Home made Dry Cured Salami

November 16, 2009

I will try and get through this whole post without making ridiculous (and incredibly British) jokes about stuffing sausage.


My little dry curing chamber for charctuerie has been empty since I completed the bresaola last month. I actually didn’t have any plans to do any more dry curing for a little while – what with this being holiday season and all that. The fact that I have four salami hanging in there right now, gathering some nice mold is completely down to one person.

Chef, teacher, writer forager Becky. Some might know her as Chef Reinvented.

We have been long time Twitter buddies, often talking about seafood when I should really be working. Well, it turns out that we have another mutual interest – charcuterie. I don’t remember how we started talking about moldy meat, but it turns out that she loves coppa and guanciale – two of my favorite cured meats. So I harp up over twitter “lets make some meat” or something along those lines, and the rest as they say is history.

The salami is actually a byproduct. A rather tasty (hopefully) and long lived byproduct. Coppa is a certain group of muscles from the shoulder of a pig. This muscle bundle gets cured in salt and spices/herbs, stuffed into a ridiculously large casing, and air dried. In order to get the right section of shoulder for a decent cured coppa you end up having to buy quite a chunk of shoulder – unless you are lucky enough to find a butcher that knows how to harvest the coppa muscle. This of course meant that we had some shoulder meat left over, that we just couldn’t go to waste.

Sure, we could have slow cooked it, and it would have been great. But heck, if we are going to spend a day making some dried cured meats, why not put the rest of that shoulder to good use and make salami?

Neither Becky or I had ever made salami before. I am still pretty new to sausage stuffing (snigger) to be honest. Thankfully there are a lot of people out there that aren’t, and help comes in the way of amazing books (Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, and Marianski’s Art of Making Fermented Sausages) and also a long time blogger pal Hank Shaw (of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook). Research is key when doing any kind of charcuterie, but especially when it comes to dry cured sausages. The potential for screw-ups is higher. The potential to get it wrong, and make moldy meat is higher. These are three resources that I highly recommend if anyone is interested at getting into dry curing meats at home.

The next decision was really what recipe to follow. Hank Shaw has a great looking salami recipe which he developed on his blog. Talking to Hank, he suggested it as a great recipe to make, especially for it being our first ever salami. Right on.

The basic route of making a salami looks like:

Dice the meat and fat

Season the meat

Grind the meat (and fat if you want)

Add a starter culture and flavorings (more on that later..)

Mix it all up

Stuff it into the casing of your choice – for us it was beef intestines – or “beef middles” as they are known. About a 3″ diameter piece of gut.

Tie it up

Fermentation (more on that in a minute too..)

Dry Curing

The first half of this is really nothing new if you have ever made fresh sausage. The thing to be careful with is both sanitation and temperature of meat. If you make fresh sausage, sanitation isn’t so important since you are going to cook it within a couple of days. A dry cured sausage on the other hand never gets cooked, and even worse gets held at temperatures that potential nasties can grow in the meat for some time. As for temperature – the same thing goes for making a good fresh sausage – keep everything very cold to avoid fat smearing, and making a sausage with rather bad texture.

(Becky washing out the beef intestines)

This all gets stuffed into a rather stinky section of beef intestine. Called in the trade: beef middles. These get cut and tied off (using a special knot.. how boy-scoutish) into roughly 8″ sausages.

The flavorings for this one are a mix of bay, sage, white port and fennel seed. The recipe called for garlic but we left it out since of an allergy Becky has. The starter culture is a specific strand of bacteria that you deliberately mix into the meat. The idea of this is that the bacteria feed on the sugars added, lower the PH of the sausage (because they release lactic acid – acid being a low PH), which in turn makes it difficult for any bacteria to grow inside the sausage. This is really a pretty critical step in the safety of the sausage.

A byproduct of this culture step is that the lactic acid gives that little tang that is so enjoyable in salami.

For this bacteria to rapidly multiply, and prevent bad bacteria growing, it is necessary to ferment the sausage. In practical terms this means holding the sausage at temperature that is desirable for the good bacteria to rapidly multiply. This temperature varies depending on what starter culture you use, as does the length of time that you need to hold the sausage at that temperature.

