Many moons ago I took a trip to Napa and Sonoma Wine country. While there, I came across a few places offering artisanal "salumi" and became hooked. So I built a curing chamber (you can search for my post on my build), tried a few whole-muscle cures to get acquainted with my chamber, and finally dove in and tried my hand at salami.
For the love of all that is good on this earth, do your research. Ruhlman is good, but by far and large the one that made me feel the most comfortable was The Art of Fermented Sausages by the Marianskis. It is LOADED with scientific research and explanations. It has chapters on all of the variables you need to consider.
First, I needed to soak the casings. I went with some synthetic ones from Bass Pro, because natural beef middles were silly expensive.
First up was the Finocchiona (fennel) salamis. The recipe came from The Art of Fermented Sausages, which I scaled down:
4 kg pork shoulder
1 kg pork fat
140 g salt (cure #2 accounted for)
12 g cure #2
10 g dextrose (glucose)
10 g sugar
10 g white pepper
25 g black peppercorns
15 whole fennel seeds
1/2 cup red wine
0.6 g T-SPX culture (acquired from Butcher and Packer)
I mixed the spices, and readied the other non-animal ingredients.
Mixing bowls for meat were chilled as best as I could. They were pre-chilled before I began, and then sat in ice-water bowls whenever I could.
Meat was cubed.
Meat/fat was ground and spices/flavors were mixed in. I believe I used the 3/16" plate for grinding.
Labeled and goal of 30% weight loss was calculated.
I did two tubes of the Finocchiona. Later, if this worked, I would lightly cold smoke one of them, just to play.
Next up was the Porcini and Parmesan Salami. This recipe came from the Ruhlman book:
1815 g pork shoulder
450 g pork fat
56 g sea salt
7 g cure #2
8 g finely ground black pepper
6 g ground dried sage
15 g dried porcini mushrooms, fine ground
12 g minced garlic
170 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup chilled dry white wine
10 g Bactoferm (I just used the T-SPX culture that I had from the first recipe, in the same scaled amount of the above recipe)
2 Tbsp distilled water
I had never thought to grind dried mushrooms before. Easy to do, and amazing to add to rubs! I even mixed some in with salt so I have porcini salt that I use as a finishing salt.
Spices measured and mixed, meat and fat cubed.
Personally, I like to toss the cubes in the seasonings before grinding. I find I get less fat-smear in the end product.
Ground up using the 1/4" die.
This was stuffed and labeled just like the first salamis. The pictures didn't turn out that well (it was New Year's Eve, so yeah....)
Finally, I wanted to recreate the salami that started it all for me....Ginger Salami. At one of the Salumi restaurants in Sonoma, the chef offered me a piece of ginger salami, and I was impressed. This was the one I was most excited to try, and why I built a curing chamber in the first place.
There aren't a lot of recipes out there for Ginger Salami, but I finally came across this one:
2268 g pork shoulder
1/2 cup sweet vermouth
75 g fresh garlic (this ended up being a problem, but more on that later)
51.3 g salt
34.5 g NFDM (nonfat dairy milk)
8.4 g black pepper, whole
7.2 g ground ginger
5.7 g Cure #2
4.8 g ground white pepper
0.4 g T-SPX starter in 1/4 cup water
The (too much) garlic and salt was mashed in a mortar and pestle, because that's how I like to mash garlic.
The ginger was grated with a microplaner.
Everything else was readied.
Meat cubed and tossed with the flavoring agents.
This was ground with the 3/16" plate.
Finally, everything was stuffed, labeled, and hung in my chamber.
I then staged the battle of temperatures between the fridge and a 75 watt light bulb for fermenting. I was looking for 72 hours of 68 degrees F and 85-90% humidity. Side note: I made sure I had the right setup BEFORE I tried this cure. I spent a couple of weeks before all this just to make sure I could pull it off, and that the environments were constant and not fluctuating.
Meanwhile, I readied the mold. I was unconvinced about mold until I read the Art of Fermented Sausages. Seriously, read the book. They give the scientific reasoning for each of the mold types, with evidence. So I bought some.
That stuff is amazing. Just a few days later, after the fermenting was over, the salamis were covered in the stuff.
After the fermenting period, I then changed the environment to be 55-60 degrees F and 80-85% humidity.
The Ginger and Garlic was the first to finish, and by a long shot (more on that later). The target weight was hit, so I pulled it. I peeled back the casing, and saw the beginnings of my final product.
A few weeks later, the others finished!
Since I had two of the Finocchiona, I gave the second one a very light cold smoke for one hour using Wine pellets (because wine made the most sense).
After an hour, not much visible difference, but WOW what a taste difference!
So, because I'm funny that way, I tracked the weight loss and percent change of weight loss once a week. Here are the results:
The chart below may need a little explaining. I tracked percent of weight loss from each week to the next. For example, after the first week, this sausage lost a little over 9% of its mass. I wanted to see if it was a constant loss or if it was random. As you can see, it was somewhat random, although overall most weeks seemed to have between 3% and 4% percent of change. Although I only weighed the salamis once a week, I checked temperature and humidity much more often. Some weeks I even had 0% loss (no change in mass at all). I have no idea why. The environments were constant and where they should have been.
The chart below I found interesting. I compared the percent change between the 4 sausages. For the first couple of weeks, they all lost different percentages of mass. But, starting in the 6th week, the 3 remaining salamis all had VERY similar percent changes to their masses. In the chart, they almost perfectly overlap each other.
Here are the numbers that I used to make the chart. As you can see, starting in the 6th week, the 3 salamis all experienced the same rate of change.
Given that almost all conditions were exactly the same, I have no idea why the Ginger Garlic finished SO MUCH faster than the other 3. It may be normal to have 1-3 weeks difference, but finishing 5 weeks before the others seems odd.
Okay, the fun part, first impressions:
Garlic Ginger: Holy cow, forget the ginger. Seriously, that flavor is undetectable. I was SUPER disappointed. This is the one that I had built the curing chamber for in the first place. What you do get is a baseball bat to the back of the head with garlic flavor. It completely overpowers everything else. I kept it, but labeled it as Garlic Salami, and don't even tell people that there is ginger in it at all. Once you declare and accept it as Garlic Salami, it's actually pretty good. Next time I might switch the garlic and ginger amounts in the recipe.
Porcini and Parmesan: Super funky, but in a good way. The flavors are balanced, but there are a lot of them. The aged cheese and mushroom really make this an earthy salami. I like it, but am curious to give it to friends to see how they like it. I can see some people being turned off by this one.
Finocchiona, regular - Really impressive. The fennel doesn't get you right away, and you might be immediately disappointed. But, a few seconds later, the fennel arrives and you are pleased. Even better, it lingers for a long time. I highly recommend this one.
Finocchiona, smoked - DO IT! JUST DO IT! IT'S SUPER AMAZING!
Whew. I'm done.