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Making Salami at home

When I first started down the road of making charcuterie at home, the art of making salami seemed a long way off. It seemed like one of those things best left to the pros, and certainly something that would turn out pretty rubbish if tried at home.

Actually, before I even thought about doing any meat curing however, the idea of curing meat at home seemed like a bad idea, and a potentially dangerous one at that. Somehow you are lead to believe that even though these fine culinary arts started at home, and are practiced at home all over the world today, it is a dangerous thing that is best left up to the big manufacturers that (apparently) have health standards.

Of course, this is complete and utter crap. We all know of the recent meat health problems, especially in processed meats (not with small salami/charcuterie makers however). In my mind, all it takes is some reading up, a little bit of specialist equipment, and you are on the road to making some pretty great products. To start with there are as many failures and successes, but as everyone knows, you learn much more from bodge-ups that heroic wins. I have almost certainly thrown away some products that would have been absolutely fine to eat – however I made a promise to myself when I started this (and a promise to Danika my wife actually..) that if I wasn’t 100% certain that something was fine, it would go in the trash.

And so quite a bit of meat did.

So Becky Selengut came over last week, and we got cracking on another batch of salmi.

Before we go into the details of making salami at home, lets talk tools for a minute. Whilst none of these are technically required, they do certainly make the whole process easier. No meat grinder? Chop the meat by hand. No sausage stuffer? Use a funnel and some seriously suspect hand movements. No electric mixer to mix everything together? Stick gloves on your hands, put them in ice water for a few minutes, then get mixing.

The stuff listed below makes things faster. In my mind it also makes the whole process safer too. Faster means that the meat stays colder, which is less bacteria growth. You can grind 4lb of meat in a minute or so, but it would take 20 to chop it really finely by hand. Using an electric mixer to mix up the forcemeat means you can use ice-cold attachments – rather than your warm hands.

Some products I recommend that make the whole salami making thing much easier:

Kitchen Aid Meat Grinder

how to make salami at homeThis is an almost required piece of equipment for any kitchen, and especially so if said cook is interested in making charcuterie. A quality product really relies on extremely freshly ground meat, and quite frankly I don’t know of any other meat grinder that works so well for the price (given that you have a kitchen aid mixer to start with). You can grind through 4lb of meat in a couple of minutes, meaning the meat stays colder, and with better separation.

5lb Sausage Stuffer

how to make salami at homeThis one is the exact one I use, and is made by Northern Tool. It is one of the cheaper 5lb stuffers out there. I like it because it is a solid stainless steel build, comes apart easily and cleans up well. The drive gears are plastic, if you want something that will last a lifetime, spend some more cash and get the all metal one – however I think this one is going to last me a very long time.

I know it seems crazy to buy a separate tool just for stuffing sausages. And yes, you can find cheaper stuffer’s out there. There is this crank arm thing that is quite frankly next to useless. More meat squirts out the sides of it than in to the sausage casing.

You can also get a stuffer attachment for the meat grinder mentioned above. It is cheap. Cheap and nasty. Don’t do it. You have to have 4 hands to operate it (one to govern speed, one to pile more meat into the hopper, one to stuff it in, one to guide the meat into the casing). What is more because it uses the auger from the meat grinder, it kinda mushes up your salami meat, causing fat smear. Horrible.

Stand Mixer

how to make salami at homeIt seems a little odd to mention this one, since I reckon most home cooks have some kind of stand mixer. You will use a stand mixer to mix up the meat, fat and curing ingredients very thoroughly. “WHAT!!” you say.. “I CAN DO THAT BY HAND!!”. Well, yes, yes you can. However this mixer does it faster. It also does it without the heat of your hands warming everything up – and as mentioned before keeping all the ingredients at the lowest temperature possible is key to a good salami.

Now, what is even better is that you can stick the bowl and attachments in the freezer for a few hours before mixing, which makes things even colder when doing that all important mix. Don’t try doing that with your hands folks.

Food Grade Gloves

Run down to your local restaurant supply store and get yourself a big old bag of disposable gloves. Sure you can wash your hands every 10 minutes, but gloves are still the best way to keep meat free from bacteria from your hands.

