Troubleshooting Dry-Cured Fermented Sausage

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 4494
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 04:51
Location: Rocky Mountains

Troubleshooting Dry-Cured Fermented Sausage

Post by Chuckwagon » Thu Jul 29, 2010 03:23

Hi Sausagemakers,
I put together a troubleshooting list for those of you having problems making fermented sausages. If at first you don't succeed, throw a temper tantrum, use the salami for a door stop, and try again! Here is a list of common problems and their possible causes. Most people think there are only three Bactoferm biocultures. Actually, there are many, each with a specific job to do. For a description of each, read Stan Marianski's book "The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages". If you still have trouble, shoot me a message and I'll try to help although I am surely no expert.
Best Wishes, Chuckwagon

Troubleshooting Guide for Fermented Meats
Information based on experimentation by Chr. Hansen, Manufacturer of Bactoferm™ starter culture.

See complete source of info here:
Vol. 1 Fermented sausages with Chr. Hansen starter cultures ... 0515,d.cGU
redzed 2015-01-15

Slow acidification
Frozen culture allowed to thaw and subsequently held too long before dispensing into meat.
Microorganisms exhaust nutrients in packet/can, reducing the pH resulting in a lower culture activity.
Environmental temperatures/humidity during fermentation inconsistent with recommended culture optimums.
Secondary growth in meat of contaminant microorganisms producing components that buffer pH drop.
Prolonged storage of the meat mixture at cold temperatures resulting in extended lag phase at the beginning of the fermentation cycle.
Cheese in product may contain phosphate that buffers pH drop; it also has a tendency to absorb moisture from surrounding meat.
Sausage entering the smokehouse/climate chamber colder than normal, for example by using very cold meat, which may prolong the lag phase of the starter culture.
Spice formulation adjustment that either decreases acid stimulation or inhibits the culture.
Excessive salt or cure addition that inhibit starter culture.
Culture contact directly with curing components may inactivate the starter culture.
High fat formulation that reduces the moisture content.
Large diameter product giving slower heat transfer.
Rapid moisture loss in product.
Insufficient carbohydrate source added to sausage mixture.

Fast acidification
Temperature/humidity is higher than normal.
Spice formulation adjustment that favors the culture.
Excessive water addition.
Product delayed prior to entering the smokehouse/climate chamber resulting in higher initial temperature.
Leaner product giving more moisture and lower salt-in-water.
Change of meat (from beef to pork) in recipe.
Smaller diameter product processed at high humidity.
Initial meat pH lower than normal.
Wrong combination of carbohydrate.
Too slow drying that allows longer acidification.

Inconsistent acidification
Inadequate distribution, resulting in hot and cold spots in meat mixture.
Inadequate distribution of culture, salt, cure, spices, dextrose.
Diverse initial product temperature.
Stored product and directly processed product in same climate chamber; culture activated in stored product resulting in a faster fermentation.
Products with different spice formulations, meat components, casing diameters, pH or water/fat content.
Uneven temperature/humidity in the climate or fermentation chamber.
Uneven humidity in dry room causing different drying rates.
Too low acidification temperature.

No acidification
Culture not added.
Culture inactivated by direct contact with salt, cure components, or heavily chlorinated dilution water.
Non-compliance with recommended handling temperatures after thawing of frozen culture.
Insufficient carbohydrate added to sausage mixture.
Excessive salt content.
Antibacterial agents added to meat mixture (preservatives, chemical boiler treatments via steam, antibiotics in meat).
Culture exposed to high temperature during transportation or storage.

Too low final pH
Failure to monitor acidification.
Excessive carbohydrate source.
Insufficient heat processing to retard fermentation (cooking procedure).
See also Fast fermentation.

Insufficient moisture loss
Excessive humidity.
Excessive air speed and/or too low humidity sealing surface pores giving case hardening/dry rim. No moisture migration from product.
Excessive smoke initially that coagulates surface proteins retarding moisture migration. Slow drying, too high pH.
No acidification.
Smearing (during grinding) preventing water loss.
Casing greasy due to fat melting commenced. Water outlet potential through casing greatly reduced.

Too much moisture loss
Excessive drying, too fast air velocity, too low humidity.
Too fast acidification.
Applying a too fast acidifier (wrong culture).

Souring of product, post-processing
Insufficient heat treatment to destroy microorganisms (cooking process) .
Residual carbohydrates in excess that permits secondary fermentation.
Excessive moisture and residual carbohydrates in non-cooked product.
Insufficient drying.
Temperature abuse post-packaging.

