Berkshire Culatello 2022 Transition to 2nd Winter Phase

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I'll add this here. Good read:
The Po and the fog: the location of culatello di zibello

The environment that is the background to the production of the " Culatello di Zibello” is painted in the confines of a unique landscape that sees the flow of the Po river as the protagonist and that is drawn with the soft, impalpable, velvety tones of an atmosphere made even more suggestive by the fog: a natural phenomenon that, as we will see, highlights the importance of the climate of these areas, an absolutely indispensable element for the creation of a delicacy today appreciated and famous all over the world and whose origins go very far in time, since culatello is already told from 1322.

In the splendid scenery of the countryside of the Bassa Parmense, thanks to the strong humidity, winter and summer, it is characterized, in fact, the type of climate most suitable for the management of its maturation: the period of maturation that allows to obtain this delight for the table and for the palate, expression of an inimitable gluttony and that offers a truly wide and remarkable organoleptic vision, so as to merit the now famous and more than adequate definition of “King of Italian cured meats”.
The artisan value

At the base of the goodness of culatello di zibello there is the artisan experience, the love for tradition, a skilled and skilful craftsmanship that, handed down from generation to generation, still today represents the distinctive and indispensable trait to make this product unique in its kind and whose very high quality has been certified by the D. O. P. brand.

The "Culatello di Zibello “stands out, because it is” handmade", exclusively in the months from October to February, using very few tools, as well as absolutely genuine and traditional is the method of processing that never provides for the addition of chemical additives, anti-fermentatives, preservatives of any kind.
Manual skills: a real art

The part of meat from which it originates is the back muscle, deprived of rind and fat, expertly boned and trimmed in the upper part to obtain the famous and typical “pear”shape. It is obtained from the fresh leg of pigs fed only with cereals, born and raised in very specific areas that must necessarily refer to the regions of Emilia Romagna and Lombardy, as indicated by the Production Regulations.

In this way, what is called a “noble cut” is obtained, particularly tender and tasty, weighing about 6-7 kg, which, after being tied to compact the shape, must first be soaked with garlic-flavored Fortana wine and then carefully massaged: both the wine, due to its alcohol content, and the garlic have, in fact, a proven and valid antibacterial action, as well as being useful to begin to define the fragrance and the underlying flavor of the product.
The balance of an expert salting

The following operation to be performed, very important, is that of salting, for which we proceed using natural sea salt to which a quantity of previously crushed peppercorns is added.

The secret to make it perfectly balanced, as it must be, marks another point in favor of the artisan experience, which allows you to acquire the skill necessary to manage the right amount of salt to be used and that must be continuously verified by performing a manual test, so when, touching the meat, the salt is perceived just below the meat itself, you will have the confidence of having obtained the optimal result, adequate to make the flavor of a culatello of the highest quality.

After salting the culatello di zibello and having soaked it again with the flavored wine, it is moved to put it at rest for 5-6 days during which it will have to be massaged again with the wine to promote a better penetration of the salt.
The investiture of the culatello di zibello

After the rest period, the culatello is “dressed " with a pig bladder, which, being completely natural, guarantees maximum elasticity and adapts perfectly to the changes in the volume of the meat that, inevitably, will occur during the seasoning period, so as to make the cut lose between 40% and 50% of the initial weight.

It should be emphasized that the bladder used for this purpose is always first well cleaned, washed, inflated, disinfected and sterilized with high-quality vinegar and, finally, turned over.

At the investiture follows the stitching of the bladder, in order to close it carefully and make it so that it is well adherent to the meat before moving on to punching: an operation necessary to eliminate the possible presence of air bubbles between the gut and the meat itself.
Harnessing and tying

The harness of the culatello di zibello, that is, a first longitudinal binding of the meat, precedes its accurate and traditional lateral binding: two steps that have not only the practical and necessary purpose of creating a sort of spider web armor – the so – called “castle” - to allow you to easily hang the salami during the drying and seasoning period, but, above all, to realize a compression that will help to release the amount of serous fluid produced and, therefore, to eliminate it more easily.

After being well tied and punched again on its surface to allow the liquids to begin to come out, the culatello di zibello is finally ready for the next stages of processing, to which it will pass after being provided with the seal certifying its characteristic of a D. O. P. brand product, as well as providing an indication of the month and year of salting, important for traceability.
Drying and seasoning of culatello di zibello

The characteristics of the environment and the climate play a fundamental role in carrying out the next two steps: the first, that of drying, important to define the softness of the meat, can take place optimally, in fact, only in a place with a dry climate and that can be heated for this purpose using stoves.

The subsequent seasoning of the culatello di zibello must, too, take place in absolutely suitable premises, such as, typically, the underground cellars of the producing companies, in which there is an effective exchange of air through windows facing North, East, West and with that strong humidity able to activate the action of the so-called white noble molds, originating from the old culatelli, then go to act and integrate with those of recent production.