Salami making tips:

Everything is more fun with two people, and salami making is no exception. Two people make the prep faster, meaning meat stays at a lower temperature. It also makes stuffing the salami a breeze – one person cranks, the other governs the flow into the sausage casing. There is also much fun, hilarity, and really REALLY childish humor to be had when stuffing sausage. Your jokes shouldn’t go unheard. Nor should those rather dicey sloppy meat sounds that come from sausage making.

Keep everything cold. Really cold. The meat, tools everything.

Wear gloves. Bacteria you know.

Don’t sniff the beef casings up close. Chances are they smell pretty nasty. Every batch of casings I have used have not exactly smelt of roses.

how to make salami at home

HOME MADE SALAMI RECIPE

This recipe is a slight modification from a recipe given to me by Hank Shaw, who runs the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. You can see his original recipe here. His original recipe was based around making a salami from ingredients he could source locally (within 50 miles of his place) in California – including the wild boar he shot. The modifications I have made are to get ingredients more accessible to me, along with some tweeks to salt and sugar ratios to better suit my taste.

You will notice that this recipe contains no garlic – which might seem odd for a salami recipe. Becky is allergic to garlic, so we left it out of this batch. If you want, feel free to add 15g of fresh minced garlic when you do the other herbs/spices.

6lb pork shoulder

1lb pork back fat

56g (2.75% meat+fat weight) Kosher Salt (I use Morton)

6g Cure #2 (see below)

2tsp bactoferm T-SPX starter culture (see below)

1/4 cup distilled water

37g dextrose (see below)

45g dry milk powder

1/4cup white port (refridgerated)

10g black peppercorns

2g fennel seeds

5 dried bay laurel leaves

2g dried sage leaves

beef middle casings – about 6ft of em. (see below)

pH test strips

1) Soak the beef middle casings in coldish water, with a splash of vinegar in for at least 30 minutes. For the love of god do not sniff them. After 30 minutes they should be pretty pliable. Run cold water through them to flush them out. Soak them in some more cold water until you are ready to stuff.

2) Place your mixer bowl, paddle attachment, meat grinder attachment and sausage stuffer pieces in the freezer for at least 2 hours before starting to make the salami.

3) Cut the pork shoulder into 1″ dice. You want to remove all sinew from the meat, and a lot of the pieces of fat too. When done you want a good stack of diced meat, with fat marbling, but no stringy sinew or fat, or large pieces of fat. You want 4lb of trimmed shoulder meat. Set in the freezer whilst you do the next stages.

4) Cut the pork fat into small dice, no larger than 1/4″. This job is much, much easier if the fat is fully frozen before cutting. Return this diced fat to the freezer.

5) Mix the dry milk powder, Cure #2, dextrose and kosher salt together in a bowl.

6) Grind the peppercorns, fennel seeds, bay leaves and sage leaves together in a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar. Combine with the salt mixture.

7) Mix the meat chunks (not the back fat dice) with the herb and salt mixture. Mix really well using your hands, then return this back to the freezer.

.8) Mix the bactoferm T-SPX with the distilled water. Let this sit for about 30 minutes to let the bacteria wake up.

9) Take your meat grinder pieces out of the freezer, assemble, and grind the diced pork shoulder through the coarse die into an ice cold bowl (your mixer bowl will work great here).

10) Add the starter culture solution and the chilled port to the meat grind.

11) Add 1/4 of the diced back fat to the mixture.

12) Assemble your kitchen aid mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat this meat mixture on low speed for about a minute, then start adding the rest of the back fat in small handfuls at a time. We add them pieces at a time to make sure we get an even mixture of meat and fat. Beat for another 3-4 minutes. It is crucial here that everything is very cold. Pork fat can easily start to melt at room temperature – causing the fat chunks to smear and make one very ugly sausage. This fat smear can also clog the minute pores in the sausage casing, causing problems when drying the salami.

13) Assemble your sausage stuffer using the largest stuffing tube you have. Put the sausage mixture into the stuffer, packing it in making sure there are no air gaps. Thread the casing on to the stuffing tube.

14) Start cranking the stuffer handle until meat mixture starts coming into the casing. Tie off the end of the casing using butchers twine. For this I favor the “bubble knot”. This is really hard to describe without pictures – so follow this link to a powerpoint presentation I found online, all about casings and the bubble knot.