Microbial contaminants either growing during fermentation or post-packaging.
Use of spoiled raw materials (meat).
Poor sanitation post-processing.
Chemical contaminant.

Discoloration/green or gray coloration.
No addition of staphylococci.
Oxidation of meat pigments via microbial contaminants, metal contaminants.
Exposure to sunlight.
High pH.
Excessive peroxide-forming bacteria.
Too low amounts of nitrate/nitrite added.
Too fast acidification.
Spoiled raw materials.
Chemical acidifier added.
Too low fermentation temperature.
Too much sorbate in the casing.
Growth of yeast on the surface.
Trace metals (unclean salts).
Grey/brown rim due to high smoking temperature.
Smearing preventing water loss giving spoiled (grey) center.
Excessive air speed and/or too low humidity, sealing surface pores giving case hardening/dry rim. No moisture migration from product giving grey center in sausage.

Mushy product
Over-working at mixer, chopper or grinder.
Excessive fat extension.
Insufficient salt level or no salt added.
Spoiled raw materials.
Proteolytic microbial contaminant.

Slimy, gassy-product
Yeast or heterofermentative lactic acid bacteria contamination in package post-processing.
Excessive moisture content.
Inadequate smoke concentration at product.

Greasing (fat melting)
Excessive heating rate (cooking process).
Excessive fermentation temperature.
Unstable meat mix, low-binding meats.
Overworking raw meat mixture.

*PS. If you are still having trouble, send a personal message anytime.
Best Wishes, Chuckwagon
Last edited by Chuckwagon on Tue Oct 13, 2015 05:44, edited 4 times in total.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably needs more time on the grill! :D
User avatar
Dave Zac
Posts: 335
Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:39
Location: Bristol, NY

Post by Dave Zac » Thu Jul 29, 2010 15:06

Thanks Chuckwagon. This will be most helpful indeed.
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 14:10
Location: Connecticut

Post by brewmaster » Tue Mar 29, 2011 15:26

Hi, l am currently 9 days into a large batch (45lbs) of genoa salami (40% beef/60 % pork)....used bactoferm & tspx, good sanitation, humidity & temp control, now at 54F & 75% humidity....Sausage appears fine, slowly shrinking, nice white coat, however, I detect a slight smell of ammonia when I open the doors of the fermentation chamber. Is this something to be concerned about?
User avatar
Posts: 4494
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 04:51
Location: Rocky Mountains

Post by Chuckwagon » Thu Mar 31, 2011 01:56

Hi Brewmaster,

Great question!
Molds are aerobic. Some folks have stated on other boards that molds will grow beneath the surface. They absolutely will not. Any High School biology or chemistry textbook will reaffirm this. In many instances, molds get the blame for the second type of bacteria - the spoilage microorganism. White molds on sausage (Penicillium nagliovense or chrysangenum or Penicillium roqueforti or camemberti on cheese) have always been seen as desirable growths as they help to moderate the drying process by preventing oxygen from reaching deep into the sausage. Molds also oxidize lactic acid as well as other acids. This action produces ammonia which just happens to increase the pH.
Now don't be too tough on molds. As they consume oxygen, they produce catalase, which reduces lipid oxidation and rancidity of fat. Last but not least, they metabolize lactic acid to increase pH.

Some time ago, I answered this same question on another sausagemaking board. I just about started World War III with my answer. I asked author Stan Marianski to clear the air by posting a response. He wrote the following message to (based in England).


Hi Chuckwagon,

I have visited your Sausagemaking Forum and must admit that I am very impressed with the quality of articles that are posted on a daily basis. The reason I have decided to write The Art of Making Fermented Sausages was not to compile sausage recipes but to provide some light on theory of meat fermentation as it applies to making those products. The main problem was to simplify related to the subject meat science and to make it readable to an average person. Too much theory and technical terms would make the book too complicated. Because of that some statements were often generalized and one of them has created some controversy. I have forwarded the question to the well known authority on the subject but as I have not received a reply yet so I have decided to check my library to see if I can find an authoritative answer.

In my personal opinion the most qualified person on the subject of fermented meat products is Professor Fidel Toldra, Ph.D from Instituto de Agroquimica y Tecnologia de Alimentos, Burjassot (Valencia), Spain. He has authored a number of technical books on the subject of meat technology and making fermented and dry products.

The question was:
"similarly to yeasts, molds oxidize lactic acid and other acids, and produce ammonia which increases pH".

