However, it was indispensable in creating the perfect sausage-curing climate. Perhaps if the manufacturers had mentioned that use on the packaging, I would have been less skeptical.
The sausages are delicious — Tuscan salami and chorizo — and I still haven’t died of botulism. Success! I’m a little daunted by the giant brown-paper bag of sausage in the bottom of my fridge. So I hope everyone who invites me to a potluck in the next month is salami-friendly.
Things I learned along the way:
• The perfect drying box (amended from last post) was a cardboard box. Unlined. Even in my dry house (20 percent humidity), the box alone with a bowl of saltwater in it was enough to keep the humidity around 65-70 percent. I had also been spraying the sausages with saltwater at first to prevent case hardening, but this was probably overkill.
• The bad mold (penicillium-like, starts white, turns green then black) started to grow on the salami when the humidity was too high, around 85 percent. I never let it get too far before wiping down the sausages with salt-saturated cheesecloth. But sometimes I had to do this daily. I think the mold left a slight funk, removable with the casings, and didn’t substantially invade or harm the sausage.
• Lower temperatures = longer curing time. The book said 18-20 days at 60 degrees; my temps were 50-60, and they took at least 30 days.
• In the last week, the links had lost the appropriate amount of weight (30 percent), but were still squishy by my reckoning. I opened the boxes and covered them with thin dark cloth (dark to keep the fat from oxidizing in light) to lower the humidity a bit, and I think the sausages were happier for it.
• The Charcuterie chorizo is good stuff — dark, smoky, pungent — but could have used more spice, especially hot peppers, garlic and smoked paprika.
The chorizo benefited from lessons learned by the salami, being the younger child by a week. Miraculously, despite my mental block regarding sanitation and the fact that the sausages cured in the same moldy old room together, the chorizo only grew little bits of happy mold (white and not fuzzy). But I did give it several preventive salt-wipes.
Now, what next? Peter says I should cure a ham, but W. may be happy to work in an office that doesn’t smell like meat for a while.