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meat curing at home – the setup

After the radio interview I did earlier this month for the KCRW Good Food Show I thought I might well just do a post about how gosh darn easy it is to make a little setup at home to cure meat in.

When I first started making moldy meat in my garage over a year ago I figured that it must take very specialist equipment, and a team of well read meat science boffins to make anything resembling a decent cured product. I quite frankly am not a meat science boffin, or have very specialist equipment. Nor do the thousands of other people around the globe that cure meat at home, and make a darn fine product too I should add.

It turns out it is actually exceptionally easy to make a basic reliable setup at home to cure meat in, and one that doesn’t cost a pretty penny either. In fact, with a little wheeling and dealing, I reckon the whole thing can be put together for around $100 – even less if you have an old fridge already, or a room/garage/basement that has some of the right environmental properties (more on that later).

My first ever setup was a just simply hanging the meat (inside a cage incase any animals got in..) in my garage. This proved somewhat unreliable because temperature and humidity fluctuated so much – often outside the limits of what should really be considered safe. From here on in I started looking into making a more controllable setup at home that wouldn’t require a walk in fridge area, and lots of special equipment.

So – meat curing is just really the slow controlled release of water from meat. Once the water activity level (aW) of meat gets low enough it is considered safe to eat, since living organisms (bacteria included) need moisture to survive.

A setup for curing meat is really just making a small area with the right environmental conditions.

These conditions are temperature, humidity, and air flow.

In order to make a decent (and safe) product you need some way of controlling all three – or at least keeping them within a certain range. Lets look at each element separately, and see what we can do to control it.

temperature: a safe temperature range for curing meat is below 60F. Above that and bacteria grows a lot faster. Ideally you want the temperature between 50F and 60F. Below 50F and the curing process slows down a great deal, making the process take much, much longer (which also means it takes much much longer for your charcuterie to reach a safe water content level, but that is getting a bit geeky). Most likely you are going to find that you will have to cool and area to get it to 60F rather than heat it.

humidity: for most of the curing you want the humidity between 70% and 75%. Below 70% and you run the risk of the outside of your salami/meat drying out too fast, which means moisture is trapped on the inside, leading to spoilage. If the humidity is really high for too long then the sausage wont dry correctly, and you run the risk of getting a lot of bad mold on the charcuterie.

Ideally when you first put something in to dry cure, you want the humidity at around 85%, and then over the course of the next week you want to drop the humidity down to 75%. The reasoning here is that you want your humidity just a bit less than the water content of the meat you are curing – this stops the meat drying out too fast and developing case hardening. At the start of curing the meat has a lot of moisture in it (especially leaner cuts), so you want your curing humidity to almost match that. As the meat looses water you drop the humidity down accordingly (or roughly anyhow).

Typically we find that most areas in a house aren’t this humid, unless you have a cold, dank basement. Often enough we find ourselves having to add extra humidity to a space to make it perfect.

air flow: some air flow is critical in not only helping to dry the meat (pulling moisture away from the surface of the sausage), but it also really helps keep bad mold (green, black and fury mold) off the meat too – since there isn’t stagnant damp air constantly around the sausage. In practical terms this can just mean fanning the meat a couple of times a day, or setting up a low powered fan to blow a little air around.

SETTING ALL THIS UP IN PRACTICAL TERMS:

So, we know that we have a bunch of conditions that we need to control. How on earth does one go about making a space that has the right temperature, humidity and air flow?

1) buy a temperature and humidity sensor and find an area in your house with good temp/humidity

the first thing to do is get your hands on a temperature and humidity sensor. Over the course of a week, put it in different locations around your house for 24 hours, and see what readings you get.

If you have a basement that is somewhat unfinished (and not heated) then you might have somewhere with decent temperature, and possibly even humidity. Here in Seattle especially in the winter, most peoples basements can get pretty humid, thanks to all that fine rain we have.

I recommend against curing meat in a garage that you will have to open the garage door a few times a day with. Been there, done that, thrown away the meat because of it. Opening the door is going to lower the humidity quite a bit, and it will stay low for a while. Unless you get a humidifier to bump it back up as needed. Obviously don’t cure meat in a garage that you are going to drive a car in to either! Salami flavored with car fumes ain’t gonna taste too pretty.

