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Advanced Meat Curing Chamber At Home

by Victor @ Taste of Artisan

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 ArtisanI have been curing meats at home for almost two years. My initial results were encouraging but then it all went downhill. The biggest problem was high humidity. I tried many ways to fix it but nothing really worked. About 4-5 months ago I  made another change to my meat curing chamber.  This change finally helped me start getting consistent and predictable results. I am now in charcuterie heaven! My curing frustrations are officially over.

 

Building a meat curing chamber

Building a meat curing chamber at home is ridiculously simple and will not break the bank. All you need is the three things listed below.

  • A full size frost-free fridge ($60-$100 on Craigslist).
  • A temperature/humidity controller ($50-$100).
  • An ultrasonic humidifier ($30-$50).

That is if all planets line up perfectly or you happen to live in an area that is conducive to meat curing. Otherwise you are going to face challenges controlling high humidity.

My first meat curing chamber was exactly like I described above. I also added a digital Extech 445715 Hygro-Thermometer for easy monitoring of internal temperature and humidity. The controller I picked was the analogue C.A.P AIR-2 temperature/humidity controller.

This particular controller controls temperature and a de-humidifier. Wish I had known that before I purchased it. Luckily, I was able to find instructions on the Internet on how to quickly re-wire it to control a humidifier. My first batch of meats turned out fantastic, I could not be happier. No store-bought salami would come even close. Michael Ruhlman’s sopressata was the star.

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 Artisan

My meat curing chamber challenges

The next batch I made a few months later didn’t fair so well. My salamis would keep developing some sticky grey coating on them which impacted drying and resulted in spoilage. Wiping off that sticky mess with water and vinegar solution would only work for a couple of days. Then it was back again. I figured I must have done something wrong and made another batch. It turned out not too bad, but not nearly as good as the first one.

Then I realized what the problem was. It was changes in the ambient humidity that effected the humidity inside the meat curing chamber. When the ambient humidity is right the internal humidity in the fridge stays in the desired range and I get perfect results. If not, I would get junk.

Around that time my very old fridge died. I was able to replace it with a practically new one that I picked up for $110 on Craigslist. Same problems continued and I was pulling my hair out figuring out how to bring humidity under control. Specifically, I needed to be able to bring the humidity down. Low humidity was not a problem as I could use a humidifier to take care of that.

The Internet is full of information and misinformation. Sometimes the information is correct, but does not necessarily apply to your conditions. As a result, you take someone’s advice but it does not work for you. You probably have been through that many times. I followed various recommendations. I also tried controlling the meat curing chamber humidity with wet salt. That did not work at all.

Then I made a big tray of sodium acetate which I read about in Stanley Marianski’s book. This method worked fine, but only for a few days. The acetate would quickly get moist and I would need to dehydrate it in the oven. It proved to be too much hassle. I now understand that these methods work well when you have low humidity. When the humidity is high these methods are ineffective. You’ll never know for sure unless you try yourself.

Later I stumbled upon Marianski’s recommendation to use an exhaust fan to get humidity out of the fridge. There are two ways to implement this solution.

  • Set up the humidity controller to run the fan when humidity rises above a certain threshold.
  • Add a timer to activate the fan at predetermined time.

I cut two 4″ holes in my new fridge, one at the bottom to take air in and one at the top to get the humid air out.

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 Artisan

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 Artisan

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 ArtisanThis worked for a short period of time. The humidity would still be fairly high when I would add new sausages, but would come down a few days later. Unfortunately, two months later this system started to struggle. Humidity would not get below 85% and the fan would be running almost all of the time. A couple of weeks later I noticed that when the fan would start running the humidity in the meat curing chamber would increase. What the heck?

During that time ambient temperature got noticeably higher. When warmer air with the same or higher relative humidity is introduced into the cooler fridge it causes internal RH to increase. That’s exactly what happened to me. So, this solution works when the ambient temperature is low or ambient RH is much lower that the one in the fridge. Otherwise you will be getting the exact opposite effect.

Now, some have been saying that 85% RH is perfectly fine for curing meats. I can tell you that it’s not what my experience has been. Sticky goo and nasty molds would attack my meats at high RH. I also noticed quite a bit of case hardening. That was surprising as you are more likely to get case hardening at low RH. I kept looking for other methods. Some are using ceramic heater lamps which is discussed here. This method can be dangerous and, frankly, does not make much sense to me. Why would you want to heat the fridge to make it circulate more often? I also noticed that as soon as the fridge stops running, the RH would shoot back up within 20 seconds. Somehow the moisture needs to be removed. That seemed like a more practical solution for lowering RH inside the curing chamber.

The solution that worked

This all led me to look into installing a dehumidifier into the meat curing chamber. I thought that maybe that would be the solution. Any small size dehumidifiers I was able to find were using Peltier technology. I’ve seen numerous posts on various forums stating that these types of dehumidifiers don’t work at curing chamber temperatures. Darn!

Luckily, one person on Reddit forums reported using one of these dehumidifiers with great results. I took the plunge and bought the Eva-dry Edv-1100 Dehumidifier and I am glad I did. It works, and it works exceptionally well.

This is a smaller version than the one that the poster from Reddit has, but it works just as well from my experience. Another benefit from the dehumidifier is that it provides some air movement when it’s on.

I replaced my less than stellar analogue controller with the Auber TH210 Temperature and Humidity Controller for a more precise temperature control.

Update on August 4, 2016

Auber is now shipping a new version of the temperature and humidity controller, TH220 that looks like this:

Meat Curing Chamber at home. Auber TH220 Temperature Humidity Controller. | Taste of Artisan

It’s has the same high RH sensor and can control either heating or cooling and either humidifying or dehumidifying. I definitely like it more in black, looks more stylish.

This controller also controls the Optimus Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier in my setup. I later added another one to control the Eva-dry dehumidifier. I also have an exhaust fan plugged in but it never comes on as I realized I don’t need it.

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 Artisan

Here is another image to show temperatures as the ones above flickered when I took the shot.

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 Artisan

There are slight differences in the temperatures and RH reported between the two. I think it’s the result of sensor placement and air movement. I can especially notice the difference when the fridge is circulating and cold air is blowing inside the fridge. When there is no air movement inside the fridge they have almost identical readings.

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 Artisan

The way this setup works is one controller is set up to start the humidifier when RH drops below 72%. Because of a small lag the RH drops to about 70% before the humidifier is able to start bringing it back up. Still, this is sufficiently fast.

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 Artisan

You may have noticed that I moved the humidifier outside the fridge in the new setup. The reason behind this is that it’s easier to control humidity in larger spaces. The humidifier is pretty bulky and takes a lot of space so it made sense to move it out.

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 Artisan

The other controller controls the dehumidifier and kicks in when humidity goes above 78%. Again, due to a lag the RH briefly goes up to about 80-81% before it is brought back down below 78%. The average is about 75% RH, which is exactly where I want it to be. I can tighten the range down to a 1/10th of a degree but that’s not necessary. I don’t want the humidifier and dehumidifier to start competing with each other in a vicious cycle.

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 Artisan

Like I said, charcuterie heaven.

The results and new observations

Update on October 29, 2015

A new batch of sopressata just finished drying in my upgraded meat curing chamber. I took some pictures of the final product for those who might be interested. I put it in on October 3, 2015. Now, 26 days later, the sausage has lost 30% of the weight and is ready for consumption. 30-35% weight loss is ideal for this type of sausage. I plan to keep a few sausages a little longer to get to 35% weight loss as I like it a little drier. My kids love softer sausage.

 

I must say I am very happy with the results. This is one of my best batches, if not the best. It was fairly easy to control the humidity and keep it where I wanted it to be. One thing I did differently for this batch is to gradually reduce humidity over time. I started with 88% in the first 5 days, then dropped it to 83% during  the next 5 days The remainder of the drying time the RH was at 78%. This method was described by Stanley Marianski in one of his books.

I don’t have any scientific evidence to show if this method is superior to the one where you use constant humidity from day one. My subjective opinion is that this last batch came out a little better. One thing that jumps out at me is the more uniform firmness of the meat from the center to the edge. It also appears as though the casing is coming off a little more easily.

Salami cured in my Advanced Meat Curing Chamber at home. Excellent, predictable results. | Taste of Artisan

There meat close to the casing appears to be a bit darker than toward the center. This bothered me a little as usually this is a sign of case hardening. I am fairly certain that this is not the case though.

 

Common sense tells me that there is no case hardening if the following is true.

  • The meat is firm throughout.
  • There is no mushiness in the center.
  • The casing is soft and peels right off nicely.

I don’t think it’s something to worry about, though it kept me me wondering for a bit.

Salami cured in my Advanced Meat Curing Chamber at home. Excellent, predictable results. | Taste of Artisan

I did some research and looked through dozens of images of artisan salamis online. Guess what, practically all of them exhibit the same type of dark ring near the surface.

Cured Salami

Cured Salami

Relief!

Update November 14, 2015

I let some of the sopressata to dry longer until it lost 35% of the weight. The difference between 30% and 35% weight loss is quite remarkable – it’s firmer, has richer colors and more intense flavors. Everyone in the family agreed that it tasted better now than it did a couple of weeks ago.

Salami cured in my Advanced Meat Curing Chamber at home. Excellent, predictable results. This one spent a longer time in the curing chamber and has a firmer texture and a richer color. | Taste of Artisan

The mold is snow-white and no sign of bad molds anywhere.

Salami cured in my Advanced Meat Curing Chamber at home. Excellent, predictable results. This one spent a longer time in the curing chamber and has a firmer texture and a richer color, and a beautiful white mold. | Taste of Artisan

Shortly after the sausages reached 30% weight loss I noticed that the casings started to feel slightly harder than before. Not by much, but enough for me to feel some increased hardness. I bumped the target for the dehumidifier to 80% and 78% for the humidifier. That did the trick and the casings went back to normal for the remainder of the drying process.

Speaking about case hardening, I found a picture of finocchiona salami I made last spring. It was made before adding the dehumidifier. This salami is a good example of what type of challenges I had to deal with before. The mold on the outside was fine, but inside the meat was pale and very soft toward the center. The salami was edible but not enjoyable. I ended up throwing it out as I had no confidence that it was 100% safe to eat.

Cured Salami that exhibits case hardening. | Taste of Artisan

If you take a close look at the casing around the perimeter of the cut you will notice a great deal of casing separation. The surface under the casing was quite oily. No wonder it did not dry well. The casing felt quite hard too, despite high humidity. Go figure.

I think what happened is at some point the humidity inside the chamber became too high for efficient moisture removal from the surface of the salami. This affected moisture removal from the inside of the sausage, making diffusion rate > evaporation rate.  Diffusion rate is the rate at which moisture inside the sausage travels toward the surface. Evaporation rate is the rate at which moisture is removed from the surface of the sausage. In other words higher humidity means slower drying. Too high of humidity can lead to very poor results, not just slower drying.

This article was updated on January 25, 2019

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362 comments

Michael travis January 25, 2020 - 10:45 pm

Hey Victor,
I’m not sure if this is the proper thread for this question but I need some advice. I’m currently making a cured sausage in my newly constructed curing chamber. My process was I. made my sausage then realized my mold 600 needed 12 hours to soak. So I got that going and placed my sausage in my fermenting chamber. I sprayed my mold on the sausage the next day, let it sit until my ph was around 5.3 and then put it in the curing chamber. i realized when soaking my mold the instructions said to use distilled water so I made another batch of mold 600 and sprayed it on there. It’s now been curing for two weeks and there is no mold growth. I don’t know if the chlorine in my tap water has inhibited mold growth or what. Will this ruin my sausage? Any advice?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 25, 2020 - 11:42 pm

Michael, this WILL NOT ruin your sausage. I wouldn’t sweat it. You don’t have to inoculate with mold 600, good white mold should develop from the spores present in the air. I’ve made quite a few batches without inoculating with Bactoferm 600 and they were fine. You won’t get a nice, thick white coat, it may be a bit thin and patchy, but it looks more natural, rustic. I personally like it. Your mold may still grow. If it doesn’t, it’s not a problem. The problem is when other, nasty molds start to grow. Simply wipe them off with a mix of distilled water and vinegar, that’s easy to deal with. But if you keep the environment clean, chances are you won’t see any black, green or blue mold.

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Michael travis January 26, 2020 - 12:00 am

Thanks a lot for the help!

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 26, 2020 - 12:53 am

You are welcome.

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Tony January 24, 2020 - 8:38 pm

If using a converted refrigerator, do I still need to add some sort of fan to manage air flow or can i skip that step. I’m planning humidifier/de-humidifer, and controls for that along with temperature — so the setup you’ve described but I’m not clear on your reco for a fan or not?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 25, 2020 - 3:54 pm

Tony, I used a fan initially but stopped soon after as, no matter how low it was running, it was causing case hardening. I figured, between the fridge, when it circulates, and the dehumidifier, when it’s on. there will be enough air movement. Now, if your fridge is huge, adding a fan may be beneficial but this needs to be tested in each individual situation. For me, it was causing more grief than benefit.

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Bill McMahon January 24, 2020 - 7:27 pm

Thanks so much for the great info. Does the set up you use have a fan that runs all the time as part of the refrigerator.
I have a newer large beverage style that was given to me. it has a fan in the top center that runs even when the refrigerator has reached temp and shuts off.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 25, 2020 - 4:17 pm

Hi Bill, no, I don’t run the fan. For me it was causing case hardening. I tried initially but removed it later. There is enough air movement from the fridge itself, when it circulates, and from the dehumidifier’s fan. That said, everyone’s fridge is different. I went from one fridge to another and they behaved very differently for me, and I heard of the same observations from others. What I am trying to say is that you will need some tweaking to do to get it run properly. That tweaking may include adding a fan. Perhaps you can restrict the airflow by adding a shield so there is no direct flow toward the meat. If you have a very large fridge you may benefit from a fan running at low speed. In general, the bigger the area the easier it becomes to manage.

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Daren January 22, 2020 - 3:42 am

Are you using a refrigerator/freezer or just a full size refrigerator? Can a full sized freezer work?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 22, 2020 - 5:33 pm

I use a fridge with a freezer that is a separate chamber. Anything large and frost-free will work.

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Daren January 22, 2020 - 7:50 pm

Ok, thank you!! Will an upright freezer work or is it too cold?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 22, 2020 - 11:23 pm

Daren, you need a controller to regulate how cold your fridge or freezer gets. It will only get as cold as the regulator will let it. But you must use a frost-free freezer or else you will have a heck of a time getting humidity down.

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Daren January 25, 2020 - 8:36 pm

Perfect, thank you!!

Daniel Ullfig January 20, 2020 - 2:48 am

I’ve been wondering about the need for the dehumidifier. Do the frost-free refrigerators not pull enough moisture out of the air to make a difference? Do you still need a dehumidifier if your fridge is frost free? Just wondering. Kinda making mental notes of what supplies I need to get.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 21, 2020 - 3:27 am

Daniel, frost-free fridges work by blowing in cold, dry air. They don’t necessarily remove humidity. As soon as the temperature goes up the humidity quickly rises. Also, fresh meats will be losing a lot of water initially, tons of water. It needs to be removed somehow. That’s where the dehumidifier comes in handy. That said, try without one, start with a small batch, 2-3 lbs, see how it goes. Different fridges work differently, even if they are frost-free.

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Matt Keys January 18, 2020 - 1:12 am

Hey Victor, I saw this guide last September and have been pondering building my own chamber. Last weekend I finally did! I wanted to write in first of all to say thanks for putting this together and staying active in the comments, you have been really helpful to me and many others.

In my setup I am using the inkbird temp and humidity controllers, looking through the comments I see they have been mentioned a few times already. I am really happy with them so far, and got a bundle with both controllers for $70 so feel like they are a great value.

Rather than have a separate cooler for fermenting I decided to put together a small ‘heater’ for the chamber that I could use to ferment with. I landed on a 50 watt ceramic heat lamp. I built a small wooden enclosure that safely holds the lamp in place and circulates the air using an old computer heatsink and fan combo. I have some pictures of this I can share if anyone is curious to see it. My build may have been overkill, but I feel good about leaving it on and walking away from it, and it provides a very gentle heat to the chamber.

For the fridge I had a not-to-old frigidaire upright freezer (Model GLFH21F8HBN) that was perfect for this use. The way that this freezer is built there is a small panel in the back bottom of the interior of the freezer. I was able to temporarily remove this panel and route all of my wiring for the inkbird probes in a way that hides all the mess. With everything wired up it is really clean looking.

One last thing I wanted to mention, I decided to get a pH meter, and I found one I don’t see mentioned elsewhere. It is the Milwaukee Instruments MW-102. The cost for the meter + food probe was $180 shipped, much more affordable than I’ve seen other similar products list for. I calibrated and used it for the first time earlier today. So far so good, I will try to update in the future and let people know if it is still working well for me.

I just made up 5lbs of sopressata from the recipe you have here on the blog, it is currently fermenting in my chamber, will check back after 12 hours and see if it is ready for the next step.

Thanks again, and shoot me an email if you’d like any photos!
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Matt's meat curing chamber
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Matt's curing chamber
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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 18, 2020 - 2:30 am

Good to hear that, Matt. Congrats on your new build and good luck with the first batch, hope it turns out great. I bought two Inkbird controllers 2 years ago hoping to test them out but got so busy that I haven’t even taken them out of the boxes. One may say it’s a good thing because it means that my current setup is good enough form me to not need experimenting with something else. But I will, soon.
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You are right about the pH meters, they are very helpful and even mandatory if you want to ensure a safe product. And even for troubleshooting. I have accumulated three of them. I got a Hanna Instruments HI 99161 back in 2015, then HI10532 HALO Wireless and HI981036 last summer. The last two are way more portable and easier to use. I like using them. I use them also for making beer, cheese, and jam.
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Would love to see your pictures. I will email you about that.
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Pics attached. Beautiful setup you got there, Matt. Very spacious. I’d love to see some pics when you cut your first sopressata.

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Aimee & Dan January 17, 2020 - 9:15 pm

Question – We built a curing chamber out of an old side-by-side fridge with the controller, humidifier, ventilation holes, and all that good stuff that all the blogs on this topic recommend…but so far the temp inside won’t go above 45 (humidifier works like a charm). Fridge is in our uninsulated garage on the Oregon Coast, and it rarely gets below the 40’s in the garage. Thoughts?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 17, 2020 - 11:06 pm

Your outside temperature is about 45F and so is the one inside the unheated garage. You have holes in the fridge. You can’t expect the temps inside the fridge to go higher than the ambient. Plug up the holes, add a heating pad and should be good to go.

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Aimee and Dan January 18, 2020 - 1:27 am

But all of the instructions for these curing Chambers say to drill a hole in the side for ventilation… How will I have ventilation if I plug up the holes?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 18, 2020 - 2:09 am

I can only talk about my setup because this is what I know well and I know it works. I don’t recommend drilling holes unless there is a good reason for them. Ventilation is a meaningless term when it comes to meat curing. To get a good product you have three environmental variables to worry about: temperature, humidity, and airflow speed. To control those three you may or may not need to use holes in the fridge. It all depends on each unique setup. Say your ambient temperature is 80F. Opening up hols will result in your fridge running non-stop to keep the temperature low. It may not even be capable of cooling down to the needed temperature. If you have a non-frost-free fridge and live in a dry climate, those holes may be quite helpful for removing excess humidity. Many people drill holes and then cover them with filters to keep bugs away. I did it a long time ago. I found them useless as they provided barely any airflow and were messing up my temperature and humidity.

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Shane January 12, 2020 - 5:05 pm

How often do you need to add water to the humidifier and remove water from the dehumidifier?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 12, 2020 - 5:27 pm

Oh, that really depends on the cycle you are in, and the amount of meat in the chamber. 10-15 lbs of fresh meat in the chamber and I am emptying the dehumidifier once every 2-4 days. At the end of drying when very little water comes out and I do it once every two weeks or so. I add water to the humidifier once a month or so.

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Blake January 18, 2020 - 3:48 pm

I noticed there are 2 plugs on the temp/hum c ok controllers, why do we need to controllers if we are only plugging in a humidifier and dehumidifier? I feel I’m missing something here. Could you provide a complete list of your set up? Please and thank you for your time!

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 18, 2020 - 4:26 pm

You need two controllers because one controls a humidifier and a dehumidifier, hence two plugs, and the other one controls the fridge (cooling). The extra plug on that second controller can be used to control a heating pad to raise the temp, say when you need to ferment at higher temps, or when your ambient is below the target temp, say when your fridge is in an unheated garage. Or you can use it to run a fan for air movement, I used it for that initially but later stopped as it was causing case hardening.

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Michael travis January 7, 2020 - 5:16 am

Hey Victor,
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I’m having some difficulty setting up my curing chamber. I’m using a larger mini fridge that has a small freezer at the top that is used to cool the whole fridge. I’m using the auber temp and humidity controller with a humidifier and fridge power attached. I also have a small fan and dehumidifier(eva-dry) inside running all the time. The issue I’m having is when the fridge is off and temp is stable my set up can control the humidity perfectly but when the fridge powers on the humidity drops significantly causing the humidifier to turn on. It stabilizes the humidity properly but then when the fridge powers off the humidity skyrockets I think from condensation accumulating on that freezer portion of my mini fridge. The dehumidifier is unable to lower the humidity for probably 20 min. Do you see this being an issue when curing meats? Do you have any suggestions on how to control my humidity? When I leave the fridge constantly powered on it controls the humidity great but my temps get to around 45F. I honestly don’t know where to go from here and would really appreciate any advice.
Thanks,
Michael

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 8, 2020 - 4:32 pm

Hi Michael, sorry to hear about your challenges but not surprised at all. Temperature and humidity are inversely related, that’s why humidity drops as the air in the fridge cools down. The more moisture you have in the fridge (liquid or solid form) the more water molecules will be in the air as it (fridge/air) warms up, the more difficult it will be to control it. Add some fresh meat and you will lose that control entirely. For those reasons, you must use a frost-free fridge. It makes things much easier. Also, the larger the fridge the better.
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In your situation, ideally, you’d want to switch to a different fridge. If you want to try to make the existing one work, get rid of the humidifier, you won’t likely need it as there will be plenty of humidity. Run the fridge at a lower temp, like 53F. Go with smaller batches. I suggest you make one sausage, about a pound, ferment, then dry cure it in the fridge. See how that goes. Nothing else will tell you better what works and what doesn’t.

