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Homemade Sopressata

by Victor @ Taste of Artisan

Slices of sopressata and knife on a cutting board.Just like any other homemade food, homemade sopressata is beyond delicious. It’s nothing like the store-bought dry cured sausage. It’s  much fresher, it’s tastier and it has intense natural flavors. There are no artificial coloring or flavor enhancers and no additives of any kind. When making salami at home, you are in full control of what the end result will be. You are at liberty to experiment and tweak your recipe to your heart’s content and each new batch can be slightly different. That’s why I love curing salami at home. It’s exciting!

What is sopressata?

Sopressata (also spelled soppressata, sopresseta, soprasata and sopresatta) is an Italian dry sausage. There are two types of sopressata, a cured dry sausage typical to the regions of Lucania, Apulia and Calabria, and an uncured type coming from the region of Tuscany and Liguria.

Traditionally, sopressata is smoked and pressed during curing process, hence the name of the sausage, sopressata. The type of sopressata that has become internationally renowned and that we all know is not pressed. It is the type that originally comes from the Veneto region in Italy.

Slices of sopressata on foreground with uncut sopressata on background on a cutting board.

Soppressata differs from salami in that typically the meat is not as finely ground. Therefore, it has a less uniform appearance with some bigger chunks of fat in the slice. Because the fat in this sausage should be distinct from the meat, it’s especially important during the grinding and mixing stages to keep the fat as cold as possible, to avoid smearing the fat on the meat.

Sopressata seasonings

There are numerous seasoning variations for sopressata. As such, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sopressata recipe variations out there. The recipe that I’ve had exceptional results with and that will be sharing here is an adaptation of Michael Ruhlman’s simple recipe found in his amazing book on curing meats at home called Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. If you want to learn more about how to make sopressata at home, this is an excellent book to read.

I  modified the original recipe to my taste by removing red pepper flakes and wine, but feel free to add them back. I also substituted white pepper for black pepper, my personal choice, and bumped salt content from 40 g to 60 g just to be on the safe side.

Salt content

It seems that quite a few readers thought that the original recipe’s salt content seemed to be too low, as can be evidenced from some criticisms this book received. I also noticed that in another sopressata recipe that Mr. Ruhlman later posted on his blog he uses a higher total amount of salt (3.2%), while using the same fast acting F-RM-52 starter culture. The original recipe’s overall salt content, including salt in Cure #2 is 2%. I see that Amazon now shows a new edition of the book, which says ‘revised and updated’, and I am hoping that this inconsistency related to salt percentage has been addressed.

Closeup of Italian p crosscut.

Meat Grinder

Making homemade hard salami requires some basic equipment and tools, so let me share my experience on that.

A good meat grinder is essential. It’s important to keep the meat and the fat cold while you are grinding it. A grinder that can grind quickly would definitely help with that. You should also chill the parts of the grinder that touch the meat in the freezer for half an hour or so before grinding.

If you plan on making delicious sausages like Salami Milano, Dry Cured SujukPolish Kielbasa, Summer Sausage, Bratwurst and many other, do yourself a favor and get a good, commercial quality meat grinder from the get go without first wasting money on something you won’t be happy with like I did. More likely than not, you will be buying it later anyway.

A good commercial quality meat grinder makes a huge difference. It grinds much faster and it accepts a wider range of grinder plates. Furthermore, it’s more powerful and grinds clean and with definition instead of squishing the meat and smearing the fat. That’s very important for making sausages. It’s also easier to clean and it lasts longer.

A few years ago I settled on LEM Products Stainless Steel #8 Meat Grinder and could not be happier with it. It’s built like a tank and can grind 10-15 lbs of meat in a matter of two minutes.

Ground pork falling in a bowl from Lem Meat Grinder for making sopressata.

Sausage Stuffer

Ground meat is mixed with spices, then stuffed into sausage casings. To do that you will need a sausage stuffer. I find that manual sausage stuffers are the best and most economical for home use. An example would be the LEM Products 5 Pound Stainless Steel Vertical Sausage Stuffer that I use. If you can justify spending a little more to get a 15 pound stuffer – do it. Sometimes I wish I did.

Update on June 30, 2016

Recently Amazon has started carrying more affordable units like ARKSEN 8 Pound Vertical Sausage Stuffer and the ARKSEN 15 Pound Vertical Sausage Stuffer. I don’t know how they compare to LEM stuffers quality-wise, but they get quite good reviews. I would definitely take a closer look at them if I were looking to buy a sausage stuffer.

Fermentation Chamber

Mr. Ruhlman recommends fermenting sopressata at room temperature, ideally 85F for 12 hours. This recommendation needs to be clarified as mistakes at this crucial step can lead to very poor results. Finding a room with 85F for 12 hours straight will be problematic for most who would want to attempt making sopressata. Especially during colder months. Finding a room with 85F and the right humidity (90%-95%) would be even more challenging.

That’s right, you also need high humidity. Proper humidity will ensure proper fermentation (growth of beneficial bacteria) and will prevent the sausage case from drying out and hardening. Stanley Marianski talks in great detail about the importance of humidity at different stages of fermented sausage production in his books Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages and The Art of Making Fermented Sausages, and how to control it.

I use a large water cooler as my fermentation chamber. I hang my sopressata inside the cooler and cover the top with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening in each side for some air circulation. That gives me about 90-95% RH inside the box (the sausage releases water and that keeps the relative humidity up). The temperature is controlled by adding a container filled with warm/hot water. You can also use a heat pad or something similar. Easy as that. The temperature and humidity is monitored by a portable temperature and humidity meter, in my case it’s the Extech 445815 Humidity Meter with Alarm and Remote Probe, and adjusted as needed.

Meat Curing Chamber

A meat curing chamber equipped with a temperature and humidity controller is an absolute must. I started off with a basic meat curing chamber that I later upgraded to a dual controller setup that incorporates both a humidifier and a dehumidifier to allow for precise humidity control.