The temperature and humidity sensor I recommend is this one: HygroSet II Adjustable Digital Hygrometer

It is relatively cheap, accurate, and most importantly adjustable. Often enough hygrometers (humidity sensors) aren’t incredibly accurate out of the box, and you need to calibrate them. Most digital sensors don’t allow this, but this one does. How to calibrate you ask? Spend less than your daily latte on this: Boveda One Step Calibration – a simple calibration kit that is so incredibly simple to use.

2) OK, my house is rubbish for meat curing.. now what?

Worry not, that is how it goes for most of us. The next thing to do is to construct yourself a curing chamber. Rent some old MacGyver episodes, read up on Heath Robinson, and make some friends at Home Depot – you are you going to need to!

JUST KIDDING!

Here is what you do… Go to craigslist. Search your local area for people selling old frost-free fridges. You shouldn’t spend over $25 on it to be honest. Quite a few are being given away free, if you can get your mits on a truck to take it away with. An old fridge makes an almost perfect curing chamber, albeit with some modifications!

Oh, and don’t worry about these old fridges draining the power grid, and your salami causing massive widespread deforestation and global warming due to the high power consumption. The fridge won’t be on that much – we are going to setup a controller that will turn it on and off to maintain a temperature of 57F – which is much higher than the regular fridge temperature of 36F.

3) Fridge, check. What’s next?

Time to talk about controlling those environmental factors above that we talked about.

Controlling temperature:

If you leave a fridge turned on, it will self regulate itself to hold a temperature around 37F. You can make go to about 45F, but that is still too low for meat curing – which should be between 50 and 60F (preferably 55-60F).

Thankfully there is a great little (and simple) product that will automagically turn a fridge on and off to maintain whatever temperature you set it to. It has a temperature probe that you put in the fridge that monitors the fridge temperature. You plug the fridge into the controller, and the controller into an outlet. Set the temp at 57F, and you are done. The controller simply turns the fridge on and off to maintain the set temperature.

The controller that you see on the left is just under $50 and can be ordered here, and is meant for home brewing – but works exceedingly well for meat curing applications.

Controlling Humidity:

Humidity is a different ball game to temperature. Humidity can vary a lot depending on where you curing chamber is. In most situations you are going to need to add humidity, and not remove it.

Since humidity in your chamber (er, old fridge..) varies depending on atmospheric conditions, how long your fridge is on for (the cold air pumped into fridges has very low humidity), how much meat you have in there, and at what stage the meat is at – we need some kind of humidity controller, and humidifier.

Some options for controlling humidity:

1) bowl of salty water. Yes it can be that simple. In the bottom of your fridge put a big bowl of very salty water. The salt prevents bacteria growth in the water. This might be enough to raise your humidity to a decent level.

The problem here is that as those conditions above change, this salty water doesn’t give out any more or any less humidity, it is constant. This leaves you forever checking it to make sure it isn’t getting too humid in there.

2) a humidity controller (hygrostat) and humififer

This is by far the best solution, but it is more expensive. The humidity controller works in pretty much the same way as the temperature controller. You set a dial saying what humidity you want, and the controller will turn a humidifier on and off to maintain that rough level. All you have to do is make sure you keep your humidifier stocked full of distilled water.

On the left is the Dayton Humidifier Controller. This does exactly what is mentioned above. Set the humidity you want on the dial, plug a humidifier into the front of it, and put the thing in your curing chamber. Easier than breathing. This will turn your humidifier on and off to maintain the humidity you set it to.

One thing that I have done is actually to add a fan into this equation too. I have a power strip plugged into the humidity controller, and into that strip I have BOTH a humidifier and a fan plugged in.

So, when the humidifier turns on, so too does a fan. This pushes the humid air around the chamber, and makes sure the chamber has even humidity across it. This also provides some much needed airflow every now and again.

Now lets talk about humidifiers for a second.. You want to make sure that you get an “ultrasonic” humidifier. This gives out a much finer mist than regular humidifiers, which is absorbed into the air much easier, and wont leave you with large water globules sitting on your meat. You also want one that will just start going when you plug it into the wall – and doesn’t require 10 button presses to start – since the humidity controller cannot press buttons for you..

