Drying fast fermented sausages?

Agoracritus
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Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Thu Jul 04, 2019 22:44

Hey charcutiers!

I have a question about combining fast fermented “American style” semi-dry sausages with dry curing.

Basically, I’m wondering if taking smaller (35mm) natural hog cased pepperoni/summer sausage from the fermentation chamber to a dry curing room/chamber with a relatively low humidity (40-60%), to lose 35-40% weight in just 2-3 weeks is a potentially bad idea?

I’ve already experimented with drying similar sausages this way after they were heat smoked (“cooked” to the recommended internal temp) with satisfactory results. So now I’m just curious if I could skip the “hot smoke/cooking” step in the process, basically because “babysitting” the sausages in the smoker for 6-8 hours isn’t my favorite pastime.

Maybe this falls into the category of “medium” fermented/cured sausages (which I also have a specific lactic culture for, if needed) but I can’t seem to find any specific recipes or directions for medium cured sausages.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Butterbean » Thu Jul 04, 2019 23:53

If I'm following what you are asking then I do a fair amount of this during the fall and winter months but I don't use a chamber but instead just hang from the ceiling in the barn where the temps range from 50-60F and the humidity bounces around between 60 - 70%. Typically the humidity increases with the temperature which seems to work nice. I do usually inoculate the mince and usually place in a fermentation chamber for a day or two but not always. Sometimes I smoke them and but often I don't. Just depends on whether I want mold or not. I no longer need to inoculate with mold since I have a heavy population of white mold spores in this room.

These smaller casings will dry relatively fast and the beautiful aroma they put off often will have me nibbling on them after a week even though I know they are not "safe" or should I say shelf stable.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Sat Jul 06, 2019 05:46

Butterbean wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 23:53
If I'm following what you are asking then I do a fair amount of this during the fall and winter months but I don't use a chamber but instead just hang from the ceiling in the barn where the temps range from 50-60F and the humidity bounces around between 60 - 70%....
Thanks BB!

I appreciate your expertise, and it sounds like you have plenty of experience doing almost exactly what I’ve been thinking about doing myself.

One of the perks of living in the Coastal Pacific Northwest is that even in the summer months, my curing room rarely gets much over 60 degrees. For the most part, the only reason I even have and use curing chambers is to regulate (raise) the relative humidity for slow cured salamis.

Ironically, even though it rains here a LOT, it’s not often “humid”. I’ve lived in the Southeastern U.S., (1-1/2 years in Daytona Beach) and that was definitely a lesson in relative humidity!

Holy cow! The first time I arrived there and stepped out of the airport, it was like I got the wind knocked out of me! No joke, I actually dropped my bags and ran back into the (air conditioned) airport to catch my breath. (That was in July, 1995).

Now, whenever my friends/family complain that it’s “really muggy outside”, I’m thinking 🤔 “No. It’s really not.”
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Butterbean » Mon Jul 08, 2019 20:27

Yes, the humidity here can be brutal during the summer months but apart from summer the weather is pretty nice. One thing I found helpful was purchasing some of those cheap thermometer and humidity gauges from Home Depot. They usually mark them down cheap in the fall. I took several of these and placed them in different locations so I could casually monitor the temp and humidity throughout the year. What was interesting to me was when the temperature increased the humidity did also. Almost like a direct correlation. The the opposite was true in the cases of temperature decreased I don't know if I can explain this well but as I watched these fluctuations it seemed the meats almost breathed because when the temps rose so did the humidity which seemed to protect from case hardening and when the temps dropped and drying was less then the humidity also was reduced. Depending on the time of the drying cycle the room would sometimes smell like a cheese cellar.

In my case, I find it much easier to dry sausages in this room rather than in a chamber since it seems far more stable than my chamber and fluctuations seem to occur over a longer period of time. (some of these gauges will even track the trend) The more I do it this way the more I'm becoming familiar and confident with how the weather works and affects the temp and humidity. Though I still watch the gauges to some degree I really don't pay them near the attention I did in the past and my incident of case hardening seems to almost be eliminated. My biggest concerns occur when the temps drop to the 20'Fs which is rare. When this occurs I find myself having to add some humidity. I do this by simply spraying water on the sealed concrete floor. If you have concrete it needs to be sealed else you will have a hard battle keeping a high humidity since open concrete is like a dry sponge and will sap the moisture out of the air.

