Drying a leg of lamb - too fast?

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Bram

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Jan 28, 2023
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Hello everyone,

I've been raising and eating my own lamb for a few years now. Until this year, everything went straight into the freezer. But this fall, I read about Fenalår, the Norwegian dried leg of lamb, and decided to have a go at it.
An 8-month old ram was butchered a few weeks ago and I had a wonderful leg, 2.75 kg, ready for curing (I'm giving everything in metric, being Dutch...). 3 days dry-salting and after that a cold rest for a week. Everything was done in my shed, at about 4°C (it's just above freezing for the past weeks here). Then it was time for the leg to dry (weight was 2,44 kg by then) but I wasn't sure where to hang it. I read ideal temperature would be between 6 an 16°C, but all I had was my shed at 4° or my basement at 18° (the wood burner that heats our house stands there). First I hung it in the shed, but after 2 days it was still wet and I feared that it would spoil, so it went to the basement. It has been there for a week now, looking good, but when I weighed it, it was only 2.12 kg. That's well over 10% weight loss in a week! I didn't expect that. Obviously, the fact that it's drying is good, but isn't this too much? Shoud I be glad and leave it in the basement or would it be wise to return it to the cold?

I'll ad a few pictures:
20230112_095111.jpg
Fresh

20230112_095839.jpg in the salt

20230115_144953.jpg
after 3 days in the salt
20230123_111931.jpg
ready to hang after the cold rest

16749333876516910453287283210545.jpg

And how it is now.

Thanks for your advice!
 
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indaswamp

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South Louisiana-Yes, it is HOT
The leg should lose around 4-5% water during salting (as evident with the liquid in the pan in your pic.)

Without the skin and fat, a leg will lose moisture faster. What is the humidity in the area where you are drying? If it is too low, then that is a problem. Needs to be around 75-78% for a naked leg IMO.
 

Bram

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Jan 28, 2023
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So, I measured the humudity. 45% in the basement (very dry, I've found mummified mice there) and 85% in the shed. Two extremes. I thought dry was good... so what to opt for? Quite cold and moist or a little warm and dry? My feeling says cold but moist is better. It'll take longer, but with the outside nice and dry there will be little risk, it will only take longer. Am I right?

I now know that when I want to do this properly, I'll have to fix something next time. Already read some nice recipes for dried lamb sausages.

It will be the traditional Fenalår by the way. When it is ready, I'm sure I can't wait and want to try it. Next time, I'll hang two legs and leave one to mature.
 

indaswamp

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Apr 27, 2017
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South Louisiana-Yes, it is HOT
45%RH would be too low.

The trick with drying salted meat (salumi) is that the RH needs to be high enough so that it slows the evaporation off the surface of the meat (more water vapor in the air, less the air can hold) to keep the surface moist enough so that it does not dry and form a crust that will seal the pores in the meat and stop water from diffusing from the center to the surface.

I understand that close to the coast in Norway higher humidity is normal. They lightly cold smoke the lamb to help inhibit mold growth. 80-85%RH....yes mold will grow.,,,but that is much better than 45%RH which will ruin a large whole muscle through case hardening.

Cold is better than warm as well....
 

Bram

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Jan 28, 2023
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Thank you Indaswamp. Well, I'll hope it isn't too ruined yet. It's hanging in the shed now, I,'ll let you know what has become of it later...
 

Bram

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Jan 28, 2023
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So, now we are a month further. A thin white layer has come onto the meat. Supposedly the mould, although it also seems like a thin layer of salt coming out of the meat. Anyway, weight is 1.82 kg, so it seems that the drying process itself is getting along well. Temp has been between 3 and 7 C all the time, humidity at 80°.
When it continues like this I'll try it for Easter.
This is how it looks:

20230307_121527.jpg
 
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