In Meat Science and Applications, Chapter 23, Meat Fermentation Technology, page 550, Professor Toldra writes:

4. Mold : The contribution to flavor is mediated by the activity of lipolytic and proteolytic enzymes. Also, the ability to metabolize organic acids resulting from lactic fermentation causes a decrease in the acidification level and tangy taste. This is also the result of deaminase activity that generates ammonium from amino acids. The application of nontoxic strains protects the product from the adverse effects of the implantation of mycotoxigenic molds.

My note: deaminase - an enzyme that releases the amino group from a compound.
On page 553,

3. Flavor: The presence of yeasts and molds in fermented sausages contributes to the fermented flavor. The lipolytic enzymes contribute to flavor by generating carbonyl compounds. In the presence of oxygen, molds and yeasts do not only form flavor compounds but also oxidize lactic acid.

In his book Dry-Cured Meat Products, page 128, Professor Toldra writes:

The influence of molds depends on the mold strain that grows on the surface and the type of casing used (Toledo et al. 1997). The total volatile basic nitrogen increases towards the end of the process, especially during drying, as a result of ammonia production by deamidase and deaminase activity, enzymes typically found in molds and yeasts. The neutralization of acidity produces an increase in pH and favors the action of both microbial and muscle exopeptidases.

Another expert, Jim Bacus, Ph.D, American Bacteriological and Chemical Research Corporation, Gainesville, Florida, United States, writes in his book Utilization of Microorganisms in Meat Processing:

Molds and Yeasts. Page 80 - As the mold develops and uniformly covers the surface, enzymatic action on the fats and proteins can influence the flavor and aroma that is distinctive of the product. Large drying chambers can have a pronounced "ammonia aroma" resulting from proteolytic action on meat proteins.
P.S. If I had quoted such sentences in my book, it would have made it unreadable to the general population, so I have come up with my simplified one sentence version.

In July The Art of Making Fermented Sausages was revised, edited and published by Bookmagic, LLC. The new ISBN: 978-9824267-1-5.


Stanley Marianski

If you care to view the fireworks, you may see it here: ... ht=ammonia

If you click on to read this response, I only ask that you would review all four pages of the conversation so you don`t take me for a fool. The first two pages were filled with quite a bit of chiding and a bit of sarcasm. On the third page, my response is finally justified - thanks to the efforts of Stan Marianski. However, I just knew that I could detect the odor of ammonia - just as you have! I stuck to my guns and my trust in our very own "Seminole" (Stan Marianski) who re-affirmed my written responses and conclusions. Indeed, he left "egg on the face" of the original doubter - who, by the way, later wrote a letter of apology.
So, Brewmaster, I hope this helps to answer your question. Again, welcome to the forum and write in often.

Best Wishes,
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably needs more time on the grill! :D
User avatar
Dave Zac
Posts: 335
Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:39
Location: Bristol, NY

Post by Dave Zac » Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:35

So I'm changing the ice in my chamber this morning and I detect a slight ammonia odor. I vaguely remember reading about this topic on another forum and decided not to worry until I have a chance to jump on the internet and check it out.

Low and behold all the research has been done for me. Great thread by the way!

I feel better too :mrgreen:
Posts: 201
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 20:11
Location: Washington State

Post by Keymaster » Mon Jan 02, 2012 00:46

I got my first waft of ammonia today. This wont make the salami taste like ammonia will it? My wife enjoys Brie cheese and once in awhile she will bring home a loaf that smells and taste like ammonia, I wont touch that stuff. I did read all of the threads from above and hope I did not miss the answer to myquestion.

User avatar
Posts: 4494
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 04:51
Location: Rocky Mountains

Post by Chuckwagon » Mon Jan 02, 2012 01:43

Hi Aaron,
You asked:
This wont make the salami taste like ammonia will it?
Not at all. The mold is having a good time oxidizing the lactic acid (et al). This normally and naturally produces ammonia, increasing the pH. It will not affect the taste of the sausage whatsoever.
From what I can see, you're going to have a wonderful, tasty, dry-cured product. You've almost done all you can do. Keep an eye out for any discoloration. If you find any, photograph it and post it immediately. There are steps you can take to remove the discoloration (pathogenic microorganisms).
Relax Keymaster, you're lookin' like a champ!

Best Wishes,
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably needs more time on the grill! :D
Posts: 201
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 20:11
Location: Washington State

Post by Keymaster » Mon Jan 02, 2012 02:04

Thank you for your response Chuckwagon, I feel better now!!

Post Reply