I would think your location would be perfect for curing much of the year and think you just need to become in tune with what nature gives you and work with it.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by LOUSANTELLO » Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:24

Why pass up the fermentation process? Just do everything you normally do with dextrose and starter culture, let the PH drop according to the culture suggested temperature, then transfer them into the chamber? If it's a smaller casing that will only take 2-3 weeks to cure, the only thing you should change is to use Cure #1 instead of Cure #2.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Wed Jul 17, 2019 03:20

LOUSANTELLO wrote:
Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:24
Why pass up the fermentation process? Just do everything you normally do with dextrose and starter culture, let the PH drop according to the culture suggested temperature, then transfer them into the chamber? If it's a smaller casing that will only take 2-3 weeks to cure, the only thing you should change is to use Cure #1 instead of Cure #2.
Thanks for the comments Lou.

That is basically how I’m doing it this round.

4 days ago I started 20 pounds of sausage using F-RM-52, dextrose and a bit of blue agave syrup (for the “fructose”, as suggested on the package of culture), and cure #1. I used slightly larger (38-40mm) hog casings than the 32-35mm I usually use for “Summeroni” sausages (just to experiment a bit with the diameter, since the larger casings are definitely more efficient to stuff, and utilize space in the fermentation chamber, smoker and curing chamber more effectively)

I fermented them at 82-83 degrees (90% Rh), for 26 hours, checked the ph (4.6), and air dried the surface moisture off of them at room temp (70*) for about 14 hours. The culture worked pretty much the same as the F-LC culture I’m more familiar with, but that’s probably because I used a fermentation temp on the upper end of the recommended range, basically to avoid an unwanted mold bloom I’ve experienced using this particular culture at lower and slower (72 hr) fermentations.

Then I put them into the cold smoker and smoked them with alder, for about 12 hours at 65-72 degrees. (Basically deviating for the first time from hot smoking/“cooking” them...as per the vast majority of fast fermentation recipes)

This morning I transferred them to the curing chamber set at 55* with the Rh set at 66%. (And with a very slight internal air circulation and a programmed exhaust system that vents a little bit of the internal air out at two hour intervals for a total about 1/3 of the chamber volume every 24 hours.)

At this stage, they look, feel and smell great and I’m confident that they will have the intended weight loss of about 35-40% in about 3 weeks, and be completely safe to consume (based on my experimentation with different sizes and types of sausages over the last couple months with the curing chamber I built this year, AND the assurance from experienced charcutiers that I’m not totally off the map)

While, unfortunately, I’ve had to trash about 40 lbs of product, from 4 different “failed experiments” in the last few months (trust me when I say that they really weren’t edible)...the good news is that I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, and for the most part, I’m happy with my success rate, and the inevitable learning curve.

Tomorrow, I’m going to start another 25 lb batch of sausages using the “summer sausage” recipe/method I’m already confident with, and dry-cure them along with the more experimental batch I described above. (So that I can compare/taste test the results, side by side, along with several vacuum packed samples from previous successful batches.)

Am I over complicating things? Most probably. I over think things and second guess myself constantly. That’s why I really appreciate this forum. Even if my reach exceeds my grasp sometimes, it keeps me grounded to consult with people much more experienced than I am, and who don’t hesitate to point out my occasional overconfidence (or unnecessary lack thereof.)
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by LOUSANTELLO » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:15

I re-read your original post. I am assuming the question was that you're going to still use a culture, dextrose and cure #1, but you want to eliminate the cold smoke process for the 2nd batch? If that's the case, your fermentation should still reach your PH goal, then transfer them immediately into the chamber to lose 35-40% over a 3 week period? I do this all the time. I never cold smoke any of my dry cured products, even if they are 32mm or 38mm, just use cure #1 due to the faster drying time ( under 30 days). I think this what what you were asking. My only concern would be to raise that humidity a little if you can (70-75%) to prevent dry rim. On the smaller sausages, I have a tendency to go longer (43-47% weight loss), as I find 35 to be way too soft, but that's just me. Anything over 35% will be shelf stable providing dry rim didn't take place, otherwise 35% on your scale could actually be 50% around the surface rim and less than 35% in the middle. Being that you are not cold smoking, you have a good chance of mold growth. If you don't want mold growth, you can dip them in potassium sorbate before you transfer them.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Tue Jul 23, 2019 02:15

Update: (with pictures)

I have 40 lbs (initial weight) sausages drying in my curing chamber.

20 lbs drying for a week, and 20 lbs from 2 days ago.

The 2 rows of sausages on the right have lost about 16-18% weight in just under 7 days, and the two rows of sausages on the left are only about 5 days behind.

This morning I decreased the Rh from 69% to 65% and also increased the air circulation a bit. Basically, because I want them all to dry even faster.

At this point, I’m not really concerned about dry rim or case hardening. I’ll cross that bridge if it comes to that, but for now I just want to get them down to 45% weight/moisture loss as soon as possible because I’d like to preserve the current look and flavor/smell of them.

