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Curing and Cooking with Ruhlman & Polcyn's "Charcuterie" (Part 5)


jmolinari
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I don't normally post as someone usually covers it, but allow me a moment...

I've been thinking about trying a DIY trick cigar afficionados have been using for years.  A brick of rockwool soaked with a 50/50 mix of propylene glycol and distilled water should keep the humidity at a very stabile 71-72%.  Has anyone tried this in their curing chambers?

As a Cigar smoker, allow me to add 'a few cents' in....

Rockwool?

I'd rather recommend Oasis Foam, as used by Florists for FRESH arrangements.

You need the Wet/Water foam, and not the dry arrangement foam. You should be able to find this in most crafting stores, and is probably cheaper.

And "soaking" it would be wrong as well. By soaking the brick, you will leave no room for the absorbed moisture. Besides, I would also vote against this as, even though it will work, it will only be beneficial until full - then the water will puddle out and be capable of evaporating back into the air.

This method is best suited for ADDING moisture to the air, versus taking it out.

Salt:

For the salt to work, it must maintain a 'mound' for the surface area to absorb moisture. And yes, that is a steady 75% - we use it to check the accuracy of our Humidification gages.

============

Just my two cents from my cigar experiences. :cool:

Edited by LooseCard (log)
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That's a great point that I am guilty of forgetting about. It seems that do really do it right you need a way of doing a fair bit of dehumidification, in addition to adding in humidity. I wonder how much published research there is into the effect of humidity on the curing process. It seems like there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence, XX% is optimal, etc. but how much variation is OK? How much is beneficial? I think that for hams, for example, you want the temperature to vary over the year. Is the same true with humidity? I know there is no such thing as too much control, but how much control is enough? The engineer in me wants a humidity and temperature monitor as well as a device capable of increasing and decreasing both to a tight tolerance, but I have no idea if that is really necessary.

You have a sealed chamber that will only go up in moisture as the product drys. You need to remove said moisture, to a point. The only mechanism I can think of is ice forming on the cooling coils. or an evacuation of moist air from the chamber, or possibly a mound of salt that you take out and dry in the oven when it gets saturated.

My drying area is very very rudimentary to the ones that folks like jmolanari have. Its a box/cabinet in an area that stays at 57º and at the moment is at 29%r/h. (its empty),when I first load it up for drying I have to add extra moisture. I do the salted water in a tray thing to get it up to about 79 or 80% for 5 days or so to keep away the "case hardening" thing. Then I remove the tray and monitor the RH. I keep it in the desired range range by cracking the door so the humid air from the drying process leaks out and is replaced by the 29% air of the room.

I have some Nexxtech remote thermometers that are in the box, that give temp and RH. I keep the reciever next to the computer so I don't have to go down and check on it all the time..I do check for misc.stuff growing on it every other day,and weigh it as well to determine where its at in the drying cycle.Good luck!

Bud

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To reduce excess humidity, I've had good luck with calcium chloride crystals (ice melt - ubiquitously available in the winter wonderland) in a screen box suspended over a drip tray. Calcium chloride being more hygroscopic than sodium chloride makes it more effective at pulling moisture from the air.

My current curing chamber is an old manual defrost refrigerator and when its fully loaded, its difficult to keep the RH below 85 without cracking the door. I rigged a mini squirrel cage fan controlled by a dimmer to move air across the salt pile and was able to knock the RH down where I wanted it.

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Hey folks, just became a member, in part because this thread is awesome and I had a few burning questions to ask. I've only made fresh sausage so far, which I'm now confident in after one so-so try and then an awesome second batch. I've got some really beautiful heritage-breed pork that my father raised--a belly, some scraps for sausage and a butt--and I'd like to move into dry-curing now. I'm thinking to make some pancetta with the belly and a small batch of dry cured sausage as well.

So, first question: Why does the Saucisson Sec recipe NOT use a culture starter? From a flavor standpoint, I know it makes a difference, but from a safety standpoint, I'm confused. Ruhlman & Polcyn say that the culture lowers the acidity, which makes the inside of the sausage an inhospitable place for nasty bacterial growth like botulism. So why is it OK to make the Saucisson Sec without a culture? Is it just not that big a concern? I was thinking to make that recipe because it's so simple, which will showcase the wonderful pork and also be easier on me, but does the lack of a starter culture actually make it riskier than some of the other sausages? I'm a bit confused here.

