Controlling air movement in curing chamber

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Mmmm Meat

Meat Mopper
Original poster
SMF Premier Member
Feb 6, 2021
244
93
Not surprisingly to me, my first two batches of salami appear to be failures. They were both at or above 35% weight loss when my family and I took off for the weekend on Friday. I expected that the smaller salami ( my second batch - Fuet and Curry) would be about done when I returned home since they were stuffed into 29 - 32mm hog casings. Once home, I went straight in and checked their weight - they weighed out at 40% weight loss +/- 1%. while they smelled like typical salami, they didn't really feel firm. I cut the first open and sure enough, the interior was still tacky feeling. The exterior showed slight darkening around the circumference but not extremely so. I cut them all open and found they were all moist enough inside that declared the entire batch a failure. My first batch (Cacciatore in beef middles) has a similar spongy feel though they are only at 37% weight loss. I think they will probably not work out either though I put them back in for a bit more drying.

Since I've maintained the humidity at 75 -78 % for the first two weeks or so, then bumped it up to 80% from that point on, I don't think it was humidity levels that caused my problem. My best guess at the cause of my failure was too much air movement in the chamber. I did not modify the fan/inlet into the chamber prior to processing these batches - I felt that the 3 - 4 cooling cycles per hour would not cause too much air movement (and over-drying the product) in the chamber. It seems I have to reconsider this variable again.

Rather than running off and attempting an poorly thought out immediate fix, I cut up some cardboard rectangles and placed them above, below, and in front of the remaining meat in the chamber in an effort to minimize the actual air flow passing across the meat, which I believe will slow the moisture loss due to desiccation. So once again, it is time to ask for help - I'm curious if anyone has experience in modifying a Frigidaire frost free refrigerator (with no freezer compartment) ? Here's a picture of the fan's inlet vent at the top of the 'fridge.
Many thanks!
G.
CC fan vent.jpg
 
Since I've maintained the humidity at 75 -78 % for the first two weeks or so, then bumped it up to 80% from that point on, I don't think it was humidity levels that caused my problem.
You need to compensate with higher humidity because of the slightly too fast airflow during the cooling cycle. Bump the RH up to 85% first 2-3 days, then drop to 83-82 for the duration of the drying...

My best guess at the cause of my failure was too much air movement in the chamber. I did not modify the fan/inlet into the chamber prior to processing these batches - I felt that the 3 - 4 cooling cycles per hour would not cause too much air movement (and over-drying the product) in the chamber. It seems I have to reconsider this variable again.
How tight are your temp set points? My chamber cycles every hour and 15 minutes...

You can try just removing the plastic baffle cover off the return vent at the top. This will push the air horizontally towards the door. I know of an individual that has had great success with this modification.
 
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Good idea with the bump in humidity. My temp point have been set a bit low since I was getting just a hint of ammonia smell a week - ten days ago or so ago. I reduced the temp to 50 degrees for two days and then gradually worked it back up to 54 for the past three days. It cycles +/- two degrees.

I considered duct taping the lower half of the vent at the top (I thought this was the vent air source and the bottom the return vent - I could easily be mistaken) which I felt would push the air only upwards and presumably towards the door surface and back to the lower return. If the return is at top, then I've got some thinking to do.

Here's a couple pics -
curry salami.jpg
cardboard shielding.jpg
my failure and my short-term fix.
 
you can try uncasing the cacciatore. vac seal in pieces, let them equalize...you've already lost enough moisture, just need it to stablize equally.

I diced the smaller salami into 1.5 inch chunks and put them all back in for a few more days to see how much of the interior moisture would disappear. The dogs will love it even if I'm not willing to eat them after that.

I like that idea with the Cacciatore (uncasing them) - I'll try that that too. I'll vac seal them once they get to 40% weight loss. Nothing to loose at this point. I'm not really terribly saddened by the failure of these first batches. There's a pretty steep learning curve to this art.
 
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Additional note: The manner in which I linked the Cacciatore meant that I hung them from the casing link between the two salami so they hung in contact with each other in sort of an inverted V, which kept a small portion of each link in contact with the other. I felt like any reduction in moisture loss from those two contacting areas would be minimal - that the surrounding meat would wick moisture away from those contacting areas and the entire link would dry relatively evenly. That was not the case. Each of the links has significantly more moisture where it had been in contact with the adjacent link. Another lesson learned.
 
No dry ring showing. It’s not air flow.
What is the total time in chamber thus far? What temp ?
The photo is of the curry mix that was done along with the Fuet Spanish Salami, (40% curry/60% Fuet) from a single grind with T-SPX then spices for the two different recipes mixed in after). Today is day 16 - the salami are an inch diameter at best (stuffed into 29 - 32mm hog casings). pH at 30 hours of fermentation was 4.95 so I moved them to the curing chamber at that point. The only added moisture in the 5 lb grind was 40 ml white wine and roughly 4 oz H2O with the T-SPX. Temp in the chamber was 55 degrees for the first 10 days on this batch but since I was smelling a bit of ammonia type smell, I lowered the temp to 50 degrees for 3 days then brought it back up to 54 degrees for the remainder of the drying time.