Meat Curing Chamber at home. This meat curing chamber is advanced enough to allow full control of temperature and humidity, which allows consistent and predictable results. | Taste of ArtisanThe results that I have been getting from my re-designed meat curing chamber have been nothing short of spectacular. Be sure to take a look at my post called Advanced Meat Curing Chamber. It contains a lot of useful information that may help you avoid some of the problems I had.

Casings, Curing Salt and Starter Culture

Besides the equipment, you will need natural or artificial sausage casings, curing salt and a starter culture. Salami making supplies stores such as www.sausagemaker.com or www.butcher-packer.com carry all of those supplies. Many local butcher stores have a great selection of natural casings too, so that is also an option. My local grocery store sells all sorts of natural casings all year round. They don’t have them packaged and on display, but when you ask at the meat counter they are happy to sell you what you need.

Soppressata, tied with twine, hanging in a meat curing fridge.

Making Sopressata

Once you have your equipment ready and set up, the rest is pretty easy. Grind the meat and fat, add seasonings and mix. Then stuff into hog middles and let ferment your sopressata at warm room temperature for 12 hours. After fermentation is done, transfer your sausages into the curing chamber and dry for about 3-4 weeks until the sausage has lost about 30% of its weight. Slice and enjoy.

Sopressata (soppressata), covered in white mold, inside a curing chamber..

A few more words on temperature and humidity control

Proper temperature and humidity control are essential to making soppressata and any other dry cured meat or sausage. If the humidity is too low, the outer part of the sausage will dry too quickly, leaving the meat in the center mushy and wet, and prone to rotting. If the humidity is too high, bad molds will develop and contaminate the meat. Bad molds are any molds other than white, chalky mold.

Molds can be black, blue or green in color. Black mold is very bad due to its toxicity and any meat that contracts black mold should be discarded. With blue and green mold, as soon as you see them starting to develop should be wiped off with a cloth soaked in a solution of 50% distilled water and 50% vinegar. If you let these molds grow too much, they will move inside the casing and contaminate the meat inside, so keep an eye on your sausages as they cure.

Homemade Sopressata

4.74 from 15 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: dinner, lunch
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: fresh sausage, salami, soppressata
Author: Victor

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pork back fat (450 grams, diced)
  • 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder (1800 g, diced)
  • 1 tsp Bactoferm F-RM-52 starter culture (5 g)
  • 1/4 cup distilled water (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (60 g)
  • 1 tsp Insta Cure #2 (6 g)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder (70 g)
  • 3 Tbsp dextrose (30 g)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (3 g; or white pepper)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (6 g)
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes (2 g; optional)
  • 1/4 cup Pinot Bianco (60 ml; or comparable dry white wine; optional)
  • 14 inches hog middle casings soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed (30 to 35 centimeters)

Instructions

  • While the fat is very cold, grind it through the medium die (6mm / 1/4 inch) into a bowl set in ice Chill while you grind the meat through the large die (12mm / 1/2 inch). Combine the ground meat and fat in the bowl of a standing mixer and refrigerate while you ready the culture and the remaining ingredients.
  • Dissolve the Bactoferm culture in the distilled water and add it, along with the remaining ingredients, to the meat. Mix by hand, or using a meat mixer, until the seasonings are thoroughly distributed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stuff the sausage into casings. Tie the ends of the hog middle, if using. Using a sterile pin or needle, prick the casings all over to remove any air pockets and facilitate drying. Hang the sausage at room temperature, ideally 85 degrees F./29 degrees C., for 12 hours to “incubate” the bacteria; the beneficial bacteria will grow and produce more lactic acid at a warmer temperature.
  • Weigh your sausages and write down the weight.
  • Hang the sausage in the curing chamber (ideally at 60 degrees F./15 degrees C. with 60 to 70 percent humidity) until completely dry or until it’s lost 30 percent of its weight. The time will differ depending on the size of the casings you use and your drying conditions— roughly 3 to 4 weeks.

This post was updated on March 19, 2019

 

 

 

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77 comments

Justin January 21, 2020 - 12:08 am

Hello, I used the FRM starter culture but forgot to add the sugar, will this cause any issues as far as the meat spoiling? I know the sugar helps the starter culture activate and spread promoting beneficial bacteria but does not having it mean I should not ferment the sausage at all?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 21, 2020 - 5:11 pm

Justin, you have the Cure #2 in the mix so that would help with keeping the spoilage bacteria in check. If you didn’t change the recipe, the overall salt level there will be at 3%, the minimum that’s required to safely make a traditionally fermented sopressata. Traditionally fermented sausages don’t use starter cultures or sugars to begin with. They are dried long and rely on water activity (dryness) to be safe to eat. If you are comfortable with that, you can go ahead and finish drying it.

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Justin January 21, 2020 - 7:59 pm

So should I still use 30% weight loss as my target for when it will be ready? Or should I wait and let it dry longer?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 21, 2020 - 9:52 pm

Traditionally they target 30% weight loss over 3-4 months. I like my sopressata a little drier, so I dry to 35% weight loss. All those should be acceptable. Just make sure it dries evenly and the center is not soft and mushy.