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Jack clarizio January 1, 2020 - 7:20 am

Hello
Starting a new family tradition curing Italian style meats at home! Very excited. I was going to cut out the flooring of the freezer compartment to increase space but didn’t know how temperature can be controlled in the separate areas since one is so much colder… help!

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 1, 2020 - 9:51 pm

It’s a great hobby, Jack. I find it immensely rewarding. About your idea, it’s an interesting one. Provided in your fridge there are no coils at the bottom of the freezer and you can cut the bottom out, your whole fridge will be turning into a freezer. But that’s not a problem, technically, as you will be running it on a temp controller. In my fridge, the freezer isn’t even a freezer anymore (doesn’t get down to freezing temps) as I run the fridge at around 55F. I didn’t expect that to be the case and only found out later on. How will the humidity and the cooling be affected in yours? It’s hard to say without testing the idea out, or without having the technical knowledge. If you can accept the loss if it doesn’t work, there is no harm in trying and testing your idea out. Before you start, find the schematics for your model to make sure you know where you should and shouldn’t drill.

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Fritz December 20, 2019 - 1:18 am

Hi Victor
I’m over in Oakville and just building my 1st curing chamber out of a wine fridge. Thank you very much for your very thorough and detailed article covering your experiences. I have the Inkbird controllers for temp and humidity, Eva .Dry dehumidifier and ultrasonic humidifier. I will be putting it all together this weekend . Would you suggest still cutting a vent hole with hepa filter (even without installing the exhaust fan) for some fresh air to be able to circulate when the humidifier / dehumidifier are running? thanks again for your time.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 21, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Hi Fritz,

Congrats on starting a new and exciting hobby. I am sure you will love it. About the ‘fresh air’ part, I don’t recognize it as a ‘thing’ when it comes to curing. What matters to curing meats and sausages is air temperature, air RH, and airflow/air speed. You can make those holes a part of a balanced system to control the three parameters that I mentioned, or not. Hepa filters will provide a very restricted airflow, if any without a fan, so their value is questionable. I would suggest starting without them. If later you feel like you need extra airflow, you may think about how they could help. As well, those holes will significantly impact your temp and RH, depending on ambient parameters. That’s extra load on your fridge and humidifier/dehumidifier. Better exclude those if possible, at least initially.

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Rob December 8, 2019 - 1:17 am

I recently switched from using a small (30″ tall) wine cooler with an Inkbird temp/humidity controller to an upright freezer for fermentation and drying. I kept getting soft spongy product in the wine cooler, whether it was salami or solid muscle coppa. Some showed signs of case hardening and had to be pitched. I learned to salvage most of the soft meat by vac bagging or transferring to Umai bags and storing in the fridge until they hardened up. I had no issues with high humidity, I only needed to use a humidifier, probably because humidity in the house is <50%. The electrical cords running through the wine cooler seals meant some air would leak out, causing the humidifier to cycle fairly frequently (maybe every 15-20 minutes). I would get pretty rapid drying, despite no built in or supplemental air fan in this wine cooler, so I kept humidity at 80-85% to try and keep this under control, and didn't have any issues with slime or unwanted mold (I used Mold 600). Drying temps were around 55 degrees.

I decided to try an upright freezer located in my garage to see if I could get better drying. My first batch of salami and coppa have been in it now for about 3 weeks. After fermentation was done, I quickly found I couldn't get humidity down to 75-77% (due to exposure to outside higher humidity air), so I bought a second Inkbird controller and a Gurin GHMD-210 dehumidifier, which is identical in appearance, dimensions and specs to the Eva Dry EDV-1100, it just has a different name on it. At first it was located under my Inkbird sensor, and that didn't work – the outlet air would hit the sensor, and it would only run a couple minutes before cycling off. Then on again, etc. By moving it to the back corner of the freezer, I can get it to run 15-18 minutes a time before the freezer kicks on. It kicks on because the Gurin heats the air slightly (outlet air is about 5 degrees higher than inlet air), causing the drying chamber temp to rise 2 degrees, which turns the freezer on. During that 15-18 minutes, the Gurin only decreases the drying chamber humidity by about 1.3%. In effect, it seems to be acting more like a heat source than a dehumidifier, causing the freezer to cycle on/off every 45 minutes or so. It's doing some dehumidification, but it only collect about 1/3 a container of water after a week of operation. Does this sound similar or different to how your Eva Dry works? I haven't been impressed with mine so far. I'm considering running the Gurin exhaust air through an insulated container with plastic ice cubes in it to try and keep it from heating the drying chamber. I'm worried that excessive cycling creates too much air flow (freezer fan blows when on) which could cause issues with proper drying. Due to these concerns, I've been drying mostly in the 80-85% range with no issues, although I lowered it to 79%-81% recently. On my small diameter (32-25 mm hog casings), I got almost 40% weight loss in 19 days, which concerns me. My larger diameter casings are drying slower, but still plenty fast enough. Too early to tell if I'll have the same soft product issues, but it feels pretty soft so far.

Any thoughts?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 9, 2019 - 3:58 pm

Rob, everyone’s setup will behave differently so there isn’t a universal answer. Experimenting helps a lot. Start with a very small batch and observe. Personally, I’ve been quite happy with my dehumidifier, I actually have two of them now. I empty water every 2-3 days initially when water loss is the highest, then it’s down to about once every week or longer. I find that the most optimal drying approach is to start at 85-88%, then gradually lower to about 75-78%. Getting a good coat of white mold helps with proper drying as well.
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40% loss in 19 days doesn’t sound too bad. I’d be more concerned if the water loss is too slow. Water loss primarily depends on RH. If it’s too high, increase the RH. The culture you use, the PH will also influence the water loss rate. Here is an interesting dry curing resource to read. Water loss will also depend on fat content, fat smearing, etc. Lot’s of factors at play here. Bottom line is, inspect the sausage. Is the casing fine? Is the center firm? If yes, there isn’t a reason for a big concern here.

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Rob December 9, 2019 - 11:04 pm

Thanks Victor for your comments and the technical resource on drying. That article will challenge me to understand some of the more technical aspects of this hobby, which has been pretty frustrating so far. I had soft product issues with 5 out of 6 batches made in the wine cooler drying chamber. On the other hand, Umai bag drying in the refrigerator is easy. I’ve made very good coppa with Umai, and good salami (like Metturst, Landjagger, etc.) where a strong spice or smoke flavor predominates. But I’m really after traditional Italian salami aroma/flavor, which I haven’t achieved yet with Umai, probably because drying at refrigerator temps inhibits aroma/flavor development.

I’m hoping my switch to an upright freezer drying chamber will reduce or eliminate my soft product issues. As you suggested, I’ll keep experimenting. On the bright side, in the last 3 days my small diameter salami has started firming up nicely. My coppa and larger diameter salami are still very soft, but may firm up with time. Coppa that I made at the same time that has been drying in Umai bags in the fridge are much firmer, despite almost identical weight loss as the coppa in the drying chamber. Go figure.

I was going to attach a couple pictures of my new freezer drying chamber for general interest, but couldn’t figure out how to do this. Wishing you the best with your characuterie efforts, and thanks for maintaining this forum for us.
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meat curing chamber
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meat curing chamber humidifier

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 9, 2019 - 11:36 pm

Hey Rob, I will email you, just reply with your pictures and I will attach them.
< Just a thought, if you are farther North, you may try drying in your basement or garage, see how that goes. I've made a few baches like that and all except one turned out quite great. A lot of Italians here in Toronto make salami in their basements around this time of the year. I have a batch of smoked kabanos and swojska kielbasa drying in my unheated veranda, they are doing exceptionally well. The problem with this type of drying is that the conditions don’t last long.
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Pictures attached. Your curing chamber looks good, the meats look very healthy.

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Fritz December 23, 2019 - 9:13 pm

Thanks Victor!
So I made what turns out to be a common mistake …and that is not realizing how a small fridge works !. I drilled a hole in the side for my humidifier tube and hit a cooling line. At least it was q cheap used fridge…so I now got another one on kijiji and have it set up ( after seeing and reading your kegerator section) . It seems to holding the RH at a steady 80% which I will then decrease to 65 % over a week once I add my cured pork loins . Wish me.luck ! Thanks again for all the advice I will.touch base once my meat has been curing for a while .

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 24, 2019 - 1:47 pm

Hi Fritz, sorry to hear about your problem. You can find diagrams online for pretty much every fridge, I always recommend people to check those before doing any drilling. I posted a link in one of my posts or comments some time ago, but if you Google, you will find a few sources.
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Another common mistake is to get a non-frost-free fridge, keeping humidity down in those is an enormous challenge. The same goes for small fridges. Anyway, best of luck and let me know how it goes.

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fritz vatter January 9, 2020 - 1:02 am

Hi Victor

Got my next wine fridge set up on the 24rth and after getting the temp and humidity level set I hung the pork tenderloins I had been curing for a simple Lonzino . Today the smallest loin hit the 66% mark of original weight. I took the plunge and tried my 1st home cured / hung product ! Well 5 hours later I feel fine hahahha and the texture and flavour is nothing I’ve had before from store bought product!!! The thickest part of the loin was a tiny bit soft but still good to the palette texture wise. The remaining 5 I will leave a little longer . I did theae without trimming and trussing so they are not uniform… for drying . Next batch I have curing are trimmed at the ends and I will tie them up for more uniform drying . Thanks again for all your help! PS I do have to figure a way to drain more water from the condensation reservoir as its filled over 12 days .

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 9, 2020 - 1:23 am

Happy to hear about your success, Fritz. This hobby is very rewarding. Like you said, commercially made meats and sausages can’t even compare. I’ve been experimenting with curing bacon over the past few months and the results far exceeded my expectations. I had no idea that homemade bacon would be that much better than commercially made. Everything, the texture, the color, and the taste.
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As far as draining, I am sure you could drill a small hole, attach a thin hose and run it outside the fridge. I’ve thought about doing it too. Maybe some day.

fritz January 10, 2020 - 11:32 pm

Hi Victor
Doing your own bacon is amazing !! I’ve been curing and smoking my own bacon for 2 years and havnt purchased grocery store bacon since. Have fun making the bacon ! It is so versatile!! I always use the off cuts from the slabs that don’t fit in my slicer for making nice pancetta type cubes to add to other dishes . Which really makes the pork belly used to its fullest . So many amazing flavoured bacon to make . Using a little bourbon in my cure and a few brushings of it during the smoke makes for super flavour depth. I’m sure your so well versed in all this but I was just happy to talk bacon . Thanks again. For your amazing website and recipes…they are all greatly appreciated. !

Victor @ Taste of Artisan January 12, 2020 - 4:37 pm

Thanks for the tips, Fritz. Now that I’ve got my base curing mix and curing time down, and I love the results, I will be experimenting more with different flavors.

meat guy November 19, 2019 - 8:16 pm

Victor, excellent work and great write up. I wish I had found your blog before I purchased my future curing chamber. I have done my best to read through and understand your comments. Your are suggesting a frost free fridge, and one of a decent size to make a good curing chamber. I have a 75 bottle wine cooler which equates to approx 11 cubic feet. Mine is labeled as “auto defrost” – i’m not sure if that is bad or good. I hung small pieces of toilet paper in the chamber and when the compressor runs, I see slight movement. I also notice the humidity drops significantly when the compressor runs. I was not able to find the dehumidifier you have in my area(eva-dry), the only small ones are thermo electric, I hope that will work. I was able to find a misting humidifier. Also for suppresata, you are running around ~75% @ 55F correct? Thanks again!

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 19, 2019 - 9:05 pm

What you described points to a frost-free fridge, that’s good. 11 cf is not big but should work if you don’t load it too much. Start with a few pounds, make sure you know how it works, and that it WORKS, then start increasing the load. Yes, 55F/75%rH is the target, but I start with higher humidity and lower it as the sausage loses moisture, to end up at about 75-78%, but all depends on how the meat is drying. You kind of have to look and see, and adjust as needed.

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Joe Magaro November 20, 2019 - 1:55 pm

Thanks Victor. What exactly do you look as good/bad signs when the meat is drying?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 20, 2019 - 3:44 pm

If it looks good, smell good, then it’s good. And vice versa. Dry, white powdery mold is a good sign. Wetness, slime, bad smell, green, black, blue molds – not a good sign.

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Meat Guy November 21, 2019 - 3:28 am

Victor, I got the chamber setup today, and has been holding temp at 52.3 to 56.2F, and humidity has been between 72.6 to 75.6%. I’m going to watch for another day or so. The humidifier and dehumidifier seem to be dialed in now and working well. A few questions if you could answer.
My humidifier does not have a % switch rather an output level. On high it seems to push a lot of water out. I’m worried it would soak the product a bit much. I see you now move yours outside, but that may not be an option for me. Do you have yours pointing at the meat product or do you diffuse it some how?
Also, my dehumidifier shoots air directly up, im worried it could cause some case hardening. Wondering how you deal with that?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 23, 2019 - 3:19 pm

Hi Meat Guy, happy to hear that, fun times are coming soon.
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I find that setting up a curing chamber is as much art as it is science, in home conditions at least. You will have to experiment and expect to make a lot of adjustments as you go, at least initially.
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I moved my humidifier out simply because I wanted to have more space in the fridge, to have better air circulations there, to have better control over humidity. But it’s not absolutely required.
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My humidifier is ultrasonic, which means it produces ultra fine mist. One like that should not push water, but rather fine mist. Is the one you have like that? I have a tube going into the fridge, pointing down and next to the opening where cold air comes from, so both cam mix together when the fridge circulates. I don’t point toward the meat. You can point the nozzle on your humidifier in the same direction. But remember, initially the meat itself will be losing a lot of water so a humidifier’s job will be minimal. You will have to set the output level to low. Mine’s on low too, actually.
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All that said, start with a small batch, observe and adjust as you go. You will learn a lot by doing it. Expect to have good and bad batches as you learn, it’s just a part of this amazing hobby.

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Bill November 4, 2019 - 7:15 pm

Fibrous casings are made with and without adhesion. You need casings with adhesion to shrink with the dry cured sausage. S
As well, stuffing pressures are very high in commercial dry cured sausage facilities.

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Marco October 29, 2019 - 5:09 pm

Are there any downsides to having both salami and cheese in the same chamber?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan October 29, 2019 - 9:26 pm

Not really, other than sometimes target temps and humidity will may be different.

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Hugo October 21, 2019 - 5:27 am

Hi! Just wondering if I understand correctly.
The 1st TH220 is controlling power to the fridge and the humidifier, while the 2nd one is controlling power to the fan and the dehumidifier.
Also, if I understand correctly, you’re not using the fan anymore, correct?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan October 21, 2019 - 11:37 pm

That’s correct, Hugo. And yes, I don’t use a fan any more. The dehumidifier has a fan by the way.

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Matt Keys September 20, 2019 - 1:18 am

I wonder if you are still running this? Have there been any changes? Also an oddball question maybe, but do you have any idea how much electricity this setup uses to run? I’d like to do something similar but am fearful it would really drive up the electric bill. Hooking a Kill-A-Watt up to this would be might interesting.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan September 21, 2019 - 12:34 am

Yes, still running. Haven’t really felt the need to upgrade so still same setup. Newer fridges don’t draw much energy. Besides, at 55-58F the number of cycles will be lower compared to a regular fridge, especially in winter. The humidifier and the de-humidifier are fairly light users too. Never really measured how much the whole setup consumes but I wouldn’t imagine much more than a regular fridge.

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Matt Keys September 21, 2019 - 12:39 am

Thanks for the reply! Outside of my food hobby, reducing our homes energy consumption/trying to go net-zero is my other hobby. Sometimes those two things are in conflict with one another 🙂

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Duggan August 9, 2019 - 5:49 am

Hi Victor, great article but maybe a rookie question to ask you as someone interested in getting into homemade charcuterie. Does the fridge need to be in working order for this project? I have a nice big frost-free fridge that kicked the bucket and need to replace that would be perfect to try this with, but it does not blow cool air… I was trying to see anywhere in your article discussing in detail about temperature which I didn’t see you leaving much emphasis on as much as the humidity, but I assume it has importance too? If so is there any kind of work-around you’re aware of that brings cool air to a dead fridge? Thanks for any advice!

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan September 1, 2019 - 10:58 pm

Hi, sorry about the delayed response, you message was lost in a pile of spam. Yes, the fridge sure needs to be in working order as how otherwise would you be cooling the air inside? The emphasis on humidity is because it’s usually very easy to control the temperature but controlling humidity is very challenging.

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Erik June 27, 2019 - 6:50 pm

I really enjoy this site!

Question: I just build drying chamber out of old fridge. When humidity sensor goes turns on humidifier turns on properly but shuts off right away. I use an Auber sensor and Taotronics humidifier.

Any thoughts? Thx

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan June 27, 2019 - 8:35 pm

Not clear what turns off, the humidifier or the controller? Is the light on the controller on? Is the humidity above the target or below when that happens?

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Erik June 27, 2019 - 9:21 pm

Oh yea sorry

Humidifier turns off
Light is on – on the controller
Humidity is above target

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan June 27, 2019 - 9:49 pm

So this still makes little sense to me. If the light on the controller is on, meaning it’s powering the humidifier, it means the sensor is sensing humidity as below the target or at least within the set offset range, e.g. +- 1%. You need to check the settings to make sure that the offset is set correctly. The light on the receptacle that powers the humidifier should only be on if the humidity is below the target or above but within the offset range.

Assuming the controller and the sensor are fine, it may be a faulty humidifier. I don’t see another explanation as to why it would be turning off so quickly. Unplug the humidifier and plug in another appliance there. As soon as the light goes on on the ‘humidifier’ receptacle the appliance (e.g. desk lamp) should be on while the humidity is below the target. If it is, it’s your humidifier. If it quickly turns off, it’s probably your controller.

It’s also possible that your humidity shoots up too quickly and the controller cuts the power off to the humidifier. Which explains everything except the light. When the humidifier turns off the light should be off on the controller (for the humidifier). The problem could be that the tube that blows humid air inside the fridge is too close to the sensor. Move it to a different spot.

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Erik June 30, 2019 - 6:47 pm

I wonder if I need a simple on/off humidifier— the one I have only has controls to set a specific RH or use a timer

Could that be the issue?

I tested a lamp in the sensor and it works accurately and I also tested humidifier outside of sensor and it stayed on

Thanks again, Erik

Victor @ Taste of Artisan June 30, 2019 - 6:56 pm

Well, that explains it. Yes, you want a humidifier without a ‘mind of its own’;-)

Matthew Gander June 12, 2019 - 10:52 am

Fantastic article and you’ve got me well on my way to building my own curing chamber. A couple questions I’m hoping you can help me with:

1. Do you ferment and dry in the same chamber or will I require a separate fermentation chamber? Space is an issue for me so I’d like to all in 1 option if it’s safe to regulate the temperatures like that.

2. Can you use a frost free freezer in place of a frost free fridge given you’re going to bypassing the controls of the unit with an outboard controller? Only ask because I can’t find a full fridge without a freezer component and I’d rather a full fridge or freezer unit.

Thanks in advance for the answers!

Matt

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan June 12, 2019 - 4:45 pm

Thanks Matt.

If my curing chamber is free I will ferment in it otherwise I do it in my fermentation box. For fast fermenting sausages you may need to add a heating pad to raise the temperature otherwise it will handle the task just fine.

I’ve never tested a frost-free freezer so I can’t really comment on how well that will work. I can tell you one thing though – you won’t find a frost-free fridge without a freezer section as in a frost-free fridge cooling in the refrigerator section comes from the freezer section. It’s all one system.

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Matthew September 3, 2019 - 10:36 pm

Hey Victor,

Take a look at this unit and let me know your thoughts when/if you have a chance. It’s not cheap but it looks promising.

“https://abbotsford.craigslist.org/ppd/d/chilliwack-convertible-14-cu-ft-all/6941645496.html”

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan September 4, 2019 - 2:43 am

Matthew, it looks very good. I like the fact that there is no freezer compartment in it so you will have more usable space. More space = better humidity control.

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Erik Skorupka June 5, 2019 - 8:01 pm

Hello

Great post!

Question from someone who wants to build a drying chamber — can freezer portion of fridge be disabled so only fridge runs?

Thanks so much

Erik

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan June 12, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Erik, freezer and fridge in a frost-free fridge is one system. The refrigeration section gets all the cooling from the freezer section. One won’t work without the other. When trying to maintain 55F there won’t be much freezing in the freezer. Mine is cold but not sub zero.

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Tim Skate April 22, 2019 - 4:09 pm

Do you still have the exhaust fans running in addition to the humidifier/dehumidifier? A follow up question to this (if the answer is no) – is there any issue with not introducing fresh air into the curing chamber?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan April 23, 2019 - 6:10 pm

Tim, I don’t use those fans as they were causing excessive air movement.

The question about air movement is a tricky one. What is fresh air anyway? When your frost-free fridge circulates it blows cold air taken from the outside. The system is not sealed by any stretch.

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Andrew Diggory April 15, 2019 - 8:24 pm

Hi Victor,
I cannot understand why my RH drops from 76% to 60% when the fridge cooling comes on, the unit is an ex wine 54 bottle fridge with a Purematic Humidifier set at 75% RH which comes on automatically quite well. The warmer my house the more drop outs I get due to the fridge having to work harder, I have increased my temperature from 12oC to 14oc so the air can hold more moisture and its not as bad (drops from 75% RH to 66%). do you have any suggestions on how to maintain a consistent RH please. My meats (COPA/Pastrami) dry and loose weight very quickly, currently the unit is set for Salami. I am also running 2 x 12v PC fans set to low voltage 3v for circulation, one mid height and 1 low in fridge. Thanks Andy

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan April 17, 2019 - 12:02 pm

Hi Andy,

What’s happening is quite normal. Cold air holds much less moisture so when your fridge’s cooling comes on the fridge gets an influx of cold, dry air. This quickly lowers the RH in the fridge. I experience the same fluctuations and I have my humidifier come on as soon as RH drops below a specified threshold. If your humidifier comes on well as you say, it should be sufficient. The drops are temporary and don’t last long enough to cause negative effect. Do you experience case hardening?