And now, second question: I'm thinking to buy a used wine cooler, which seem to be easy enough to find for under $100, as a curing box. Seems preferable to a fridge, since it is designed to hit that 55 degree sweet spot. I guess my only concern is whether I'll have airflow problems--as in not enough--because it's so small. Anyone have experience with a wine cooler? Do they even have fans?

Thanks folks, hope I can contribute some experience of my own soon enough...

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Hello,

I'm new to this thread and eGullet: my first post!

I stumbled across the thread doing a search for coppa/capicola since I had this new cool book: Charcuterie. You can guess where this is going! I am not sure what page I landed on maybe somewhere in the seventies, but I was intrigued, and started at page one.

I am currently on page 60 or so, but I discovered some great things like the thread was about the book I just bought, even though I am a year behind! And the authors occasionally read and answer questions on the thread! How cool is that!

Anyways, I have my first batch of bacon coming out, supposedly tomorrow, seventh day and all, however I notice that no liquid has come out of the bellies. I have 3 separate, seal-a-mealed bags: Pepper and garlic, pepper, bay leaves and thyme, honey and molasses.

gallery_57692_5497_18003.jpg

The only one with liquid is the honey/molasses, but that was a liquid, sort of , to start.

Was I supposed to leave air in the sealed bag?

gallery_57692_5497_41830.jpg

The meat seems firm to the touch, and through the cure I see it has changed color.

I say its bacon. But of its not, what else should I do, or is there no way to the bacon train :blink:

Robert

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I have a new experiment just started.

A batch of Orange Bacon, but this time in a basic cure made with Applewood Smoked Sea Salt from SaltWorks.

If it works, note that it's very easy to smoke your own salt. Just toss it into a sheet or hotel pan in a thin layer when you're smoking something else. If you want to really get it smoky, oil it with a tsp of something neutral. You can do the same with sugar.

The only one with liquid is the honey/molasses, but that was a liquid, sort of , to start.

Was I supposed to leave air in the sealed bag?

Welcome, rad1964!

I've been using a food saver for a while now on bacon, and you don't want or need any air. They should all have a good bit of liquid in them, though. Dumb question: did you have salt in all three bags?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've been using a food saver for a while now on bacon, and you don't want or need any air. They should all have a good bit of liquid in them, though. Dumb question: did you have salt in all three bags?

That was my first thought as well - no salt is mentioned in the ingredients list, and I cannot think of anything else that would cause the bellies to *not* give off a pretty substantial amount of liquid. I too have been using vacuum bags (just the Reynolds ones) and still always get plenty of juices released to create the brine around the belly.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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And now, second question: I'm thinking to buy a used wine cooler, which seem to be easy enough to find for under $100, as a curing box. Seems preferable to a fridge, since it is designed to hit that 55 degree sweet spot. I guess my only concern is whether I'll have airflow problems--as in not enough--because it's so small. Anyone have experience with a wine cooler? Do they even have fans?

Thanks folks, hope I can contribute some experience of my own soon enough...

I've been thinking of going the wine cooler route myself. My idea (note - just idea!) is to add a small computer fan inside the cooler to get the air moving. Just drill a small hole through the wall for the cable and hook up the fan to an appropriate voltage source of the "wall wart" type.

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If it works, note that it's very easy to smoke your own salt. Just toss it into a sheet or hotel pan in a thin layer when you're smoking something else. If you want to really get it smoky, oil it with a tsp of something neutral. You can do the same with sugar.

Buying in 5lb lots, SaltWorks is around $6/lb for smoked sea salts, smoked over hardwood (i.e. no liquid smoke). And since they are a short drive from my house, shipping is not an issue.

Part of the reason for the smoked salt is that I don't do a lot of smoking.

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Yes I used salt. I used the mixture recommended in the Charcuterie book. I coated all sides evenly with the kosher salt/dextrose/pink salt blend and then added more spices, like the black pepper or the honey.

Odd it does not create juices so far. The meat thats peaking through I can tell has darkened in color and the bellies themselves are firmer.

I will take one more picture of the meat today, the previous post was of dec. 6th last friday when they went in.

