Salumi: Tips and Tricks for Slow-Dried Fermented Sausage

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Salumi: Tips and Tricks for Slow-Dried Fermented Sausage

Making Salumi is a labor of love. It takes time and patience, but it's almost always worth the effort.

That said, there are some basic practices that make a huge difference in the texture and flavor of the finished dry sausage. These basic practices start in the actual preparation of the meat in the very beginning and have a noticeable impact on the quality of the finished product almost two months later. 

Start with cold meat, and keep it cold throughout the process

This is probably the most important of all factors and affects the texture and drying of the product. In principal, the temperature of the meat being ground, mixed with the cure, and the stuffed into the casing determines the way the meat binds together and forms the finished sausage. The proteins in the meat need to be extracted to bind the sausage together and give it the grain and texture of dry sausage.

Grinding temperature: If the meat is too warm during grinding, the grinder will not make sharp cuts. Instead, the grinder will “mash” the meat, giving a bologna texture, rather than firm kernels of dry salami. The meat should preferably be close to frozen during grinding to yield well-defined particles.
Mixing temperature: If the meat is too warm during the mixing of the cure and starter culture, the particles can get “mashed," and fat can melt and coat the lean particles, not allowing them to bind together properly and causing a crumbly dry texture in the finished sausage. The meat should be close to frozen during mixing of the cure and starter culture.
Stuffing temperature: During stuffing, it is important to keep the meat chilled in order to not melt the fat or mash the particles for the two reasons stated above. The particles of meat entering the casing during stuffing are going to be positioned in there for drying and will determine the texture and drying pattern. The meat should be close to frozen during stuffing. It is advisable to chill the body of the stuffer or some of its components to keep the meat as cold as possible.

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Grinding plate size

The size of the grinding plate determines the texture and drying pattern of the finished sausage. The larger grind results in more even - and faster - drying. If we bite into a bologna or a hot dog, we can't see the particles, nor do we get any distinct texture of the meat that was used to make the product. Bologna starts out as a creamy paste or sometimes a liquid that is then cooked to a solid. A dry-cured sausage like a dry salami is not cooked, so the particles of meat retain their character and texture.

During drying, the moisture from inside the sausage has an easier time migrating through a larger particle maze than a tighter small particle maze, thereby drying more evenly.

Fermentation humidity level

The stuffed sausage should be placed in a space that is relatively humid or at least does not have any direct airflow blowing on the fermenting chubs. This will ensure a more even drying pattern.

After the soon-to-become dry sausage is stuffed, it needs to ferment so it can develop that distinct and prized salami flavor. During fermentation, the mixed-in starter culture will multiply and ferment the meat, lowering its PH level and giving it a tangy flavor. Starter culture needs moisture to work. If the outside of the sausage begins to dry too quickly during fermentation, the starter culture will not be able to ferment the meat that is on the outside of the chub, and the result will be an uneven drying pattern and a hard rind on the outside.

Fermentation started

Fermentation started

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Fermentation finished, some drying occurred but acceptable.