing something?

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  • 1 month later...

If you go to the top of this topic, you'll see my first "curing chamber," a big plastic box with dowels and string and... well, and it sucked. I've since been using the basement as a curing chamber, which presents a wide array of problems: controlling temperature and humidity, dealing with light, bumping into hanging pancetta in the dark, etc. When my coonhound last month decided to initiate a Battle of the Scents in the basement and peed all over the floor, well, I decided enough was enough.

Since Chris Hennes hasn't steered me wrong before, I am going with the wine cooler set-up. Turns out that a seller on eBay has "scratch n dent" Vinotemp 58-bottle cellars for about 60% off retail. Since I will soon scratch and dent it on my own, this is perfect for me.

Updates when I get it going.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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That's a great idea, Chris (and Chris). I have that Vinotemp model and it is good about keeping a stable temp, though there is a bit of a range between the top and the bottom of the interior. The unit actually may work better as a curing chamber; the shelves do not slide in and out and the bottle fit is tight, making it difficult to see what's what. I have a chart showing what's in each slot. I may eventually convert mine, too.

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I think it should be fairly safe, even with the short warrantee. Anything that is likely to be a problem should show up during that period. Just watch out for compressor noises, the fit of the door to the box and the ability to maintain a fairly steady temp.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chris, keep us infomred about the stability of this cooler. The model you have is a compressor type cooler. I've been running a 48 bottle wine cooler as a humidor for several years and just replaced it with a thermo-electric Haier 48 bottle dual zone cooler similar to this one http://www.homeelegancecenter.com/Haier_Liberty_BVFTB48DPABB_48_Bottle_Thermo_p/bvftb48dpabb.htm The thermo-electric unit has a cooling range of 45*f-65*f. Unlike my compressor type cooler this thermo electric is rock solid in both temp and humidity. I have my old compressor cooler outfitted with 3 computer fans to add circulation but it was never as stable as the thermo-electric cooler. Every time the compressor kicks on the humidity will fall like a stone. It does go back up when the compressor kicks off but there is significant fluctuation

I've got a thermoworks hygrometer/temperature sensor http://www.thermoworks.com/products/humidity/rt819.html to monitor my coolers. My thermo-electric's digital display reads a lot cooler than the actual temperature so you need to have some way to monitor this accurately. Looks like you got that part covered

Edited by scubadoo97 (log)
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Long time lurker/new member - been enjoying catching up on this thread.

Like many of you, I am using an inexpensive wine cooler. While everything has eventually turned out ok, there have been some frustrations. Humidity and air flow are the two biggest challenges. I have had a difficult time regulating the humidity, it tends to run very high, even in the winter when the house itself is quite dry. I have tried to solve that with a bowl of brine, cracked doors and silica packets (a trick my butcher uses). The airflow could probably be easily solved with a small battery powered fan - truthfully its not that big of a deal.

The other issue I have is mold control. Despite wash downs with bleach between curing sessions, I get mold blooms in the cooler. They are always white and probably of the type I am inoculating my sausages with...but it doesn't make me feel great about it.

All that said, it is still a viable solution. Like I said, almost everything has turned out. Things often take 2x as long to lose the 1/3 moisture content due to the humidity.

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Hi Nick and welcome!

I'm also having some high humidity in my cooler, with tropics-quality 90% humidity this morning. Cracked the door and shut the thing off to see what happens.

We've talked a lot about mold around here, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to get agitated about it. White is happy, others I'll wipe off. Ditto light: it's quite something to see those sausages hanging in the well-lit Calabria Pork Store.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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You're going to deal with high humidity in those wine coolers because they don't have an external condenser coil where the air is dried like in full size fridges. The air that is in there is cooled but that back plate in the fridge, the humidity condenses on it, but it stays inside the fridge...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dave, can you take a photo of the set-up? I'm getting close to wit's end here, and though I don't want to spend the cash, it is seeming like the only option to keep the humidity below 85% -- even when the unit is off....

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Dave, can you take a photo of the set-up? I'm getting close to wit's end here, and though I don't want to spend the cash, it is seeming like the only option to keep the humidity below 85% -- even when the unit is off....

Chris, what (apart from opening the door) are you currently doing to control/reduce/get-rid-of the humidity (water vapour) in the chamber?

Does your cooler have a 'cold plate' that gets covered with condensation?

How do you get that condensate (if any) out of the chamber?

Have you tried the tray of wet salt (±fan blowing across it) ?

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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