Robert

Edited by rad1964 (log)
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Yes I used salt. I used the mixture recommended in the Charcuterie book. I coated all sides evenly with the kosher salt/dextrose/pink salt blend and then added more spices, like the black pepper or the honey.

Odd it does not create juices so far. The meat thats peaking through I can tell has darkened in color and the bellies themselves are firmer.

I will take one more picture of the meat today, the previous post was of dec. 6th last friday when they went in.

Robert

I wouldn't worry about it. I've produced fine bacon from bellies that didn't render much liquid. The process varies. Sometimes the moisture gets fully absorbed into the dry cure and sometimes there just isn't that much of it to begin with.

If you're sure your formulations were right, I'm sure the bellies will turn out fine.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I agree with Ron -- though this makes for a good question. Why do some bellies give off no noticeable liquid while others give off quite a bit, given the same cure? I'd guess quality except that I've not noticed that difference with Niman, Vermont Berkshire, and industrial Swift bellies.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I agree with Ron -- though this makes for a good question. Why do some bellies give off no noticeable liquid while others give off quite a bit, given the same cure? I'd guess quality except that I've not noticed that difference with Niman, Vermont Berkshire, and industrial Swift bellies.

could it be that they have been frozen?? Or not.

Bud

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My pork belly came frozen already, so I left it in the freezer until about 3 days before I sectioned it. When I went to rinse off the cure, I found mainly that there was very little left it sort of melded with the meat. The pepper garlic one smelled awesome.

I am currently smoking them in my oven. I found I could remove the section between the broiler and the bottom of the oven and now its all open. I heated up a canister of wundersmoke hickory and put it atop the burner on the broiler i then had a rack above it with a steel bowl of salt water and ice and above that rack a rack with the three 4+lb sections of bacon.

Its an hour into it and the inner temp is now 127... I can tell these are gonna be good.

I am so psyched. I am charging up my digital camera batteries for some bacon pron.

:wink:

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I am charging up my digital camera batteries for some bacon pron.

:wink:

Excellent . . . my very favorite kind of pr[]n! :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I am currently smoking them in my oven. I found I could remove the section between the broiler and the bottom of the oven and now its all open. I heated up a canister of wundersmoke hickory and put it atop the burner on the broiler i then had a rack above it with a steel bowl of salt water and ice and above that rack a rack with the three 4+lb sections of bacon.

You must have better ventilation than me - I wish I could smoke stuff inside, but there is just no way... So I keep my smoker immediately outside the door to my deck - i don't have to go outside to get to it, just open the door. But in January in Pennsylvania, it's still mighty cold!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Here it is for better or for worse for richer or poorer until death do us part... bacon!

gallery_57692_5497_31271.jpg

Bacon is rinsed after being in the cure 7 days, patted dry and left out on a rack for 2 hours to try and develop the meat surface for smoke adherence.

gallery_57692_5497_16877.jpg

My odd oven setup... the house did get a little hickory smelling, but unlike outdoors and cold-smoking it only took 1+1/4 hours to reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

gallery_57692_5497_43149.jpg

Here it is... Molasses/Honey to the left, Pepper and Garlic (Rear Right), Thyme, Bay Leaves and Pepper (Front Right)

gallery_57692_5497_9788.jpg

My test slice.

For breakfast this morning I had.. bacon and eggs. Delicious!

I used the Thyme, Bay Leaves and Pepper cut.

The test piece of the sweet one was very salty, so I look forward to eating a slice not from the end. I am sure its better, the color was fantastic looking. But I would like to hear from you seasoned vets, does this look cured and bacon like? I enjoyed making this and I think some folks I know will enjoy a hunk.

Robert

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...

So, first question: Why does the Saucisson Sec recipe NOT use a culture starter? From a flavor standpoint, I know it makes a difference, but from a safety standpoint, I'm confused. Ruhlman & Polcyn say that the culture lowers the acidity, which makes the inside of the sausage an inhospitable place for nasty bacterial growth like botulism. So why is it OK to make the Saucisson Sec without a culture? Is it just not that big a concern? I was thinking to make that recipe because it's so simple, which will showcase the wonderful pork and also be easier on me, but does the lack of a starter culture actually make it riskier than some of the other sausages? I'm a bit confused here.

...

It is possible to make excellent, high quality, dry cured sausages without the use of starter culture. I have been making sausage this way for a number of years. I'm pretty safety conscious and I researched my way through it.