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Michael A Policastro March 23, 2019 - 7:47 pm

Victor
Nice job. I have a question. Is a frost-free fridge necessary or mandatory? I am in the middle of a build. Doing test of temp & humidity control now. I have a non frost-free fridge, temperature controller, dehumidifier, humidifier and a Auber HD220-W humidity controller with Wi-Fi connectivity. It contains one humidity sensor and two independent outputs. One output is for humidifying and the other is for dehumidifying. I can maintain any temperature I want. I can adjust the humidity anywhere from 30% to 95% (empty chamber). My concern is airflow. I would like to know your opinion. Thanks Mike Poli.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan April 3, 2019 - 4:02 pm

Hi Michael, sorry for the delay with my response – your comment went into spam and I just discovered it. Frost-free fridges are better for curing meats as they remove moisture and provide cooling that is more evenly distributed and more consistent. Conventional fridges, on the other hand, tend to accumulate moisture which you will then have to remove. It’s a lot easier to control humidity when there is less of it. Speaking of which, controlling humidity in an empty fridge is quite different from when you’ve got 20 lbs of meat in it. At early (critical) stages meat loses most of the water so it becomes a real challenge getting all that water out and keeping humidity in check. As to air flow, your dehumidifier will be providing some and I find it sufficient for my needs. You can also put a computer fan inside but I experimented and did not like the results (case hardening). There are other options as well.

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Michael A Policastro April 17, 2019 - 6:48 pm

Thanks Victor, I will look to get a frost free refrigerator. I want to do it correctly and not lose any meat. Thanks for the clarification.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan April 18, 2019 - 11:57 am

No problem, Michael. I think the decision to go with a frost-free fridge is a sound one though you probably will lose meat and likely more than once. I did many times. No matter how well you plan and prepare, sometimes things will go wrong. Everyone’s environment will be different and will present slightly different challenges. My advice is to start very small. Small batches will cost you less if have to trash them. They are also much easier to dry. I once lost a 20lb batch simply because my fridge couldn’t handle that much meat.

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Mark O Grater February 25, 2019 - 3:00 pm

I’m a new comer that has just come across your site so I am already hanging my first ever batch in a cool room near a slightly open window. They have been hanging about a month. I am now worried about the issue of hardness on the outside and softness on the inside. Will occasionally squeezing the sopresetta while it is hanging help prevent or lessen the exterior hardness problem by facilitating the drying on the inside? Right now they are still sqeezeable. Also, is there some other technique to help avoid softness in the middle to a batch already hanging? And finally, is the a maximum time one should hang them before starting to worry about spoilage?

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Taste of Artisan March 13, 2019 - 6:06 pm

Mark, a lot of good questions but maybe hard to answer. Squeezing won’t do nothing to help with case hardening. Think of it this way: water (diffusion) -> sausage surface -> water (evaporation). The trick to keeping your sausage casing moist is by making sure that diffusion rate equals evaporation rate. If the humidity outside is too low, or air flow is too high, the casing will start to dry out. Simple as that. As soon as you see that the casing feels dry, make adjustments. You can also wipe it with a damp cloth. A thick layer of white mold also helps a lot.

As to spoilage, there is no simple answer. Fuet may take 3-4 weeks to fully dry, while sopressata may take 4-6 weeks. A thicker one like Genoa will take 2-3 months to fully dry. If they haven’t dried properly by then – they may never will. It’s a sign of case hardening. And not just the case, it’s also the meat near the surface. You may not see any obvious signs of spoilage as that will be prevented by pink salt and regular salt, but any harmful bacteria may still be active due to high water activity. It wouldn’t be safe to eat.

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Grady February 5, 2019 - 4:34 am

Hi Victor,
I stumbled across the blog while doing research for my curing cabinet. I live in an apartment so the best i could do is a wine chiller with Thermo electric peltier cooler. Which I’ve hooked up to a cooler thermostat to keep the unit off until it reaches above my set temp. It has just enough space to have a dehumidifier which arrives tomorrow. I’ll have that hooked to a humidity controller as well. I know, crazy amount of work for a space only big enough for 2-3 salumi’s at a time. Yet i’m hooked.

My question for you, for humidity I’m out of room for a humidifier and haven’t gotten around to cutting a hole in the new unit. I’ve seen a few videoss of this and I’m wondering your thoughts on this. if I just cut holes in a Tupperware bowl and keep fiddling with the hole sizes and fill with salt water to add humidity for the humidifier to later remove when it gets to high, you think that might work?

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Victor February 7, 2019 - 5:16 pm

HI Grady, it’s best to work with what you can have then not to do it at all. It’s a great hobby. For humidity, with such a small space I would be surprised if you actually needed a humidifier. Start off without one and see how it goes. The salt water method works under some conditions but it won’t work efficiently with a dehumidifier in the equation. It simply won’t be able to compete and won’t respond to rH changes nearly as fast. Start with just one thin salami, like fuet, observe, make changes, improve, then increase the batch once you get predictable results.

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Joe January 7, 2019 - 3:08 pm

Hi Victor, A few months ago I built my chamber and experimented with Calabrese and Soppressata. There was certainly a lot of interesting smells going on as it was fermenting and curing. What disappointed me was that even though I had a nice white mold, the whole chamber smelt like ammonia and even though I tried to air it out, the smell impregnated into the salami and I’m thinking I have to throw it out. I have an exhaust fan that removes excess humidity but really nothing to bring in fresh air. In your chamber, did you have an opening in the bottom that constantly brought in fresh air or did you install a controlled fresh air intake that would run for a certain length of time every day. Thx,

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victor January 8, 2019 - 9:32 am

Hi Joe,

Many Internet resources talk about stale air and fresh air but what are those, really? Do they really matter? When curing sausages, we are primarily concerned about three things: temperature, humidity and air movement. There is no ‘freshness’ per se. Freshness can be viewed as the air that is of the right force, temp and humidity. Stale air becomes the air that is too humid and without air movement, for example. Get those three under control and you won’t need to worry about freshness. When the fridge cycles plenty of outside air comes in. I used to have an opening at the bottom when I was running an exhaust fan, but have since closed it. It only messes up my humidity.

The smell of ammonia should not be a concern. Stanley Marianski in his book The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages, section 3.12, states that ‘similarly to yeasts, molds oxidize lactic acid and other acids, and produce ammonia which increases pH’. My experience is that once the sausage is dry enough, the smell decreases substantially. Mold is anaerobic, it grows outside the casing. Once you remove the casing there should be no smell. If you do, it’s possible that the meat did not dry properly and there is something else that’s causing the smell.

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joe January 8, 2019 - 10:34 am

Thx for the info. So i dont have fan that is inside the chamber to circulate the air. Would that help? Also, the salami, when the casing was taken off, it did have the ammonia smell, however it wasnt cured all the way through plus it exibited case hardening, even though I had it at 80%RH and 12C. If I keep it in the chamber longer, do you figure the smell with dissipate from withing the salami and become edible?

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victor January 12, 2019 - 12:09 am

Joe, a fan inside a fridge is a double-edged sword. I’ve tried but couldn’t run it at low enough speed to not cause case hardening. Marianski suggests that air speed should be about 1-2 meters per second during drying IIRC. I did some calculations back a couple of years ago, can’t remember the exact figures but the speed of a heavily under-volted fan was still much higher than recommended and I did have case hardening problems. In my case, my dehumidifier serves as a fan but it blows air up and does not cause any problems for me. As you can imagine, it’s impossible to say if a fan would help without knowing its position, flow speed measurements and some testing. Since you’ve experienced case hardening, a fan will only make things worse. At 12C and 80% Rh you should not experience any of it. Something else is the matter – it could be too low Rh during fermentation (Marianski suggests 95% Rh), fat smearing which prevents water to easily travel to the surface, etc. You really need to pay attention to all possible factors and find the culprit.

As to whether your salami will become edible, I don’t know. No harm in trying. If you just want to start over and OK trashing this batch, do it. I’ve done that a number of times. Start a new batch but make it small, like two lbs. Thin sausages for a quicker drying. Like fuet. Pay attention to all little things and keep good notes. Each setup is different so hard to recommend something that is guaranteed to work. I can tell you one thing, once you get it to work, most of your batches will be fine from then on.

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Sam Harbison December 27, 2018 - 6:40 pm

I have so many questions. I have a room in my basement that I don’t use and was wondering what I could do with that? Or do I need the temperature control of a refrigerator?

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victor December 27, 2018 - 9:58 pm

Oh, that depends on so many factors… Do you want to cure for 1-2 months a year or all year round? Do you see where I am going with this? You answer will tell you whether you need a controlled fridge or not.

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Eric December 13, 2018 - 1:14 pm

One thing I found with the dehumidifier was the high amount of heat it introduced into the chamber. As an alternative, I picked up a peltier kit on amazon so I could keep the heat side outside the chamber, and the cold side inside with a little drip pan underneath connected to a drain line.

Great write up!!!

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victor December 13, 2018 - 4:13 pm

Not really an issue in my setup but thanks for the idea.

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George November 26, 2018 - 3:19 am

Hello again Victor!
I want to know more about the meat casings. I was wondering if when we make bresaola, it should be put in a case or is not really necessary. And can you tell me what kind of material should that case be made from? I saw that many people use the collagen one. Can I use a plastic one or a natural one made from animal’s intestin?
Also, I would like to know if there is any difference in taste, or something else if you put the meat in the casing and spray it with mold culture and if you don’t.
Thank you.

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victor November 28, 2018 - 8:21 am

Hi George,

As was mentioned above, you can easily get away without a casing for solid meats. I find that a casing adds a protective barrier that helps regulate drying process a little better and keeps the mold away from the meat. Does the meat taste better with it? Not really. You may notice a slightly ‘moldier’ smell perhaps. I like it though.

I certainly would not use plastic, but natural or artificial (collagen) casings are fine. I moistly use natural casings simply because I am a traditionalist and I have an Italian grocery store nearby that has a good supply all year round, from hog casings, to sheep casings, to beef bungs and even salted veils (pig stomach lining). Beef bungs and veils are what I use to cure solid muscles in. Those work great for me.

You may also try UMAi, perhaps these are the one ones you were referring to as ‘plastic’, well, they are. But they are made in such as way that they allow the moisture leave similar to natural casings. These don’t even need a curing chamber and meats can be dried in a fridge. I’ve never tried them but I’ve heard positive feedback about them. They are not cheap though.

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victor November 20, 2018 - 6:59 am

Posting this message from Guy here, along with the pictures of his awesome brick oven and a perfectly cured coppa that looks delicious. Thanks for sharing!

Hi Victor
I got a seedling heater mat and a dehumidifier for this last batch. I converted my older 20.6cuft fridge into my curing chamber. I know that when the humidifier shuts off the humidity doesn’t just stop rising. With the addition of the dehumidifier it does get the RH back to my presets fairly quickly. Enjoy your site and comments. Putting the thinly sliced coppa on pizza is delicious. It crisps up and has a wonderful pancetta/bacon flavor with a little kick because of the spices.
Fun hobby.
Guy
Brick Oven
Guy's coppa 1
Guy's coppa 2

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Guy November 19, 2018 - 2:33 pm

Sounds great. May have to tell all my friends to start saving their casings for me. Thank you and have a great Thanksgiving.

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victor November 20, 2018 - 7:08 am

Have a great Thanksgiving too!

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Guy November 19, 2018 - 10:38 am

Victor you mentions using the bacteria from a store bought salami etc. Do you scrape off the mold and put in warm water for the same amount of time that you would with the Bactoferm 600? I think probably not because the 600 needs to be re-hydrated. How would you recommend using it?
How do you post pix to this site?

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victor November 19, 2018 - 11:40 am

Hi Guy, I scrape off the mold into a 1/2 cup of warm water and add 1/4 tsp or so of sugar or dextrose and let sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. If I remember, I do it in advance, if I forget, that’s when it becomes 20 minutes as I do it the last minute. Didn’t see much difference. I then dilute this in a couple of cups of water and spray after casing and tying is done. To post pictures, email them to me and I will attach to your post (victor at ifoodblogger dot com).

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George November 18, 2018 - 5:03 pm

Hi Victor,

Do you think is it ok to spray bactoferm 600 directly on the meat without any casing?

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victor November 18, 2018 - 7:34 pm

That’s totally fine. You can later eat it – it’s harmless – or scrape it off.

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Guy November 19, 2018 - 10:31 am

I do that with my lonza and just wipe some of it off and it tastes great. I don’t on my coppa because it is in a casing

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George November 15, 2018 - 1:38 am

Hi Victor!

I’ve been doing coppa and pancetta so far but both of it (especially pancetta which is more fatty) seems to me too “porky”. I mean it has that raw pork smell, even the taste as well. And I would like it to be let’s say…not so raw in the taste and smell, but more flavored. I mention that I used only salt and insta cure #2 in the meat and some spices for initial curing. But I didn’t use any spices after rinsing the meat for the final rub because I wanted that original taste of the meat. I usually cure the meat at 55 F until it loose 30% of the initial weight.
So can you tell me what can I do for my meat to be more flavored? Should I try some spices for the final rub? But I am afraid if I cover the meat whith spices, the meat can not breathe or loose water and molds can apear.
Thank you.

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victor November 16, 2018 - 2:22 pm

Hi George, glad to hear that you are still working on perfecting your recipes and technique. To be honest, I don’t think it matters much as to when you apply spices. Many Italian products are cured with just salt and pepper, like prosciutto or culatello. I’ve cured solid muscles by curing them in just salt and pepper and applying herbs later before drying, and by curing with spices and rinsing and then drying. Both ways work fine. Now, I think your raw meat flavor may come from problems with drying. Is the meat drying evenly, does it have a soft, mushy texture in the middle? I’ve had that happen to me before, I cured a few tenderloins and they had that ‘porky’ smell that you are describing.

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George November 17, 2018 - 2:59 am

Hi Victor,
I think my meat dries evenly. It starts to have that hard case after let’s say 10 days after hanging(the case is not so hard,it is just the beginning ), and after 20 days it becomes harder. So I think it dries in the right way…not too fast and not too slow.And it has the same texture everywhere(except that 1mm case).
Another thing which happened to me was that,as I told you,I put togheter in the chamber a piece of coppa and one of pancetta and the coppa,being so thick and being let in the initial cure in salt only two days using salt box method, it began to catch fuzzy white mold and even if I wipped out with vinegar,the mold kept to appear again so I tossed it. I should have let coppa more time in the salt. For me, 2kg=2 days rule works fine. But the coppa had more than 2kg and I let it only two days to see if I can make it less salty.
But the big question for me is why my pancetta which had only 1.3 kg and was way less thicker than my coppa began to catch the same white fuzzy mold. And it was cured in the salt two days as well which I think it is more than enough. Anyway, I wipped out with vinegar and it was fine after all. Is it possible for pancetta to have caught the mold because it was in the same chamber with coppa?
Next time before I put meat in my chamber, I will try to wippe the whole chamber with vinegar to make the place cleaner.

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victor November 17, 2018 - 10:03 am

Hi there George… so many variables here. First off, 2-day curing may not be enough. If you look at Marianski’s recipes, it’s 10-15 days usually. Ruhlman suggests a couple of days, but his curing is done under an 8lb press. Before the meat goes into a drying chamber in must feel firm. So just make sure it’s the case. In general, I would recommend starting with a very well tested recipe (Marianski is the gold standard here, but his products do tend to be saltier) and make sure you get a solid result, then you can tweak it. Otherwise it’s hard to say whether it’s the recipe, the process, the equipment, or the environment.

White fuzzy loves humidity so make sure your humidity is under control. Make sure you don’t overload your chamber. Start small and see if it make a difference.

I would also recommend inoculating your meats with a good mold, it will keep bad molds off. Bactoferm 600 is highly recommended and I used it way back when. You can try it. Better yet, go buy a piece of salami with nice chalky mold on the skin, then use that mold to inoculate your meats and sausages. I save skins from every batch and freeze them to reuse later.

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Guy November 5, 2018 - 10:22 am

Angelo. I have only been making cured meats for about a year now. I have a 20.6cuft single door refrigerator with the freezer on top. I didn’t want to drill any holes in it or cut away the freezer door because there have been times where I needed it to use for food. I finally purchased a seedling heat mat and a Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier, 1200 Cubic Feet (150 sq ft). I did make a difference. My temp stays between 54 and 57degs with a RH of 61% – 70%. The refrigerator has its own build in fan that circulates the air when it goes on. That and the cooler temp will cause the humidifier to go on. It does shut off at my pre-set but obviously the humidity continues to rise. The mini dehumidifier does a nice job bringing the humidity down to what I want. It’s not instant but well within an acceptable time. I have only been making Lonza and Coppa but will probably start making other product in the near future. So far so good and everyone seems to be enjoying the “fruits of my labor”. Hope this helps.
Guy

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Angelo November 4, 2018 - 7:42 am

Great article on the advanced curing chamber. I recently made some sopressatta. When I put the meat in the curing chamber, the humidity inside just shot up to 95%. How long does it ussually take for the moisture in the sopressatta to dry up before my humidity will start to go down? I currently don’t have a de humidifier in my chamber because it has been pretty consistent until I put the meat in it.

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les robinson October 26, 2018 - 12:38 am

hi sorry if i’ve missed it somewhere in you blog but I was wondering what temp do you cure your meat at & how do you control this. please use my email address.

regards,
les

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victor October 26, 2018 - 7:57 am

By curing, do you refer to fermentation or drying stage? Fermentation takes place at around 68-85F, depending on the style you are going for, and the culture you use. Drying takes place at about 52F-60F, again, depending on the recipe. You control this with a temperature controller.

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Luke Bazely October 20, 2018 - 7:13 pm

Hey Victor,
Great read. I wanted to build a cold room or ‘cantina’ but can’t in my basement because we have high risk of water getting in. This setup will be perfect. What are your thoughts on using a commercial fridge with glass sliding doors on it? I’m worried about air flow and light. It would make an awesome piece where you could see the food curing inside.

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victor October 20, 2018 - 7:36 pm

Hi Luke, welcome to my blog. A commercial fridge like the one that you described should work fine with a few assumptions.

Assumption 1 – it’s big enough. 15-18 cf or larger. If it is, air flow should not be a concern. You’d typically have an air flow and humidity issues with smaller fridges, 3-8 cf. I’ve seen a few curing chambers converted from those and the guys had good results.

Assumption 2 – the fridge will be in a dark room, or a room with controlled light. When showcasing it, the light (artificial or natural) will be on. Otherwise, keep the light off or very low. The reason for that is that light promotes fat oxidation and rancidity.

Other than that you should be fine.

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Morgan October 9, 2018 - 12:50 pm

What did you use for a filter over the air flow holes.

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victor October 9, 2018 - 1:00 pm

I bought an air filter at HD and cut it to smaller pieces.

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Marty August 11, 2018 - 9:01 am

Hi Victor,

Nice blog. Thank you.

I’ve been dry curing salami for about 15 years. I built a root under the front stoop of my house when it was built. The conditions in the cellar during the 3-4 Wisconsin winter months are idea for curing meats. So I don’t have any questions on curing chambers. But I do have a question on recipes.

Growing up in Chicago there was an Italian deli that sold delicious Sopressa (not Sopressata). This is the meat that you press between boards and then bathe in olive oil, etc. I’ve always wanted to make it, but I don’t have a recipe or curing instructions. Would you happen to know where I might find a recipe/instructions.
Thank you!
Marty

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victor October 20, 2018 - 8:07 pm

Hi Marty, my apologies for such a long delay with responding. Sometimes legitimate messages make their way into spam and get lost there. I do my best to check spam regularly, but with dozens of those a day it gets easy to miss proper ones.

Sopressa bathed in olive oil? Sounds interesting, but I’ve never encountered this particular technique/recipe. I will let you know if I do. I will check some of my sources.

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Wendy April 4, 2019 - 2:07 am Reply
Ruchi July 22, 2018 - 5:39 pm

Hello Victor

Thank you for prompt reply. I have different “brand” mini dehumidifier quite smilier to you have. Do you think any dehumidifier will do the job or do i need to buy same as you have.
How long did you took to cure your last batch of salami?

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Ruchi July 19, 2018 - 10:15 am

Hi victor
RUCHI

This is fascinating and well documented artical. Thank you for sharing with us.
Now I have few questing about controlling humidity. Could you please clarify because I smile bit confused.

1. you have mention you introduce humidity to chamber via external humidifier. (With tube)

2. You have a dehumidifier inside to controll high humifity

My questions are., why you introduce more humidity when you want to controll high humidity inside the chamber??

And the other question is when runing dehumidifier and fridge fan inside the fridge will easy to lead case hardaning.
Can you please answer fot thease ASAP.
By the way I am from melbourne Australia.

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victor July 21, 2018 - 6:15 pm

Well, Rh changes constantly, depending on ambient humidity, amount of meat in the chamber, whether the meat is fresh or nearly dry… under some conditions you fight high humidity, under other conditions you need to bring it up. When the fridge circulates the Rh drop so the humidifier helps bring it back up. I try to have a stable Rh at all times, that’s why I need both.

I don’t run a fan in the fridge, but the dehumidifier has a fan that points up. No issues with case hardening.

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ronnie July 1, 2018 - 4:51 pm

Hello Victor,
I have a 5x5x8’tall smoke room. I have a small window a/c controlled by a coolbot controller. I have a humidifier and a dehumidifier controlled by and Auber humidity controller. The Auber controls the humidity perfectly until I turn the a/c on. The humidity then swings from 55 to 85% in a 5 minute cycle. Any ideas how to get the yoyo under control?

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ronnie July 1, 2018 - 4:58 pm

sorry for the double post.

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victor July 1, 2018 - 8:12 pm

Ronnie,

Did you notice any adverse effects on drying as a result of these swings? All other things equal, a drop in the air temperature (from ac) will raise relative humidity. Shouldn’t be a biggie as this is a temporary occurrence. Auber (and other) sensors are very sensitive to this. I can open my curing chamber under certain conditions for a few seconds and the controller is instantly showing Rh of 99.9. I know it’s not true but humidity condensates on the sensor and trick the controller into thinking the air is very humid.

Also, try placing the sensor where it’s not in the direct line of ac air flow. You should see a difference.

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ronnie July 1, 2018 - 4:35 pm

Hello Victor,
Back again. I have a smoke room 5x5x8’tall. I have a small window a/c controlled by a coolbot. I have a humidifier and a dehumidifier controlled by a Auber humidity controller. The controller keeps the humidity in a very tight range until I turn the a/c on. Then is swings from 55 to 85%. The cycle is about 5 minutes. It just keeps yoyoing up and down. Any ideas?