In an environment of this type, in which the ideal microclimate is guaranteed and taking care to periodically move the position of the sausages, it is possible, in fact, to easily carry out the natural chemical process of fragmentation of meat proteins and thus to create the splendid organoleptic range that characterizes the final product and that acquires further intensity and nuances of flavor during a total maturation time lasting at least 16-17 months and up to even longer periods of 35-40 months.
Quality evaluation

After 10 months from the beginning of the seasoning, the value of culatello is evaluated, proceeding first with the operation of beating its surface and, then, using the “fibula” – a sort of long needle obtained from a horse bone – which is penetrated into the meat to collect the organoleptic characteristics.

In this way, the quality of its scent and fragrance can be judged by smell, thus anticipating the quality of the taste and confirming the good work done by the manufacturer.
The ceremony of preparation for cutting

Once seasoned and before passing to the taste, the culatello must, however, be prepared for cutting following some very precise steps that start from the elimination of the tying twine and bladder and continue with a thorough washing and brushing under running water, before wrapping it with a white cloth, of natural fabric, previously soaked with white wine.

Protected in this cloth, it must spend a period of time of 2 days of further rest, at the end of which it can be cut in half: it is the moment in which the direct contact with its delicacy is realized and is accomplished, with the cut, the operation of great sensory suggestion that will allow the salami to spread in the air that typical and delicious fragrance that must and can be well protected simply by spreading a veil of butter on each cut part and then wrapping the culatello in a linen cloth, taking care to keep it in an environment with cool temperature.
How to slice zibello culatello in the ideal way

To appreciate all the quality, the "Culatello di Zibello" must be cut at room temperature and obtaining very thin slices to enjoy it in a deep and complete way.

To adequately accomplish this further step, care must be taken to use an older generation slicer, capable of cutting with a smaller number of rotations than the newer models. The advantage of running more slowly ensures, in fact, to avoid raising the temperature during the cutting phase and, consequently, to damage with the action of heat the purity and freshness of the culatello base.
A unique taste in the world
WOW!! You never cease to amaze me with the outstanding stuff you've been turning out the past several years. What an artistic way to cure what must be some of the best meat on the planet. Nothing short of outstanding Keith!!

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WOW!! You never cease to amaze me with the outstanding stuff you've been turning out the past several years. What an artistic way to cure what must be some of the best meat on the planet. Nothing short of outstanding Keith!!

You are too kind Robert. It's a borderline obsession for me. As I've said, being a super taster is both a blessing and a curse. I've spent countless hours reading online (having to use Italian to English translators; Yandex is the best BTW...LOL! At least for Italian to English!), watching youtubes, and reading meat science research papers. I pick up things as I go on this journey....but more doors open up to me and off I go!!! LOL!! It's the subtle things....things you would not think matter make a huge difference.

For me-it's like against himself. I just keep striving for flavor nirvana.....every once in a while I'll achieve it......
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Well, the culatelli have both stopped dripping. That was the main reason I kept the SS pans under them when I hung them in the refrigerator. I took one pan and did some rough math. First I dried the fluid that remained in the pan the pan in a 250*F oven for about 4-5 hours. Then I weighed the pan, cleaned the pan out, filtered the black pepper corns and weighed those. Only thing I had to estimate was the dry organic matter from the fluid of the meat. I guestimate 30g of salt in the pan.
157g - 30g. = 127g uptake salt into the culatello.
127g./4.833kg. = 26.28g/kg. salt salt uptake.

And now, figuring that the Culatello has lost weight,
127g./4.750kg. = 26.74g./kg......2.67%.

The meat is still under refrigeration and will continue to lose water. Will weigh in about a week...should be close to 2.75% at that point.....awesome! Fidel's calculations work! The Culatello will have enough salt to dry properly and will not be overly salty.
^^^^I am including the weight of the bladder and the string here. If you subtract that out (bladder and string easily weigh 75g.) the salt concentration is around 2.72% in the meat.....even better......that'll work.
It has been 1 week since trussing the Culatello- hanging @0-5*C; 75%RH. They have lost 6-6.5% weigh already from the salt pushing moisture to the surface as it penetrates and equalizes; as well as the pressure from the binding. The casing is still moist having been kept supple from the escaping moisture pushed by the salt. Awesome! The mold is really starting to get a foothold and I expect strong growth in the next week or so. Lookin good.... I am somewhere between 2.6-2.8% salt...enough salt to preserve the meat... that will become more concentrated with more weight loss in the next week before I slowly raise the temperature... might even approach 3%... Awesome! I like this traditional method for large whole pieces.
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indaswamp indaswamp good play by play! I can't believe I read that whole long quote you posted lol... it was kinda like meat poetry.

This all got me thinking, I don't believe I've ever had a taste of any meat that will be as hmmm.. expensive? Or maybe involved-effort? Something like that thought anyways. I've had prosciutto but that's about it I guess. Now I really want to taste a slice of this stuff!
indaswamp indaswamp good play by play! I can't believe I read that whole long quote you posted lol... it was kinda like meat poetry.