I use this one:

A simple cheap ultrasonic humidifier.

This one has a dial on it to determine how much moisture it kicks out. I have it cranked all the way up, and it raises humidity rather quickly. The unit is pretty small, which is great because you don’t want it taking up valuable meat space. For me, I have to fill it every couple of weeks. Oh, and on a note on filling humidifiers – always use distilled water, otherwise you get mineral deposits in your humidifier, which causes it to conk out much faster.

So you put the humidifier in the bottom of the fridge, along with the fan if you are using one (you don’t have to). Hook it up to the humidity controller, which needs to sit somewhere in the fridge too. Set the controller to the desired humidity, walk away and have a beer (the beer part is instrumental to the success of the whole seutp).

Controlling airflow:

You can get uber-complicated here. Certain airflows are best at certain times during the curing process. You could buy a small 120V computer fan, drill a hole through the side of you fridge, and mount it in the fridge, to give some air flow. Heck, even just drilling some holes in the top right side and bottom left side of your fridge would most likely give enough airflow, without the fan.

You could do that if you want.

Personally for me, I just leave the door of my chamber open a little bit. It isn’t like I don’t check on my meat twice a day, swing open the door, take the meat out, give em a squeeze, and so on. Plenty of airflow going on there.

If you have your fridge in a place where you cannot leave the door open, then seriously consider drilling some holes through the side of it (don’t worry, there shouldn’t be anything bad to drill through in the SIDES of the fridge) for some airflow. If you have rodent problems, then I suggest putting some fine mesh over these holes too. Rats can squeeze through a hole smaller than a quarter you know..

So there you have it – your basic fridge curing chamber setup. With the temperature and humidity controllers in place, this really is a pretty hands free setup.

3) Make some cured meat!

This is the fun bit. Get some recipes, get some meat, and all the stuff you need for it and get cracking making some lovely moldy bits of pig. There are some particular products you are going to need – curing salts, dextrose, casings if you are doing salami. I highly recommend Butcher & Packer for these.

You are also going to want to break down a buy a decent kitchen scale. Using cups and tablespoons isn’t accurate enough for most meat curing antics. Quite frankly, I have no idea how people bake/cook using volume measurements for dry ingredients anyhow. Scales rock. They aren’t expensive either.

Oh wait.. I nearly forgot recipes. Well, there are a couple of great books to get you started:

Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn – a great book covering cured meats, salami, pate, sausages

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Stanley Marianski – fabulous book on making salami. A lot of information here, including a lot of science – however it is extremely accessible, and not at all dry. Marianski has managed to write a technical book with great recipes that is easy for you and I to read.

Finally, if anyone gets started curing meat, let me know! I want to hear about it.

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94 Responses to “meat curing at home – the setup”

  1. Peter says:

    Great set up! Looking to put this together myself. However seeing as I’m from Canada, I’m having a hard time locating some of the required items. Does anyone know of any Canadian online retailers that carry the products? The temperature and humidity controllers seem to be the most difficult to locate here in Canada. Very strange! Any info woudl be appreciated.

  2. Peter says:

    Great set up! Anyone know of any Canadian retailers that sell these items. Can’t seem to find the Temperature and Humidity controllers from Canadian retailers.

  3. Tub says:

    Peter

    i had the same issue so I have sourced the products in Florida and will be picking them up in a couple of weeks. If you know someone in the states send the products to them and have them shipped to you. If I was not going to Florida I would use the mail a friend method. Now to get that thermostat through security at the airport…..hummmm