I agree that there is no significant dry ring on this photo, though I do see some on other sections when I diced them up. Nothing that is distinctly obvious case hardening, but for lack of a better excuse..... (?)

Edit - I added a pic of the one Cacciatore that I cut - 37% weight loss. More of a dry ring appearance at day 20 - expecting a 30 day ferment and dry time in 50 - 55mm beef middle casings.


.
cacciatore.jpg
 
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My temp point have been set a bit low since I was getting just a hint of ammonia smell a week - ten days ago or so ago. I reduced the temp to 50 degrees for two days and then gradually worked it back up to 54 for the past three days. It cycles +/- two degrees.
Slight ammonia smell is normal....but when it is strong-that is when it becomes a problem. When you open the door and the odor of wet moldy socks about knocks you over....then you need to act and lower the temp.
 
Also, I'm not sure cardboard would be the best material to use in such a high humidity environment. It will soak up moisture like a sponge and likely spawn mold growth on it. And it likely is not sterile unless you soaked it with potassium sorbate or some other antimicrobial....
 
Also, I'm not sure cardboard would be the best material to use in such a high humidity environment. It will soak up moisture like a sponge and likely spawn mold growth on it. And it likely is not sterile unless you soaked it with potassium sorbate or some other antimicrobial....

I agree with that. Trying to think of some kind of hard plastic sheet or similar...
 
Didn't take the temp, but I separate fat and lean in separate bags and put them in the freezer for an hour or more. The fat is usually feeling frozen when I pull it out and grind it.
 
Fat smear is a concern, but if you kept the meat/fat chunks and batter cold through out that shouldnt be a problem.
what was the grind plate size? And did you use a sausage pricker to poke holes in the casing prior to fermentation?
 
Didn't take the temp, but I separate fat and lean in separate bags and put them in the freezer for an hour or more. The fat is usually feeling frozen when I pull it out and grind it.
There is such a thing as having the fat too cold for grinding when making salami. Unless you have and use a bowl chopper, it is not advisable to grind frozen solid back fat. The auger will mash the fat trying to push it through the plate holes and this will disrupt the structure of the raw fat.,,,the fat will smear. Cajuneric has a youtube on this very topic in his R&R series....

I recommend taking temp. readings. When the fat is between 35-30*F, THEN you grind. If it is colder than that, it is best to allow it to warm a little....

My second salami I ever made- I let the fat get too cold....the fat smeared,,,it also bogged down the grinder. It dried funny....and was softer than normal. Texture was off.....now I know why; fat too cold.
 
All good information. I reviewed the Marianski book today while I was waiting for my kids to get out of school. I see and understand the fat smear issue that could potentially be a problem. I cannot say for certain that fat smear was not an issue with the first batch of Cacciatore, but with the batch of Fuet/curry photo shows good definition of the fat in the cut view and I'm pretty confident that is not the problem.

SmokinEdge - I've got a grinder that I bought and used a twenty years ago when I was making fresh sausages and only dreaming of making salami. I cannot buy or find replacement parts for this grinder branded "Maverick" though there is a different model still available on Amazon. I looked for replacement or larger grind size plates but they don't exist. The two plates that came with the grinder were 3mm and 6mm. For larger chunks of fat, I was hand cutting it to 8 - 10 mm and putting it into the mixer after everything else was ground. Regarding the sausage pricker - I used a needle and spent a good amount of time pricking my way around each link - probably 75+ holes per link. I did buy a sausage pricker - Amazon says it was delivered nine days ago. Apparently it came in a small package with some other item and got thrown out with the packaging because I never saw it.

BTW: If anybody has a recommendation for a meat grinder with 4 or so plates of appropriate size for sausage/salami making that can process 5 - 10 lbs. of meat relatively quickly, please post it up here. I've been considering something along the lines of this: ......but I'm a bit leery. I'm looking for a solid machine that will remain dependable for years to come. LEM products seem pretty good too, but don't rate satisfaction levels of other less expensive machines.

Thank you all for your consideration of this problem. I'm diving back into the deep end again tonight/tomorrow. I'm going to do just a 2.5 lb. mix, recipe TBD, check the temp of the meat/fat prior to processing to remove fat smear from the list of potential problems, and stuff it into hog casings so that I don't have to wait a month to find out things are still not correct.
 
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Also- How much product do you have hanging in your chamber? If it is less than 10kg. then the thermal mass is on the low side, which could explain why your chamber is cycling every 15 minutes. I have found that I get the best results when I have at least 10kg. of product in my chamber....which is why I keep rotating product into it after one project finishes. Chamber runs optimum when I add product every two weeks or so. Most I have loaded in it was 25kg.
 
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