When my friend Jim and I embarked on our project to build a meat drying chamber (aka, “The Saluminator”) from a used refrigerator, I has in mind making some specialty toppings for homemade pizza. My latest meat curing project was sopressata, a dry cured salami originating from the South of Italy (the bottom of the boot).
Sopressata can be fairly spicy, and I wanted some heat, but not too much, as I have a garden full of hot peppers to jazz up any pizza. I wanted to use 100% pork, so I purchased two butts.
I selected cuts that had a decent fat cap. I cut the meat in cubes and separated the lean meat from the fat. I was looking for the lean to make up about 80% of the total weight, and it was right on the money. The total weight of lean and fat was 6000g. Put the meat and fats into the deep freezer to get them very cold. This will aid in grinding.
I weighed out my salts and spices. 0.25% is the amount for curing salt #2. That is 15g. Next 15g of freshly ground black pepper, 15g Korean extra hot red pepper, 18g dextrose and 160g salt.
I ground the chilled fat at 7mm and the lean at 3mm. Mix and mix in the spices and salts until evenly distributed. Chill this mixture overnight.
The next day, I worked in ½ cup of very cold dry white wine, and stuffed the meat into beef middle casings. The casings are packed in salt, so they need a very good cleaning and a soak while setting up the sausage stuffer. The ends of each sausage link are double tied to make sure the knot does not slip off during the aging process to come. I prick the sausages all over with a tin metal skewer to release any air pockets.
I lined a ½ sheet pan with a piece of parchment and laid some of the sausage on it. Parchment on top of this and then another ½ sheet pan. Parchment, sausage, parchment, sheet pan, until all sausage is used. Top with a sheet pan and place weights on top. I used four 10 lb. dumbbells. Put in the refrigerator to “press” for four days. This gives the finished salami its characteristic shape, and makes sure there are no air pockets inside.
Next is a period of fermentation. The desired conditions are 80F and 80% humidity. In Summer, this is typical in my home brewery room. I placed a large wooden dowel between two chairs and hung the sausage to ferment. Fermentation takes 3-4 days. During this time, the sausage develops acidity due to the action of lactic acid bacteria. Dangerous pathogens are avoided due to sanitary kitchen practices and the use of the #2 curing salt. The fermentation lowers the pH, and also provides a degree of safety along with great flavor. I recently purchased a pH meter for meats, but it arrived after this project was underway.
When fermentation is complete, the salami is hung in “The Saluminator” to dry. The links are weighed for reference.
They were misted with a white mold culture to give them the characteristic appearance, and a bit of additional flavor. Over time, the weight will drop as the meat dries. The process must be slow and controlled to avoid a salami that is hard on the outside and soft in the middle. The Saluminator is set for 55F and 80% humidity. After 3 weeks, the salami had lost almost 40% of the original weight. It felt firm to the touch, and the white mold covered the casings. Below, you can see the progression through the aging/drying process. Looking good and ready to top a pizza, or just eat out of hand!