  4. TC says:

    Great article, thank you. I am on my third batch of salami, but first time using this method. I read Bertolli’s “Cooking by Hand” and “American Charcuterie”. Both great books with a lot of good info.
    Our first batch of salami (elk and wild pork 100 pounds) we ended up storing in our wine room, but eventually the white mold spread to the wine barrels, so we moved it into our laundry room. Not a bad product, but may have spoiled a bit. The other mistake I made was I vacu-sealed the salamis for storage. What that did was pull a lot of the moisture to the surface and leave the interior a little drier then desired.
    We set up the second batch (wild pork and venison 150 pounds), but the day we were going to do it my daughter was born. All the meat was partially thawed, so I left directions for friends and headed out to the hospital. The batch turned out ok, one of the problems with this batch it sea salt got substituted for kosher salt in the recipe. Sea salt is a lot stronger then kosher salt, and left the salami a bit salty.
    Ok, I just started the third batch the day before yesterday (venison with domestic pork butt 100 pounds), and now it’s time to get serious. I bought a two door “True” brand refrigerator, and a hydrometer. I had a new thermostat installed to raise the temperature range from 35-45 to 40-70 degrees. The new unit seems to work well. I initially had the salami at room temp for 36 hours until the PH dropped to 5. I then applied a white mold culture and set the unit to 55 degrees. I am a bit worried because currently (60 hours into the process) the humidity in the unit is at 90% at 55 degrees. I am hoping this elevation in the humidity is due to the moisture in the salami, being that is the first stage of the drying process. I ran the refrigerator before putting anything in it, and the humidity was about 35% at 55 degrees.
    Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

  5. Wade says:

    Ok, I’m up and running.
    I have a batch of “Salami” in my curing chamber.(thanks for all the great info on how do this) I’m having similiar issues as TC. With the humidity spiking once the meat is hung. I was thinking of mounting an exterior fan to pull the humid air out, through a ventillation whole. With a dehumidifer control switch inside, the chamber.
    Any suggestions on the fermentation set up? My space is limited.

  6. TC says:

    I ended up just cracking the doors and putting an additional electric 12″ fan on the bottom. That seems to have done the trick. My humidity is sitting at 70% and my temp is about 50-52 degrees. A nice white mold have begun to form and I am off and running. As a result of the initial high humidity (which the meat was only exposed to for about 2 days) a few patches of bad mold formed which I whipped off with white vinegar.
    Next batch I am going to hang them a while longer in the curing phase, until the PH hits 5 or less and the casings are dry or tacky to the touch.

  7. Dylan says:

    Any advice out there…..
    I’m 2 weeks into curing some toscano style salami and a chorizo. I have developed some greyish/green mold, which I wiped off with a vinegar wash, per a couple of references I have. I now have more white mold, but the other molds are returning and I have a pretty strong odor emanating from the curgin box (aka an old refrigerator). Is this batch a lost cause? Any input would be appreciated.

  8. Brett says:

    Hi, i’m just starting out on this adventure of curing meat, living in Melbourne Australia, and wondering does anyone know if the digital hygrometer, Humidifier Controller and humidifier can be purchased from the states and be shipped to Oz? Also, approx how long does the meat curing take place in the fridge from start to eating stage?
    Cheers any info would help.

  9. TC says:

    I say don’t worry. If the “fuzzy” mold is on top of your white mold you should be just fine. The white mold will stop the bad mold from seeping into the casing. Drop your humidity down, what is it at now? When I develop bad mold on top of the white mold I wipe it down lightly with vinegar. About half of the white mold will stay on there, and the bad will be removed.

  10. Ron says:

    when curing is done what is the best way to perserve meat. Vac seal and freeze whole?. Slice and vac seal and freeze?,or keep it hanging ?

  11. TC says:

    I wrap it in butcher paper and just keep it cool. I would say don’t vacu-seal it. I have done that in the past and it pulls a lot of the oil to the exterior of the casing.

  12. Jeff says:

    I really want to do this but I have a question. You specify that a frost-free refrigerator should be used. I actually have a fridge I’m considering replacing with a more energy efficient model. I would like to hack the old fridge as you suggest but it isn’t frost-free. Is that important?

  13. mattwright says:

    Jeff – have a go. That is what I say! Hack it up, do what you need, and try it out. Many people have very different setups – most are using some kind of old fridge. My suggestion is to run the thing for 48hours at curing temps (55F) to see how your humidity and so on is working out – and whether you get frost build up (I doubt you will to be honest).

