Archive for the ‘Fermented sausage’ Category


Spanish Chorizo – The Beginning

In Fermented sausage,Making salami,Salami on February 13, 2011 by fred

Spanish Chorizo for sale in Barcelona

Travelling to Spain this last summer I discovered a wonderful thing — the chorizo I was familiar with in Southern California but was never impressed with was a far cry from the Spanish chorizo available in nearly every store and restaurant in Spain.  The difference is astounding, and before describing the process I went through to make my own, I’ll outline the differences.

  • The most glaring difference is the processing — Spanish chorizo is a fermented sausage, unlike what I now know is called Mexican chorizo, which is cooked.  Being cooked, the Mexican chorizo I’ve had tends to be greasy because you nearly always reheat it causing the fat to heat up and run out all over the place.  Spanish chorizo is like a salami so the fat in it is solid and less conspicuous.
  • Spanish chorizo demands smoked paprika be in the ingredients list (notice how red the meat is in the picture).  This can be augmented, but it should be a large portion the spice mixture.  Mexican chorizo is more chili pepper based, typically with cumin and some paprika.  As you can see from this page of Mexican chorizo recipes, the recipes are all over the map but all lack smoked paprika.
  • Finally, the grind.  I think every Mexican chorizo I’ve ever had consisted of finely ground meat surrounded by liquid fat.  Many times the meat would come out of the casing due to a lack of binding, which in turned dried the meat out during the cooking process.  Spanish chorizo however is a mixture of large chunks of meat surrounded by meat paste, even moreso than a sopressata. Hopefully, I’ve peaked your interest by now so on to the preperation.

I started with my reference books, and although I haven’t mentioned it yet because it seems like I’ve written about nothing but smoked and cooked meats at this point, but my go-to book for fermented sausages is “The Alchemist’s Book of Salami and Other Fermented Sausages” by William R. Mende.

Bill’s explanations are technical but clear.  His advice is well researched and includes information about fermenting sausages I’ve not found anywhere else.  Plus, he’s a really nice guy still doing this in his kitchen in Pennsylvania.  I highly recommend anyone making fermented sausage at home add his book to their library.

The second book I used was Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie book because I remembered they had their own Spanish Chorizo recipe in it.  Using the two books, I’d make something that was my own based on what I had in Spain.  Next post I’ll talk about my first attempt.

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The Alchemist

In Fermented sausage,Links,Making salami on December 7, 2010 by fred

The Alchemist

This is a great how-to book for making your own salami.

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Chill Your Meat

To keep the ground meat cold, I put ice blocks in a stainless metal pan and top it with another pan

Grinding Meat – Keeping it Cool

on December 7, 2010 by fred

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Spices are mixed in, ready to stuff!

Spanish Chorizo – The Finished Farce

Tagged: on December 7, 2010 by fred

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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.


Additional Equipment for Making Salami and Other Fermented Sausages

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

Fermentation Box

Inside the drying chamber

What I use:

The key to dry curing meat is controlling the fermentation process and the drying process.  As you can see from the list above, it doesn’t take much more equipment to ferment sausages than to make fresh ones.   There are some big ticket items in here, a drying chamber and hygrostat are the most expensive on the list, but there are cheap alternatives to most of the items (I’ve listed them below).  It really depends on your environment and what kind of controls (or lack of) you are comfortable with.

Cheap Alternatives:

The only way you’ll know if these cheaper alternatives will work in your environment is to test them out.   I would only try them if I had both hydrometer and thermometer so you can see if they are viable solutions.  Test all of your equipment solutions before you start a batch of meat and take the time to dial it in before so you don’t lose a batch like I did.

Coming soon:  how to assemble everything


The Fermentation Box

In Fermented sausage,Fermented Sausage Equipment on August 11, 2010 by fred

Typical temperatures for fermenting sausages are between 78-90 degrees.  The ideal temperature is whatever is required by the type of starter culture you used to make the sausage because that is what you are trying to grow.  However, nearly all cooking equipment is designed to keep food under 40 degrees or over 140, otherwise it falls within the “danger zone” and bad bacteria are likely to develop.  What do you do when you actually want to encourage bacteriological growth?

I use a Princess International MR-148 Deluxe Digital Mini Fridge Cooler & Warmer.  

This is not the cheapest option by any means, but it is the only option I’ve found that holds the temperature I set it to within a degree.


  • Set it and forget it – the temperature is digitally controlled and has a nice display on the front that I can see from a distance.
  • Door seals tight.  Not liquid tight, but tight as any normal refrigerator
  • Heat is evenly distributed using the built-in fan
  • Easy to clean – I just spray it with a bleach solution, wipe it down and let it air dry with the door propped open
  • As long as the back isn’t covered up you can run it in any position you like
  • Standard 120v AC power, or 12v car lighter plug (both included)


  • Difficult to hang the sausages without modifying the shelf rails.  By adding two shelf rails at the top you can slide in the included plastic grate shelf in and hang the sausage from it.  Until I do that, I’ve resorted to turning the unit upside down and hanging the grate from the shelf rails the removable catch pan normally slides into.  While unstable, it works if you’re careful.
  • It is much smaller than my drying chamber.  I can fit a 5-pound batch in the fermenter, but the sticks can’t be longer than 12-inches.  I think I could squeeze nearly 10-pounds into it once I make the shelf rail modification above and the grate is stable.

I run it outside since fermenting meat is not the most pleasant smell.  Since the door seals so well I don’t need a pan of water to keep the humidity high — you can see all the moisture collecting inside through the clear plastic window.