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Guy June 19, 2018 - 10:47 am

Thank you Victor. thinking of making a sopressata. Do I have to use Bactoferm F-RM-52 starter culture to lower the ph and get it a little more acidic or can I just cure it after the initial warm cure as I would a coppa. Also hog middles or collagen. I am using collagen sheets for my next coppas.

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victor June 19, 2018 - 10:58 am

I would definitely use a culture.

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Guy May 31, 2018 - 10:17 am

Well the first products are done and they turned out really good. Last night I had a bunch of people over and we tried the coppa for the first time. Very impressive. Black pepper and cayenne made it a hit. Is there a bigger bung or other way of being able to fit a whole coppa rather than having to slice it length wise? The coppa was approx 4.5 lbs. I was thinking of not putting it in a beef bung and just a net. Any thoughts?
Oh, how do you post pictures on this site?

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victor May 31, 2018 - 6:35 pm

Glad to hear it, Guy. Yes, there is a way. I use what here they sell it as ‘salted veil’. These are large thin sheets of pig stomach lining. You can wrap a very large piece of meat in one or two of those. I think I have a picture, need to find it. Speaking of pics, send them to [email protected] and I will attach to your post.

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ronnie May 29, 2018 - 5:38 pm

I have been reading that meat should be near freezing when grinding and stuffing. Do you concur with this?

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victor May 29, 2018 - 5:51 pm

I do. This is especially true for fat to prevent fat smearing.

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Guy May 10, 2018 - 8:33 pm

Thank you for the info. I will certainly check that out. Have probably read through excerpts. Guess what is going on my fathers day wish list. Thanks again.

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victor May 10, 2018 - 11:17 pm

No problem.

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Guy May 25, 2018 - 10:21 am

Cut open the Lonza last night . 3 1/2 weeks because it was not very big. It was a tenderloin weighing in at around 404grams. Lost a little over 30% weight. It was moist and the outside was not hard at all but firm. What I will do different is not ferment it for a week I did. Should have been more like 3 days. A little saltier than I like. Also I would eliminate the Juniper. It’s ok in my gin but not in my meat ingredients. One of the coppas is about a week out. Will try and post a picture.

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victor May 26, 2018 - 11:19 am

Good to hear that the drying went well. Tweaking ingredients is the easy part.

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Guy May 10, 2018 - 4:18 pm

I have read that people will buy a salami that has mold on the casing and use that with great results. As for the cure#1 and #2 some of the articles mention a “long cure” such as prosciutto as opposed to shorter cure times in a refrigerator for up to 8 weeks or a little longer. I feel pretty confident that all will be fine. If it looks or smells bad I obviously will toss it. Between the cure#1 and the salt I think all will be good. The next go around I will use the #2 to see if there is in fact a difference in color. I know it is all about botulism so I’ll air on the cautious side next time.
Thanks Victor
Great website

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victor May 10, 2018 - 5:44 pm

Not exactly. Cure #2 is used for curing raw meats, while cure #1 used for meat that are cooked long and slow, like smoked chicken or smoked sausages. Here is a good read: https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/ams/prague-powder-1-vs-prague-powder-2.9693/. Also, Marianski’s books are very good at explaining everything you need about curing, smoking, drying and much more. I think I have links somewhere in the post above.

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Guy May 10, 2018 - 11:32 am

This first go around I was up in the air as to Cure#1 or #2, I read more about this than I read through out college. I decided to go with #1 because the meat is refrigerated and will not be in there for more than 6- 8 weeks tops because of the size. When I made my very first one last year that was just air dried I had no problem with any type of mold and that was before I new what mold 600 was. Any thoughts?

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victor May 10, 2018 - 2:34 pm

I don’t use commercial mold cultures, haven’t for a very long time. I once got a beautiful chalky white mold naturally on my soppressatas so I froze the casing with the mold. Now use those only. I harvest from new batches every now and then and freeze for later. But that’s just one way of doing it. As to cure #1 vs #2 there should be absolutely no guessing here as the guidelines are pretty clear I think.

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Guy May 10, 2018 - 9:13 am

Victor,
Thanks for getting back to me. I do in fact do the initial fermentation in a regular refrigerator. I do all the necessary turning etc. Glad to hear your thoughts on the dehumidifier. I think you are spot on. I have read that some people are putting small computer fans on a timer in their chambers. I was thinking about it but my curing chamber is a standard size refrigerator that has a fan inside as most fairly modern ones do. Also I check on my meats every day and just the flow of air that gets sucked in by the opening and closing action I would think would be sufficient to keep the air from becoming stagnant.
On a forum technical note: I clicked on the “click here to reply” and it brought me to the home page that had the forum only up to April 19, 2018. Is there an additional page that I am not seeing or am I not on the correct menu page. I will keep you up to date as we get closer to the prize………eating.

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victor May 10, 2018 - 9:51 am

I look forward to hearing from you, Guy. All the best! And thanks for pointing out the technical issue… I see it too… if you scroll down you see the rest of the comments though… I don’t know why it’s doing it but I will investigate.

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Guy May 10, 2018 - 10:05 am

Seems to be working smoothly now. Thank you. What goes in the “website” box?

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victor May 10, 2018 - 2:35 pm

You website’s, blog’s URL if you have one. If not, just leave it blank.

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Guy May 9, 2018 - 9:35 am

Hi All, First time adding to this blog; which I think is great. A lot of practical knowledge from everyone. that’s the way I like to learn. Made sausages many years ago with my folks and cousins. Quite a lot actually. We some how got away from that. Have always been into the Italian traditions of making wine and grappa, mushrooming, building a pizza oven etc. I tried my hand at making a lonza last year and just cured a pork tenderloin in herbs and then after several days washed it in wine, wrapped it in a brown paper bag, trussed it and hung it in my cellar in Feb. I came out just ok because of case hardening. Well…..I decided to take an old refrigerator and make a curing chamber and do it for real. Blogs like this along with articles makes it a lot easier although I do still check it everyday. I purchased the Inkbird temp and humidity controllers and a small Geniani humidifier. I have two coppas and one lonza curing now. I used the bactoferm600 and after 4 days my lanza has a nice coating all around. The coppa had to be cut in half the long way because it just did not fit in the 4″ beef bung. That’s why I have two. They went in two days later and are just showing signs of the
white mold covering. I do notice I was going to get a dehumidifier but I don’t know if that is really necessary. The controller shuts the humidifier off at 75% but the posture obviously can’t stop rising immediatly like the unit does. I compensate by setting the target temp to 68% with the +/- settings a few degrees on either side and the alarm setting substantially higher. What I found is that the average humidity seems to stay at around 75% which I believe is what everyone says is good. The temp is set at 55degs and that stays pretty constant. I did find that when I first put the meat in the chamber I wanted the inside temp to be 80+ degs with a 80%RH so the mold would take. After 3 days I reset everything to the present settings. I had a hard time getting the initial temp to 80degs so I would open the door and blast a heater for a couple of minutes and then close the door. I think the average temp turned out to be only 65degs. The next time I do this should I get a seed propagating heat mat. I don’t want to get a heat lamp or a ceramic heat fixture. Any thoughts. Also do you think I should get a small dehumidifier or I am good the way it is now. Sorry for the long blog but this is my way of introducing myself. Will be less lengthy in the future.

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victor May 9, 2018 - 8:03 pm

Looks like you are off to a very good start. Congratulations! Many of us do fermentation in a separate unit, it can be a large cooler or a warm room. I now do it in a small fermentation fridge that I use for beer and sausage fermentation. I also use a heating pad in it – it’s a must. As far as a dehumidifier goes, if your readings are correct, you don’t need it. Do you live in a dry climate? Where I live humidity tends to be on the higher end and I do need a dehumidifier. Most of us do. You can get away without a dehumidifier if you cure in a large room, but in a small area of a fridge all the moisture released by meat and sausages immediately brings humidity way up.

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rick lawrence April 18, 2018 - 2:14 pm

Here is a 6 week later update. My first lonzino came out yesterday and it is gone. I waited for 35% weight loss. It was ok but I’m going to do a 40% weight loss on the second one. The lonzino was placed in beef bung. I kept the salt and spices very mild on this first batch. My wife liked the not concentrated salt content, I think the spices could be more, of which I did on the second batch of lonzino. I made some salami with some already ground pork from a heritage hog. The salami should be ready soon. I did a second batch of lonzino about 3 weeks ago, so now I know it takes about 6 weeks. I would send you some photos but I don’t see where to add them.
Thanks again Victor, I’m having fun with this new adventure. I also cured 13# of pork belly in the last couple of weeks too

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victor April 18, 2018 - 2:29 pm

Glad to hear about your success, Rick. I know the feeling, this hobby is very rewarding. I have several very good recipes that I am going to share in the near future. Fennel salami is one of them. Thick, about 4-5″, smoked and cured for 4-5 months. One of the best I’ve ever tried.

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victor April 19, 2018 - 1:49 pm

Hi Rick, meant to suggest this in the previous response of mine and totally forgot. Email the photos to victor at ifoodblogger dot com and I will attach them to your comment. Thanks!

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John Cardamone April 11, 2018 - 12:52 am

Hi Victor just wondering if you still need to use curing salt even though you use a curing chamber by the way your products look amazing… Cheers John.

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victor April 11, 2018 - 6:10 am

The chamber is to control the environment in which curing is done. The curing salt is needed to control pathogenic bacteria growth, it also adds color and flavor.

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Roland March 30, 2018 - 6:36 pm

Hello, great post.
I have exactly the same problem with too high humidity (living in Thailand).
I was about to give up…
But after reading this article, I immediately ordered a dehumidifier.
I hope this finally works. 😉

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victor March 30, 2018 - 6:39 pm

I am almost certain it will, Roland.

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Vin De Pasquale March 17, 2018 - 1:37 am

Hello there! Great read!! There is book from I guy who lives in Australia and I can not think of the name. It’s a very rare book and almost no one has it. Do you have any idea what the name of this book is. The author and artisan is Italian. I had it saved and can’t find it. Any ideas. He was is considered a renowned expert with many many years under his belt in making various Italian cured meats.

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victor March 17, 2018 - 9:45 am

You got me intrigued… but, no, never came across a book like that.

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Zach March 9, 2018 - 10:27 am

Victor,

Looks like you recommend a humidity level of 75%. I have Ruhlman’s book and the more popular cured meats call for a range of 60 to 70% humidity. Why do you prefer a higher level?

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victor March 9, 2018 - 10:31 am

Zach, I go by what works in my environment. I actually tend to stay closer to 78%. Lower – and casing start to become harder than I like… Who knows, maybe it’s my sensor…

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rick lawrence March 8, 2018 - 8:04 pm

I asked questions 3 weeks ago and was answered, thank you Victor. Now, I though I would send an update. I pushed buttons on the Auber controllers and think I have mostly figured them out. I spice aged a couple of lonzinos for 10 days and they went into my curing chamber on Tuesday, this week. My curing chamber looks very much like yours Victor, except I had cut out the bottom freezer, which is where my humidifier lives. I had my Auber sensors on the same shelf as the dehumidifier. But in the last week, even though the controllers are reading in the 65-70% humidity range, my chamber was really really wet, to the point, I had moisture leaking out the bottom door. This afternoon, a little lightbulb went on. I moved the sensors off the shelf with the dehumidifier and lowered them closer to the middle of the box where the meat is currently hanging. Wow, within minutes, the humidity shot up to 80% and now the dehumidifier is running. I’ll see how long it takes to purge the moisture out. So in my case, the sensors were really happy reading what the dehumidifier was doing but not an accurate reading in the middle of the box.
And as breathe taking the price is, my hanna ph meter came yesterday, no deals, $445. Salami is next. With both of my batches, lonzino and the soon to be salami, I am doing everything according to the ‘book’ to make them successful but also to get everything working properly I’m also will to throw them away if need be.
I also sprayed my lonzino with bactoferm 600 this morning, I am waiting patiently to see the pretty white mold start forming.
Thanks again.

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victor March 9, 2018 - 10:39 am

Hi Rick, good to hear from you. Like reading people’s updates so keep me posted. Good luck and hope everything works. You are in a much better position that I was when I was starting out – I did not have a PH meter, my curing chamber was not adequately controllable, my fermentation was done without much thought to it. I wasted a number of batches of meat and scrapped a useless $100 controller. It certainly makes more sense to invest in proper equipment from the beginning if you are going to be serious and long-term about it. Problem is – few know from the beginning how serious they would be about this hobby.

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George March 3, 2018 - 10:09 am

Hi Victor,
Please explain me something based on your experience: if I use salt box method, the meat will lose more water than the equilibrium method. I use salt box method and keep the meat covered in salt for about 6-7 days. If you consider this time to be too long, I do it because I applied once equilibrium method (with 3% salt) and kept the meat in the salt for about 1-2 days and I got bad mold on the meat. My question is: when I put the meat to cure in the chamber when used salt box method, is it more difficult for the meat to lose 30% water than for the meat where it has been used equilibrium method? Because in the first meat, the amount of water remained is less than the other one. I hope you understand me what I mean. When using salt box method like in my case, can there be a danger to be impossible for the meat to lose 30% water because it ran out of water?
Thank you.

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victor March 3, 2018 - 1:14 pm

Hey George,

I think I got your question. Think of it this way – for salami to be safe to eat it needs to drop water activity (aw) to at or below .87, proscuitto – .85 for example. You want also want the drying to be even throughout. Now, how you get there is technically irrelevant. Also, water loss is calculated by subtracting final weight from green weight, which is the weight before the meat enters salting or fermentation stage.

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George March 3, 2018 - 3:15 pm

Hi Victor,
Thank you for your quick response about water activity which I didn’t know about. But I am still a little bit confused. If you mean that fermentation stage is when you hung the meat in the curing chamber, please tell me which mathematical formula is correct: water loss = raw,fresh meat weight – final weight or water loss = weight after salting – final weight.

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victor March 3, 2018 - 3:20 pm

That would be the former – raw meat less final weight. Also remember that meat loses a lot more weight initially and barely any towards the end. And the 30% rule is not a gospel, it really depends on your taste. I dry my sujuk to about 45% weight loss, sometimes even 50%. Meat can lose a lot more weight on account of it consisting 75% of water.

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ronnie February 28, 2018 - 9:51 am

Victor,
I am having a problem with case hardening. I know about humidity and air movement. Are some types of casings more conducive to case hardening?
Ronnie

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victor February 28, 2018 - 10:44 am

Ronnie, I can’t really compare casings simply because I use natural ones most of the time. I think it’s more about the environment rather than the casing though. Try to observe how your sausages behave and make adjustments. Once you get it right, it should be a fairly simple and smooth sailing after that for the most part. When you experience case hardening, don’t just leave it as is and see what happens. Increase humidity, decrease air flow. Wipe the sausages with wet cloth. Spray with Bactoferm 600 to get a thick layer of white mold going which helps with case hardening. I once read on an Italian charcuterie forum that a salami is like a small baby – it needs constant care and attention. That’s very true. We try to minimize the level of involvement by introducing helpers like humidity and temperature controllers and so on, but that won’t solve it 100% all the time. Especially initially.

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Eric Pousson February 25, 2018 - 7:59 pm

Hi,

Great Blog. I have a quick question as far as your dehumidifier goes. Now that we are 2.5 years later do you still recommend the same dehumidifier. The reason I ask is because I just got my setup running, based off your blog I bought the dehumidifier and the humidifier. I have my chamber packed with 35 kilos of product. When my fridge turns on the humidity plummets from 85 to roughly 70. Then it fixes itself when the compressor stops. I think that because of the amount of meat in the chamber my RH wants to stay at around 88%. Is that a problem? My little dehumidifier seems to not make that big of a difference in the number but I do see it pulling water from the chamber.. Have you tried the 2200 model? Also would you recommend having 2 separate humidity controls rather than 1 with duel ports?

Thanks Eric

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victor February 26, 2018 - 9:00 am

Eric, I rarely go over 15-18 lbs of meat so my dehumidifier handles that just fine. As a matter of fact, I recently picked up another one of those to be used in a fermentation chamber I am putting together.

For your needs, I’d say the 2200 model would be a better fit.

As far as two separate controllers vs one – I don’t see an advantage of one vs the other. Theoretically, one should be better as you won’t have the humidifier and dehumidifier fight each other. This can happen if you have two controllers with targets set pretty close to each other and one sensor is slow and the other is fast. Practically, that’s not an issue. I have one fast and one slow, so I set them up such that they’d never overlap and compete.

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ronnie February 22, 2018 - 1:22 pm

Victor,
So the HD 220 can be used to control the humidifier and the dehumidifier, and a second control would control only the temperature?
Ronnie

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victor February 22, 2018 - 1:29 pm

Yes, that’s correct. The second cannot be another HD220 though, obviously.

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Mick February 20, 2018 - 5:36 pm

Victor,

Thanks for the excellent article and lengthy responses on all the comments.

Quick question:
In the thread you mention that the Auber TH220 is the follow-up and more recent model of HD220 (August 4, 2016).
However, when I look at the Auber website (link at bottom), I noticed that HD220 actually has two outlets, one for humidifier and one for dehumidifier. While TH220 has two outlets as well, but one is for temperature and the other one for either/or humidifier/dehumidifier. So if using the latter, one would indeed need two TH220’s. But perhaps the DH220 was updated since the comment a few years back ?

Since I already have fully temperature controlled fridges (yes…plural) as a homebrewer, I’m thinking of just re-purposing one of those and adding the HD220 with a humidifier and de-humidifier plugged in.

Thoughts ?

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victor February 21, 2018 - 11:29 am

Mick,

I just checked the model numbers on my controllers, they are TH210s. So, the new model that replaced TH210 is TH220, which has a dual temp/humidity controllers. For temp you can use to cool or heat, while for humidity you can use it in humidify or dehumidify mode.

You are correct, the HD220 controls humidity only and can be hooked up to both a humidifier or dehumidifier.

Really, you can use two TH220s, which is what I use, only with older, TH210 models. Or you can use an HD220 with a TH220, or a TD120 which allows for heating/cooling control. I actually use one of those in my beer fermentation chamber.

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ronnie February 14, 2018 - 8:21 am

Thanks for the quick response. I have built a smokeroom based solely on your recommendations. Saturday will be two weeks I have had some venison sausage hanging. Looks great. Finding your blog was like finding treasure. I also refer to the Marinanski book. Thanks for the great info.

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victor February 14, 2018 - 8:48 am

Good to hear that. Thanks for the kind words. I find this hobby very relaxing and very satisfying… Love every minute of it.

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rick lawrence February 13, 2018 - 10:49 pm

Thank you again for responding. I keep pushing buttons on the Aubers and it seems as though some things are happening. Maybe as you said, no raw meat, and things won’t really stabilize until the refer gets some product. I did change differentials on cooling, heating, humidify and dehumidify to 0.
Also the humidly readings are different on both controllers. Do you use the temp and humidity calibration to set them the same?
And I just wanted to comment on buying good tools. I’m a builder/carpenter and I spend money on tools that work and work for a long time. I asked my electrician about building a controller, such as some have done here and showed him the Auber. He said don’t waste your time building, buy the package that works out of the box, no fussing around (well maybe a bit of fussing learning how to use the new tool)I will let my refer curing box run for a few days and see how things settle down. If I feel confident the fermenting box and the curing chamber will work properly, I’ll start paying more attention to stuffing some casing. I have most of what I need to process the stuffing except for a ph meter. Hanna instruments prices are breathing taking, but again, I’m in this for the long haul.
Another 10 inches of snow Monday night. My garage has a bit of heat but not enough for good curing temps.
Thank you again

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victor February 14, 2018 - 8:42 am

Good to hear that, Rick. But change the differentials from zero to something more appropriate like 1.5 -2.

I too have the controllers report different temps and humidity, but the difference is minimal for me to bother. I’ve noticed too that once the fridge stops cycling and/or the dehumidifier/humidifier stops running both settle to within 1 degree or so. When the fridge is cycling and, say, the humidifier kicks in, the Rh on one responds and changes very quickly while the other reports changes much slower, with about a 3 degree lag at some point. It just depends on the sensor, I guess. I have a spare sensor just in case, bought it 2 years ago, want to test it and see how it behaves. I use that to my advantage, actually, the more responsive controls the dehumidifier as humidity is my bigger issue, while the other one controls humidifier and I don’t want it to kick in too quickly.

I am with you on your philosophy about buying tools. I am not a carpenter/builder but I am very handy with my hands and do most of the work around the house, and I am very good with electronics. I too had an idea of building my own controller using Raspberry Pi, which I ended up tossing as it was a pain to get to do what I wanted it to do. I’ve seen some other projects too but they look big and aesthetically unpleasing. I also went through several controllers before I bit the bullet and bought the Auber. I could not be happier with it.

Ph meter is a must. I decided to not even think about it much and went straight for the Hanna. eBay has good deals sometimes, I believe I got mine for $360. I have had it for about 4 years and use it all the time for cheese making, sausage making, brewing beer and more. With good care you shouldn’t even need to replace the probe too often. I haven’t had to do it yet, knock on wood. I did buy their overpriced solutions for calibration, cleaning and storage, but those 500ml bottles last a long time.

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ronnie February 13, 2018 - 8:40 pm

After you have cured and dried the sausage, under what conditions do you store them?

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victor February 14, 2018 - 8:12 am

Ronnie, same conditions as drying are typically recommended, i.e. 55-60F at 75Rh. You can also simply refrigerate. That’s what I do. I used to freeze but don’t do that anymore as the texture changes slightly even if defrosted slowly in a fridge. And who wants to wait a couple of days for the salami to defrost? I would end up dropping it (vacuum sealed) in cold water for a quick defrost.

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rick lawrence February 12, 2018 - 10:07 pm

As everyone says, thank you. I am days or hours away from getting my curing chamber running. I’m using a rubbermaid box for my fermenting. My question, I have to Auber th220 controllers for cool/humidity and heat(if needed in my Colorado garage, 12 inches of snow outside the last 3 days) and dehumidifier. I’m pretty good at reading instructions but Auber’s are a bit confusing to me for my initial setup. I have plugged in the different temps and humidity based solely your observations/ recommendations but the controllers are not sending power to the pieces of equipment. Do I also have to set differentials for each piece of equipment? I’ve looked on line for some sort of tutorial for these but haven’t found anything yet

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victor February 13, 2018 - 11:29 am

You are very welcome. Congratulations on your new build and best of luck with it.