If a picture is worth 1,000 word, here’s what they look like today:
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by BBQBob » Wed Jul 24, 2019 16:28

I needed to place an order for two of those please!
Nice work, agoracritus! I can't help to notice, is that a mini fridge you're using as a curing chamber?
25 years ago I use to smoke pot. Now I smoke pork.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Wed Jul 24, 2019 23:32

BBQBob wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 16:28
I needed to place an order for two of those please!
Nice work, agoracritus! I can't help to notice, is that a mini fridge you're using as a curing chamber?
Thanks Bob,

It’s actually a fairly large side by side fridge/freezer I got for free on Craigslist. (It just looks kind of like a mini-fridge in the pic because the sausages are relatively large). Unfortunately, the freezer side is just wasted space since the temperature fluctuates wildly in order to regulate the fridge side.

The fridge side works great for dry curing though.

All of the controllers are on the outside, so I only had to drill a few relatively small holes. One for the humidity sensor probe, one for the temperature sensor probe, one for the computer fan cord, humidifier cord and 3/8” aquarium pump tubing, and one 3/8” exhaust hole in the top of the fridge (stuffed loosely with a cotton ball “filter”, to keep “the nature” out)

The cord to the computer fan (hard to see behind the humidifier in the pic) is plugged into a “table top” dimmer on the outside of the fridge (to control the air circulation speed). [that’s the thing taped between the humidistat and thermostat]

The 10 gallon aquarium pump is plugged into a digital appliance timer, programmed to pump a small amount of filtered air into the chamber every two hours, for a total of approximately 1/3 The the volume of the chamber every 24 hrs. 🙄, I know, but by using a calculated and subtle air exchange/exhaust system, I don’t have to remember to open the chamber door periodically, or throw off the balance between the temp and humidity with more drastic exhausting methods.

While my setup is probably more complicated than any other setup I’ve looked into, I basically suck at keeping track of things, so I designed it such that it’s extremely low maintenance. The only thing I have to do is check on my curing products occasionally (checking weight loss mostly) and top off the small humidifier water about once a week.

The temperature and Rh vary only very slightly from the settings overall, and everything is fully adjustable. (The temp and Rh settings in the outside picture that I took of the chamber awhile back are only “off” from the sensor readings, because I’d just opened the door for a picture of the interior).

The next chamber I build will be made from a “frost free” (removable shelves) upright freezer (instead of a fridge/freezer, to maximize space), but I’ll use the exact same regulating components (that add up to about $180-190 total cost). [$45 for (WiFi) thermostat, $35 humidistat, $30 humidifier, $14 computer fan, $16 dimmer, $18 digital timer, $15 aquarium pump, and $15 power strip/surge protector.]

I know you have been investigating your own curing chamber options from some of your previous posts/inquiries, so that’s why posted this ridiculously detailed response at the risk of sounding like a total curing chamber nerd, but hopefully I covered all the bases enough to help you (or anyone else building their “first” curing chamber) avoid many of the trial and error setbacks that I experienced before finally settling on a system that I’m very happy with and proud of.
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Bob K » Thu Jul 25, 2019 17:58

Agoracritus wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 23:32
Unfortunately, the freezer side is just wasted space since the temperature fluctuates wildly in order to regulate the fridge side.
That problem can be solved. Stefans build from a side by side.

viewtopic.php?f=25&t=8198
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Fri Jul 26, 2019 02:25

Bob K wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 17:58
That problem can be solved. Stefans build from a side by side.
Thanks for the link. I thought about doing that, but my concern was that the freezer has a fan as part of the cooling system that really blasts the air around. Even if I disarmed the fan, the air exchange part of the freezer cooling system also works as a dehumidifier to keep the frost down and I’m afraid that having the main chamber as part of the air circulation system could reek havoc on my Rh regulation.

Right now it’s more like a mini fridge (on the fridge side) in that it’s indirectly cooled, which might be why I don’t have the problems with the temperature and humidity fluctuations that frustrate a lot of people with their systems.

Either way, I think I’d rather just live with the wasted space, than cut that extensively into that NASTY insulation. (Not to mention that the interior walls are a pretty heavy gauge sheet metal.) 😕

But thanks for the tip. There’s still a chance I might do that in the future when I’ve got another chamber up and running, or I get another side by side, 🤔...
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Fri Aug 02, 2019 06:59

Update:

-At the 10 day weight check (the other day), the second batch of sausages had lost about 20%.
-Very uniform color, firmness/density (and no dry rim or case hardening).
-They still look and smell exactly how I hoped they would (at this stage), and seem to be right on track for a 40% +/- weight reduction within the initial (3-4 week) goal for a timeline. (Not that I’m overly concerned with “deadlines”. I’m just trying to be more consistent and confident with my recipes and methods)

I’m still playing around a little bit with the temperature and humidity settings. Basically, I’ve been increasing the temp (slightly) and lowering the Rh as the sausages become more dense. This seems to be the winning formula so far for the fast/medium cured sausages that I posted this initial inquiry about making.