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Richard Anders January 8, 2020 - 8:52 pm

Hello again. I have been looking everywhere for a summer sausage recipe that is sweet and spicy. The only thing that I ever see is a Lebanon bologna recipe. I don’t want a very sweet Bologna, something slightly sweet and slightly spicy. I have some venison on hand and would like to make 5 lbs of something new. I just got done the summer sausage recipe you have posted and it turned out really nice. I was wondering if you could make a suggestion of how to maybe tweak the summer sausage recipe or do you have one already? It would be wonderful to come up with a keeper. Thanks.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 10, 2020 - 4:33 am

Hi Richard, it’s an interesting question. To make sausage mildly spicy, I’d add 2-3 grams of cayenne pepper per 1000 grams of meat. I like cayenne’s neutral flavor. As far as making it sweeter, I’ve never made a sausage like that. Perhaps I misunderstand what you are after here. Sweet Italian and other sweet sausages I’ve made use about 2 grams of sugar per 1000 g. Lap Cheong sausage by Marianski uses 4% (40 grams) of white sugar on top of 1% of dextrose to facilitate FL-C culture. Marianski says it’s a sweet sausage, I don’t know how sweet as I’ve never tried it to be honest. 4% seems like a lot though. Perhaps you can add 1-2% sugar. Corn syrup solids or dextrose can also be used. Dextrose is 70% of sugar’s sweetness.

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richard anders January 10, 2020 - 1:59 pm

It’s a hunter thing I think. I live near Pa. . I know a lot of guys who have venison bologna made this time of year. Most of which is sweet and very smoky. I’m sure it’s a Lebanon style balogna and they never make the connection because it didn’t come from the deli. I have been making sausage for a long time so I am aware of many types. However, I have not tried this sweet type. I think a hybrid bologna is what I am after. Anyway , thanks for responding. I really like your recipes.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 10, 2020 - 3:38 pm

I see, let me check my books, perhaps I can find something to what you are describing.

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Fred Sonetto December 15, 2019 - 6:10 pm

Ciao Victor,
Hoping you can help. My last two batches of soprassata have come out tasting very well but the texture of numerous pieces is less than appealing. Seems there are small pockets of air within the center regions of the salami’s . Looks as if the meat / fat has not remained intact. (Can’t seem to attached a photo to this post). Is this something you’ve seen before? not sure if it is my filling the casings or maybe something in the recipe. Your thoughts are very welcomed.
Best regards,
Fred
>
Sopressata-air-pockets

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 17, 2019 - 2:19 am

Hi Fred, I’d be happy to take a look. I will email you to the email address that you specified in the comment, you can reply with the pictures and I will attach them for you.
>
Fred, I attached your picture. I’ve seen those before. Those don’t look like normal air pockets, more like cracks. I have a very strong feeling that your meat needed a bit more mixing. You want it to become sticky. Add a bit more water/wine to the mix, this should help with binding and air pockets. Great looking sausage otherwise. How did you dry it? Curing chamber/fridge or in a cellar?

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Kent Keele November 22, 2019 - 10:13 pm

I use a very similar recipe for mine. Except I add homemade roasted red bell pepper and garlic sauce to mine, about 400 grams/kilo. It adds an amazing flavor and spectacular color. It takes about a week or two more fore the drying time, but it’s well worth it. Great things take time! I would love to share some pics. Let me know if there is a place I can send them.
<
< homemade sopressata with garlic and pepper sauce

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 23, 2019 - 2:58 pm

I’d love to see those pictures. I emailed you, please respond with pics and I will attach them.
>
Done. Looks really good. Mind sharing your recipe?

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Richard Anders July 31, 2019 - 12:15 pm

I just took my first batch of Sopressata out of my chamber. I wound so for my first it was a huge success. Room for improvement but good. It has that slightly soar taste in the back of the throat and the funk as I have heard it described. I dried it to 30% loss of weight. When it is sliced I noticed it has a bit of a shine. Some of it obviously is from cutting across fat but I was thinking maybe I might try drying it a little more. Also since the sausage is now shelf stable what do you think about letting it hang at room temperature for short while?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan August 4, 2019 - 3:09 am

Happy to hear about your success, Richard. 35% is what I target but I’ve also had some dried to 40% loss and liked it even more. Shelf-stable it may be or may not. At 30% I’d venture to say Wa (water activity) is still too high. I would keep it at no higher than 55F at this stage to be on the safe side.

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Lynne May 13, 2019 - 12:32 am

My husband and I have been making at home sopressata for several years. We have been using an old family recipe. We would be very interested In Taking a weekend class to help us trouble shoot/ tweet some problems we have had in the past. Do you happened to no of any organizations or person that offer in person sausage making classes.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan May 13, 2019 - 1:50 pm

To be honest, I’ve never heard of such classes being offered. Most of us are self-taught and learn from books, each other. Sausage making can be both easy and hard. In theory, once you learn the basics, it’s quite simple. In practice, you have to deal with many variables that impact end product. I imagine that the process of making sopressata can be taught and the results would be consistent if everyone had the means to procure same or similar commercial grade fermentation and curing chambers that provide 100% consistency and control. But that’s not the case. At home we have limited resource and our environments vary significantly. Each one needs to be evaluated and adjusted individually. You can’t really teach that in a class. What challenges are you having?

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Tony February 24, 2019 - 10:54 pm

Hi Victor, great blog. I’ve been making sopressata for 5 years and can say that I’ve had mixed results. As a disclaimer, I actually air dry my sops in my cantina (cold cellar). I live in Toronto, Canada and our winters are quite variable in that the weather and temperature swings from one side of the pendalum to other. The batch I made 4 weeks ago started out well but then we hit some pretty mild temperatures. As a result I had an extremely difficult time controlling the humidity in the cantina. As a result my sops now have a greasy, greyish “slime” on the casing. They wipe off very easily but return within a few days. I know that you use a chamber to make your sopressata, but I just wanted to confirm that the slime on my casings is likely due to the extremely high humidity in my cantina. I’ve tried things like leaving the door open to allow the drier house air to enter but when I do that the cantina also becomes warmer to a point where I’m not comfortable with.