  14. Shane says:

    Hey Matt,

    I’ve got my setup together with all of the items you’ve listed above. Everything that is, except the fan. I’ve just turned everything on. I’m noticing that everytime I open the frig to check the temp. & humidity the humidity is usually over 90% even though my Dayton Humidifier Controller is set to 75%. Is this normal? BTW: The frig is a frost free unit.

    Thanks,

  15. Peter says:

    Hey Matt,

    Just got my old fridge all set up! I had a few questions. Several websites are claiming that a safe curing temperature would be anything between 36-40° F (2-5° C). They claim that anything above that and your meat will get spoiled by bad bacteria. Any thoughts on that?

    Right now I have my fridge set-up in my basement cellar and the temperature in the fridge is about 47F (8C), and I was looking at means of bringing that up to your suggested range. 50F-60F. Just a little confused about the temperature.

    Peter

  16. mattwright says:

    Peter – for curing (where the meat sits in salt) those temperatures are correct – preferably 36F, not higher (regular fridge temp). For the air drying stage, 50-60F is the norm – personally I like around 53F.

  17. Seth says:

    Thank you so much for this write-up — so many questions I’ve had, answered in one place. One final one: Do you think the humidifier set-up will work in a large-ish mini fridge? It’s not one of those tiny square ones, but it’s about a third the capacity of a real fridge, and I just have this image of water-sprayed meat. I have no experience with ultrasonic humidifiers, so maybe I’m picturing the mist heavier than it actually is? Thanks very much for any advice!

  18. Mark says:

    Hey Matt,

    Do you have suggestions on minimum size requirements for a fridge? I live in a rather small apartment and don’t have the space for a full-on curing chamber. Also, any thoughts on using an old wine refrigerator?

    Mark

  19. mattwright says:

    I personally wouldn’t go any smaller than a normal sized fridge. The more air you have in there, the better. If you do go smaller, make sure you have a fan in there drawing the damp air out, otherwise you will very quickly run in to some nasty bad mold issues.

    I use a large old wine refrigerator – but It is about 6ft tall, 2.5ft wide.

  20. mattwright says:

    Seth – If you absolutely want to use a mini fridge, you could, but I personally don’t recommend using a small fridge, especially if you are new to curing. The more air you have around your hanging meat the better. A larger fridge is more forgiving if you don’t have perfect air flow and circulation. If a small fridge gets too humid, you can get bad mold pretty quickly.

    If you do use a small fridge, you might not even need a humidifier in there, depending on how much meat you put in. Meat straight out of the cure has a lot of moisture in it, and can raise the humidity in a small chamber quite a bit – all by itself. Have a small ultrasonic humidifier just in case, but you might not need one.

    I have seen small humidifiers that actually run off a plastic water bottle – that would be the most appropriate I think for your space.

  21. PforrestePete says:

    hello, new to all of this but am bursting with enthusiasm to get started. This may sound like a silly question but would you actually keep the fridge door open if it was in a cool enough area? It would certainly help the air flow, I’m just not sure if it would result in the fridge working overtime to maintain the desired temp and the same with the humidifier. Thanks and happy curing all.

  22. mattwright says:

    I generally keep the fridge door open a crack, or you can also drill holes in the side of the fridge too. If you open it too far however, your humidifier will be going constantly, which isn’t good.

  23. Brandon says:

    Matt,

    I notice on another page of your site that you show a curing chamber setup with a light sitting on the bottom of the chamber. Is that a light just for the picture or are you using it for a specific purpose like heat? If so how do you have it setup? Is it plugged into the humidifier controller along with the fan?

    I also have space restrictions and am looking at using a wine fridge. I am going to study it hard after I setup all the gadgets inside to see how much humidity and what temperature it will stay at without opening the door. Then if I leave a gap and how large of a gap will be needed to keep in a good range. All this before I start a single batch. I will keep you posted.

    Thank you,

    Brandon

  24. mattwright says:

    hi Brandon –
    The light is for the strict purpose of heat, during fermentation. I actually now recommend against using a heat bulb like this one, since I had one explode inside the chamber because of the humidity. 10lb of salami in the trash. Now I suggest using a ceramic heat bulb.

