Fine smoked or dry-aged ham and cured meats taste particularly good when done in the colder months. However, in a dry-aging fridge like the DRYAGER™ cabinet you can produce your own sausage, ham and cured meat products any time of the year. These homemade products are a great gift for family and friends and the satisfaction and confidence in quality of doing it yourself are bar none.

Do It Yourself

Curing meat at home is possible! Conveniently there are even DIY kits for salami and other charcuterie which include all of the essential ingredients, from spices to curing salts. For hobby enthusiasts, this is precisely the guidance that’s needed. The preparation process for ham is less involved and intricate than for charcuterie which makes it easy to execute from home with the right equipment and commitment. The key factor to preserving ham and charcuterie is curing salt. Curing salt allows for the desired color and texture change and prevents the growth of bacteria.

Curing salt consists of salt and nitrite. The nitrite removes moisture and combined with muscle pigment myoglobin, this causes the meat to turn more deeply red in color. Butchers call this process ‘reddening’.

Due to climate conditions that permit curing, dry-aging originally only occurred in the Mediterranean region. Today, thanks to specialist dry-aging fridges like the DRYAGER™ cabinet, it is now possible in any geographical region to make your own ham, bacon, sausage and cured meats.

There are three primary types of smoking. Cold smoking (done at 59 to 77°F) is particularly suitable for ham, bacon and salami as it imparts flavor without cooking the product. This process can be performed in a simple smoke box or in a smoking oven, and it has the longest shelf life. With warm smoking (77 to 140°F), the food is partially cooked and is suitable for products like Viennese sausages. Hot smoking (140 to 180°F), cooks the meat through and is typically used for boiled ham, and for fish.

Hygiene is a priority in meat processing, otherwise bacteria and mold can grow to dangerous levels. It is therefore vitally important to keep tools, cutting boards and gloves clean.

Dry Aging time for ham and salami

Hoping to make your own cured meats, charcuterie and dry-aged meats? Time to get to filling that DRYAGER™ refrigerator. Here is what you need to know.

Ham and salami require a lengthy dry-aging time to develop their full flavor. Depending on the type of salami, the curing process can take between 2 and 12 weeks and the product becomes spicier and drier the longer it hangs. The flavor of ham also improves with time, retaining its delicate consistency throughout the aging period. This should be at least ten days for fillet pork or a rolled fillet of ham, and up to 6 months for larger cuts from the haunch.

Salami Production:
1. Preparation
For salami, you should use fresh pork, beef or game meat, such as venison. Debone the meat, and then remove tendons and silver skin. Then grind it and put it in the freezer for two days.

2. Mixing
On the day of production, follow the instructions for preparing starter cultures. Grind your desired fat, then stir in the spices, garlic paste, starter cultures and the meat. If desired or needed for your particular variety of salami, add nitrite curing salt. Once the mixture begins to bond, beat it thoroughly. Form it into balls and throw them against a cutting board several times in order to drive out any air bubbles that could otherwise discolor the meat or even cause it to turn moldy.

3. Filling
Scrape and clean the casings, and position them on the extruder. Then fill with the mince mixture, keeping it as free of bubbles as possible. This takes practice and a fair amount of dexterity.

4. Dry-Aging
String up the finished sausages so that they do not touch one another, and leave them to sweat for a day (approx. 68-75°F and 80% humidity). Then let them hang for five days at about 62°F and 70% relative humidity, spraying them every day on all sides with brine. If necessary, to preserve them, cold-smoke them, then hang them up to dry in the dry-aging fridge.

Flavor Tip: Mix in roasted pine nuts, hazelnuts or truffles with the mince mixture.

Ham Production:
1. Preparation
For ham, the best cuts are from the haunch, neck, shoulder or back of the pig, as well as smaller cuts of beef or game. With haunches, the meat can mature on the bone.
Remove all silver skin and tendons from the meat.

2. Spicing
Grind the spices coarsely in a mortar or spice grinder and mix with curing salt. Then rub them into the meat and cure, refrigerated for 7-14 days.. Turn the meat regularly.

3. Dry-Aging
Thoroughly rinse the meat in lukewarm water, dry it, then leave it in the dry-aging fridge for 4-7 days on a hook at about 46°F at 70-80% humidity.

4. Smoking
You can then have a choice; you can either cold-smoke the ham in several smoking operations, then leave it to mature for at least ten additional days in the DRYAGER™ frige.
Or you can air-dry it directly after the dry-aging stage until it reaches the level of maturity you wish to achieve.

Flavor Tip: Refine the smoking flavor for ham with juniper or rosemary – or choose the smoking mixtures appropriate for your type of ham.

Complied in cooperation with Dipl. Fleischsommelier Ronny Paulusch