It is absolutely important that you tie a knot like this for larger diameter salami (such as these). If you just tied it off with some regular knot, overtime the casing would start to slip (they are slippery), your knot would come undone, and your salami would empty itself out whilst hanging to dry.

15) regulate the flow of the meat into the salami casing, making sure it is packed in tight. run your hand down the stuffing casing a few times (and laugh whilst doing so) to make sure everything is packed in tight. We don’t want air voids in the salami – this can harbor nasty bacteria.

16) according to most experts in sausages, 12″ is quite enough length for a salami. Once you have a 12 incher, stop cranking, cut the casing, and tie off the other end using your bubble knot.

17) keep going until you have stuffed all your casings, and have no meat left. You should have 4 12″ salami’s

18) push out any remaining salami meat from the stuffer tube. Wrap this in plastic wrap. We are going to use this to pH test later.

19) using butchers twine tie up your salami much like you would a pork roast. Google “butcher’s knot” if you are unsure how to do this.

20) weigh and record the weights of your sausages.

21) FERMENTATION:

Hang your salami at 75F (often just above standard room temperature) and 85%-95% humidity for 35hours.  Put the plastic wrapped salami meat in this area too. This is the fermentation step of making salami. During this time, the lactic acid bacteria in the starter culture start multiplying and producing lactic acid. This does two things – the more good bacteria growing means less bad bacteria can (since they use up the food source – dextrose). This also lowers the sausage pH, making it more acidic. Acidic environments aren’t hospitable to most spoilage and illness causing bacteria.

After 35 hours, it is time to check the pH of your sausage meat. Unwrap the salami meat you had in plastic wrap, and wet it with a little distilled water (it MUST be distilled water, since it has a neutral pH). Press your pH paper on to the meat, and compare the color shown on the pH paper with the subsequent pH color shown on the paper’s box.

You want a pH somewhere between 5.0 and 5.3. If the pH shows higher than 5.3, ferment for another 10 hours and check again. If the pH is in this range, or below, it is time for the drying stage.

Feel free to spoon over a solution of Bactoferm 600 here if you want to. This is “sausage mold” – the white penicillin mold seen on some salami. This is frankly a good idea. The mold helps slow down moisture removal from the sausage, and also helps prevent the growth of bad mold on your salami.

To make this mold solution dissolve 2 tablespoons of Bactoferm 600 in about 50g of water. Let this sit for 12 hours. Dilute further to about 200ml in total. Spoon this over the salami during the fermentation stage.

22) DRYING:

You can now discard that plastic wrapped meat. Hang your salami at about 53F and 85% humidity for 7 days. After these 7 days you can reduce the humidity to 75%. The initial high humidity helps stop the salami loose surface moisture, drying out the casing and thus making it hard for the moisture on the inside of the sausage to get out.

It will take about a month for these to dry. Periodically through the drying process, weigh the salami. The salami are done when they feel firm, and have lost about 35% of their initial weight. If the salami feels very dry on the outside, but still squishy on the inside then you have case hardening. The chance of this salami being able to loose enough moisture to make it safe to eat is slim. Time to bin it.

For more information on environments for drying salami, and all dry cured meats check out here.

how to make salami at home

WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS:

bactoferm T-SPX starter culture: This is really just freeze dried bacteria. Lactic acid producing bacteria to be precise. When these bacteria multiply, they produce lactic acid, which makes the salami more acidic (lower pH). This helps prevent bad bacteria from multiplying, and also gives a salami that distinctive “tang”

dextrose: A simple sugar, in powder form. This is the food for the lactic acid bacteria mentioned above.

cure #2: A mix of nitrate, nitrite and salt. Nitrates help prevent botulism. Botulism can be fatal. Add them to your salami. Botulism is rare, but the conditions inside a salami (moist, lack of oxygen, right temperature) are perfect for its growth. Make sure to use the correct amount.

pH test strips: also called litmus paper. A little strip of paper that changes color depending on the acidity/alkalinity (pH) of whatever you dip it into. The test strips come with a handy guide to show you what color means what pH.

beef middle casings: relatively wide (3″ when stuffed) natural beef middle intestines. These come packed in salt. They need to be soaked prior to use, to make them flexible and elastic. They can smell pretty bad. Adding a tablespoon of distilled vinegar to the soaking water can help remove the stink. The smell will go away after the first few days of hanging the salami.