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victor February 27, 2019 - 10:49 am

Hi Tony,
sorry to hear about your troubles but they sound very familiar. I’ve also had the same problem with the greyish slime on the casings. Is this problem much more pronounced at the beginning of the drying? It was the case with my sausages, various types, not just sopressatas. It has to do with both humidity and air circulation. You need both. During the initial drying stage, a lot of liquid will be leaving the sausage and you need to ensure that all of it is effectively removed. If I recall correctly, Marianski recommends 5 m/s air flow and 90-95% RH during fermentation, then gradually dropping humidity and decreasing air flow to 1-2 m/s. But be careful not to cause case hardening, never blow air directly at the sausages. As soon as you see case hardening, wipe with a damp cloth and reduce air flow.

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Tony March 1, 2019 - 9:41 pm

Hi Victor. This problem began 2 weeks after making them with the slime. I literally can run my finger nail on the casing and a slimy film will collect under the nail. I think I’m confused about what an appropriate humidity level should be during the first couple of weeks. I’ve been aiming for 65-70% humidity (significantly lower than the 90-95%). In fact, my cantina can never get that humid. So if that is the case, I’m wondering why that is happening to my sops. It seems like my cantina conditions would promote case hardening, rather than what has happened to mine.

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victor March 1, 2019 - 11:18 pm

Hey Tony, I think we need to look at all the factors and start eliminating them one by one. Sausage production is a complex task and many things can play a critical role. Do you use Cure #2? Any starter cultures? Do you inoculate with white mold?

I had the same problem that you described twice if I recall. I can’t recall the exact details of the first batch, but the second time it occurred it was days after making, like 3 days after stuffing and at the end of fermentation. I washed the casings and wiped them dry, but the grey slime re-appeared. I recall taking the sausages to the basement and increasing air circulation which seemed to help. Eventually the sausages dried and acquired white mold. I wish I took better notes. This is probably not much help.

But, I did some research and found this interesting article that talks about slime formation on fermented sausages. Looks like what you have, and what I had, may have been caused by slime producing lactic acid bacteria. It can compete with some commercial cultures. This means that if you don’t inoculate, you should try doing it. If use a starter culture, try switching to another one. Use more of it. The source of contamination may come from the meat itself. Try a different source of meat. Keep notes.

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Tony March 3, 2019 - 7:56 pm

Thanks for looking into this, Victor. I will read the article and keep better records. I agree that it could be a number of things. To make it more confusing I make the sops every year with my brother in law and he’s never had an issue with the slimy casings and he also air drys them in his cantina. Take care.

Gary R February 19, 2019 - 12:25 am

I’ve been making soupies for years, prob 150 year old recipie. No starter no prauge #2, just non iodized salt. Never had a problem. My question is storage after they are done. I vave vacuume sealed & put in freezer with less than desireable results. They dry out bad. Can i just hang them in my basement? Or vacuume seal & store in basement? Its 67 degrees all year long in my basement. Thanks in advance.

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victor February 19, 2019 - 8:27 pm

Hey Gary, thanks for chiming in. I am a safety first kind of guy so personally do, and recommend to others, to use Cure #2. It enhances color and taste too. Use of culture makes results predictable and repeatable. That’s not to say that someone who knows what they are doing can’t get repeatable and excellent results without the use of those. But there are way too many factors at play here to take chances.

Anyway, to your question regarding storage. I’ve tried freezing, refrigerating, and other methods people use. None work as good as the good old 55-59F and 75% RH. Lower humidity will dry out the sausage too much (I actually like that), while higher humidity will invite molds.

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Charmaine April 8, 2018 - 4:58 pm

Hi there… I notice you said there are 2-3 different types of sopressata. I want to make the Calabrian kind which I have had many times. It is made with some kind of large casings that are pressed flat so the meat is in an oblong shape when cut and it looks fairly dark. I had though that this shape was perhaps to help with the drying. Which kind of sopressata do you make in these pictures here? Are the recipes for all 3 kinds usually similar? At what point would the sausage be pressed and how? Thank you for your experience.

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victor April 9, 2018 - 11:05 am

Hi, this particular sopressata is of quick fermenting type that relies on quick acidification as a method of protection against pathogenic bacteria. I cures and dries quickly, has a pronounced acidic taste and lower salt content compared to traditional sopressata. What you’ve tried was most likely cured using a traditional method, which has a higher salt content, much less acidity and undergoes longer fermentation and drying times. I make those too and use B-LC-007 culture (T-SPX in the past). Pressing of sopressata usually happens over a period of 24 hours during fermentation. I don’t do it so I have no experience with that. The casings that you will want to use is large intestine hog casings. I buy them from a local butcher, just tell him what I need and he brings from the back. The seasonings are basic salt and pepper, and some spices that vary depending on the recipe – there are thousands of them, each Italian family has own recipe, you can find many online.

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Howard February 19, 2018 - 5:43 pm

Many thanks, I’ll give it a try.

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victor February 19, 2018 - 5:47 pm

No problem.

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Howard February 18, 2018 - 1:37 pm

Victor
Many thanks for your response. You’ve convinced me to use a starter culture when I make my next batch. I guess in many ways I’ve been lucky over the years.

I’ll be grinding some venison shortly and mixing it with pork fatback. Is there a particular starter culture that you recommend for added flavour for wild game cured salamis?

I live in Niagara Falls so I usually go across the river and buy most of my spices, casings etc from the Sausage Maker on Clinton Ave. in Buffalo. I’m sure they stick most types of starter cultures.

For those that like artificial casings, the Sausage Maker sells great protein line casings that are 2 ft long. The protein lining ensures the casing shrinks as the salami dries. I like them because every sopressatta is the same size and the casings don’t break, no matter how dense you stuff them. I use electrical zip ties with these instead of string. They save the cuts in the skin when you have a big batch to tie. My only issue with these casings is that if you like really firm Sopressata like we do, the casings are a pain to peel off. I normally peel them back a week or so before I am ready to vacuum seal.