In this case, these four salami’s went into my rather Heath-Robinson fermentation chamber for 26hours, at a temperature between 75F and 80F and a really high humidity to stop the sausages drying out. This fermentation chamber is just an old fridge in my garage. Into it a wired a light-bulb socket that holds a 60W bulb (to provide heat), and an ultrasonic humidifier to keep the humidity really high during these critical hours. You can use a temperature controller to turn the light bulb on and off to accurately keep the temperature right. Me, I just got the fridge to turn on and off to keep the right temperature, because that was the only temp controller I had. Thankfully the humidifier was able to counteract the dry air from the fridge turning on (fridges are very dry environments when running).

Yes, that sure sounds nasty doesn’t it. Keeping a sausage at 80F for 24hours sounds like a recipe for listeria, salmonella and god knows what else. That is where the starter culture comes in. Add enough, and it competes against the dodgy bacteria, and if all goes well, it wins the fight hands down.

From here, the sausages go into the dry curing chamber, where they hang at about 55F and 75% relative humidity, until they are done – that is lost about 35% of their weight. That first shot on this post is them hanging in the chamber.

So, wish us luck. And if in a month’s time you don’t see any blog posts from either of us, you know the salami wasn’t good.

Oh, and I would like to say that beef-middles smell like arse. Which is of course what they are, but they honk none-the-less. I have worked with pork casings a lot (pork intestines) and they don’t compete in smell. Thankfully the smell goes away fast.

And finally, thanks Hank. Thanks for answering a rather silly phone call from Becky and I (when I know you were preparing for a huge culinary day), about these rather stinky beef intestines.

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  • hank November 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the shout out! Hope they turn out well. You did add sugar or dextrose to your salami, yes? The good bacteria need it to multiply, although you can get away with it if you missed this step.

    The second salami from the left will end up very odd-looking when it is dry — try to keep them even and cylindrical, like the one to its right. Helps more even drying and curing — no wet spots. And no one likes wet spots when stuffing sausage… 😉

    Beef middles are stinky, but it goes away. Bung caps are the nastiest, I’ve found. Thus the name. Stuffing a bung is a smelly business…

    OK, I’ll stop now.

  • Becky November 16, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Turns out we didn’t need to make any 14 year old boy jokes, Hank got to most of them for us! Thanks Hank!

    Matthew- thank you for a splendid day. I couldn’t have picked a better mate to share the intoxicating smell that is a cow’s poop shoot.

  • Becky November 16, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    oh, and I can’t turn down a perfect opportunity to tease Matthew, so I will let Hank know that the sad looking salami with it’s head pointing down at the floor belongs to Matthew. Turns out I’m better at stuffing sausage. Who knew? 😉

  • mattwright November 16, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Hank – yep some dextrose went in. I am told that the ugly ones have more character… lets hope it is true!

    Great, we have to deal with a beef bung next for the coppa.

    Becky – we have more stinky cow poop shoot to stuff soon!! yeah, you sure know how to stuff a sausage…

  • Colloquial Cook November 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Methinks sausages were invented so that people could make terrible puns, anyway. Their deliciousness is a mere by-product – so that you can enjoy them doubly. Blessed by the sausages.

  • Scott November 17, 2009 at 6:37 am

    I keep reading about these beef middles and their odor. Strangest thing….my beef middles had very little odor. Looks like quite a productive day.

  • mattwright November 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Coll Cook – I completely agree. Just the word “bung” has so much you can do with it!

    Scott – These were pretty honky. And this is coming from a guy who is potty training his 3 year old son! I hear that the beef bung is worse though!

  • Andrew November 19, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Wow, a real labour of love there. Hope the end product makes the legwork (or shoulderwork) worthwhile…

  • annie November 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

    well, methinks this is a lovely start on living up to harrod’s food hall displays…

  • zenchef December 3, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Here you ago again!
    Can’t wait to see the results of that experiment! And by “see”, i mean “taste”. hehe

  • white On Rice Couple December 11, 2009 at 3:30 am

    amazing, just amazing what you do with charcuterie Matt! You wonderful photographs make it look sooo appetizing, in all it’s stages!
    Open up an Etsy store and we’ll be your first customers! Hell yeah!

  • Venison-its whats for dinner May 7, 2010 at 2:52 am

    I have never attempted any of these types of dry cured sausages, but I have a landowner requesting them, and around here if they let you hunt and they want a dry stuffed sausage you stuff it (I couldn’t help it, but I do have a five pound sausage stuffer). Thank you for the information, I am going to be ordering a kit found at; can you offer any input if this is a good one?