About the pH. An uninoculated mixture will become sufficiently acidic if the sausagemaker has provided an suitable combination of appropriate ingredients (eg don't use pork with an initial pH above 5.9, or irradiated meat), salinity, fermentable carbohydrates, and temperatures during incubation, and if a suitable microflora exists in the substrate (hence not using irradiated meat or spices).

As far as risk? There is always some but the sausagemaker can take steps to significantly reduce it without the use of cultures. For example, this particular recipe calls for 2.0% salt (meat weight basis) and in the context of my understanding and experience, I would increase this to 2.5% (55g for this recipe). I would also keep the incubation temperature slightly below the specified temp.

If you have the luxury to do so, use unfrozen meat from recently slaughtered animals for salamis. I used grocery store meat all the time in the past and it worked, but sourcing better quality meat greatly increased the quality of my salamis. If you venture into the wild, wild west of making salamis without starters, go carefully, but remember that it has been done for centuries and can be done safely.

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But I would like to hear from you seasoned vets, does this look cured and bacon like?

Dayum! Looks like bacon to me -- and some mighty fine bacon, at that. Nice job!

*pop* :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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...

So, first question: Why does the Saucisson Sec recipe NOT use a culture starter? From a flavor standpoint, I know it makes a difference, but from a safety standpoint, I'm confused. Ruhlman & Polcyn say that the culture lowers the acidity, which makes the inside of the sausage an inhospitable place for nasty bacterial growth like botulism. So why is it OK to make the Saucisson Sec without a culture? Is it just not that big a concern? I was thinking to make that recipe because it's so simple, which will showcase the wonderful pork and also be easier on me, but does the lack of a starter culture actually make it riskier than some of the other sausages? I'm a bit confused here.

...

"There are many ways to skin a cat" as the proverb says.

There are also several ways to combat botulism.

Acidity (pH) is one. Taste apart, the 'cultures' used have the function of acidifying. But there are other ways of acidifying.

Heat and even air (oxygen) are other anti-botulism methods, but they are inappropriate for salami-things.

The other main defence is the addition of Nitrite and/or Nitrate.

Have a look at the ingredients list for "Saucisson Sec" (p 193 in my edition).

It includes 6g of Cure No 2.

Which has Nitrite and Nitrate.

Note that Cure No 2 (not No 1) is specified - specifically because No 2 contains long-lasting Nitrate, for continued defence during prolonged curing (and potentially storage).

Certainly its good health practice to have more than one 'hurdle', but with the right amount of Cure No 2 in there, there shouldn't be any botulism risk.

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

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I've made a good bit of sausages and cured items, and I am always amazed at how much more I have to learn. I'm trying to learn about cooked sausages, and I need help with understanding an item I found at the local Asian market called Lobo Accord (here's the link http://www.hcfoods.net/shop/popup_image.php/pID/1096).

It says that it helps with emuslion of meat particularly during cooking. The ingredients are sodium pyrophosphate and potassium phosphate.

What are the limitations of using this stuff? Could it be used to make rolled pancetta tighter? Could it help to decrease any internal separation of cured sausages? Thanks.

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These are nasty commercial additives, whose prime function is to hold water in the product until after it is sold. (Not necessarily until after it is cooked... )

Water is cheaper than meat.

Holding water in the product opens up the route to selling water very profitably.

For example see this British page:

http://www.foodcomm.org.uk/latest_watermeat_apr05.htm

Getting water into meat and fish products is a specialised process which can involve soaking, tumbling and injection. Getting the water to stay in the product is another trick altogether, and typically involves the use of water retaining additives commonly referred to as phosphates.

The additives E450 (diphosphates), E451 (triphosphates) and E452 (polyphosphates) bind water to meat and fish products and act as emulsifiers, allowing water and fat to blend more smoothly in meat mixtures such as sausages.

Manufacturers argue that such additives improve the succulence and textural quality of meat and fish products by retaining moisture. Shoppers might be more interested to note that ‘ham’ and ‘turkey’ can now be less than 60% meat, swollen with added water, phosphates and other unexpected extras.

Avoiding this sort of muck is one very good reason that "home made" is better than bought.

That's why there's no mention of them in Ruhlman's book recipes!

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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