Hmmm, I’m sitting here toying with my thoughts and deciding whether or not I should give my secret away. OK, so it’s not really a secret as most of the information is available with a bit of research on the web and in many books, plus lots of people are doing it and have been doing it for years. Are you intrigued? I am talking about making your own salami, of course.
Talking about books, I have bought quite a few books on curing over the past month or so and I can honestly say that not one includes all the information you need. It’s such a specialist subject and I am curious as to why no one has written a technical step-by-step book on making salami and curing meat. It’s been driving me crazy. I would like one book to tell me all the do’s and don’ts, all the pitfalls, and to give me accurate information on preservatives, how to dry the meat and how to hang the meat. I do not need books telling me how to use ham or salami or how to make croque monsieur – arrggh! It’s clearly bugging me and I almost feel more confused now than before I started my mission.
From the information that I can gather the basic and simple principles are that you have to:
- work in a clean environment using clean utensils and equipment; hygiene is very important
- use the best and freshest ingredients you can find
- follow the process step-by-step
- use your nose; if it smells off or at all dodgy, chuck it out!
- read up as much as you possibly can about the process
- note everything you do word for word; it’s always good to keep a record for future reference
People ask me if I have tried to make chorizo, but no, this is not chorizo. I use spices I enjoy and like, so OK it might have a bit of a kick due to a bit of cayenne pepper, but it’s all pure and authentically made in Suffolk with my own fair hands, using my own ratio of spices, and using the best Suffolk-reared pig I can find, and most importantly, I have cut every piece of meat by hand. My point of view is that if you want maximum pleasure out of something, then you have to put in some real effort.
Making these salamis and a few other cured meats, such as bresaola, pancetta and koppa, I experienced the most amazing foodie buzz. It gave me a wonderful feeling of excitement and great achievement, and it was a very proud moment once they were all made and ready to hang.
If I was not a chef by trade and needed a hobby, I think this would be it – making salami. OK, decision made, it’s now my hobby, so how lucky am I, not only is it my hobby but it’s also my job! Simply brilliant!
- Hog casings (you’ll need a couple or so, depending on length) and butcher’s string (see Cook’s Notes)
- 1kg rindless, boneless pork shoulder
- 300g pork back fat
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1.6g cure number 2
- 20g table salt
- 20g soft dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1g (¼ teaspoon) LS25 starter culture for salami-making (see Cook’s Notes), mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
First, soak the hog casings in cold water for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes, to ensure they’re clean. I hold the opening of each casing under the cold tap with water running through the middle of the casing to clean it inside and out. Once cleaned, leave the casings in clean water in the fridge until needed. Drain them just before use.
Wash your hands well and ensure your chopping board and knife are super clean and sanitised, then hand cut the pork and fat into about 5mm squares; it’s very important that you keep the cut meat in a large bowl over ice to keep it chilled as much as possible. Work quickly and then swiftly return the meat to the fridge.
Pound the garlic, cure number 2, salt, sugar and spices together using a pestle and mortar until finely ground. Scatter the ground spices over the meat. It’s important at this stage to wash your hands well and wear disposable gloves, then massage the spices into the meat. Pour over the vinegar and the starter culture that is mixed with the warm water. Mix well and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.
Set up a sausage stuffer or use a sausage funnel for this next stage. Carefully slide a soaked (drained) hog casing on to the end of the funnel, then make a knot at the end of the casing and secure with butcher’s string. Fill the funnel with the pork mixture, pushing it into the casing, but be careful not to split the casing. After about a 20cm length of pork mixture has been added, tie the casing with a knot and then use butcher’s string to secure the knot – the string will make a ‘handle’ for you to hang the salami up with. Cut the hog casing above the knot – you now have one salami ready to hang.
Make a knot again in the end of the remaining hog casing (that is left on the funnel) and fill with about another 20cm length of pork mixture, then tie another knot and secure with butcher’s string. Cut the hog casing above the knot as before.
Continue the same process until all the pork mixture is pushed into hog casing and you have made about 8–10 separate salamis, that are all now ready to hang.
Hang the salamis on a meat hook set over a container or bowl at 30°C (in a boiler cupboard or airing cupboard works for me) for 6 hours, then hang the salamis in a cool, dark, well-ventilated room or shed at an ideal temperature of between 10–15°C (with relative humidity at 70–80% – see Cook’s Notes), for 3 weeks. I currently use a normal domestic fridge and the temperature is a bit cooler than I would like it to be (around 5°C); it still works, but the salamis take longer than 3 weeks to cure – usually 4 weeks at this cooler temperature.
If you do hang the salamis in a fridge, avoid hanging them in front of the fan (if the fridge has got one), otherwise the outer part of the salamis will dry and become hard and the centres will remain moist and will spoil.
The salamis should develop a white mould on the outside (we also call this a cheese mould), due to the LS25 starter culture (which is also used in cheese-making, especially with white rind cheeses such as brie). This is a good mould, but if any other coloured moulds appear, i.e. black and/or blue moulds, sadly the salami is spoilt, so please throw it away. If you feel the amount of white mould is putting you off, use a very mild solution of malt vinegar and cold water, dampen a clean cloth with this solution and wipe the moulds off. This should not leave any odours or bad taste.
Once the salamis are ready, transfer them to a dry, airtight container and keep them in the fridge. Use within 2 weeks.
Makes approximately 8–10 snack-size salamis
Hog casings and butcher’s string can be bought from some butchers as well as online from:
Curing salt is available from:
LS25 starter culture is available from: http://www.sausagemaking.org/acatalog/LS_25_Starter_Culture.html
Humidity meters can be purchased from places like Argos, B & Q and Amazon and start from as little as £3. You can get ones that have a temperature and humidity meter in one. If the humidity in a room is low, then place a bucket of water in the room; when the humidity is high, then a cooling fan will help to dry the air a bit.