  • MyPigsGood August 31, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Matt,

    I am probably going to drive you crazy with questions. Apologize up front for that. In this post you said –

    “Yes, that sure sounds nasty doesn’t it. Keeping a sausage at 80F for 24hours sounds like a recipe for listeria, salmonella and god knows what else. That is where the starter culture comes in. Add enough, and it competes against the dodgy bacteria, and if all goes well, it wins the fight hands down.

    From here, the sausages go into the dry curing chamber, where they hang at about 55F and 75% relative humidity, until they are done…”

    Are these one and the same? Or do you have two different chambers?


  • MyPigsGood September 1, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I would also like to volunteer to assist, cut, chop, wash or just hold stuff the next time you do any charcuterie.


  • Mike September 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Great article and the humor in both the article and the comments makes for an enjoyable read.

    I make fresh and smoked sausages, jerky, cooked salamis etc.., but haven’t tried dry curing yet. I have to gear up for it this year.


  • Venison-its whats for dinner November 8, 2010 at 2:27 am

    I am going to use my beer fridge (dorm size) fridge to make some dry cured sausage. I am going to fit it with a temp and hygrometer. Do you have any that you have used and that work well? I am hoping to be able to transfer it between my fridge and smoker. I should be able to hold the temp in the 45 range and humidity in the 80%. Any input would be appreciated.

  • joel December 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I am big time into making dry cured salamis it is in my blood all my relatives are italian and some were butchers but we do not have any of there recipes they never would writ down things witch is to bad. I have always wanted to make some italian salami that is full of flavor and is very rich and creamy. I was just wondering if you had any recipes or any ideas? I have thought about adding cream or something like that but didnt know if that was a good idea or not. Also when making salami in the past i can never get the white mold on the outside i put starter culture in it and i have a old cole room that i hang the meat up in and i have 3 humidifiers to keep it right around 70 % and the temp of the room is about 55 degrees so i was wondering about that too if there is something that i should be doing differently or what. Thank you Joel

    • mattwright December 20, 2010 at 4:36 am

      I personally wouldn’t add cream to a salami. I have no idea if that has been done or not, but it sounds like over the two month maturation time that might go more than a bit funky! You could try grinding on a fine die, and when mixing make sure you get a really good sticky bind on the meat paste.

      The starter culture you put in to a salami is to boost the amount of good bacteria inside the salami and has no effect on whether you get white powdery mold or not. You can spray the outside down with mold solution – which is what I typically do. Take a look around for “Bactoferm 600” – . I mix a tablespoon of this with 1/4 cup of distilled water (VERY important not tap water – the chlorine kills the mold), and leave for 12hours. I then dilute this further with 1 cup of distilled water, leave for 20minutes and spray on to my salami.

      If you aren’t adding any mold by spraying, then it is a good thing you aren’t seeing mold, in my opinion. There is a lot of mold spores in the in air in general, some good – some bad. You never know what is going to attach itself to your salami, unless you put it there yourself!

  • Jan April 2, 2011 at 6:08 am

    First of all I want to thank you for the good info on this nice blog. Then I have this question: I live in Indonesia and make traditional salami’s. i.e. without starterculture because these are hard to come by… I have eaten many of them and still alive and kicking.
    I wonder if I could use YAKULT as starterculture. Thanks.

    • mattwright April 5, 2011 at 3:44 am

      Jan – I know some people that have used yogurt as a starter culture. Many societies all around the world make salami without a starter culture. Personally I don’t recommend this at home however.

  • Jan April 7, 2011 at 3:58 am

    @joel, If you want white mold on salami I tried the following: Get some Brie or Camembert cheese. Cut some of the molded outside and keep it in a cup of water over night at room temperture. Next day stir well and pass it through a siff. Spray the salamis with this solution. In acouple of days the white mold appears. It works!

  • Jan April 7, 2011 at 4:08 am

    @Venison-its whats for dinner , I made a display fridge (with the glas door) into a drying/fermenting “chamber”. The humidity remains high because it has no seperate evaporator. The evaporator is in the sides. Therfore the condensed water partly evaporates and will not drain 100%. So I do not need a humidifier. I mounted a fan that will only run(on half speed) when the compressor is on. When the temperture is reached the compressor and fan switch off and 2 100 watt lamps in series, switch on.