    The bulb is plugged in to a temperature controller. You set a certain temp on the controller and it turns the light bulb on/off to maintain that temp. very snazzy.

    Pretty soon I am going to do a post on setting up a fermentation chamber.

    With the wine fridge you are absolutely going to want some kind of air flow in there. whether you drill a couple of holes in the side, or leave the door open a tiny bit, you need some way of getting that humid air out, and fresh air in.

  25. Peter says:

    Hey Matt,

    I put this set up together several weeks ago and I now have several lonzino curing.

    I just noticed that the humidity reading on my digital hygrometer is never the same or even close to the humidty reading on the hygrostat. I have the same models as mentioned above. Would you have any idea why this may be? I also purchased the calibration kit for the hygrometer and made sure it was well calibrated.

  26. matt says:

    Peter – Yep, that actually totally makes sense, I have the same thing with mine. So here is the thing – humidity controllers are typically pretty inaccurate when it comes to measuring humidity well. They are really good at turning something on and off when a certain humidity is reached, however for an accurate reading you want to rely on your hygrostat, which should be much more accurate.

    What I do is look at the reading on my hygrostat and then just adjust the HC (humidity controller) in small increments to get the reading I want on the hygrostat. Hygrostat says 85% humidity? OK I am going to knock down the HC by 7% or so – no matter what it reads.

    You will also find that for some reason most HC’s need some airflow to operate accurately. Why is this? Honestly, I have no idea.

    Trust your hygrostat (but it is worth testing its accuracy for sure – I test mine every 6 months), not your HC. Also it should be noted that you will get quite a lot of fluctuation in humidity inside your chamber. This is totally normal, don’t do what I did and spend countless hours trying to keep it perfectly at 75% humidity. Waste of time. As long as your humidity fluctuates between 65-80% life is good.

  27. David says:

    Any place where one can purchase a fermanting chamber already to use??

  28. mattwright says:

    David – I am not sure to be honest, that would be great wouldn’t it! I can build you one for the tidy sum of 1million dollars… seriously though – take a look at this website for more info on building a small scale one: http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/2007/08/key-equipment-piece-4-fermentation-box.html

  29. Matt says:

    Would an upright freezer work? I have access to one and figure it would work on the same principle as the fridge. The temperature control will just cycle it on and off. Also, it has a lot of room so I do not lose space from having a fridge/freezer combo.

  30. mattwright says:

    I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. The only thing I can think of right now as to why it wouldn’t is that some freezers cool the space differently to how fridges do. I have no idea if that will impact the humidity inside the chamber. Should work fine though.

  31. pat says:

    Dear Matt,
    I have managed to get the humidity to 56-57degrees and 70 percent humidity which are recommended temperatues. The sausages look beautiful on the outside, however are soft and hollow on the inside after three weeks. Do you have any suggerstions or answers as to why this is happening?.

  32. mattwright says:

    pat – give them some time. Your temp and humidity sound perfect. Do they feel really hard on the outside, but soft inside?

  33. pat says:

    yes they do , but they are hallow inside…also it is hard to find the equipment you listed here in Canada. So I put a remote humidistat and a remote thermostat to control the temperature and humidity. 120vlt receptacle for humidistat and a baseboard heater thgermostat. hope that is helpful for someone who cannot find the equipment listed.

  34. Dan says:

    Very interested in curing meat as I have recently picked up a 3 door stainlesss steel cooler that would work for this. I am just unsure of how to set it up. I currently am building a revers flow smoker from a water tank and will start on the stainles once it’s finished. Ideas?

  35. mattwright says:

    Dan – you need to see what temp. range the cooler works in. If it generally works around 36F, you might be able to get a different temp control module for it that would mean it could natively run at 50F, which is what you want for curing. If you cannot do that, you can use an external temp controller.

  36. Clark says:

    Excellent guidelines. Now to scout out a used fridge and figure out where I want to put it…

    I’m currently in the process of losing my pancetta cherry, per instructions I found on Michael Ruhlman’s website. Right now, I’ve had the pork belly salted and in a ziplock back in the refrigerator. Since I don’t have a climate control apparatus right now, I plan to test my luck and hang it in a spare closet to dry.