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victor February 18, 2018 - 10:14 pm

Howard, making sausages with game meat follows the same process so it should not dictate the choice of starter culture. However, I would recommend my new favorite – B-LC-007, which is successor to T-SPX culture and adds protection against listeria. Unfortunately, the sausagemaker does not carry it but I buy it from The Craft Butchers’ Pantry. The Butcher-Packer sells it too.

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Howard February 16, 2018 - 1:18 pm

Hi Victor
I am a long time maker of Sopressatta, having learned the old school way of making them from my wife’s Calabrese father.

I always found it quite interesting to observe and learn from the artisan/craft way of making the cured sausage.

The only measuring tool they use is their hands. They make balls of meat and use handfuls of salt based on the size and number of giant “meatballs”. Seasoning is added then the mix is all done by hand and patties are made and fried to ensure the meat has the right amount of flavour.

Sausages are stuffed, tied and hung in concrete cold rooms with an opening outside and a little fan to circulate.

Year to year each batch taste different. They normally turn out fine with the occasional batch being thrown out.

I like to think I have introduced some science to my Italian relatives and the way they make sausages.

First off, I introduced them to scales. A fine one for the curing salt and seasoning and a large one for the meat. I use a standard mix of 22 grams of salt per kilo of meat.

I also introduced them to a hydrometer. Their bad batches were nearly always caused by casing hardening and a lack of understanding for the importance of humidity in slowing the drying process.

As you’ve stated many times in your thread, Jan and Feb are really the only months that have sustained coolness that allow sausages to dry in home cellars. I wanted to make my sausage year round so I built a 8×8 walk-in refrigerator with temperature and humidity controls. Mine is set at 50 degrees Fahrenheit at 73 to 75% RH.

Meat preparation is always done in my “Meat Room” where the temp is always around 60 degrees.

Now here is where my science ends. I have never used a bacterial culture in my sausage making. I use a combination of curing salt and sea salt only with spices to taste. I have never lost a batch. In your opinion, what is the magic in what am I doing that allows me to be predictably successful without using starter cultures.

Thank you for your forum. I find it informative and reassuring.

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victor February 18, 2018 - 7:57 am

Hi Howard,

Thank you for sharing your perspective which I found very interesting to read. As to your question, I think you’ve answered it yourself – science. No, you don’t need a starter culture to make sopressata or any other dry cured sausage as lactic acid bacteria are naturally present in the meat. However, their amount are hard to predict. Another thing to consider is that naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria are of hetero-fermentative type, which means that along with producing lactic acid they are also involved in many other processes that may produce off-flavors. Starter cultures are mono-fermentative and only produce lactic acid. Adding starter culture helps establish dominance of desirable bacteria and contain or even eliminate growth of undesirable lactic acid or pathogenic bacteria.

As well, with a commercial starter culture your get a better idea of what the proper fermentation temperature should be, or use a culture that fits your temperature regimen and flavor profile you are after. Starter cultures now also include color and flavor forming bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Kocuria.

Because of these reasons, adding a starter culture is a no-brainer to me. Don’t forget too that many, probably most, of us did not grow up in sausage making families. The more you do it the more you learn and ‘feel’ the process. Little nuances that are important become ingrained in your brain. For novices sausage makers the process is not an easy one, so the more scientific it is the better chance they have at getting a safe and great tasting product.

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Corey January 28, 2018 - 9:14 am

Great info here! Just a quick question, if the temperature for the initial fermentation is closer to 70 should I extend the 12 hours to 18 or 24?

Also do you ever press your sopresatta with weight? If so at what stage of the cure should I be doing this?

Thanks!

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victor January 28, 2018 - 10:09 am

Thanks Corey. 18-24 hours wont’ be enough at this temp. 70F is the low end for this culture. I’ve seen recommendations to ferment for at least 48 hours at this temp. I find that slower fermentation is much less predictable and using a PH meter is very important in this case.

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victor February 2, 2018 - 7:43 am

Sorry, missed the second question. I haven’t pressed my sopressata but I’ve done that with my sujuk. The process should work with sopressata as well.

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Fred Sonetto January 27, 2018 - 7:27 am

Good morning Victor. Thanks much for your quick reply.
I don’t see much in the way of case hardening and I have a pretty consistent color throughout. Product is not so much mushy as it is just soft. Flavor, smell and taste seem very good. No signs of spoilage.

One thing I neglected to note originally is within the same piece I have areas that are firm and soft. From top to bottom one (looking at the stick length wise) 1/2 the stick is firm and the other soft. I suspected maybe an air flow issue (fan output hitting one side and not the other) so I’ve turned the sticks and moved them around within my curing chamber to see if that helps. So far not much relief.

Trying to remember back to when stuffed the casings I believe I went heavy with pricking the casings to allow for moisture / air escape. Maybe I didn’t do as good a job as I thought. I did use Mold 600 to form a white coating. First time I used this and it produced a very heavy white mold on the product.

I was thinking of taking a piece and removing the casing and rehang to see if it helps. Think this is out of line? I’ll certainly read with interest your link to difussion / evaporation rates. Again, many thanks!

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victor January 27, 2018 - 8:07 am

Fred, the good news is that your sausages seem to be doing just fine and should be safe to eat. You bring up an interesting point about air circulation and pricking. Both could be the culprits but in your case it looks like it’s the latter. Can’t really advise much here other than recommend some experimentation with small batches.

Taking the sausage out of the casing at this stage should be fine. Try one and see how it behaves.

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Fred Sonetto January 26, 2018 - 6:48 am

Hi Victor,
I’m into my third batch of sopressata and have notice this batch isn’t drying properly. I’m losing the weight (up to 45%) but the meat is very soft. Flavor and aroma are very good. My drying chamber hold pretty consistent at 55F and 75% humidity. Product has been hanging for roughly 5 weeks.
I use beef middles as casing and only liquid I include in the recipe is a little dry wine. I do use a Calabrian pepper paste also.
I know without seeing actual process and product you may not be able to give a definitive answer but have you any thoughts on what is happening? Have you seen or heard anything like this happening to others.