Now, to your questions. The controller can be operated in either heat or cool mode. You want to be in cool mode. If you set it to 55F in heat mode and the temperature is rising above 55F – nothing will happen. So, check that first. It happened to me too. The differential would be the second thing to check. If the differential is (DEFAULT), and the target is 55F, nothing will happen until the temperature rises past 58F. The same applies to humidity, but obviously your target will be different, say 75%.

It’s also possible that your temp and Rh are inside the range you are targeting, and stay there, that happens too especially without any raw meat in the fridge. Try setting an extreme target that will for sure trigger a response, say 80F for temp (cooling) and 90% Rh for the humidifier, or 30% for the dehumidifier.

Try these steps and let me know if it worked.

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George February 11, 2018 - 4:51 am

Hello Victor!

I’ve been trying to make some cured meats in my small wine cooler but no success so far, so I appreciate if you tell me where I’m wrong. I hope you don’t mind because of the length of my message but I have so many questions to clarify. So, to begin with:

I have a small wine cooler with buit-in thermostat but without fan. I don’t know what type it is but I will explain to you: it has a compressor and when the mist comes out from my humidifier, it (the mist) freezes in the form of drops on the back wall of the wine cooler. Then, when humidifier stops, that frozen mist begins to melt, the back wall starts to lick and the mist is collected at the bottom of the wine cooler in a hole where is taken out.
The humidifier I use is ultrasonic with built-in hygrostat. It goes around between 65-75% RH because of its lag, so an average of 70% RH which I think is ok for cured meats. It starts to run let’s say every 5 minutes. When it doesn’t run, it continuously blows air inside the chamber. My ambient RH is around 60%.
So the only cable which I have inside my wine cooler is the plug in for humidifier also used to make a crack for the fresh air to get inside.

I read on forums and a book about charcuterie and I started to make my own cured meat. And then, the problems appeared:

Firstly I used the equilibrium method for salting the meat (with 3% salt) using the 1 day/kilo rule. I did this with lonzino, lonza and guanciale. Very small amount of water drained from the meat. I did all by book and put the meat to hung in the wine cooler with no casings or mold culture on them. I checked my meat every day and I’ve noticed it was quite wet especially at the bottom. Every day the meat was licking fluids through the bottom side. When I put direct light on the meat it sparkled. So far so good, but after one week white fuzzy mold started to show up. I wiped the meat with vinegar but after two days, more mold shown up and I tossed the meat.

Thinking that using only 3% salt, this was the reason the mold appeared, I tried the salt box method for bresaola keeping the meat in salt for 6 days so as much water as possible can release the meat. Way more amount of water has drained from the meat than the equilibrium method and it is way firmer. I put bresaola to hung without casing and mold culture. Every day the meat was licking fluids through the bottom side and was quite wet like in the first method. I think that “fluids” are just the water coming from humidifier not from the inside of the meat because after a week I weighted the meat and it gained (not lost) about 10 grams more. So far there is no mold but I’m worried my meat will not decrease in wight. My temperature inside the chamber is 13°C which I think is OK and I open the door 1-2 times a day to let the fresh air to come inside.

So please tell me where is the mistake here. Is it because of high RH? If YES, how can I control it better? Is it because I don’t use casings or mold culture for extra protection against molds? But I can’t use them for pancetta or guanciale for example.
Thank you.

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victor February 12, 2018 - 7:18 pm

Hello George! Sounds like you are having issues with humidity, although it’s hard for me to be 100% sure without knowing your system in detail. One thing I will say, and I’ve said it many times here, is that controlling humidity in a non-frost-free tiny wine cooler is practically impossible. At early stages meats lose a lot of water very quickly so you main issue at this stage is removing water quickly and efficiently. That you have a humidifier blowing mist inside an already humid environment makes thing worse. My suggestion is to read the post above – I’ve described my system in detail – and at try to get a similar setup. You will need a dehumidifier for sure. You will need a humidity controller with a good sensor rated for high humidity environments. That will get you off to a good start. Dual controller is what I would recommend but you can add it later. That will eliminate a lot of guesswork you are doing right now.

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George February 15, 2018 - 5:43 am

Hello Victor!
Thank you for your quick response. I have a few more questions in order to make a decision about my equipment.
If you were me, would you give up wine cooler (despite the fact I spent some money on it) and buy a full size frost free fridge? In my country we use the term “No frost”. Is there any difference between Frost free and No frost? Or they are just synonyms?
You said your fridge blows cold air inside it. How? Through a ventilator? Because if yes, I am a little bit confused because you said you don’t use a fan anymore.
Is it ok to buy a full size frost free refrigerator with a freezer on top because in my country I don’t find too many of them without integrated freezer.
Thank you.

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victor February 15, 2018 - 6:31 am

Hey George. Frost free and no frost are the same thing. These are the fridges that use a heating element to defrost their evaporators and remove/drain the water out. Most refrigerators use a fan to move the cold air in the freezer into the evaporator and then push it into the fridge compartment to keep it cool. At least that’s how they work here. I don’t know, in your country (where are you from if you don’t mind my asking?) they may have a slightly different design but I suspect they would work very similarly. The advantage of these fridges is that they remove moisture and humidity by removing water and by blowing cool air, which is dry, when they cycle. Non-frost-free don’t do that, so you will have a lot more moisture to deal with, on top of the moisture leaving the meats in your curing chamber. In a small space this becomes a huge battle, that’s why I said controlling humidity in a small wine cooler would be practically impossible. I’ve seen people try it but I have yet to see good results with those.

Now, of course, everything is relative. Somewhere above I commented about a guy using a wine cooler and provided a link to his blog. His has a larger cooler which makes a difference, and he had good results it seems. But, if you notice, he only dried a small sausage in it, again, that makes a huge difference. Drying a small sausage at a time is kind of wasteful – lot’s of effort for little return. You can try that with your wine cooler and see where it takes you. If you are not getting the results you want you can always upgrade to a frost-free fridge. Speaking of which, they all come with a freezer by virtue of frost-free design. Just don’t drill any holes in it just yet.

You are correct, I don’t use a fan anymore as I was doing more harm than good. I am not saying it’s a bad idea to use one, it’s just that I could not make it work in my setup, but that may change in the future. However, the fridge has own fan that blows cool air in when it cycles. There is also a small fan on the dehumidifier that blows the air up so between the two of them they generate some air movement and I find that it’s sufficient.

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Cal Eng January 20, 2018 - 10:46 am

Thank you Victor for your blog on setting up my curing chamber. I was a little nervous about curing meats and some of my friends think it’s nuts. I looked on Craigslist and Ebay for old refrigerators. There was really no good items for sale so I ended up getting a smaller chest freezer from Sears for a great price. I built a wood frame that fits inside the freezer with removable cross pieces that fits across the top where the meat is hung. I bought a Auber temp controller and separate Auber Humidity Controller. The first dehumidifier and humidifier were returned since the models I got never turned back on once the controllers shut them down. I ended up getting the exact humidifier and dehumidifier you ordered with the “flip up on/off button”. I live in Phoenix and found I do not need to set up the humidifier so far. The humidity ranges from 77 to 80 and the meats are looking good. Now I need to find a butcher shop that sells entire pork neck muscle for coppa. Depending on how I do I may start curing sausages.

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victor January 20, 2018 - 3:27 pm

Awesome! Hope all goes well from this point on. It can get a little stressful initially but once you put all pieces in place and learn to manage them – it’s a cake walk from there.

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Mike January 8, 2018 - 11:54 am

Thanks Victor. The UMAi bags work well, but they are pricey. $4-5 ea depending on size, about half that if buying in bulk. I’ve not been able to find another domestic supplier, if you know of one please share. I ordered another Humidity Monitor (AcuRite with Indoor Thermometer, Digital Hygrometer and Humidity Gauge Indicator) from Amazon, but was also thinking the wine cooler is just tool small.

I found a tall glass door beverage cooler, you know the type you see in pizza shops for around $100. Thinking about converting something like that since it would be larger but I don’t know if it’s frost free. What do you think, is frost free a must for a larger unit?

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victor January 8, 2018 - 1:34 pm

That IS expensive. I read somewhere that UMAi is basically repackaged Tublin 10 bags, http://tub-ex.com/products/tublin-2/tublin-10/. Maybe buying those in bulk would be cheaper. In fact, I am sure it will be cheaper.

On the beverage cooler, whether it will work for you it will really depend. Look at this guy’s curing chamber: http://foodielawyer.com/2011/12/home-cured-salami/ – seems like he is pretty happy with the results but its hard to say without testing for yourself. I am certain though that if you add a dehumidifier you should be fine. Also note that this guy is curing about, what, 3 lbs of meat? The results will be hugely different when trying to dry 10-20 lbs of meat. It’s all relative. I just started drying 11 lbs of meat and my curing chamber is barely breaking a sweat while trying to maintain target RH but it’s starting to work hard when approaching 20lbs. My typical batches of fresh meat are almost never that big so I don’t worry about that scenario.

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Mike January 5, 2018 - 10:14 am

Hello,
Great work on your curing chamber. I’ve been making capocollo and pancetta for a few years using dry age bags in a standard refrigerator with good results, but the drying time has been long (75-90 days) due to the cold temp and low humidity in the fridge. I now have a wine fridge which can maintain temp in the 50’s and installed a dehumidifier to bring the humidity down (it approached 90% when adding meat). The cooler is 17 x 19 x 33 inches and is in the basement where temp is approx. 65. I added approx. 9 lb of meat and the dehumidifier running bringing the humidity down as expected, but I needed to monitor it and turn the dehumidifier on/off as needed. I was planning on adding a Dayton dehumidifier controller. This morning I checked the temp and humidity and the temp was fine but humidity was high 80s with the dehumidifier running and little water had been collected. I’m puzzled, expected the humidity to be lower. Any thoughts?

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victor January 6, 2018 - 3:50 pm

Thanks, Mike. And I’ve been thinking of experimenting with UMAi bags myself but haven’t got around to doing it.

Incidentally, I recently started a new batch myself – I loaded 5 kilos (11 lbs) of meat in the chamber just yesterday morning. All are different types of salami, stuffed into same thickness (2″) natural casings. So far I see about 100 ml of water accumulated in the dehumidifier, which represents about 1% weight loss and is consistent with what the weight loss should be at this stage. Mind you, thicker salami and whole muscles will lose weight at a slower rate based on my observations. I set the temp to 55F and RH to 88% on day 1, and dropped it to 85% today. Today, my dehumidifier cycles about every 8 minutes and runs for approximately 4 minutes each cycle.

Temps and humidity

Provided you use the same dehumidifier as I do, you should be seeing similar behavior, except there are a few important factors to consider. Humidity control in a small fridge such as yours will always be significantly more difficult. Frankly, I have yet to encounter someone who has been able to reliably control humidity in a 4-5 cu. ft. chamber. If you can’t go up to at least 15 cu. ft. try dropping your batch sizes accordingly. I don’t think there is another way. Or try a bigger dehumidifier, it may help but I can’t be certain.

Another thing to look at is whether your fridge is frost free. From what I’ve seen most wine coolers are not. Those just accumulate moisture and make it that much harder to control humidity.

The humidity sensor may also be the culprit. Any frost deposits on it will drive the readings (incorrectly) way up, especially if the sense is not rated to 99%+ RH.

Take what I said with a grain of salt as I never really tested a small fridge like your wine cooler. Start experimenting and changing one variable at a time until you find the culprit. Everyone’s system is different and it takes some tweaking to fine tune it.

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PETE December 25, 2017 - 1:36 pm

hi first time blogger.i built a dry curing chamber out of a coca cola cooler.have auber HD220W controller controlling humidity and dehumidity.th220w controlls heat.im trying to keep my humidity between 80-85%.my problem is when the DEHUMIDIFIER turns on at 85.5% it wont shut off until about 1% before the humidifer comes on at 79%.i would like it to shut at 84% if possible. looking forword to a reply.

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victor December 29, 2017 - 2:37 am

Hey Pete, not sure I understand your problem fully. What did you set the dehumidifier controller to and what is the differential set to? It might need to be tightened up. If you are saying that the controller lags, then you need to move your sensor where there is a better air movement so it catches humidity changes quicker.

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Russell December 23, 2017 - 9:32 am

Hey there’re! I’ve used your system to get started. I don’t have your exact controllers but I do have a question about your humidifier before I buy it. I guess it automatically humidifies when the controller provides the power? Problem I had with my previous humidifier was that, when my controller tripped it ON, it would send power to it, but would not humidity until you touched the button. So, obviously it didn’t work. I’m guessing that your humidifier actually starts humidifying when the controller kicks it on. Thanks!

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victor December 23, 2017 - 9:34 am

Correct, no manual intervention is required once set up. Otherwise it would have been a big NO for me. Or anyone.

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George December 12, 2017 - 6:39 am

Victor, I live in eastern Europe where normally, humidity has to be increased. So technically I don’t need a dehumidifier. I want to buy a small wine cooler for curing meat which has no holes in it or built-in fan. You said that you don’t use a fan at all, only circulation coming from humidifier or dehumidifier. My questions for you is: is this enough for air circulation? Nothing bad will happen with my meat? Because I can open wine cooler’s door once a day to get some fresh air inside and to get rid of the stale one, advice you already gave to someone else. But how can I do this when I am gone in holiday let’s say for ten days and there is nobody to do that for me?

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victor December 29, 2017 - 2:58 am

Hi George, sorry for the delay with my response, your message went into spam and I just found it.

In my experience air circulation is less important than temperature and humidity. In small, confined spaces proper air circulations is hard to achieve and a fan in a home curing chamber will be more harm than good if you are not very careful about it. I turned my fan off as I was getting case hardening from it even though it was undervolted to the point where it won’t start on its own – I’d need to give it a nudge. You want an equivalent of a very gentle, intermittent breeze. Many people simply open the fridge a couple of times a day to let stale air out and that seems to work for them just fine. But I would not stress out about it. Leaving the fridge be for 10 days is not an issue as long as your temps and humidity are in check.

Now, what I said about my curing chamber may not necessarily apply to your wine cooler. Is it frost free? I believe most wine coolers are not. Frost free fridges blow cold dry air inside the fridge when they cycle – this provides air circulation, refreshes air in the fridge and lowers humidity. Non-frost-free coolers and fridges don’t remove humidity. Wine coolers also tend to be small, too small actually, to effectively control humidity. When humidity is high ice and frost build up. Don’t forget that when you add 10-20 lbs of meat into a small confined space your humidity will skyrocket regardless of what you ambient humidity is. Meat loses a lot of water during the first 1-2 weeks of drying. All that water needs to be removed somehow.

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Mike McGrath September 14, 2017 - 2:35 pm

For what it’s worth… I’m now an expert on recharging LG refrigerators with Freon. The irony is that at a steady 41 degrees, now I need more equipment (temp controller) to get it back to the sweet zone.

“If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know” – Kansas

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victor September 14, 2017 - 3:02 pm

Sorry to hear that, Mike. I think having a controller is a good thing regardless as it can alert you when the temperature is off. How expensive is it to do one refill? I’d think that replacing a fridge would be cheaper, you can easily get a good fridge for less than $100.

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Mike McGrath August 8, 2017 - 12:03 pm

I’m graduating from wine cooler to fridge model. I got a great deal on a 7 year old LG French door, bottom freezer for $75!! It doesn’t cool real well, (57- 61 degrees) which I knew. I think it needs a Freon charge. This is where I need some help. Do ALL refrigerators need a piercing valve to add Freon? How do I tell what size line I have to get the right valve?

I guess I’m looking for a simple step by step tutorial if any of your other readers have one or a link.

Thanks for your thoughts and inspiration.

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victor August 8, 2017 - 1:09 pm

Quite a technical question but I hope someone with the knowledge here can advise you.

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Patrick McLaughlin August 3, 2017 - 10:11 am

Viktor

You mentio that ambient humidity was messing up your internal rh. Whis was before your current setup? What was the actual effect of the ambient humidity?

I know its a simple process of curing meats but the science is amazing. I manage a whole animal butcher shop in Manhattan and just finally built a box. In a smaller chamber, how important do you feel air flow is? I open daily sure but when it comes to diffusion and evaporation it seems having some air movement helps. I’ve looked for a fan with mpre controll than just slow medium and fast but to no avail may have to hookup some type of dimmer switch to a fan motor.

Thoughts?

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victor August 3, 2017 - 2:21 pm

Yes, this was before my current setup. If you think about, the curing chamber is not a closed system – if the ambient RH is high the fridge RH will be high. Simple as that. That’s why I have a dehumidifier running in the fridge.

Air flow is important, it promotes removal of moisture from the surface of the sausage. Turning the fan on for a few minutes every now and again really accomplishes nothing in my view. The airflow has to be constant. I believe I read in one of Marianski’s books that it needs to be about 2-3 meters per second or so. Now, in a small chamber that air flow can be hard to achieve, I had case hardening from running a computer fan undervolted to a point where I had to start it by hand. It’s best to put some barrier between the fan and the sausages to lower the drying rate.

Then again, every setup will be unique as even small things may have significant impact. You need to experiment and figure out what works. My setup may suggest what can work, but you can build a different one that is just as effective in your environment.

I don’t use a fan at all now, but I get air circulation from the dehumidifier. It’s not on all the time, but is quite frequently. I get the results where I am very happy and don’t want to change anything. It just works.

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Guy June 7, 2017 - 3:02 pm

Hi Victor. I did more reading today than I did in 4 years of college but enjoyed it more. My family has made quite a lot of sausage in the past. It was always made and stored in the freezer. We would take some of it and just hang it in a fridge. My folks didn’t check humidity or temp. They just felt it and when it was almost hard they decided it was time. Because of the salt inside the mixture and the natural casings I don’t think they ever lost a batch and it was great. They actually made a prosciutto that came out very good. This I know was done in the colder months (CT) and hung in the wine cellar., I made a lanza last winter and was tasty but was too dry on the outside. All that being said (just a quick intro) I thoroughly enjoyed your article and can see and understand how the humidity combined with temp would, if done properly, produce really good consistent results. I was thinking about getting a wine re-fridge to start off with but that may just be a waste of money when you consider I have a full size re-fridge sitting in the basement dong nothing. I have a humidifier running now in my basement because it gets pretty humid without it in the summer.
1. Do you think I should keep that running and put a smaller unit in the re-fridge?
2. Do you have to ferment salamis first or can you let the moisture add to the humidity in your curing chamber?
3. Are nitrites and nitates really necessary when you consider you are using 3% salt to meat.
Any info is always appreciated.

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victor June 8, 2017 - 9:30 am

Hey Guy, thanks for stopping by. It’s fascinating how older folks can make sausages by feel, without any equipment, and get fantastic results. I guess it comes with experience. I’ve been noticing that I don’t sweat about my batches any more and just do it. But, as you pointed out, in CT as in many other places, this can only be done only in certain months, which is a limitation of course.

As to whether you should put a smaller dehumidifier into your fridge, it’s something that you need to investigate. Really, meat curing is super simple. We tend to over-complicate things that we are not familiar with, but as we gain experience we realize that simplicity is the key. All you need to be able to do is control temperature and humidity. That’s all there is to it. If you can start at at 95% and gradually bring it down to 75-78%, or perhaps to 80% (different folks have their own preferences, I tend to finish at 78%) with an external de-humidifier, than that’s all you need. If not, then get an internal one for the fridge. Many recipes advise to ferment at 90-95% RH then dry cure at 75%, without the gradual reduction. If you can do that with your external unit, try it. You may like the results. Everyone’s setup and environment is different and slight variations in setups are to be expected.

Fermentation and drying are two very different process and are accomplished at different temperatures and humidity levels, so yes, you have to ferment first, but you can do that in the same curing chamber if you don’t have previous batches in there.

Are nitrites and nitrates necessary? Let’s put it this way – I am much more comfortable eating products that are made using them than not. It’s about health safety. I would not risk feeding my family with products that I don’t consider 100% safe to eat. I also find that products that contain curing salt taste and look better. Now, here is really cool read on the effects of salt levels and presence/absence of nitrites/nitrates in cured pork meat – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1255518/pdf/cjvetres00049-0082.pdf.

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Thor May 31, 2017 - 4:07 pm

Hi there! First of all, many thnaks for publishing this guide, have recreated your curing chamber almost to the letter.
After firing it up, I have been able to maintain a stable temperature, but the humidity has some pretty large swings.
The RH can swing from 91% to 76%.. The variations usually have a cycle of 45 minutes.
I have two new Auber TH-220W controllers set up with the following parameters:

1) Sandy – only controls dehumidifier
HSP-80
HCM-DEH
HDF-3.0
HOF-1
HAH-99.9
HAL – 10.0
HAS – 0
HSF- off

2) Gusher – also runs the fridge
TSP-55
HSP-78

Humidity
HCM-H
HDF-0.1
HOF-0.0
HAH-99.9
HAL-10.0
HAS-0
HSF-Off

Temperature
CF-F
TCM-Cool
TDF-1.0
TOF-0.0
TAH-95.0
TAL-32.0
TAS-0
TSF-Off

I have also posted pictures of the temp/humidity plots on Imgur.

My thoughts were that perhaps I could decrese the output of the fridge so that the decrease in humidity that seems to be associated with the fridge turning on is blunted, as well as shorter in duration.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

-Thor

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victor June 3, 2017 - 9:18 pm

Hi there. It’s just a matter of tweaking to reign it in into an acceptable range. Make sure your Hu sensor is located where there is most air flow. I place my sensor in front of the opening where cold air blows, with the dehumidifier hose in between. This way air and vapor get mixed in and I get better and almost immediate readings.

The hdf on humidifier seems low, try 0.5 or higher. That may actually have an adverse effect.

In general, temporary swings are OK as long as you average is within the range.

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Brian March 17, 2017 - 10:32 am

Victor,

Thanks for your quick response. Perhaps cloudy is too strong of a word. I have to hold the container up to a light and swirl to see little whispy microscopic things that are swirling in the water. I am drying at 58 degrees F and my humidifier is in the chamber. Perhaps that makes a difference. Anyway, I’ve got to figure this one out. Thanks for letting me know your experience. Take care.

