Tuscan Salami and Water Activity
Mention Tuscany, and a few images are likely to pop into one’s head – olive trees swaying in the breeze, hill towns with rustic stone buildings, and a cheesy Diane Lane movie from 2003. Still, Tuscan Salami is the first recipe in “Charcuterie” for fermented sausage, so I thought it would be a good place to start. Let me first say that getting started wasn’t very easy. The butchering of the pig took a little while, and I also had to get some ingredients (e.g. Fermento) via mail, as well as figure out how I was going to make my refrigerator cool to only 60F.
I pressed a friend from work into service for the actual sausage making by promising him dinner beforehand. You’ll have to ask him if this was a fair trade. Slicing up the pork shoulder took 15 or 20 minutes just because I had to get it off the bone. One thing I wasn’t clear on was the fat in the meat – the stuff on the outside was easy to remove, but some of the other chunks had a large percentage of fat. I didn’t know if that would increase the fat content of the overall sausage, and if I should only use pieces that were pretty lean. In the end, I decided against it and just threw everything in. The cut up pieces looked like this:
Per the instructions in the recipe, we ground the fat first, and then the meat. Using chilled bowls and putting the ground product straight into the fridge seemed to keep everything cold. We mixed up the ingredients without much trouble, and combined them with the meat. My KitchenAid is just barely big enough to handle this amount of sausage:
The hardest part of stuffing the sausage was getting the 10ft of casing on the nozzle of the stuffer. Cranking out the sausage was pretty easy, although we admit this activity is perhaps inappropriate for mixed company. No, we will not be sponsoring a caption contest on the below picture:
Once done, all we had to do was twist off the links:
After “incubating” overnight, the meat had turned redder in color, and also was ready to hang:
Admittedly, the shape is not great, but hopefully it will taste good. The water activity of the raw sausage mix is 0.967, indicating the salt has already reduced the exposure of the sausage to microbial growth a little bit. This will continue to decrease as the product dries out. We weighed 4 of the links together, and they came out to 787g – we will keep tabs on the weight loss and water activity reduction as the fermentation process continues.
Last thing: I decided to control humidity in the fridge using a tub of saturated salt slurry at the bottom. This will keep the humidity at about 75% – we’ll see if this is too high, but based on data from the temp/humidity sensor, it appears to be in the right range. Notice this morning when I put the tub in, the humidity increased to 73% in short order:
Now, we wait for “12-18 days”.