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victor January 27, 2018 - 6:49 am

Hi Fred,

You are right, it’s hard to give an advice in this case without knowing the details but let me venture a couple of ideas. I’ve had the same thing happen to me a number of times. It often boils down to the drying process being out of equilibrium, where diffusion rate is greater or lower than the evaporation rate. Go to the link I provided, it’s a good read to help visualize the drying process. What could be causing it is where it becomes challenging and requires troubleshooting on your part.

You are saying that the product is mushy. Is the casing hard or normal? Let’s assume there is no case hardening and the product is uniformly soft and mushy. This is usually caused by over-working the meat at grinder or mixer. Even using a dull blade can cause that. It can be caused by insufficient salt level, excessive fat extension, spoiled raw materials or proteolytic microbial contaminant.

Now, if the casing feels harder than the core, it’s because of improper drying caused by many factors, some of which are too low humidity either during fermentation or drying, fat smearing, excessive air circulation or low acidification. Too much acidification can technically case a large water loss as is evident in your case but the product shouldn’t feel mushy. But it could be a combination of factors too.

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Nelson November 30, 2017 - 7:57 am

I just made a small batch of this and after 5 weeks drying it came out beautifully! I spiced it up somewhat with a little extra cayenne and it actually reminds me of Calabrese Salami. Well done and thank you!

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victor November 30, 2017 - 8:04 am

You are absolutely welcome and thanks for taking time to leave your feedback.

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james malone August 19, 2017 - 11:33 am

Why do people list their recipe starting with the weight of the meat in pounds and then they revert to metric for the condiments??

Use imperial or metric not both surely!!

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james malone August 19, 2017 - 11:34 am

Why list your recipe with meat weighed in pounds and condiments in grams? Use either Metric or imperial for the whole thing, can’t be that difficult

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victor August 19, 2017 - 11:56 am

I am going to respond to both of your comments at once since they seem to be talking about the same issue. Since this recipe is an adaptation from M. Ruhlman’s book ‘Charcuterie’, ideally this question should be asked of Mr. Ruhlamn.

Personally, I am very flexible as my kitchen scale, and most every other kitchen scale sold today, can measure in metric and imperial scales. I can easily go either way. The way I see this particular recipe is it provides measurements in both metric and imperial scales. The spices, bacterial culture and other ingredients of very small amounts are given in grams and teaspoons simply because it’s nearly impossible to measure that granular in imperial scale, at least my typical kitchen scale CAN show weight in 1 gram increments, but WILL NOT go as granular as 0.035 or 35/1000 ounces. The lowest it will go is 1/8 oz or 3.5 grams. The next increment is 1/4 oz or 7 grams. These increments are not fine enough for this recipe. Then, different folks are used to different scales. Some use a combination. I buy meat in pounds and it’s easier for me to visualize weight in pounds. For small amounts I always only use grams, just never got used to ounces, I guess because of the granularity. I think it’s very useful, at least for some, when recipes list both.

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Stephen Charette May 6, 2017 - 11:31 am

You mentioned to not use a dehydrator and I understand that. I made my first batch and hung it in my garage. It looks like Soupy, nicknamed here in RI. There is no mold but the inside is soft. My question is can I slice it and put it in a dehydrator just for a short time to get the softness out.

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victor May 7, 2017 - 1:33 pm

Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about soupie, just another name for the good old homemade sopressata. Your question is one that I’ve heard numerous times but still don’t have a good answer for. First, I can’t be sure without assessing the sausage myself. You’ll be surprised how often I’ve made a salami that I doubted. Only after 20 or so batches I became fairly confident about making a confident judgement about how the drying is going.

Secondly, you kind of need to look at the entire drying process holistically. There are chemical reactions taking place as a result of which nitrates convert into nitrites which keep harmful bacteria at bay. I’ve also seen studies that showed the reduction/neutralization of harmful bacteria commonly found in meat over time – some reduction over a week, more reduction over two week, with no viable bacteria left after 28 days to 45 days of drying. Then there is flavor development that happens over time. A dehydrator won’t help accomplishing the same.

I would look into building a reliable curing chamber. It solved most of the drying problems for me.

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Michael McGrath April 25, 2017 - 5:14 pm

I’ve had several whole muscle experiences in my converted wine cooler that have yielded stellar results. Sausages have been hit or miss. I suspect this is due to challenges faced in the fermentation state. I’m intrigued by the water cooler method you describe, but I simply cant visualize it. Any chance of posting a picture or two?

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victor April 25, 2017 - 10:00 pm

Sure thing. I don’t remember where I stored all my charcuterie pictures, but here are a couple I was able to find. Here is my cooler fermenter in action, I think this was Genoa:
Fermentation in a cooler

Here is fermenting right in the living room. This was Fennel salami. It turned out exceptionally good.
Fennel salai

I have to say, in my experience fermentation has been the least of my problems, drying was a challenge. Read about my advanced meat curing chamber (link in the post above), I go there in detail about how I was able to get consistently good results.

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Nicolas February 13, 2017 - 7:45 pm

Hi, about the PH, how do you measure it? and what are the ‘regular’ values? can I have problems if I don’t measure it?

thanks

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Nicolas February 12, 2017 - 2:06 pm

HI great page, I just put together my chamber and I’m starting on the sopressata.

quick question, the bactofwerm f-rm-52 package says 25g for 220 lbs of meat.
It’s still ok to go with 5g for 5 lbs?

thanks

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victor February 12, 2017 - 2:18 pm

Yes. It won’t hurt in any way. I put about 1-2 grams per 5 lbs of meat when the culture is fresh and as much as 5-7 grams when it’s closer to expiry or even past expiry (it’s still good if it’s dry and kept properly, though I always check PH after fermentation).