All of these specialist ingredients can be ordered online at the following retailers:

Butcher & Packer

Sausage Maker

RECOMMENDED READING:

Charcuterie – Michael Ruhlman

Art of making Fermented Sausages – Marianski

Cooking by Hand – Paul Bertolli


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24 Responses to “Making Salami at home”

  1. nina says:

    I so admire your skill and attention to detail!!! Well done, Matt! I am not ready to take on this mammoth task, but you are at least making me think about it!!!

  2. Scott says:

    Good stuff and well written. There are several things I can add from experience. To make it easier on yourself, try cutting the meat into thin strips. When they’re cu t this way, you can kind of “thread” them through your grinder. I’ve found I can grind a little more quickly, which, in turn, keeps the meat cold a bit longer. Also, with regards to the mold spray(and I know you’ve not had success with it), I use a spray bottle. I spray them thoroughly right before they are to be fermented. All sound advice, sir. Nice work.

  3. Tupper Cooks says:

    Nice post- Making my own salami, pepperoni, etc. is on the list of things to do- homemade is so much better than processed. Great job-

  4. You seriously may have just inspired me to pull out our kitchen aid meat grinder (unwrap it) and hunt down all the extras as a gift to my hubby for our anniversary!
    ~kristin

  5. I used the KitchenAid sausage stuffing attachment to make chicken sausages a while back (a gift for my dad; he’s fat-and-cholesterol-phobic) and while it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, it wasn’t totally awful. ( http://mllenoelle.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/chicken-sausage-for-dad/ ) Once I make a few more batches of sausage at home, perhaps I can justify purchasing a more professional machine, but for now I’ll have to make do with the KA.

  6. penelopetoni says:

    I never liked salami and now i know why.

  7. Whew! This looks like more of a project than I am ready to take on, but I really enjoyed reading your post. This took the mystery out of salami for me. The more I know, the more I appreciate good food. Thanks for sharing this information.

  8. mattwright says:

    thanks for the comments everyone!

    nina: it really is simpler than it sounds, not much more work than fresh sausage really.
    scott: great tip for the grind. As for the bactoferm, I have had great success now using more of it in solution. These salami are now completely covered in mold!
    Tupper: thanks!
    LoveFeastTable: do it!
    Noelle: the problem comes when you want distinct fat from meat, then it isn’t the best tool in the world.
    Penelope: hah!
    Marie: thankyou!

  9. Becky says:

    I think it’s time you tell people what we’ve named the salami.

  10. Authman says:

    I had read your previous post a while ago (linked in the article under the ‘quite a lot of meat did’), so it was refreshing to see this followup article.. =)

  11. this is one feat i’d be glad to participate in but not take the lead (so, if there’s someone from denver who wants a cohort i’m in).

    thanks for sharing! love the picture in the garage with the bikes in the back.

  12. zenchef says:

    The salami has a name!? :)

    Very impressive, Matt. You’re very thorough in your methods, careful and meticulous about avoiding potential health issues and damn gifted at explaining the process. I would buy a freakin’ salami from you!

    Keep the experiments coming. I can’t get enough of this.

  13. Haukeg says:

    Amazing article, thank you Matt! Can you or any other “curer” speak to the smell while curing? I’ve heard folks say the smell can be bad and not recommeneded in an attached portion of the house (like a garage). But I assume that is when hang drying in a cage? Does the fridge apparatus help contain any fowl odors? Any tips/advice on this appreciated!

    You’ve inspired a buddy and me to go for it! Some day…proscutto!

  14. mattwright says:

    So – as for the smell.

    I have found that salami has a stronger smell when curing than whole muscle cuts. Most of this quite frankly is due to the casing. I use natural casings from either pigs or cows. The cow casings certainly smell the worst.

    During fermentation when the temp is high, there is certainly an odor. It isn’t unpleasant, but I wouldn’t bottle it and use it as cologne either! After the first week of curing the smell pretty much goes away.

    I have a curing chamber in my garage. During most of the curing process you can only notice an odor when you are about 6ft away – but like I said, during the early stages the whole garage can smell of meat. Warm moist meat. The odors aren’t horrible though, if you are getting really bad smells, then something is going rather wrong!