(Thanks again, to everyone who’s contributed their advice and expertise to helping me clear up some of my questions and confusions, over several different posts!)

Initially, I was hoping to find curing room/chamber settings that would work for all the various stages of curing, so that I could add new batches with older (unfinished) ones...but I’ve since decided that one batch at a time is easier to monitor and adjust, as needed, throughout the dry curing process.

Even though 40 lbs (the approximate initial “hanging weight” limit of my chamber) finished every 4 weeks (to just under 25 lbs per month), probably seems somewhat excessive to many fellow charcuterie hobbyists,,, I’m actually working towards increasing my production, (regardless of the “season”) at least periodically...[I could explain, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject, and this post is already running long]

...Anyway, I’ve been hunting/scouting for another potential curing chamber (specific type of freezer to convert) for some time.

This morning, I landed a “perfect” freezer for my next build.
It’s a 9 year old, med sized, upright, removable shelf, Kenmore, in excellent condition, that I scored for free! 😃

I’ll probably post a picture update at the 2 week mark of my currently curing sausages (in a couple days), especially since they’re starting to actually LOOK noticeably different than my initial pics. (Basically, because trying to find time lapse pictures of dry curing meats on the internet is surprisingly futile. I’m no expert, but I’ll gladly share my amateur pics, for what they’re worth, as some kind of visual reference, at least for anyone who cares to see what the various stages of what I’ve been working on lately actually look like.)

In the meantime, here’s a pic of today’s “score” for my next curing room project:
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Sun Aug 04, 2019 07:23

So, I’ve basically learned that progressive pictures of the curing stage is kind of pointless. In fact they seem to be more misleading than helpful for any kind of reference.

Even though all of the sausages have lost almost 30% of their initial weight (at the two week mark) many of them don’t look that noticeably different (at least not in the before and after pictures I took).

What IS noticeable is the difference between the two rows on the left, and the two rows on the right.

The ones on the left are 70/30 Pork/beef, and the ones on the right are 100% pork. (Probably should’ve mentioned that before 🤔)

I used the same method and ingredients for both batches, because I was curious what the difference would be. (I’ve never tried making all-pork cured sausages before, so I wanted to see if the extra effort and cost of using beef made a significant difference overall)

The ultimate comparison will be the taste and texture test when they’re all finished in a week or two...but so far the 100% pork batch definitely looks kinda weird.

Ironically, even though they all seem to be drying at different rates (based on variations in appearance), according to their weights and basic calculations, there’s only about 1% difference between the three test samples in the front of the first three rows.

I’ll add the two week before and after pics, since I already posted that I would, but I’ll try to refrain from posting any more “updates” until they are actually finished curing...🤐
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Re: Drying fast fermented sausages?

Post by Agoracritus » Mon Aug 12, 2019 00:08

I just discovered today that the humidity readings on my humidistat (that I thought was also my most accurate hygrometer), are actually off by about 10%. 🤨

That means that in all of my posts and replies regarding setting my curing chamber between 63-69% Rh, (in order to get the desired rates of drying) were actually ranging closer to 73-79%. “Mystery” solved. 🙄

Sorry about any confusion. Especially to those responding with advice suggesting using higher Rh settings, (that I basically had to “disregard” because those settings just didn’t seem to be working right for my curing chamber).

It also explains why I had to throw away two batches of dry-cured sausages a couple months ago, because they went rancid from drying way too slowly (with too much relative humidity).

Lesson learned. I’m glad I just spent the extra $$$ on a much more accurate and reliable hygrometer. (Especially with limited experience gauging the various stages of optimal dry curing)

The good news is that by inadvertently using the proper dry curing Rh settings for my current large batch of medium-cured sausages...they are very nearly finished at the 3 week mark, and I was able to actually sample one today. Oh, yeah. They’re good. Not quite ready for a final picture/taste test, but I’m really happy with how they’re turning out...

I have no idea why there’s so many views of this initial post (?) and replies, but it made me really nervous that it might not have a happy ending. So I’m very relieved to be able to report that although there’s plenty of room for improvement for my next batches (like 1/2 the cold smoking time, they’re a bit on the “Smokey” side for my taste), this experiment in trying something new (to me), is going into the “win” category. 🙂 (Thanks to everyone bearing with my ramblings and questions about something that often seemed more daunting and complicated than it probably should be.)
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