This all got me thinking, I don't believe I've ever had a taste of any meat that will be as hmmm.. expensive? Or maybe involved-effort? Something like that thought anyways. I've had prosciutto but that's about it I guess. Now I really want to taste a slice of this stuff!
For Italians, Salumi IS Poetry for the palate!!! The level of artistry and craftsmanship that goes into making Italian salumi blows me away. If Salumi were cars, Culatello is the Ferarri of Italian Salumi.
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Well, it has been a little over 1 week since trussing the Culatello. They have lost between 6.75~7% weight and this has concentrated the salt further to around 2.8-2.9% so this is good for the safety profile. The casing has dried tacky and mold is starting good coverage. I can see the hyphea threads spreading out on the surface...

Hot salting​

No matter whether it’s industrial or artisan, the salting process of culatello must be done hot, that is to say on freshly slaughtered meat, using 3.3% salt in relation to the weight of the meat, which in about ten days absorbs a very low amount, equal to 2.5-2.6% of the weight. After the first 2-3 days of salting, then the culatello is massaged and possibly resalted, but generally the salt absorption is less than 2.8% of its weight.

I did not hot salt these pieces, though the meat was super fresh; within 4 days of the kill date-but when I procure a salumi hog, it will be done.
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Well the Culatello have been hanging @ refrigeration temps. drying and allowing the salt to equalize. Now it is time to bump the temp. up to 53*F for a few day, then 56*F for 2 weeks. This will allow the mold coverage to complete and get it going breaking down proteins for flavor formation. I actually WANT the smell of ammonia in my chamber which signals protein and fatty acid breakdown by the mold....

The Culatello have each lost around 9% weight and the salt has concentrated to around 2.9~3% so that is ideal...

BTW, mold coverage has exploded inside my chamber...mold on the walls, on the humidifier...everywhere!
indaswamp indaswamp
Cajuneric just posted this culatello vid today, 18 months aging. He didn't do near as traditional as you, he did dry aging wrap for 6mo then the rice lard paste for a year. But his tasting flavor comments are good, and there isn't mutch culatello content out there!
I love his content, super honest always. He mentions the traditional culatello has more complex flavor and smell notes, great video.
D Dave in AZ ;

Thanks for posting that video. I consider Cajuneric a friend. He is correct that the flavor profile will not be as deep as a traditional culatello that has had 2 fermentations and lots of winter fog. And me being a super taster- that is what I am going for to try and replicate.
Well it has been 30 days since first day of salting. The Culatelli have lost 12.5~13% weight as of today. Had I gone with the equalization method, the salt in the Culatelli would be higher by now and it would have not started losing any weight yet.

After 1 week of fermentation, the mold coverage is complete and going CRAZY! Ammonia smell is strong in my old chamber so this is good; flavor formation is going strong! Salt concentration is around 3.2% right now so good there too.
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I harvested some deer recently and upon processing the meat and packaging, I had some fluid left in the tub. I am assuming that the biochemical make-up of the fluid is similar between a deer and a pig since they are both mammals. This would be the same fluid that salt would pull out of a muscle upon salting, so...I poured it into a small SS chaffing pan and weighed the fluid. 235grams. Put that in the oven @250 for 5 hours to dry, then shut the oven off until the net day. The solids left were dry as a bone the next day.

I weighed the pan- 900grams. Then cleaned the pan and weighed the dry pan-876grams. So..doing some math...

24grams solids left after evaporating off water.
235g.-24g. = 211g. water in fluid.

Ratio of water in fluid= 211g. water evap./ 235g. fluid = 0.898% water in fluid. This is the ratio I needed to calculate how much solids was left in the pan from the Culatello.

I had 174g. water evaporate out of the pan from one of the culatelli after drying in the oven. So....174g water evap. / 0.898% = 193.79g fluid in pan. So...

193.79g. - 174g. = (~)20g. solids in the pan.

43 grams solids and salt in the pan - 3grams black peppercorns= 40g. solids and salt.

40g. solids and salt- 20 grams solids = 20 grams of salt in the pan.

Now to figure the salt..
I started with 157g. of salt on the Culatello...and the salt is either in the pan or in the meat. So...

157g. salt total - 20g salt in the pan = 137g. salt uptake into the meat. Cool.

137g. / 4833g. initial weight of the culatello = 2.83% initial salt uptake. 0.42% loss of salt from initial salting of 3.25%. That is right inline with Fidel Toldra's calculations of 0.3-0.5% loss of salt. Cool.

Totally not necessary to do this, but now I know....and have a baseline number to work off of. I will probably do this again when I get some pork fluid leftover in a tub one day...just to satisfy my curiosity.
You can see the white dots of Tyrosine crystals here in this picture of culatello from the internet...

right click the pic. to view in a new window for up close viewing. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.