    I noticed today when I turned the pork belly that there is a lot of liquid in the bag now. Should I be draining this off, or just let it brine in its own juices?

  37. mattwright says:

    some drain it off, others leave it. personally I leave it.

  38. Robert says:

    Hi Matt,

    I have just started doing home Charcuterie. The setup you have shown is fantastic and I am hoping to get my own done soon. But I am having big problems getting certain bits. Being in England when I click the temperature controller link it is on the American Amazon site and I can’t get it shipped over here. I have tried searching for the the same thing on the UK one and on Google but I can’t find anything. Do you know anywhere in England that I can get the right parts? Or what other names it might be called? Many thanks in advance for your help.

    Robert

  39. mattwright says:

    Robert – no idea I am afraid. This web forum might be able to help you out though, a lot of people there are in the UK – http://forum.sausagemaking.org/

  40. ptw says:

    Hi Matt,

    Hello from Scotland.

    Excellent instructions on how to convert a fridge. I, like Robert, am having some difficulty sourcing parts here in the UK, but come hell or high water I will find them I’m sure. I am at present curing a kilo of prk belly in my loft – has been hanging at temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and between 55% and 70% humidity. It smells ‘nice’ and has been hanging for some 3 weeks. Has small peices of white mould on it (it’s wrapped in muslin, as per Lindy Wildsmith’s recipe) and is due to be cut on the 7th of May. Excited as hell, but wish to convert an old fridge so as to be able to cure/dry all year round. Keep up your good work.

  41. mattwright says:

    PTW – be careful with temps around 70F mate, that is too high to cure meat. 60F and below are safest.

  42. Epicuranoid says:

    Great post, I’m really enjoying your blog Matt. I can’t believe I haven’t run across it until this week. I have an really nice open place with plenty of airspace, so I only use a fridge for curing opposed to drying in one. However, I would think that a fan would be pretty much necessary in a small space with a humidifier, as you wouldn’t want any moisture to collect on your meat while the humidifier was running and moving air would prevent this. Then you have the issue of all these mechanics adding heat, the refer comes on more, extracting heat drys the air, humidifier comes on, it’s a tricky little cycle. Thus the bigger the space (fridge in this case) the more stable the atmosphere, and the more predictable (hahaha) the outcome:)

  43. SteveW says:

    Hi Matt,
    I started my dry-curing adventures last week. I went with the ‘Rolls-Royce’ option – old fridge, temperature controller, humidity controller and humidifier. Bresaola went in on Sunday night, pepperoni & chorizo on Wednesday night. Temperature has been holding at a nice 60F, but the HC has been reading “HI” (over 90%) for a day and a half, now. I’ve had about half a dozen spots of the white-fuzzy stuff on the bresaola, which were quickly dispatched with a brine-wash.

    I’m trying to get the humidity down as fast as possible. I cracked the door for a few hours with a fan pushing the air out and I’m working on cutting a vent-hole in the side-wall – which is challenging with a fridge full of meat. None of them has started working yet. I’m looking for a low-power fan to generate some air-circulation inside the box.

    After the mold-issue, is the high humidity going to endanger my product? How long do I have to get his under control?

    Steve

  44. mattwright says:

    Hi Steve. This is a pretty typical situation when you bung a bunch of wet meat into the fridge. Personally I actually leave the door open a crack all the time, during these early stages. A small fan in there to help circulate the air is a good idea too. A long term solution is to cut a 4″ diameter hole in the side of the fridge. Over this mount a 12V DC computer fan (Radioshack has these). Wire this in to a variable voltage AC/DC converter. By changing the voltage on the converter you can change the fan speed. I have mine hooked up to a humidity controller – when the humidity gets too high, the fan turns on. You can go a cheaper route however and just have it hooked up to a timer – start with it being on for 1 hour, then off 1 hour – see how that goes.

    High humidity with no air exchange can be a big problem. Bad mold can grow very quickly in that atmosphere. I had this situation last year, and within 24hours had black mold all over one newly introduced salami. Leave the door open a crack all the time whilst you gather your materials for the fan. Then, just hang the meat in the kitchen/wherever for a couple of hours whilst you install the fan etc.