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Cellars & Chambers for Curing and Aging


maher
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I've tried wiping down the walls and the back plate one in particular, the wet salt tray, and a small fan. I can get it down to 30-40% if I leave the door ajar and keep it turned off, but if I shut it -- even with the unit still off -- it goes back up to >80%.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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At the beginning of the curing process I put in dry salt, not wet: I want the salt to absorb as much moisture as possible from the air. And there is a lot of air circulation in mine from the fridge fans.

Chris, I don't think crystalline salt is terribly hygroscopic - the solid doesn't grab much moisture from the air. (Its not like NaOH, for example). You don't need to keep table salt in tightly sealed containers for fear it will dissolve away !

However, the effect of a salt solution trying to dilute itself from very damp air, (or dry out in dry air) is quite powerful.

The thing that limits its effectiveness is a lack of mixing in the solution - the top surface tends to get dilute (equilibrating with very moist air). So you need stirring, or a vertical liquid surface! (One reason you want a film of solution over your crystals, rather than a puddle.)

The more surface area of 'solution', the more powerful the humidity control.

Wet crystals give you a lot more surface area than the surface of your free liquid.

And crystals cutting the surface of your puddle do help to keep the surface layer of the puddle close to saturated, and therefore working for you.

So, just a little water, remove excess liquid (and add more solid salt) as often as you like/can, and mix the salt around so that the stuff above the puddle - and so in the airflow, working for you - is not bone dry.

Chris Amirault - whatever weight loss you are expecting from your batch of dried sausage, that is the amount of water that you have to remove from your box. Its a significant quantity. And most of it comes out early!

Wine bottles don't sweat! So moisture removal isn't part of the design of dedicated wine coolers in the same way that it is for refrigerators.

The better sealed the box, the worse the problem.

If you have a 'cold spot" where you get condensation, can you arrange a simple gutter (or wick) system to gather the condensate for disposal outside the box ? Increasing the airflow over the cold spot should increase the amount of condensate. The heavier the condensation, the better it will run off. And different surface coatings will give different run-off characteristics. (I'm wondering here about applicability of those automotive windscreen/windshield treatments that reduce the need for wipers ... for example http://www.rainx.co.uk/tips.php#work

This process of condensing (and draining away to the outside) is the reason that ordinary refrigerators dehumidify the air inside.

And when introducing fresh dryish air to your box at warm room temperature, don't forget that the mere act of cooling that new air INCREASES its "humidity" because what you are actually measuring the relative humidity - and the lower the temperature, the less moisture it takes to saturate the air -- cool it enough and you will reach the Dew Point and get condensation. (Dew Point gives an absolute measurement of the moisture content.)

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

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Thanks for the explanation, Dougal - shows you what I know about chemistry! So my salt pile does approximately nothing at all, and the humidity is just in the right range on its own. I wonder why my experience is so different from others here? Local environment, I suppose? Though at this time of year I would expect the interior air in Rhode Island to be pretty dry!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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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,

I'm using this humidity controller along with the dehumidifier I linked to above. There isn't a probe like with the temperature controllers many people use - you'll need to place the control unit inside the chamber. My set up is more or less like jmolinari's here except I haven't installed a passthrough for the hygrostat and dehumidifier power cords - I just run them out the door.

Edited by vice (log)

 

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I just heard from Michael Rulhman today and he said to put plenty of water in the salt pan. I have a feeling doug is right to just wet the salt down. I am using a 4.4 cubic foot fridge with a control to keep the temp at 60. This is the correct temp is that right? I am learning a lot. During the first four days of my peperone that went bad, I sprayed the sticks down with too much water so they really didn't dry properly . Just give me a clearify on the salt. just wet it right?

Steve the Blind meat Cutter

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Oh yeah, I remember that too. I considered it when I was shopping around, but opted for one of the pricier, more flexible models. At some point, I'd like to move up to a bigger chamber and then may need to humidify rather than dehumidify.

 

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A couple of thoughts:

  • Table salt almost always includes calcium silicate, which prevents clumping. In other words, it will resist water absorption. If you're using table salt, you might get better results by switching to kosher or pickling salt; check the ingredients list first, though.
  • Sugar is extremely hygroscopic (though I don't know how it compares to salt). Why not try sugar instead?

Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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some ideas. Understand that I can't read the book. first. the idea of spraying the hanging sausages for the first four days. I was told that and I thought we are trying to dry sausage. Do any of you spray your peperone when it is first hanging and the skin feels a little dry? As to the oven to activate the bacterfirm. Why can't I use the curing box turned off and put a pot of hot water in there. I am having trouble getting my oven to stay at 85 degrees and this way I could hang the meat in the box once and not have to hang it twice. once in the oven and once in the box. Tell me what you think. thanks

Edited by Steve Gomes (log)

Steve the Blind meat Cutter

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Greetings...

First timer post so please bear with me.....

I am in the process of purchasing a Vinotemp 28 bottle wine cooler for quite a bit less than retail..$100.00 0n Craigs list...brand new....

I have seen on previous posts that some have used this for a curing chamber.....

How's is this unit working for you....

Please post results

Thanx

Ron

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  • 6 months later...

Hi, Chris -

I have recently been bitten by the charcuterie bug, and have really enjoyed this thread for information. Another humidity question for you: I made a batch of Tuscan salami from Ruhlman/Polcyn's book on Sunday, and when I put the meeat in, the humidity spiked to the high 80s. (I am using a Vinotemp wine fridge like yours, only smaller.) IT has stayed in the high 80s (This is teh third day the salami has been in the chamber.) Before I put the meat in, a pan of water with some salt was holding a steady 70% humidity.

So, what would you recommend to try to drop the humidity? I greatly appreciate any suggestions...

thank you!

Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com

Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com

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Christina, personally, I would not try to drop the humidity: 80-90% is high, but not so high that the salami won't cure right. You'll probably get some fun mold colors, but that should not pose any real problems (conventional wisdom notwithstanding). The humidity should slowly start to drop as the meat dries out.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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