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Howard Hart January 4, 2017 - 1:11 am

Wonderfully descriptive article – very much appreciate the effort you put into this. As I wade into my first batch, I will be referring to this frequently.

Kudos!

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Mirte December 5, 2016 - 11:46 am

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will make it some day in the near future, it sounds great! I’m from the Netherlands and went to a “cured sausage workshop” the other day. We used three different starters: 1. was a store bought starter cure,like the one u use in your recipe 2. was a little piece of another sausage and the third was a table spoon of yoghurt. All turned out great!
I’m glad I found your site today, I will visit more often.

Mirte

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victor December 5, 2016 - 10:47 pm

Thank you for your feedback and good luck with your sausage making.

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Jason September 29, 2016 - 2:10 pm

Hi Victor great information. just a quick question, can you use the “picnic” in your Sopressat?
I love your site & I will be asking you a ton more questions as I get started.

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victor September 29, 2016 - 2:15 pm

Thanks, Jason. Yes, you can you use picnic ham. I’ve used ham and picnic ham cuts as well with good results.

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Jerry August 7, 2016 - 1:34 pm

Hi Victor, I took 1 Soppressata made with hog casings from the curing chamber ( 11 more in the chamber) and sliced it.The fat is nice and white, color looks good, pretty firm. But when I squeeze it the fat kinda oozes out. Is it because it needs to be refrigerated ? Dried more? Only in chamber for 2 weeks. The PH is 4.8. Smells like salami. It has lost 35% of its original weight.

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victor August 7, 2016 - 5:00 pm

Hi Jerry,

I think I experienced something like this in the past. It’s not ideal but based on what you are describing the salami is fine. Two weeks sounds a bit too fast, I typically target 28 days for salami. Dry it a couple of weeks longer, it will only make it better. I actually prefer drier salami. I once had a sopressata forgotten in the curing chamber for 3 months. It lost 45% of original weight, but turned out exceptionally good.

Also, check out this link where someone experienced a similar problem:
https://forums.egullet.org/topic/140953-dry-cured-sausages-dripping-liquid-fat-normal/

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Jerry September 6, 2016 - 2:37 pm

Hi Victor, Thanks for the reply.I put the soppressata back in the curing chamber for another week and it seem to firm up a little more. I vacuum packed them and gave them out. Everyone was impressed. The taste was quite good. I’m trying the Tuscan Salami recipe today.

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victor September 6, 2016 - 3:19 pm

That’s great, Jerry. I noticed that the more I make salami the better it gets… you learn a little thing here and there, and the overall products just improves. It’s to be expected.

Also, try fennel salami / finocchiona salami. I cold smoke it before curing. It’s my signature salami that everyone raves about.

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Alison July 31, 2016 - 7:16 pm

It is all beautiful but not exactly what most of us out t here nowdays are looking for.
It would be ideal if someone would post a method that is of home made like done centuries ago, without all unnecessary chemicals and ingredients that most likely were NOT at hand in the old days. Just to name few.. is it possible to make a good tasting sopresata without all this chemicals and otherwise modern ingredients?:

???
I hihgly doubt that historically that is what an Italian peasant would put
into his sausage and would be willing to expose the familyt to.

I am still on a lookout for a perfect home made ingredient plain and simple recipe.

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victor August 2, 2016 - 2:01 pm

Thank you for your feedback, Alison. I think your comment is very valid and warrants a thoughtful response. So, the question is, is it possible to make good tasting sopressata without chemicals? I assume when you say chemicals you refer to Bactoferm F-RM-52 and Cure #2. Yes, it’s perfectly possible to do that, and I assume some have done so for centuries. However…

1. Traditionally made fermented sausages were made without starter cultures or sugar and rely entirely on bacteria present in meat and in surrounding micro flora. Before the starter cultures (e.g. F-RM-52) were discovered it was common to add fermented sausage mass from the previous batches to a new sausage mass that will be stuffed into casings. This increased the number of lactic bacteria in a new sausage mass. This questionable practice today was called “backslopping” and is very seldom used as it introduces not only lactic bacteria that are needed for fermentation but also any unwanted bacteria that had developed in the previous sausage mass.

Without a starter culture or without backslopping it’s a coin toss. You may get benefical bacteria, or you may get pathogenic bacteria take over the meat. Besides, surrounding micro flora varies significantly from place to place. You can get perfectly fermented and cured sopressata by simply hanging it in the basement of an average home in Basilicata, Apulia, or Calabria. Try doing the same in Florida or Arizona, or many other places and you will end up with junk. Besides, I’ve read that in the past quality of sopressata in Italy varied from batch to batch, and many were thrown out due to spoilage. Starter cultures give you predictable results and a safe to eat product every time.

2. Use of Cure #2 / which contains sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate is added for safety reasons to primarily prevent botulism poisoning. Many old Italian sopressata recipes that I’ve come across used none other than saltpeter, or potassium nitrate for the exact same reason. I would say even in olden days Italians considered it to be reckless to make sopressata without a curing agent and feed it to the family.

In the end, you can see that the use of ‘chemicals’ is a very good thing that gives you predictable results and a safe product, both from the modern and traditional point of view. I personally wouldn’t make sopressata any other way.

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wendys June 11, 2016 - 2:29 pm

Super klobása

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wendys June 11, 2016 - 2:28 pm

Super!

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Joe Nurkowski May 19, 2016 - 2:23 pm

Hi Victor,
If i hang the meat at 15C with humidity at around 18-20%, would that cause any issues?
Can soppressata be made using a mixture of pork and venison?
All the recipies I read make reference to cutting up the pork and then grinding, can I purchase already pre-ground 70/30 or 80/20 pork and still have good results?
Would the artificial salami casings work vs beef casings? It might be a difficult item to find.
And one final question, in Canada #2 cure isn’t available but #1 is, can I use that instead?
Thx in advance for the info,
Joe

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victor May 20, 2016 - 11:17 am

Hi Joe,

There are specific temperature and humidity ranges that are conducive to proper drying. RH of 18-20% is far too low. Check out post called Advanced meat curing chamber and the comments section, you will find all the information you need there.

