Drying Chamber

In Dried sausage,Equipment,Fermented sausage,Fermented Sausage Equipment on August 18, 2010 by fred

The most difficult issue to solve in making dry and semi-dry sausages as well as dry-cured meat  is how to dry the meat effectively controlling both temperature and relative humidity over a period of a few weeks to a full year.  If you aren’t in a climate where you can just hang your meat up in the cellar for the winter (most of us aren’t, especially those of us in Southern California) then you will need a drying chamber of some kind.

Drying Chamber (Right), Spare Refrigerator (Left)

I’ve chosen to utilize an upright freezer for my drying chamber.  I keep it in the garage next to a used refrigerator/freezer combo to store my raw materials.

When purchasing a freezer for a drying chamber, here is what I recommend:

  • Make sure it is a freezer.  This may seem counter-intuitive since you are striving for a temperature above normal refrigerator temps.  However, with some simple electrical work you can add an external thermostat to keep the temperature between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Refrigerators that have no freezer component but are full-size with a single chamber tend to be very expensive as they are not traditionally a consumer product.
  • Get a used one.  Craigslist is an excellent source, but you will most likely have to pickup, deliver and unload it yourself — not an easy situation without a friend, a truck, a dolly and some straps to tie it down (by the way — thanks, Joe!)   I also got one by going around to the used appliance places near me and seeing what they had in inventory.  Cheap or free delivery can usually be worked out easily with them.
  • Make sure it is a frost free model.  You can tell the difference simply by looking at the shelves — if they are metal and look like they have tubing attached to them, it is not a frost free model.  If they are plastic, it is.  You will also see a fan somewhere inside the frost free model, and it should say “frost free” somewhere on the tag inside the unit.  When I purchased my first, I couldn’t find any information on whether there was a downside to having a freezer that isn’t a frost free model.  As it turns out, there are a number of them.
  • Fully clean the freezer with a 10% bleach solution.  Drying meat at high humidity encourages yeast and mold, and unless it is mold you’ve sprayed on the meat purposefully you’ll want to keep it at bay.  Take the time to let the freezer dry out, spray it down, wipe it down.  Then do it again.  Make sure no visible signs of mold are left in the unit, in the door seal, or in any crannies.  If you find something and can’t get rid of it, spray it thoroughly and let it soak.  Then wipe what you can up with a clean rag.

Coming Soon: how to install the rest of the equipment.

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