Brian

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victor March 17, 2017 - 10:36 am

Brian, not to downplay the issue if there is one, but I would worry less about that and more about the meats in the chamber. What I mean is that if you get no bad molds, no off smells in the chamber than there is nothing to worry about.

I do dry at 53F-55F range though.

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Brian March 16, 2017 - 11:38 pm

Thank you for the information in yout article. Thanks to you and others, I have successfully made many batches of cured whole muscle and Salami. My question pertains to how you keep your humidifier from growing mold or bacteria in it. Despite bleaching my cool air humidifier and using boiled distilled water, If I don’t clean it out every few days, I get cloudy water, which I find concerning. Perhaps it is just mold 600 since that stuff is going wild on my meats, but I still find it concerning and think this could be a serious issue that home sausage makers need to pay attention to. Thanks.

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victor March 16, 2017 - 11:41 pm

You are very welcome, Brian.

As to your question, I am puzzled and have no idea what to tell you as I have never experienced the problem that you are describing. I’ve had my humidifier on in the fridge for over a year and never cleaned it even once. The water seems crystal clear and clean.

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Angelo March 15, 2017 - 11:30 am

Do you ferment in the curing chamber also ? or do you ferment elsewhere ?

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victor March 21, 2017 - 9:37 pm

Hi, I do both. If the curing chamber is free I will do it there, otherwise elsewhere. Look through my responses above, I’ve mentioned about the ways I ferment.
P.S. Sorry it took me a while to respond, you message ended up in spam for some reason and I just noticed it.

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larry fee March 7, 2017 - 12:13 pm

Hi – just getting into curing meats. Would appreciate your input regarding cultures. B-LC-007 seems to be an ideal culture, given its protection against Listeria. Could I/should I use this in all cured sausages? T-SPX seemed like the standard before, but it seems to have been replaced by B-LC-007.
B-LC-007 also seems to be able to be used at room tempurature, which would seem to eliminate the need for a fermentation box?
Thanks in advance for your reply.

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victor March 7, 2017 - 6:09 pm

I like B-LC-007, started using it last year. The results are similar to those of T-SPX – Europen style with very low acidity. Going forward I am planning on using it instead of T-SPX. Wish it were less expensive though. But I wouldn’t use it exclusively, my wife and kids love the tanginess that FR-M-52 produces. The sausages made with it are noticeably less salty too, can’t use the same low levels of salt with traditionally made salamis.

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Matt March 5, 2017 - 9:16 pm

Victor,
I’ve been referencing your blog for a couple of months now. My family has been dry curing soppresata for over 50 years. The past two years I’ve been learning this tradition from my uncle as we process and dry all the sausage in his basement. The method we use for controlling humidity is drying the sausage in his basement by letting cool air in Feb-March, as it is cold and relatively low humidity. We hang our meats freely in the basement or garage. The meat comes out great. The one thing I was curious about was if you thought introducing mold would be more beneficial to our drying process? We use natural casings, pork, salt, and 2-3 spices, but we never get mold on our sausage. I’m looking to purchase Charcuterie by Ruhlman to further my knowledge on this awesome skill as my only teacher is in his 80’s. Is there any other books you recommend? Thanks for this awesome blog.

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victor March 5, 2017 - 10:48 pm

Matt, if what you are doing works, I wouldn’t change a thing. White mold is beneficial for keeping bad molds off and preventing the casings from drying out. Clearly, you don’t have either of those problems so keep doing what you are doing. As for the books, read all of the Marianski’s books and Charcuteria. Those are a must read for anyone who is into home sausage making. Ritek Kutas’s book is a good read too, though I am less inclined to use his recipes.

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Erik Skorupka March 3, 2017 - 11:34 am

Hi loved reading your post! I am new to home curing and have a quick question (don’t laugh too hard).

Would it be possible to place a humidifier in a dedicated bedroom or would the humidity be too difficult to control in this setup?

Thanks

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victor March 3, 2017 - 12:19 pm

Well, we all work with what we have, no shame in that. Hey, I sometimes ferment my salamis in one of the bathrooms where I can easily get the temps to 85F and humidity to 95%. Which brings me to your question. Technically you can use any room or any enclosed space, as long as you can control the temp and the humidity in there. Based on my experience and the experience of others, controlling humidity gets easier in larger enclosed spaces.

But, of course, there are caveats. What’s the normal average humidity in the room? If you live in a very arid area, you will have a heck of a time raising RH in a bedroom. If it’s too high, dropping it with the help of a dehumidifier would be relatively easy. If you ambient RH is close to 70-80% to begin with, you are in luck. I think controlling the temperature in the bedroom would be harder than contorlling humidity. But then again, I’ve never tested that. Do some testing and you will get the best answer to your question.

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Steve Decatur February 14, 2017 - 12:17 pm

Love the article Thanks for all the info, I probably missed it as I’m still reading but what do you plug the fridge into, a separate temp controller or one of the Auber Temperature and Humidity Controllers

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victor February 14, 2017 - 2:00 pm

The fridge plugs into one of the two Auber controllers.

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Andy February 13, 2017 - 12:59 pm

Thank you for your prompt reply. Maybe I should have asked a different question. Does the tube between the humidifier and the refrigirator form a “U” (down, and then up again)? The reason I ask is because I wanted to do something similar, but the only access into the inside of the refrigerator (without making holes into unknown areas) is in the back, above where the compressor sits, and which forms a sort of platform inside the fridge. This means, in my case, that the tubing will form this “U” shape which I believe will accumulate water in no time. I guess that in your case, if it is straight up, the excess water will just run back into the humidifier.

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victor February 13, 2017 - 3:59 pm

I see. No, no U shape in mine. Mine just goes straight up and into the fridge.

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Andy February 13, 2017 - 12:24 pm

Hi Victor,
I have a question about your humidifier being outside the fridge and pumping humidity through a tube. I assume that your humidifier is placed higher than the point of entry into the refrigerator, and that at no point, the tube curves upward, otherwise you would have water condensation accumulating inside the tube, which would eventually block the passage. Is this how your setup is?

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victor February 13, 2017 - 12:31 pm

Andy, my humidifier sits on the floor and the tube enters the fridge about 2 feet above it. Works for me.

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Chris V. February 11, 2017 - 1:55 pm

This looks awesome. Nice job! I’ve been working on my design for one. Going to build one from scratch using the cooling system of a mini fridge. I do have a question, do you think it would benefit from a fan constantly circulating air? How much water did you go through in the almost 2 months of curing? I had bought a mini ultrasonic humidifier and wonder if it is too small. https://www.amazon.com/Bell-Howell-Ultrasonic-Personal-Humidifier-Cool/dp/B0074KC5CA

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victor February 12, 2017 - 10:00 am

Chris,

I am afraid that you will be setting yourself up for a difficult uphill battle with a mini fridge. They are not frost free, which in addition to very tight space makes it practically impossible to adequately control humidity inside them. You will need a dehumidifier, possibly a bigger one than I have.

The dehumidifier that you linked to is fine, especially with your non-frost-free fridge. It will rarely engage as your biggest hurdle will be humidity, not lack thereof.

With my frost-free fridge that blows dry air inside and my tight settings on humidity, I go through about 1 gallon of water every month or month and a half or so. It really depends on where the drying stage is- less initially, more later as the meat dries and releases less liquid.

As to having a fan, my experience is that they are more harm than good in tight spaces. Beside, if you are running a dehumidifier it will provide air circulation.

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Guigo January 30, 2017 - 11:14 am

Hi. Very good system. I belive it will help a lot. Just one question: my goal is to age cheese and not curing meat. I believe the system might be the same though. Do you know smth about it? Cheers.

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victor January 30, 2017 - 11:19 am

Funny you should ask. I am just finishing dry aging a nice strip loin roast in this very curing chamber. I’ve also aged cheese in the past with great success. It doesn’t matter whether you do cheese or sausage or aged beef, it all boils down to maintaining a specific temperature and humidity. Too bad you can cure meat and age cheese at the same time as most of the time the required temps and humidity are slightly different.

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Frank Centanni January 19, 2017 - 10:23 am

I have a kool air cooler in my cell at that keeps my cellar at a temperature of 57 deg far
And the humidity at around 60-65% should I shut my unit off in the winter when I am curing my meats and put in a humidifier or should I leave the kool air on

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victor January 19, 2017 - 9:50 pm

Well, that depends. Ultimately, you want the temperature around 55F, plus-minus 2 degrees, and the humidity at around 75%-80%. You also want some air movement, like a light breeze. These parameters should guide you with regards to operating your equipment. And make sure to do regular checks. If you notice case hardening, reduce air movement and increase humidity, and vice versa.

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Doug January 19, 2017 - 5:54 am

Thanks for the article.
Can you tell me the unknowns? For example. I understand there should be a 5 minute delay so the compressor doesn’t go bad. Where should the refrigerator temp be set, not the temp on controller. Any other do & donuts are appreciated. I’m trying to understand what a properly set up frig runs like. How often should it cycle on/ off etc. thanks in advance

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victor January 19, 2017 - 9:43 pm

I don’t think there are unknowns here. This particular Auberins controller has a built-in Anti-Short Cycle Delay function that prevents turning the compressor again when it’s under high pressure. IIRC, you can set it from 0 to 12 minutes, but usually a 5-6 minute delay is enough to de-pressurize a compressor. The same function is built in for the humidifier/dehumidifier control.

I set the temperature on the controller. That’s where you want it set, not on the fridge.

My fridge cycles anywhere from every 20 minutes to every hour or longer, depending on ambient temperature. In winter when its get cold I barely hear it cycle.

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Doug January 19, 2017 - 5:50 am

Thanks for the article. Buying parts now to make my chamber. Can you tell me the unknowns? For example. I understand there should be a 5 minute delay so the compressor doesn’t go bad. Where should the refrigerator temp be set, not the temp on controller. Any other do & donuts are appreciated. I’m trying to understand what a properly set up frig runs like. How often should it cycle on/ off etc. thanks in advance

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Desmond de Villiers January 2, 2017 - 9:13 pm

Hi, As far as your article is concerned, you have covered virtually everything and compliment you on the depth and persistence that you applied, although it does fall short in that to finish it off for those that are only limited in their electrical knowledge, and would welcome a schematics of the electrical components and wiring.

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victor January 5, 2017 - 9:11 am

Thanks for the compliment. I’ll add a diagram in the near future.

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Mapache December 22, 2016 - 4:41 am

Too much+ I still don’t know how to make!

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Nobby December 13, 2016 - 3:35 pm

Hi.what a great and comprehensive article,well done!
Regarding your trials and tribulations I hope you could help me in my some what more antique methodology.
I have recently cured some gianciale and lamb pancetta(rolled) using the dry cure/resultant liquid brine in bag method, with curing powder for the lamb, and pigtails and back fat by the excess salt method.I hung the products in the local pub cellar as a trial as it seemed suitable with a large fan and temp at a regular 11.c.
I figured the beer splashing on the floor would provide humidity and any residual yeast in the air may even help.
Before long things looked great,the gianciale firm with a pelicle and the pancetta firm. The tails were rock hard. Then on my next visit I discovered all products to be soft and almost a little soggy. A simple meter read the humidity at 85percent. As the cure had origionally worked then will the products reharden safely and thoroughly? And should I move them closer to the fan? Also I have a simple food dehydrator,could I blast the items in that?or is the heat with no fan problematic?
Also I can tell you that I had no scales available so cant monitor the process by weight loss.
Thanks for any info friends.
Nobby.

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victor December 13, 2016 - 9:30 pm

What you are describing is symptomatic of case hardening. I see two problems. One is humidity is too high. It was good for the initial stage of drying, I start drying at about 85% RH then gradually lower to about 78% RH, but then it became too high to effectively further remove moisture from inside the meat. You need to keep diffusion rate equal to evaporation rate, check out the link in my post on that.

The other problem is the ‘big fan’. I can’t be certain how much it affects the drying because so many factors are involved – cellar size, direction of the air flow and strength of the air flow when it hits the meat – but if you have strong draft hitting the surface of the meat it will harden the sausage.

If you are stuck with this setup only, I would try two things. Hang the meat as low as you can – humidity rises, so less humidity at the bottom. The other is hang the meat away from the fan. I think it does more harm than good in your case.

Moving the meat closer to the fan or using a dehydrator is exactly the opposite of what you want to do, as counter-intuitive as it may sound.

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Nobby December 14, 2016 - 4:53 am

Thank you very much for your prompt and considered reply Victor. I will continue tinkering.
All UK books on the subject just advise hanging our cured meats in a draughty outhouse and play the waiting game!
Continued success victor.
Regards, Nobby.

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Big jim December 5, 2016 - 6:14 am

Great stuff I’ve just ordered the Eva dry dehumidifier I’m on my second curing chamber build and having trouble getting the humidity below 85% I think this is going to do the trick.
Ps moveing my humidifier out side as well.
Thanks for the tips
Nice looking sausage

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atila November 13, 2016 - 9:18 am

Thanks you! exactly what I have been looking for. I got the fridge, now onto other stuff in your list. The salami looks great!

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victor November 13, 2016 - 10:21 am

Right on! Good luck with your build!

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Blaine Spellman November 13, 2016 - 3:01 am

I really enjoyed you taking the time to illustrate how you controlled the temperature and humidity with this set up. It seems fairly inexpensive and precise. I think I would like to do a similar set up for making cured meats. Would you be willing to talk about how you were able to attach the plastic hose to the humidifier? All I can see from the photo is a tube and tape. Thanks for any insight.

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victor November 13, 2016 - 7:18 pm

No problem at all. I drilled a 1/2″ hole in the cap through which vapor is released, and pushed a 1/2″ OD hose through it. I then secured it with a piece of silver tape. The tape also covers the original vapor slot.

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Patricia Zimmerman November 12, 2016 - 2:58 pm

I would love to make my own salami and dry Italian meats…where do I begin.
After all of your trial and error, please help.

Thanks,
Patricia Zimmerman

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victor November 12, 2016 - 3:08 pm

The first step would be to build a curing chamber with accurate humidity control. You are welcome to use my approach, it works really well. Once you do that, let me know and I will walk you through the actual process. You can search my site for salami recipes, I go in detail how to make certain types of dry cured sausages.

If you are not ready to make an investment into a good curing chamber, you may want to check out the UMAi Dry Cured Sausage Kit. With it, you can dry cure sausages in your fridge. It won’t be the same as traditional Italian salami, but many people like the results. I am even thinking of trying it out myself. Curiosity is getting the best of me.

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Nick November 7, 2016 - 4:36 pm

How do you control the temp?….I am building a room in my crawlspace…ambient temperature is right around 60…I am going to control humidity with the same setup as you….

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victor November 8, 2016 - 8:07 am

It’s all in my post. Dual controllers. One controls temperature.

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Jason October 26, 2016 - 3:27 pm

Hi Victor, hope all is well.
You mentioned a separate fermentation box. Can you explain how you have yours set up? maybe even some pictures. I have gone thru the internet and found a couple example. As your post on your curing chamber is so informative I would love to see & read the results of your fermentation.
Thanks again for all you do to help us out.

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victor October 26, 2016 - 4:45 pm

Hi Jason,

I’ve been planning on writing a post with pictures on my fermentation box, just need to find time for that. I hope to do that within the next month or two. For now, let me quickly explain what I do. There are several ways I do fermentation.

Say, I need to ferment at 68-70F and the ambient is in that range, which is most of the time in my house, other than during summer months when it can get hotter. I would hang the meat/sasages in a large cooler and cover the top with Saran wrap, leaving an opening on each side. That allows for some air circulation. The humidity inside the box is normally 90-95%.

If my curing chamber is not used I would simply ferment there, by setting humidity to 90-95%, depending on the recipe.

When I need really high fermentation temperature, say 80F, I would hang my sausages in the bathroom in the basement. I would use a heater to bring the temperature up and a humidifier to get the humidity up to 95%. Both are controlled by a temp/humidity controller. You can do the same in the curing chamber by using a small heating pad and a humidifier.

So, as you can see, nothing crazy or elegant. Just some resourcefulness and creativity to come up with suitable conditions.

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Luigi October 25, 2016 - 11:41 pm

Hi very nice article! But it gets a bit confusing for me. I’m Luigi and I’ve just begun curing meats at home.
I have a question about what do you think will be the best fitting for an old commercial 5ft refrigerator? I live in florida so it’s pretty humid all year round. Plus I’m working on curing first some small charcuterie then I’ll try to some bit bigger ones.
Best regards and thank you

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victor October 26, 2016 - 7:19 am

Hi Luigi and welcome to the exciting world of home curing. Small or big meats, the curing will be the same, only smaller will take a shorter time to cure. A 5 cu ft fridge is not something that I would recommend as it’s hard to control humidity in small curing chambers. The bigger the better. But that’s not to say it can’t be done. The chamber design principles will be the same as I described in the article. You WILL need a dehumidifier given that your ambient humidity is very high, and the fridge is small and it’s probably not frost-free. You may or may not need a humidifier. I would try without one, see how it goes and then add one later if needed. You will need to ensure air circulation so I would add an exhaust fan that runs 2-3 times a day for 20 minutes to get stale air out. Frankly, get a bigger fridge, it will be a LOT easier for you to get best results, or even acceptable results.

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tino October 19, 2016 - 6:51 pm

Kickass article, loved it.

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victor October 19, 2016 - 7:15 pm

Thank you. Glad you liked it.

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Henry October 19, 2016 - 9:42 am

And one more (hopefully not too daft) question Victor.

I’ve read we should aim to keep temp between 10&12C. I’m getting a spike in humidity (up to 81%) when the temp comes back up – about twice an hour. I think that keeping the temp closer to 10 than 12 would manage this better and reduce the spike. ie targeting a range of 10-10.5..

Is that too cold though. am I better to keep it closer 12 than 10C?

nb. 10 = 50F and 12 = 53.6

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victor October 19, 2016 - 10:03 am

I like to keep the temperature on the colder side for several reasons – better control over bad mold development, the sausage won’t be drying too fast, less likelihood of case hardening, etc. If you are using a peltier dehumidifier too low of a temperature may make it stop working. So, there short answer colder is generally better. But you have to monitor your progress. If the sausage is not drying fast enough, you will have to increase the temperature. Also, intermittent spikes in temp is not something I would worry about.

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Henry October 19, 2016 - 11:25 am

Thanks Victor for such a quick response. Its the spikes in humidity that I was concerned about. The temp is a smooth curve. But re-read your above and you have spikes to 80% as well.. so I’m probably fussing about nothing!!

thanks again

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victor October 19, 2016 - 11:59 am

You are correct, not reason to worry about those. It’s all relative. Just monitor the progress and evaluate. If you start feeling the casing getting harder, bump the humidity on the controller. If the opposite – stickiness, wetness on the surface, drop humidity on the controller by a point or so and go from there. It’s the average over a long time period that matters, not intermittent spikes.

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Brandeeno October 18, 2016 - 3:33 pm

Regarding removing the humidifier… does that mean you now have a have a tube that goes from outside humidifier to inside the fridge? does that small tub get enough moisture in?

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victor October 18, 2016 - 9:03 pm

Yes, that’s exactly what I did. I mentioned that in the post, actually and posted a picture of the tube that goes inside the fridge.

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Jason October 4, 2016 - 3:57 pm

Thank you for the quick response. Your advice and mentoring is invaluable for novices such as myself.
So if i run w/the devises that i described above w/out any vents I should be right on track?
I forgot to tell you i live in New England if that makes a difference.

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victor October 4, 2016 - 7:14 pm

I actually do think that you won’t need a vent with the setup that you described. But, you will only know once you are up and running and can test it out. You can a vent later if needed.

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Jason October 4, 2016 - 2:16 pm

Hi Victor
Ok So I have been collecting items for about 6 months to make my curing chamber.
I did not see your post till about a week ago. It changes the way I want my chamber to be. I will now do as you. The difference will be the devices I use as I already have a few things that i have invested $$ in.
So w/that said this is what I already have:
I chose to us a upright freezer
A cool mist Humidifier
Johnson Freezer temperature control
A Dayton 1uhg3 humidifier control

What i think I still need is a:
Dayton 1uhg2 dehumidifier control
a dehumidifier
and a hygrometer.
Can you please clear something up for me, Do i need to cut in some type of fresh air vent? I may not open the door everyday. Is a fan needed?
I look forward to hearing from you.
I will have more questions soon I am sure.
Thank you

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victor October 4, 2016 - 2:27 pm

Jason, I think an air vent is important when humid air is not removed, especially when you deal with non-frost-free type cooling aggregates. Humidity must go somewhere or it will cause problems. With the dehumidifier inside that becomes a non-issue.

A fan is typically used for either internal air circulation and/or stale/humid air removal. Since the dehumidifier has a fan and runs quite often, you can easily guess that an additional fan is not needed. I doubt a fan can even be used successfully with fairly small home fridges. I had one 120mm fan undervolted to 5V running at all times, barely any feel of air movement, a few days later I notice case hardenining. Go figure. Maybe that’s the reason some have fans on a timer to come on only 2-3 times per day for 20 minutes or so. With my current setup I get almost perfect results so I don’t see a value in a fan.

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Henry September 29, 2016 - 8:32 am

HI Victor,
love your work! I’ve copied your set up.

One question, any reason for the dehumidifier to be at the top?

And i guess the same re the humidifiers output – does it matter where that blows?

instinct is telling me neither should output directly on the meat.

thanks in advance,
Henry

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victor September 29, 2016 - 10:30 am

Right on, Henry!

I placed the dehumidifier on top because, well, humid air rises to the top.

The humidifier hose end is right next and slightly below where the cold air blows from the fridge. The reason is simple, the humidifier comes on mostly when the dry cold air is blowing. I want the both to get mixed and move around the fridge. This humidifies the air more evenly and the humidity readings change almost instantly and are more accurate.

Correct, you don’t want the moist air blown directly on the meat.

Great questions by the way.

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Henry October 1, 2016 - 3:14 am

i knew there’d be a good obvious reason for that!

cheers Victor

I’ve actually ended up with a non-frost free fridge – by accident, was advertised frost free but seller evidently didn’t know the difference.

so far the readings seem to be really good (avg. temp. 11. RH. 76%) using your combo of humidifier and dehumidifier and other reading i’ve done suggests that if i open the door often enough (which i do) then circulation, combined with the dehumidifier should be ok..

proof will be in the pudding (or cure) i guess!

but any suggestions for how to tell if there is enough airflow?

thanks again

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victor October 1, 2016 - 9:20 am

With the dehumidifier inside the fridge you will get enough air flow in the chamber. Opening the fridge once a day to let some fresh air in should suffice. How to tell if there is enough air flow? If the sausages look healthy and appetizing, then all is good.