  15. luke jeffs says:

    great article matt, am going to make salami this w/end. little concerned of my drying procedure though (in a slightly vented closet) but seem to work last year. do you prick your finished salami before hanging? thanks mate. Luke

  16. nico says:

    very nice post, I really like it. I would love to be able to make my own salami but leaving in houston is impossible with out the extra equipment. My gran dad makes his own charcuterie since I remember, he does not have any special equipment and he hang everything in his garage, of course this was done only during winter time. entering a garage full of salami hanging from the ceiling is a unique experience. He usually bought a pig and processed with friends, every weekend was in a different house so all of them ended up with a nice supply of dry meats. After the salami were dry they keep them in cow lard so we could enjoy them during summer time.
    Keep doing this man, I love it.

  17. DocS9788 says:

    Matt;
    Great work here! I did NOT use the Mold producing culture (Bactoferm Mold Spray) just the T-SPX. My Salami has been hanging for 12 days and has developed a lite fuzz with some white mold spots with little black spots in the center. I washed the links (I stuffed MY salamis in 34MM Hog Casing) with White Vinegar and they cleaned up nicely and are LOOKING like salami. Did I HARM anything by washing them in white vinegar? They have a way to go before finished. I have maintained a temp of 60 degrees F and humidity of 80% since I hung them in my curing/drying cabinet. Thanks,
    “Doc”

  18. Wade says:

    I have a batch of salami curing. The temp has been 55-57 degrees, throughout the process. Humidity started 78%, now I’m able to keep it in the mid 60′s. I had one drop in humidity to below 60%. I think that this was for a brief period of time.
    I’m starting to see cleer liquid forming on the surface of a few of them. Is this normal or OK?. I have air flow, fan every 3hrs and ventilation holes ect.
    Thank you for your time, you are a great inspiration,
    Wade

  19. Steven Ksiezak says:

    Hi Matt,

    It was interesting. I am an Englishmen living abroad in Italy and before I moved here all you have said would have made sense.

    here is how they do it in my middle part of Italy..Mince up approx 70% meat 30% fat, put in 2.2 % salt of that mixture…a little red wine to loosen it up, the flavourings you want…stuff into casings..Hang outside in the cold until you eat it…

    There are variations on this.

    Recomend an English Guru…see youtube and look up River cottage Pig in a day.

    I would be interested in what you think.

    Regards

    Steven Ksiezak

  20. mattwright says:

    Hi Steven. Yep, what you say makes total sense. Throughout France and Italy you will see dry cured sausage made that way. In fact, in France you will generally see butchers grind up decent scrap, mix with a bit of salt and just stuff in to casings – no seasons, no nitrate, no starter culture. Similar is done in Spain and Italy too.

    There are a few interesting points here. These are not salami’s of any great finesse, they are more a cheap country salami that tastes good on a warm day with a glass of wine, sitting in a field. There is also some safety factors to consider. Personally at I home I don’t advice to cure without either a lactic acid starter culture or nitrate. Course you can do it without, but in my mind given the possible health risks, I am going to follow the code on making safe cured meats.

  21. Erik says:

    Hello, I have been making sausage and bacon at home now for some time. I have procrastinated on the salami due to the complexity. But now I’m inspired to start. My question is this. What do you use to keep the salami warm for 35 hrs in the incubation stage? (I live in a condo and it’s february. I don’t intend to heat my apartment to 75 to 80 degrees fahrenheit, and I’m not sure I want to attempt a 35 hour heating of my oven.) Is there a professional product that could help with this?

  22. mattwright says:

    Erik – I use a heating lamp in my fridge, on a temperature controller. The fridge doesn’t turn on/off – it is just a sealed vessel to ferment these things in.

  23. Brizzleben says:

    Hello Matt: great article, thank you. I’d be very interested to know what you use to control the temperature in that fridge of yours, and the humidity too. I’ve wanted to set up something like this for for proving bread as well and this might just do the job. I’m in the UK so may not be able to buy exactly what you’re using but it would be fun improvising.

  24. Brizzleben says:

    Hey, scratch that, I just saw the how-to page about setting up. Man, you’re a gem!