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Sep 26 / scott.campbell

Salami and Water Activity Update

The sausages continue to lose water slowly, and today I took the first water activity readings with our trusty water activity meter.  In the interest of full disclosure, remember this is the water activity meter the company I work for manufactures.

Here’s what one of the sausages looks like with a bit lopped off its end:

In general, the drying/curing process is progressing nicely.  Nearly all sausages are below 0.9 aw.  Here is a picture of the different types, and their corresponding water activity values:

Nothing really stands out yet.  All products look pretty much the same, and are a long ways from done (in our first salami run, “done” was a water activity of 0.782).  The one with the smallest diameter dried much faster than the one with the largest.  As opposed to last time, I’m not seeing the saucisson sec dry any slower than the salami.

Still trying to work out the kinks in the “DIY food quotient”. Of the 4 numbers that determine our sausage’s “score”, I can already tell you what 3 of them are.  I’ve been thinking about what “difficulty” score to give the salami.  The actual act of mixing the ingredients and stuffing the sausage wasn’t that arduous.  Getting a sausage stuffer, ordering casings/pink salt/fermentation culture on the internet, and then constructing a “dried meats chamber” – that had a much higher degree of difficulty.  Combined, I’d give the whole thing a “5”.  Not incredibly hard, but not easy either.  Note that something that’s easy gets a “10”, making its overall score higher, and therefore a more attractive DIY item.

Cost differential – Ruhlman throws everything into his calculation of cost, but I’m not going to count the bones, skin, and fat.  That reduces my take to about 140 lbs, for which I paid $325 after butcher fees.  Total cost = $2.32/lb.  This assumes all parts of the pig are equal, which they are not.  I got pork shoulder from the store for $2.20/lb. so I’ll call this one a draw, or a score of “7”.

Usefulness in cooking – this one is difficult to say.  Both basic salami and saucisson sec are useful by themselves.  I’m going to give them an “8”.  I think something like pancetta is technically more useful, but these are products anyone can enjoy just on an antipasti plate, or a crusty piece of bread.

I’m going to have to re-think the taste-test metric after looking at the data we get.   In randomized taste tests, it’s unlikely any product will have 90-100% of respondents pick it, making a score of 8-10 almost impossible to achieve.  I’ll probably grade on a curve to give this metric more weight.

Download The Food Manufacturer’s Complete Guide to Water Activity—>


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  1. Ben / Feb 21 2014

    Hi guys,

    I would love to pick your brains over sampling methods for salami. We use decagon meters (3 of them) and I am trying to build the most robust and variable free method I can. Currently we sample from the middle of the salami to get a ‘worst case’ idea of water activity. When sampling coarser product such as a sopressa etc (anything with larger fat / meat pieces) I have noticed a big variable from piece to piece so now we take three samples and use the worst.
    All advice and knowledge would be much appreciated.
    Love the site and thanks for the help!


    • scott.campbell / Feb 24 2014

      Ben – Good to hear from you. We have a few ideas that can help. Email me at, and I’ll put you in touch with an application support specialist that can make some suggestions. I’m glad you find the site information useful.

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