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Henry October 19, 2016 - 9:37 am

Apologies – I missed replying to this. Thanks again Victor!

victor October 19, 2016 - 9:57 am

No problem.

Freddy September 20, 2016 - 8:50 pm

Victor, thanks for the great info! I got everything last week and set up the fridge. prior to putting anything in, the Temp was holding at 55 and RH was only at 66, I put around 6 pounds in and RH went to 95 and between yesterday and today it lowered to 85 and holding, but the temp is doing opposite it went to 65 and I cannot drop it, I put a bag of ice but no luck, any experience or tips?

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victor September 20, 2016 - 9:31 pm

Congrats on getting your curing chamber up and running, but looks like your fridge is having trouble keeping cold. Adding a fresh batch of meat at room temperature or higher will raise the temperature in the fridge but you typically see it stabilize near target temperature within a day. Give it a bit more time. If the temp does not drop you need to your fridge inspected and possibly repaired.

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Jesse September 8, 2016 - 4:12 pm

One more question. Initial fermentation temperatures vary between Stanley Marianski’s book, The Art of Making Fermented Sausages and Polcyn’s book Salumi. The former recommends starting in the high 80’s and gradually decreasing temp and RH, whereas the latter recommends starting at 80 degrees, then dropping immediately to around 60. This throws me off because their recommendations don’t line up. In every other way they recommend the same conditions. Which method do you follow? It seems like you follow Marianski, which is the one I’m leaning towards. Thanks

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victor September 9, 2016 - 1:46 pm

My honest opnion – Ruhlman and Polcyn’s books are written somewhat carelessly and have many inconsistencies. Check out my post on Homemade Sopressata, I speak about one of them there. Marianski is much more precise and accurate. I trust his recipes but approach Ruhlman’s with caution.

That said, I normally drop the RH gradually but the temperature immediately. Simply because if my sausages reached the desired pH, I want to stop fermentation asap.

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Jesse September 13, 2016 - 4:57 pm

I have been drilling down on the temp and humidity drop and see you said you drop immediately. Marianski dedicates pages 126 and 127 to show the gradual drop in temp and humidity over 20 days, yet his recipes in the back detail an immediate drop after hitting the desired pH. I think I’ll follow the method of dropping the temp down after fermentation since it has worked well for you. I wonder why Marianski included the gradual temp drop table without explaining why his recipes in the back deviate from that. Confusing. On another note, does your humidifier hose enter your chamber at the top or the bottom?

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victor September 13, 2016 - 6:02 pm

It’s hard to say. Frankly, I have yet to see a recipe for a fermented sausage that specified gradual temperature drop after fermentation. Besides, it makes not sense to me so won’t even try it for that reason alone. Gradual pH drop does, and it works based on my experiments and observations.

My humidifier hose enters at the top of the chamber but then faces down to let condensation drop to the bottom. There is barely any of that.

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Jesse September 7, 2016 - 7:25 pm

I think your slow drop in RH is precisely why you have no case hardening in your latest batches.

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victor September 7, 2016 - 8:20 pm

You are absolutely right. The key is to keep diffusion rate close to evaporation rate. Drop RH to fast and evaporation rate will get greater than diffusion rate, causing the casing to dry out and harden.

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Jesse September 7, 2016 - 7:16 pm

Your blog is the most detailed and informative that I have read and I have scoured the web in preparation for my first chamber. I bought a wine cooler. I had suspicions too much humidity would be the issue with this cooler, so I’m installing a dehumidifier straight away, with the humidifier outside as you have done. One question: does the dehumidifier heat up the space much? I’m guessing the cooler can counter any heat coming off the dehumidifier. Thanks.

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victor September 7, 2016 - 8:14 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Jesse. I’ve had many problems and frustrations to deal with as I was starting out, and lot of those dealt with little things, the details. In my post I wanted to hit all those details so anyone who is venturing into this hobby has a good foundation to build upon and perfect the skill from there, not constantly fight problems.

I did not specifically measure how much heat the dehumidifier outputs and whether it causes the fridge to circulate more often. One thing I know is that it must be fairly benign as the fridge is not running constantly or even perceptibly excessively frequently.

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Anthony Maggert August 30, 2016 - 11:14 pm

Brilliant explanation of a home made Curing Chamber!

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victor August 31, 2016 - 12:49 pm

Thank you, Anthony. Hope it helps you get better results.

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Rob August 26, 2016 - 9:31 pm

Hey Victor. At risk of sounding like a parrot, this is an awesome post! I’m new to this hobby and have a few questions for you – hope you don’t mind.
1) Did you use grocery store pork for that first Ruhlman’s Sopressata that turned out so good? Ruhlman and others have said grocery store pork doesn’t turn out real good salami. Curious what your experience has been.
2) Do you grind or hand-cut your back-fat? What grinding plate size (hole diameter) do you usually use? (I cleverly snuck in 2 questions here)
3) I noticed that Sopressata recipe uses Bactoferm F-RM-52. Most books seem to reference T-SPX – I’m using that for my first batch. Any comments, do you like -52 better?
4) Since the Auber TH220 is pretty pricey (especially if I’ll need 2), I plan to try the Inkbird IHC230 temp and humidity controller ($50). It can control up to 99.9% humidity, although the specs say to store it at “0 to 85% humidity – no condensate”. I have doubts if will last. But if not I’m only out $50. Not really a question here, but any comments are welcome.

Since I’m brand new to this hobby, I decided to try Umai bags first since they’re so easy. And I wanted to see how refrigerator cured salami and coppa turned out. I figured I’d get a little experience with the easy stuff first before trying curing chamber salami. But I didn’t get that great rich raw meat aroma I’m after with my first batch of Umai Soppressata. Not too surprising I guess since those great aromas & flavors can’t develop properly at refrigerator temps. I’ve also got a Umai Saucisson Sec salami and a Coppa brewing but they haven’t finished yet.

My next step with be to try Umai bags in my curing/drying chamber at 55 degrees. This so I don’t have to worry about case hardening and other potential issues. One poster had mold issues with Umai bags in a curing chamber at 85% humidity. I’m going to try around 55-60% (lower than the 75% with natural casings), since case hardening won’t be an issue. I didn’t get over 75% humidity during drying Umai salami, so maybe I’ll avoid the high humidity issues that have caused such challenges. But my girls won’t be as pretty as yours since they won’t have that pretty white mold!
Again no question, but any comments welcome.

I’ll probably graduate after all this to doing salami with regular casings. But I’m having some fun so far with the simple stuff, so no rush.

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victor August 27, 2016 - 3:12 am

Rob, I use mostly grocery store pork. I buy from a store called Coppa here in Toronto. Their meat department is very good and they always have very fresh meat. I go and tell them what I need and cut it for me. The meat is never pre-packaged. They also sell some cool stuff like beef bungs and salted veils (pig stomach lining) that are great for wrapping coppas. That said, I would be reluctant to buy meat for salami from most other local grocery stores.

I both grind and cut pork fat, it all depends on the sausage. When grinding, again, it all depends on the sausage. Most of the time though I use smaller diameter hole grinding plates, like 3mm or 5-6 mm – my wife doesn’t like large pieces of fat in the sausage.

T-SPX and F-RM-52 are very different. The former is used to make traditional style salami, the latter is used to make fast fermenting sausages. Be aware that salt requirements differ between the two. If you use T-SPX in Ruhlman’s recipe you need to adjust salt content to 3% or higher, according to USDA safety requirements. I used both. I like both for different reasons.

I’ve been reading about Inkbirds. They seem like something I would love to test out. I am planning on doing that in the near future. But I can say that Auber units are super reliable and durable. I’ve been using them for years and have not had a single problem. They recover from condensation like champs. Sure, they are expensive, but I wish had bought them from the start sicen I threw away good three batches of sausage that cost me about the price of one Auber controller. I also could have saved what I paid for the CAP AIR-2 controller. So, it’s all relative.

I’ve been curious about Umai myself and have always wanted to try them. Interesting comment about the aroma. I guess you can’t take shortcuts if you want to make the real stuff.

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Rob August 27, 2016 - 3:18 pm

Thanks for the quick response, very helpful. Coppa looks like a great store, kind of a cross between a large grocery store and a Whole Foods.They probably use more locally sourced pork than a regular store.

I’m mostly after that slow-cured traditional Italian salami style , so it sounds like T-SPX is a decent first choice.

Will let you know how the Inkbird and Umai salami in curing chamber idea works. I’m going to try a smaller humidifier inside my chamber instead of putting it outside with tube. We’ll see how that works.

Thanks again. I’ve got 4 different homebrews in the fridge with your name on them, next time you’re in Augusta, GA. Would only be a 950 mile drive!

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victor August 29, 2016 - 11:44 am

Not a problem, Rob. Coppa has knowledgeable butchers, at least some of them are, very fresh meat and very reasonable prices. Can’t complain about that. I am not sure where they source their meats but so far I’ve never had any problems with meat quality.

So, fellow home brewer, ha? I am not surprised. Many guys I know who make salami also brew their own beer. I just finished a keg of Chimay Red that was aged for 8 months. Truly great beer. That said, I will take you up on your offer when I am in your neighborhood 🙂

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Dave Zier August 26, 2016 - 6:40 pm

sorry I meant to say if I set the RH to 60% the actual humidity level at 55degrees is at 80%

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victor August 27, 2016 - 2:38 am

Interesting question, Dave. When someone talks about humidity in meat curing chambers, they mean relative humidity (RH). No need to worry about absolute humidity.

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Dave Zier August 26, 2016 - 6:35 pm

Victor, do you measure the actual humidity level, or the relative humidity. If I set my controller to 60% RH the actual humidity level in the chamber is 90%plus. That is at 55 degrees.

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MarcT August 8, 2016 - 5:32 pm

OMG….thank you so much! I stumbled onto your page completely by accident and you answered every single question I had (Clear and to the point)!!!

I can’t wait to explore the rest of your site.

Thanks again Victor!
MarcT

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victor August 8, 2016 - 6:34 pm

No problem. Glad you found the information useful.

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Kyle August 4, 2016 - 3:58 am

It’s been said before, but you deserve to hear it again. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences, providing clear and concise links, and keeping up with folks’ comments. I work on a pastured livestock farm, am excited to begin curing, and will be following your chamber design in the coming weeks. After reading through the comments and exploring the links, I have a few lingering questions.
First, In the hopes of using as little gadgetry as possible, can you think of a system where a single Auber TH220 could be used instead of two Auber TH210’s that I believe you are using? The chamber will be located in the basement of a split-level home in Virginia. Although the outside atmosphere varies greatly in both humidity and temperature, the basement remains relatively consistent.

Which leads into #2… I’ve read that the chamber itself (it’s composition, mold history, air flow, etc…) plays the largest role in flavoring cured meats. If we take this to be true (for discussion’s sake), do you have any thoughts on how the chamber’s external environment (aka the basement) and it’s atmosphere effect the flavor of the meat? For example, my basement in question is dusty, houses the washer and dryer, a toilet, a work sink, tools, paints, etc… I’m envisioning a cave / basement in Italy and comparing that with what I’ve got.

Finally, I’ve noticed that the Extech hygrometers (which I like) have a +/- 5% RH accuracy range. When we’re worried about single percentages worth of humidity in our chambers, do this margin of error come into play? Or, do you just operate within that margin of error, making adjustments as needed (assuming this, but still curious)?

Again, thanks for hard work.

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victor August 4, 2016 - 10:36 am

Thank your for the kind words, Kyle. To answer your questions,

1) the Auber TH220 is the newer model that replaces TH210 that I am using. Functionally both are the same – they both have the same high RH humidity sensors, and both can control either heating or cooling and either humidifying or dehumidifying. Which means that if the environment you are curing sausages in has fluctuating humidity, like in a curing chamber, you will need to use two controllers. You can only use one controller if the curing environment is either mostly humid or mostly dry, where the sausage itself does not impact the humidity inside the chamber (think of a wine cellar or a cooler room) and you only need to increase or remove humidity. This is not typically the case with the (relatively small) curing fridges, but can be in case of using a (relatively large) wine cellar.

2) I think comparing our basements with the curing rooms in Italy is quite a stretch, we don’t have nearly the same environmental conditions (average temperatures, humidity) or naturally occurring bacteria and molds that impart desired flavors. That’s why they can make salamis in basements and we need curing fridges. That and predictable results. Even in Italy, after speaking to several Italians who make salami, they have good batches and bad batches that they have to throw out. That said, if you basement meets temp/humidity conditions needed for curing, go for it. You may have a short window though, like a couple of months per year.

3) Extech’s fairly accurate. When the fridge is not circulating the readings on my Auber controllers and the Exech are withing 1 degree / percentage point or so. I keep it just for monitoring purposes. It was more relevant when I had an analogue temp/humidity controller which did not have a digital display. Now it’s not that relevant with two controllers. You can easily do away without one. I would recommend using one though if you only have one controller to notice and investigate large deviations pointing to possible malfunctions.

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Kyle August 5, 2016 - 12:15 am

Thanks for the prompt reply, Victor. The basement air affecting flavor even when using a refrigerator-come-curing-chamber was just something that crossed my mind.
I do like the idea of being able to monitor RH/Temp without opening the chamber. Also, I guess this as much an art as it is a science.

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victor August 5, 2016 - 12:49 am

No problem at all. The air in the basement should not impart any flavor on the sausages to any large degree as they will be protected by the casing and the white mold. I once put two smoked finocchiona salamis in the fridge with sopressata. The next day the whole basement and the curing fridge reeked of smoke. Then the smoke smell mellowed out and went away. Several weeks later I pulled sopressatas out and they did not have any smoke smell at all.

And you are right, curing salami is as much art as it is science. Just make sure you have an easy to control and predictable setup going, then the art part will be fun. Otherwise most of the time you will be thinking about saving the batch, not perfecting it.

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Tarus July 26, 2016 - 10:28 am

Thanks so much for a great explanation and tips on the process and explaining some of the pit falls to avoid. I am just in the process of setting up my first chamber. Just wondering have you had any experience in using the cheaper temp/ humidity controllers you can buy on ebay, no name products but they have a grey face and orange clips on the side. I have seriously been looking at the Auber ones but living in New Zealand by the time i factor in exchange rate and freight 2x gets fairly expensive or is it just not worth playing around with cheap stuff? i,m thinking i will just have to bite the bullet and go for them 🙂 Appreciate any input cheers

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victor July 26, 2016 - 1:26 pm

You are very welcome. No, I have not had any experience with other controllers, except the analogue controller I mentioned in the post. But I can certainly share what I think about using them.

Technically, any controller will do, as long as it is 1) accurate 2) reliable and 3) can control a fridge, a humidifier, and a dehumidifier. You will need two controllers for that, for sure.

Then there comes the icing on the cake, such as offsets, fine adjustments, sensor speed, and ease of use.

I think that Auber is all of the above and I like that. I have three Auber controllers, two used for my curing chamber and one that has heat/cooling control that I use for sausage and beer fermentation. Been using them for a while and could not be happier with them all.

What I like about the Auber controllers the most is their high humidity sensors that go up to 99.9% RH. I have read too many stories about sensors failing on people. When you open a fridge in summer even for 10 seconds you immediately get condensation on the sensor. A good sensor will recover many times, then will often fail. A bad sensor will fail sooner than that. So far, I have not had a problem even though I open the fridge daily to check on my sausages.

So, what I am saying is you don’t need Auber controller. Auber is good, reliable, easy to use and has fine adjustments that make my job super easy and lets me focus on meat curing process and its refinements instead of adapting to / messing with my controller and figuring out shortcuts. But, any controller with a high humidity sensor will do as long as it allows you to do what you want it to do. I am sure if you are tech savvy and have some time to invest into this, you can buy a fairly inexpensive controller and program it to do everything that Auber does, maybe more.

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Jan July 23, 2016 - 5:44 am

Victor these sopressata look absolutely beautiful. You’ve done a excellent Job.
Where does the white mold come from?

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victor July 23, 2016 - 6:51 pm

Thank you, Jan. The white mold comes from the Bactoferm 600 culture I used to spray the batch with when it went into fermentation. I have to clarify here. I originally used Bactoferm 600, it’s not cheap. Later I would just save the casings with the mold on, put them in a plastic bag, seal and freeze. Next time I make sausages I would scrape about a teaspoon of white mold into a glass filled with distilled water and let it sit overnight. Then spray the sausages with that solution. You can buy a piece of salami with the mold on from the store and reuse the mold.

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Charlie king July 18, 2016 - 6:02 am

Hi mate, im about to make my first curing chamber, do you have a diagram of what you had and where it was placed in your final set up?
Many thanks charlie

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victor July 18, 2016 - 11:52 am

Hi there, all the components I have and how they are connected are described by images I provided and descriptions in the post. I don’t have a diagram for that, but it’s all pretty easy. Two controllers, one controls the fridge and the humidifier, the other controls the dehumidifier. That’s all. The exhaust fan is not being used as it has no real value in this setup.

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victor June 29, 2016 - 2:57 pm

Thanks. My temp is set to 54F with a 1 degree differential (starts cooling as soon as the temp goes over 55F and stops cooling when it hits 53F). Most sources recommend 55F though, but I find that I get better results with my temp just a little bit lower. Of course, it’s a purely subjective perception.

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Ray June 29, 2016 - 12:45 am

Great read, what was the temperature though?

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Jan Heijstek June 9, 2016 - 12:17 pm

Very well documented!

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victor June 10, 2016 - 12:19 am

Thank you!

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Paul May 28, 2016 - 10:12 pm

I learnt a lot from this, thanks for sharing.
Im just starting to look into building a curing chamber.
Could I ask why you have two seperate sensor/controllers in your pics, I dont really understand?

Thanks
Paul

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victor May 29, 2016 - 4:57 pm

You are welcome, Paul. I have two controllers because it allows me to precisely control humidity and keep it at a certain level. For that you need both a humidifier and a de-humidifier. There isn’t a single controller that can control both a time. Hence the need for two.

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Jerry May 17, 2016 - 7:12 pm

Hi Victor, I just wanted to thank you. I copied your design, (somewhat) And followed your advice on humidity levels. I just finished a Ruhlman / Polcyn Coppa. It came out way above my expectations. The spices are integrated throughout the inside and the flavor is spot on.

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victor May 17, 2016 - 11:02 pm

Hi Jerry,
glad to hear about your success and happy to know that what I shared was useful. This hobby can get a bit frustrating if things don’t go well, but once you have everything set up properly you will be rewarded very handsomely.

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Martin April 15, 2016 - 12:30 am

Victor,thanks for sharing the great info.I am reading Marianski’s book now,and I am hoping to start my first batch of fermented sausage.I hope to use my Bradley smoker as a fermenting chamber since I can control the temp well. How much of a concern was humidity during the incubation period for you?I read that you kept the sausage at warm room temp for 12 hours.Martin

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victor April 15, 2016 - 6:41 am

Hi Martin,

Marianski stresses the importance of maintaining high humidity during fermentation. Somewhere around 90-95% is ideal. He then recommends dropping it gradually over a few days after fermentation is done and drying begins. Frankly, I did not keep good notes initially and did not take measurements. I did most of my fermentation at room temps and room humidity, sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. I attribute the failures to the drying stage deficiencies, but who knows. But let me tell you, several really great batches I had initially (when I used my old curing chamber), all were fermented at room temperature and humidity, which was far lower than 90-95%. Then again, I had a few bad batches too.

Lately I am following a much more controlled approach and have had great and consistent results. For fermentation, I place the products into a big cooler and cover it with a plastic wrap such that there is a small opening on each side of the box to allow for some air circulation. I have a hygrometer in the box to measure humidity and make sure its close to 90%. With a wet product in a closed box it won’t be hard at all to achieve. You just need to find a way to circulate stale air. When I have nothing in the curing chamber I use it as a fermentation box. In winter I use a heating pad to keep the temp up. This setup works really well for that.

Your Bradley smoker should be fine as long as you keep the temp and humidity right where they need to be. I would not stress out about it too much. Your primary goal is to keep the surface hydrated to prevent case hardening and fast moisture removal. This is also very important for proper growth of lactic acid bacteria. If the surface feels moist and hydrated, you are doing fine. If it starts to feel dry, see how you can bump up the humidity. Let me know how it works out. I am very curious.

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Martin April 18, 2016 - 7:41 am

Hi Victor,I worked out a solution for a curing chamber: I set up a small humidifier to discharge vapour into my Bradley smoker cabinet,and monitored it with a humidistat,This managed to keep things around 95% RH. Coupled with a temp controller I can keep it in the exact range I need. Hopefully the humidity isn’t detrimental to the Bradley. Martin

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victor April 18, 2016 - 12:56 pm

Sounds like a great solution, Martin. I like it when I can use things for multiple purposes to minimize the number of gadgets/tools in the house. I already have too many.

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Martin April 22, 2016 - 12:38 am

Hi Victor,how fast is the RH drop with the Eva dry 1100,mine seems to be on a long time,yet the RH doesn’t seem to drop below 88%, in a few days I’ll have to get it lower,is it an issue,or will RH drop as the sausage dries? It drives me nuts…Martin

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victor April 22, 2016 - 12:58 am

Hi Martin, I would not worry too much about it. The fresher the meat the faster is the water loss. As the sausage dries it will be losing water less rapidly so RH will be easier to control. It won’t drop down on its own based on my experience though. You need the dehumidifier.

Now, I remember my Eva Dry working almost constantly to lower RH initially, then it would come on every few minutes, then even less frequently than that. With pretty much all of my batches I had no problem dropping RH from 88% to 85% after a few days and then down to 83, 78 etc… That said, with some of my large batches I recall having some challenges. I now limit my batches to 5-10 lbs the most. How large is your batch?

Also, what temperature range does your fridge run at? Are you running your humidifier at all?

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Marko March 17, 2016 - 2:10 pm

I have built pretty much the same setup you have there, humidifier outside of the fridge, dehumidifier inside.

Just one question – I find that the humidifier tube thats inside the fridge drips from condensation over time – leaving water at the bottom of the fridge (my fridge does not have a bottom drain or anything) which to me is a bit undesirable. Also, i think the environment itself provides some condensation that adds to this.

