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Jun 1 / scott.campbell

Only a Flesh Wound

First, a hearty welcome to John, my colleague.  As you saw on his post, he’ll be attempting a marathon as compared to my small-sausage projects, which fall more into the “100 Meter Dash” category.  I’m already looking forward to his insights on the prosciutto project that we’ll get to watch over the coming months.

Sampling has been an issue for the duration of our meat-making experiments.  In short, the water activity meter is so accurate that the inability to get a representative sample showed up in the data.  John suggested a different approach that appeared to work well on the hams – a biopsy needle.  This sharpened metal tube removes chunks of tissue and bone from humans for testing.  I tried it on the sausages, and indeed removed small amounts of meat for testing from the middle of the cylinders.   The problem: it didn’t pick up that much because the chunks of ground meat kind of get pushed around instead of going into the tube.  Another problem: I unintentionally removed a tissue sample from the side of my palm.

Not a big deal, but a typical clumsy move on my part.  In order to get a bigger sample, I stabbed the sausage with the plastic tube that housed the biopsy needle, and got bigger pieces that worked for testing.  Preliminary results (2 days) indicate more consistency in the results, which I’ll report more on this week.

On Monday, the pancetta seemed to have firmed up, so I rolled it and tied it according to the recipe.  This turned out to be kind of fun.  Perhaps returning from camp-outs would be more fun if I tied up the sleeping bags like rolls of pancetta instead of using those stupid strings that Coleman never seems to sew in the right place.  The finished product resembled the depiction in the book.  Hanging in the fridge, it looks like this:

I’ve started tracking both its weight and water activity.  Interestingly, water activity of the cured but not dried pancetta is rather low: 0.88 aw.  Just the effect of the salt cure alone brought the water activity level down below the other sausages (chorizo, peperone, etc.) that have been drying/curing for an entire week.  In spite of this, the Pancetta is still really “wet” – squishy and a little slimy to the touch.  Just goes to show how powerful salt really is.

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  1. Jay Smucker / Jun 3 2011

    This is fun stuff! As a meat processer we do this kind of thing alot and to watch your progress is interesting. We are currently working on a pet food product using organ meats and by products. Checking water activity has become a vital link in the process. Keep up the good work. Your blog helps you and us bridge the gap between techies and reality.

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