Traditional sopressata is not made of venison. However, there are dozens of recipes out there for dry cured sausages that use various types of meat. What you would end up with may not be called sopressata, but it doesn’t have to be as long as it tastes great.

I would not buy pre-ground meat for the following reasons: 1) it typically consists of inferior quality cuts, 2) it may not have been handled properly 3)it may contain chemicals that I don’t want in my meat (color and flavor enhancers, etc.). I buy the freshest possible meat and grind it myself. Always.

Both artificial and natural casings work very well, but I prefer natural. Both are easy to find in Toronto. Not sure about other cities. That said, you’ve got to have a local sausage supply store as sausage are made everywhere. In Toronto for example, it’s Yes Group. They carry all you need for sausage making. If for some reason you don’t, you can always order online. Also, every grocery store sells sausage casings of various sizes. They don’t have them on display but if you walk to the meat counter and ask them they will sell it to you. I’ve done that many times.

Cure 1 and Cure 2 are very different and and CANNOT be substituted. I made references to very good book above that have all the answers for a beginner like yourself, please read them before attempting to make dry cured sausages. You want to make sure what you make is safe to eat.

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joe N May 10, 2016 - 1:58 pm

HI there, I never made this before and certainly would like to start. My temp is roughly 15-18C but the hunidity is closer to 18%. Would that be a problem?
thx,
Joe

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victor May 11, 2016 - 1:57 pm

Huge problem. 18% rH is way to low. The casing will dry out very rapidly and the meat inside won’t properly dry. You need to add a humidifier to keep it at 75%-78% rH.

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Michele D March 1, 2016 - 7:38 pm

We all did the same and I agree with Victor… a very limited time window and prone to inconsistency. I personally feel that with climate change, the temps and humidity differences even during weeks has caused havoc with the drying cycle. This year I made a curing chamber out of an old fridge. Ridiculous amazing results !!! the best ‘sots’ I have ever made.

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Anthony Cesario February 21, 2016 - 6:32 am

Where can Bactoferm FRM52 be found in Toronto

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victor February 21, 2016 - 5:32 pm

You may want to check out the Yes Group up in Markham, they carry a lot of sausage making supplies.

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Michele D March 1, 2016 - 7:35 pm

I buy my starter culture and other molds in Buffalo. Mr. Sausage Maker. better deals and always in stock.

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victor March 1, 2016 - 7:42 pm

I think you meant to say The Sausage Maker. I use them as well. However, I would not discount Yes Group either. They have a lot of good stuff, and the prices are quite good too. They get even better if you haggle a little, or buy in bulk. I always ask for a break and they never say no.

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Chadwell December 30, 2015 - 12:10 pm

The curing chambers are neat and all, but not really necessary. My grandma used to hang them in the basement and hers were amazing.

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victor December 30, 2015 - 7:05 pm

Interesting point, and valid. However, and it’s a big however, you need proper conditions for that. I know many Italians here in Toronto cure sausages in their basements the old fashioned way, with, allegedly, great success. But they only do it during winter months when the conditions are conducive to dry curing. I did that as well last winter when I was having problems with my fridge. I made a batch of sujuk that turned out fantastic and it was dry cured entirely in the basement. But here is the thing, you only get a few months of the right conditions per year. With a curing chamber you can do it all year round. If you leave down south, forget about it, you need a curing chamber.

Here is another wrench, when doing curing in the basement without full control of temperature and humidity, your results will vary from batch to batch. I spoke to a guy from Italy who had been curing salamis in his basement for over 40 years without any commercial bacterial cultures. He admitted to having good, excellent and very poor batches that he had to throw out due to contamination and spoilage. So, there you go. We used to walk, then rode horses. Now we drive cars. Is having a car necessary? No, but it’s so damn convenient that pretty much everyone has one.

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Michele D March 1, 2016 - 7:40 pm

We all did the same and I agree with Victor… a very limited time window and prone to inconsistency. I personally feel that with climate change, the temps and humidity differences even during weeks has caused havoc with the drying cycle. This year I made a curing chamber out of an old fridge. Ridiculous amazing results !!! the best ‘sots’ I have ever made.

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Anthony Calabro November 21, 2015 - 3:23 pm

Just a quick question to anyone out there. Is it possible to just stuff the casing and use a dehydrator until it loses about 30% of its weight?

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victor November 21, 2015 - 4:35 pm

The short answer, using a dehydrator will not give you the results you are looking for. They operate at much higher temperatures than dry curing needs. The environment inside the dehydrator will promote rapid case hardening. The meat inside the casing will not dry properly, if at all. As the water will not be properly removed from inside the sausage, water activity of the meat will remain high which will promote growth of pathogenic bacteria and spoilage. There is a reason commercial and home sausage makers build curing chambers with proper temperature and humidity control and not use dehydrators.

I suggest you pick up a book by Marianski referenced in my post to read about the chemistry and the process of dry curing of meats before you attempt making your own dry cured sausages. Without understanding at least the basics of meat curing you are risking to get yourself and others very sick.

If building your own curing chamber is not an option, and for some people it is not, there is another solution that may give you good results. I haven’t tried it myself, but have heard positive feedback from others. It’s called UMAi Dry Curing technology. Amazons sells complete kits, like this one Artisan Dry Cured Meats Charcuterie Starter Kit or this one here Artisan Dry Sausage Kit. Follow the instructions in the kit, which will be different from the traditional dry curing in the curing chamber.

But, whatever you do, don’t use a dehydrator to make sopressata.

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