Did you find you get a bit of water pooling due to condensation and do you think it is an issue?
Thanks!
Marko

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victor March 17, 2016 - 8:42 pm

Yes, I see the same thing in my fridge. I wipe the water with a piece of clean paper towel every so often. By itself it’s not an issue as it does not affect humidity in any significant way.

Just a thought, what if you pointed the tube up? Would condensation damage the humidifier?

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Marko March 24, 2016 - 2:57 pm

Victor,

Thanks for the reply – so some of the condensation is captured in a little cup I put underneath the tube (the tube is nearer the bottom of the fridge rather than the top – not sure if that matters).

I thought about facing the tube upwards in the fridge, but then, eventually, the tube to fill with water, most likely then restricting or stopping the incoming “humidity”.

One off topic question though – when curing your solid muscles (ie, Lonzino’s, Breasola) is it NECCESSARY to put them in a beef bung or something similar, or have you ever just tied them and hang them without putting them in something?

Again, thanks for your reply!

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victor April 16, 2016 - 2:59 pm

Hey Marko,

somehow I missed your question. No it’s not absolutely necessary, and I’ve seen people do it without any casings at all, but it appears as though the meat toward the surface would dry out too much. The casing the the white mold act as the regulator of humidity exchange between the meat and the outside environment.

I’ve used with very good results beef and pork bungs, as well as veil, pig stomach lining. In my local grocery store it’s sol under ‘salted veil’ name. It’s very thin, about 1.5 x 2-2.5 feet, and stretchy. It’s big enough for two coppas. Once wrapped, I would tie it with twine and prickle all over to remove air pockets.

I think you can use fibrous casings, larger sizes, by cutting them lengthwise and wrapping the meat.

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Martin March 14, 2016 - 11:57 pm

Victor,is that cheese I see in the first photo, and if it is, does that affect or help the products in the chamber?

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victor March 15, 2016 - 12:19 am

Martin, yes, that’s my first attempt to make cheese. I made two heads of Gruyere cheese. It did turned out tasting really well after 12 months of ageing, but formed about a 3/4″ thick hard crust due to low humidity. Cheese needs higher humidity than what salami does, about 88% RH. I stopped making cheese for now, but will definitely go back to it once I have a separate chamber for it.

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Tim March 13, 2016 - 3:12 pm

Nice work Victor. We have a very similar set up that I have been using for a long time. One suggestion for those wanting a variety of cured meats. If you are strapped for room and use 1 unit from start to finish try different cured meats that have the same processing times and specs. There are several that are very similar, in many case exactly the same and it is a nice way to have some variety. I have never found cross flavouring to be a problem with this approach. Just 2 cents. Again nice work.

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victor March 14, 2016 - 6:51 pm

Thanks Tim. Interesting thought about crosss-flavoring. I never thought about it until you brought it up, simply because I never had that problem. Now that I think about, I had regular meats and heavily smoked meats in the same chamber for months. Curiously, regular meats did not acquire smoky flavor at all.

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Joubert Lotz March 11, 2016 - 1:49 pm

Hi
I am just starting the hobby of meat curing. I have a big walk-in chamber and can control the temperature exactly. I also have a hygrometer. But the natural humidity in my chamber is 88. how do get it down? I am under the impression that a humidifier will only increase the humidity. Is that correct?

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victor March 11, 2016 - 5:37 pm

That’s correct. The humidifier will increase humidity, the de-humidifier will decrease it. If the humidity in your chamber is constant 88% (lucky you!) all you will need is a de-humidifier. One controller will suffice. Since you will be reducing humidity in a larger space you may want to consider a larger dehumidifier that the one that I use, like the Eva-dry Edv-2200.

In my frost-free fridge humidity tends to drop very low as the sausage dries, causing surface to harden and result in very poor final product without using a humidifier.

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Goran February 19, 2016 - 6:29 pm

Many thanks for your excellent article. I’m drying my very first peace of meat, coppa (pork neck) in a fridge equipped with thermostat, humidistat and ultrasonic humidifier. I keep the temperature around 13-14C (55F) and humidity between 70% and 80%. You are right, humidity often goes to 85% and above, then I open the fridge door slightly and that lowers the humidity. So far it works and I believe the range of 10% humidity variation is acceptable. I have another problem. When I took the meat out of the dry cure (4% salt to meat, two weeks) I noticed that the surface is soft and mushy. I hang it to dry in the fridge and after 4 days I checked the meat. It lost some 8% of the weight and the surface was still soft and now sticky. I don’t know if it is normal or not, if meat was of a poor quality (although it produced very little liquid in the cure) or something else is going wrong. Do you have any idea, any suggestions?

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victor February 21, 2016 - 5:29 pm

Hey Goran, there are many variables in every individual system and it would be impossible to give the right answer without doing some testing. I did, however, experience similar symptoms when my humidity was higher than it should be. It has to do with diffusion rate being greater than evaporation rate. There is a very good link toward the end of my post, check it out. If that’s at the root of your of your problem, find a way to precisely control your humidity, adjust and the stickiness will go away.

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john gobee (ret.) February 13, 2016 - 6:24 pm

Hi Victor, let me start off by saying that I am OVERLY impressed with your site, your knowledge about curing, and the way you articulate about the events you ran into when chamber curing.
I also want to start chamber curing, and how to build my own chamber. But I am only at the starting line of this project; gathering info about this subject is where I’m at right now.
I have done curing (i.e. bacon, summer sausage, etc.) and hot and cold smoke, but I want to get into doing prosciutto, sopresatta, and other hanging things….lol.
I am sure I’ll be asking you questions when building the chamber. Here’s question #1. Do you use fan inside your chamber for air circulation?

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victor February 13, 2016 - 7:50 pm

Hi John. Welcome to the exciting world of home curing. You are going to love it. To answer your question, no, I don’t use a fan any more. The reason is that I had more harm than benefit from it. The problem was case hardening. That’s said, I think there is enough air circulation in the fridge as is. One is when is when the fridge circulates and blows cool air inside the chamber. The second source is the dehumidifier which has its own fan. With this set up I am very happy with the results and no case hardening to report.

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Doug February 12, 2016 - 3:48 am

Awesome, I wish you were my neighbor. Been making sausage and wanted to try but lack the equipment. You put it all in perspective. Searching for a fridge now so hopefully I can update you in a few months. I live in a hot valley in the summer, no humidity and cold and damp in the winter so all of your advice is appreciated.

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Ben Ayres January 25, 2016 - 8:36 am

Hi:
Your salami looks fantastic (just what every man likes to here), and all of you trials and errors to come to these results is great, but is there any way that you could summarize the results of what you built and the ultimate temperature and humidity set you that you came up with? Trying to piece it all together by following your timeline is a little confusing.

Thanks!!
Ben.

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victor January 28, 2016 - 10:49 am

Hi Ben,

It’s a constant work in progress, making tweaks along the way, trying to improve the curing process with every new batch. That said, pint taken. I will look into adding an updated summary to keep things easy to follow.

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Scott Conner January 19, 2016 - 9:38 am

Victor, Great looking sausage! Currently constructing a curing chamber myself. A couple of questions: Are all your controllers located on the outside of the box? Does your secondary hydro-Temp gauge have a probe, or is it mounted inside the box?

Thank you,

Scott

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victor January 19, 2016 - 10:48 am

Hi Scott. Yes, both of my controllers are sitting on the outside of the curing chamber. Each has a temp/humidity sensor, both sensors are inside the fridge. If you look at the pictures above, the sensors are those little beige rectangular boxes sitting on the top shelf.

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Thibaut January 18, 2016 - 2:44 pm

Hello, great post, thank you!
I set up my drying chamber a few weeks ago and tried to make Saucisson Sec, per the recipe in Charcuterie book. Turned out really nice however nothing exceptional. I am currently drying a batch of salami which seems to be suffering from casing hardening. My fridge is set at the lowest (highest temp) setting and I am able to maintain a steady temp at around 52 F. I am controlling moisture by adding a large pan of heavily salted water. Moisture has remainded steady at around 55%

I read this post yesterday and subsequently added a humidifier that I used in my kids bedroom. The humidifier is a cool mist humidifier with a built in fan. Seems like it provides air circulation + moisture. The moisture went up to about 75% so I will try a fresh batch of salami and see the difference between salami batch 1 at 55 % moisture and 52 F temp, and batch 2 at 75% moisture and 52 F temp.

Quick question: how do you get your salami to be covered in that white mold? Looks gorgeous !!

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victor January 19, 2016 - 10:42 am

A humidifier will definitely help if your RH is 55%. 55% is way too low. In my recent batch I noticed a bit of case hardening at 75%, so I increased it to 78%, which seemed to work perfectly well in my setup. I had one sopressata remain at 78% RH and 53-55F for 3 months. It lost 49% of it’s weight and tasted exceptionally well. I actually liked it that dry a lot more. The casing did not dry one bit and came right off.

The white mold came from Bactoferm 600 that I purchased from sausagemaker.com. I bought it a number of years ago, used on the first two batches. After that I just save the moldy casings and store them in the freezer. Before a new batch, I scrape about a 1/4 tsp of mold into a 100 ml of water, add 1/2 tsp of sugar a let sit at room temperature for a day. Then use that solution to spray new batches.

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Brandeeno October 18, 2016 - 4:09 pm

does that mean you are not using real animal casings? i am asking because i assume that affects taste… eating a real animal casing, with the outside mold, versus removing it. i plan to ferment soon, so just looking to learn as much as possible right now

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victor October 18, 2016 - 9:04 pm

Not sure how you concluded that. I mostly use natural casings for most of my cured meats and sausages.

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Dustin January 10, 2016 - 12:08 am

Just curious as how you maintain your heat. I like the sound of this setup and think this is the route I want to take in setting up. But a hard salami needs to range in 70-80 degree temperature. Really curious to to get more info from you.

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victor January 10, 2016 - 9:57 am

I am not sure I fully understand your question, but I think you are referring to fermentation temperatures, not curing/drying temperatures which are typically in the 55-60F range. Fermentation temperatures range from 70 to 85F, sometimes higher and not only for hard salamis. Fermentation usually lasts from 12 to 72 hours.

I use this curing chamber for curing/drying primarily and I do fermentation in a separate fermentation box. That’s not to say that I can’t use it for fermentation, it’s perfect for it as well. The only caveat is that it needs to be empty. If you have meats already curing in there, it will be a problem. This dual controller set up allows for one controller to control cold (your fridge) and heat (a heat pad). The idea is the same as with the humidity control I described in the post. If the temperature drops below your target, the heat pad will get activated to bring the temperature back up. If the temp creeps above the target, the fridge gets turned on to bring the temperature down. It (the heat pad) will be plugged in where I have the exhaust fan plugged in the pictures I showed in the post.

You can purchase an inexpensive heat pad from any local pet store, or from Amazon.

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Jarret Bowers February 14, 2019 - 4:46 pm

I know this is an old thread, but I had a quick question. Are you controlling temperature using the refrigerator, or do you have a temperature controller turning fridge on and off. From what I am finding will be hard to maintain a correct temperature with a fridge controlling itself as they are not designed to maintain warmer temperatures. So, do you have a temperature controller actually turning the fridge on and off to maintain temp. If so, is that hard on the compressor. Seems like it would be really hard on it and causing compressor failure. Great thread by the way. Your sausage looks amazing.

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Victor February 14, 2019 - 6:24 pm

It’s evergreen post, relevant at any time so ask away. The fridge connects to one of the two controllers, you may want to re-read my post for more details. The controlled does not turn the fridge on or off, it only supplies power to it. The fridge itself will then turn on or off. Most fridges have a built-in safety mechanism which prevents it from turning on before the compressor decompresses. Just so you feel even more comfortable, get a used fridge for $50-$100. If it croaks, no big deal. That said, my fridge which I bought used has been up and running for years without issues.

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David Necoechea January 7, 2016 - 2:16 pm

Great post this will help me out so much

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gabriel December 24, 2015 - 8:36 pm

sorry just saw all the replies and your responses!! thanks!!

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gabriel December 24, 2015 - 8:35 pm

Wow! This is the answer i’ve been looking for. The RH in my chamber is always running high. The only problem I have is i’m using a smaller dorm style chamber and there is no space.

I really like how you removed the humidifier and placed it outside. I’m assuming you cut a hole in the box and ran some tubbing? Do you think this would work for the dehumidifier and fan in a small chamber like mine? Maybe i could have everything outside the box and run tubing for either putting h2o in or taking it out. Not sure about the fan part?

Anyway your photos are great and feel free to contact me with any suggestions on my email. Nice work!!!
Gabe

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victor December 24, 2015 - 10:10 pm

I can’t imagine a way to have a dehumidifer outside, but it’s fairly small actually. Controlling humidity in a small bar refrigerator has been a big challenge for everyone who tried using it. The smaller the space the harder it is to control humidity. However, with the addition of a dehumidifier I think it should be feasible. I haven’t tried, but I would say it should work. Before drilling a hole in the fridge, just place the dehumidifier inside and run the cords through the door opening as a test. See if you can stabilize and keep humidity at a desired level. If it works, then drill a hole for a permanent installation. Don’t worry about a humidifier too much, you may not even need it as these little fridges are not frost free and low humidity is never a problem.

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Doug December 22, 2015 - 10:46 am

Thank you for posting this. A few questions:

Did you physically remove the humidifier, meaning you no longer use it? It appears you have it set up to cycle by the controller. How does it works outside the refrigerator?

Can you please explain the plastic tube hanging and not connected to anything? Is this the tube from the humidifier no longer being used?

Tenth and eleventh picture up from the bottom.

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victor December 22, 2015 - 3:09 pm

You are very welcome, Doug. I re-positioned the humidifier, but still very much use it. A humidifier is absolutely essential. I placed it outside the fridge primarily to free the space inside the chamber and get a better control of humidity as the smaller the space the harder it is to control it.

The way it works is quite simple. I drilled a 1/2″ hole in the cap of the humidifier where the vapor comes out and inserted a 1/2″ beer hose (picked it up at the local beer supply store). The hose is about 5 feet long and runs from the humidifier straight into the fridge through a 2″ hole I drilled. Both ends are secured with foil tape. The humidifier is connected to one of the controllers and turns on when humidity drops below 71%. Why 71% is because the target humidity is set to 72% with a 1% offset. You can change the offset in 0.1 degree increments. I find that 1 degree offset works the best for my needs. When humidity drops below 71%, the humidifier gets turned on and cold vapor gets released. It then travels through the hose and into the fridge. I placed the hose end near the opening where the fridge blows cold air when it cycles. This helps with moving the vapor around the chamber together with the dry cold air.

So, that plastic hose is where cold vapor comes out. Hope this answers your questions.

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Jerry December 18, 2015 - 3:12 pm

Victor, I finished setting up my curing chamber and I must admit , after reviewing many curing chamber configurations, I copied your design. I am using a larger 2 door True refrigerator . When the compressor kicks in and it starts cooling , the RH drops to 51 and takes 2 1/2 minutes to get to 70 RH. Do you think this will matter. It only cycles every 30 minutes or so. Any input will be appreciated.

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victor December 19, 2015 - 10:05 am

Jerry, congratulations on your new build. I think that impact of 2 1/2 minutes of low relative humidity every 30 minutes should be very minimal, but I have never tested that scenario and can’t be absolutely sure. If possible at all, I would avoid it. I have the humidifier kick in at 72% to bring the RH back up during cycling. It takes about 10-15 seconds to bring it back up, and it usually only drops to about 69-70% at the lowest. Do you have the humidifier plugged in? What settings do you use on the controller?

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Jerry December 19, 2015 - 3:28 pm

Thanks Victor, I have the Humidifier controller set at 60 RH . The dehumidifier set at 65 RH . The humidifier only comes on when the compressor kicks in. I will raise both and see what happens. …. results are in. Only staying in the 50’s RH for < 1 minute now. I do not have anything curing yet. I think I will see what happens with moist meat inside.

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victor December 19, 2015 - 4:47 pm

I see. Will you be raising the humidity when you add the meat in? 60-65% RH is very low for most cured meats, you will most likely get pretty bad case hardening at those levels. My last batch I started at 88% RH and stopped at 78%. The results were quite amazing. At one point I lowered the humidity target to 75% and felt the casing was a bit dryer than I liked it to be, so I bumped it up back to 78%. That said, humidity becomes less of a problem the lower your curing temperature is.

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Kevin December 13, 2015 - 3:17 am

So, you have 4 things plugged into your controllers. A humidifier for when the humidity is too low a dehumidifier for when it is too high, an exhaust fan that doesn’t come on much…and what is the 4th thing?

Do you store this inside or is this in a garage? I live in Oregon where extra humidity is not a problem but I would be planning on storing this in my garage where it may get too cold.

I am just getting started in curing meats…trying to read and learn as much as I can.

Thx.

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victor December 13, 2015 - 8:37 am

The fourth thing is the fridge itself, also controlled by one of the controllers to keep it within the desired temperature range. 53F-55F or so in my case.

The curing chamber is in my basement, so it’s inside. Relative humidity becomes a problem once you start adding meat to your curing chamber. Once you add 5-10 lbs of meat it will shoot up and will most likely have to be controlled as in my case. The fridge is an enclosed area, and the meat that will be releasing moisture will drive relative humidity up. In arid areas you can use an exhaust fan to remove it and replace with dry air, but it has to be pretty dry to get 75-80RH with wet meat inside and the temperature of 53-55F.

In your case, where it will get too cold, as in below 52F, you will need to consider adding a heating pad to bring the temperature back up. In my setup shown above, I would unplug the exhaust fan which is not needed and not being used, plug in the heating pad and set the controller to turn on the heating pad when the temperature falls below, say, 53F. This particular Auber controller allows easily switching between heating and cooling functions, which is a nice feature if you need it.

Good luck with your build!

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Jerry December 1, 2015 - 10:53 am

Victor, Thanks for clarifying . I am sure I will run into the same situation.

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victor December 1, 2015 - 11:01 am

No problem, Jerry. In my experience, it happens all the time. I like to make small batches every 3-6 weeks, so I am often adding fresh meat to the partially dried meat. Never had any noticeable issues by raising RH for the initial period.

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dgisch November 17, 2015 - 4:21 pm

Awesome post on your new and upgraded chamber. If you were to do it again, would you still put the vents in the sides with the small fan? I want to mimic yours and was thinking about putting a computer fan on a timer but wanted to know your opinion if it was needed or not. Any information is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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victor November 17, 2015 - 4:28 pm

Thanks dgisch. Glad you found the info useful. I suppose, the general answer would be ‘it depends’. Maybe.

Specific to me, no, I would not drill the holes if I were to do it again. Not for the purpose of controlling humidity.

In a nutshell, if you live in Arizona where your ambient RH is very low, and provided your ambient temperature is low, the holes will be effective at removing moisture and dropping RH. Otherwise you will be increasing relative humidity in the fridge. I once had the right ambient conditions, last February I believe, but the fan would be running non-stop and I had pretty bad case hardening because of the strong air movement. RH was not perfect either, bottoming out at only about 81-83%. I personally would not use this approach in any situation. Even if you remove all the moisture and stop the fan, I noticed, the RH creeps back up within a minute.

The only good reason to have the holes would be to put the fan on the timer to remove stale air. I would run the fan not more than once a day and only for 5 minutes or so. That said, if you open the fridge daily to check on your sausages like I do, it will accomplish that. If you will be running a dehumidifier I am not even sure ‘staleness’ of the air is even something to worry about.

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Dennis November 17, 2015 - 8:54 pm

Again, awesome post! In your most recent post (Nov. 14) you said, “I bumped the target for the dehumidifier to 80% and 78% for the dehumidifier.” I know you meant to have one be the humidifier. Could you clarify for us rookies? Thanks again for such great examples to follow!

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Rob December 8, 2018 - 6:58 am

Hey there.

Great post. Just wondering if this same set up can be used to dry age meat as well? Things like prime rib?

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victor December 8, 2018 - 9:36 am

Rob, yes, this set up will work 100%. Dry aging is all about temperature and humidity.

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victor November 17, 2015 - 9:52 pm

Hi Dennis. I hope your curing chamber is ready to go by now.

Yes, that was a misprint. I corrected it. I set the dehumidifier to 80% and the humidifier to 78%. The band is tight and I noticed that I am going through water in the humidifier a lot faster now. Not a big deal, but I think I could get away with 77% target for the humidifier. I love the results though.

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Dennis November 23, 2015 - 10:11 pm

Victor,

Finally got my fridge set up and controls really tuned in. I have my first batch of salami in there now. Quick question…how do you go about introducing a fresh batch of meat into the curing chamber when you are trying to age some that have been in there for awhile. The meat that has been in there for a couple weeks has the humidity down around 75% and the new meat needs to be closer to 90%. I hope this makes sense. Thanks again.

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victor November 24, 2015 - 8:35 am

I think it will be impossible to perfectly accommodate both at the same time. If pressed hard and to compromise, 90% RH is better than 75%.

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Jerry November 24, 2015 - 3:34 pm

Victor, I think making a separate fermenting chamber for salami would solve your problem. Ferment the salami then move it to a curing/drying chamber. Thoughts, as I am new to Charcuterie and think I read this somewhere.

victor November 24, 2015 - 5:08 pm

Jerry, Dennis’s question was about making a fresh batch and a partially dried batch of salami coexist happily in the same curing chamber. It is assumed that this is after the fermentation has been completed.

My response was that I would go with higher RH to accommodate the fresh batch. Fresh salami is much more prone to case hardening so I would start off at 88% and gradually decrease RH to 75-78%. This short term increase in RH won’t impact the partially dried salami too much, so I would not worry about it.

Angelo November 4, 2018 - 7:32 am

Great article on the de humidifying aspect of a curing chamber. I recently made a batch of sopressatta and built a curing chamber without a de humidifier. Everything was really consistent until I loaded the fridge up with the sopressatta. My humidity hit 95% instantly. I was wondering how long it ussually takes for the moisture to leave the meat before the humidity starts to go down.

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victor November 4, 2018 - 7:52 am

I can’t tell exactly but as long as the meat is losing moisture the humidity will stay up if it’s not removed. The biggest moisture loss will take place during the first 2-3 weeks of drying, depending on meat/sausage thickness. It will start to go down after that. Again. it also depends on the amount of meat in the chamber and the size of the chamber.

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