Thursday, July 26, 2007

Key equipment piece #1: The grinder

I hope I'm not detailing information which is useless to most, but i figure if there are any beginners, they might benefit from this. There are a few pieces of equipment which are necessary to make cured meats. The only truly essential piece of equipment is probably the hardest for the home user to find or make; the curing chamber. That will be the topic of another post. This one will deal with the grinder, a necessity to make salame or dry cured sausages.

On the left here you can see an annotated image of the Kitchenaid grinder attachment. I use this attachment as it works quite well, is inexpensive and for the amount of meat I grind in 1 sitting (5 to 10 lbs/ 2-4kg) it is enough. This grinder plugs into the drive output on the Kitchenaid mixer. Everything you see in this picture, except the 7/16" plate comes with the grinder. That plate was made by a machinist friend of mine to allow a larger grind size. (this is one big disadvantage of the Kitchenaid grinder, the plates are proprietary to the KA, and therefore standard plates don't work)

The auger fits into the grinder body, the cutter blade is put on the end of the auger and the grinder plate is placed in front of that, and held in place by the ring which in the picture is attached to the grinder body. Meat is fed in from the top of the body where the tray is and is forced through the cutter and plate, yielding ground meat.

In using this grinder, it is important to remember that the meat and fat mixture needs to be very very cold, chilled in the freezer to the point where it is a little hard. The colder the meat is kept, the cleaner the cut. This means that the meat and fat chunks will remain distinct, which is important, fat smearing is the enemy of salame.

It is also important to trim the meat well, removing sinew, or this will wrap itself around the cutter blade and cause the meat to mush through the plate instead of being cleanly cut. I believe with bigger more powerful grinders, this is not as critical as they're able to cut through the sinew, but with the KA grinder it is important.

When making sausages and salame I've found it works best to mix the meat and the fat chunks to be ground, and grind them together, rather than separately and then mix them. This isn't optimal, obviously, for salame which requires different size meat and fat particles.

The grinder is pretty simple. Most grinders will work for making salame. If you don't have a Kitchenaid mixer, and are still interested in making salame, you can buy a standalone grinder for about $75, or a hand grinder for about $35.

Let's also remember that a grinder isn't a necessity to make cured meats. Many are cured whole muscles, and as such, do not require grinding.

Next up, key equipment #2: the stuffer, and key equipment #3: the curing chamber.

Stay tuned!


7 comments:

Zachary said...

I anxiously await your article on the curing chamber. I've been brainstorming how I can best accomplish this in my very small space (downtown loft, pretty much one big area.) I am willing to take the temp down to proper curing temp, but the fiancee may call off the engagement.

Anonymous said...

Jason,

Could you comment on the benefits/difficulties with using a hand grinder? I am researching them right now and it seems that if I hunt a bit I can find a very good condition hand grinder for only about $10. That's a lot less than the $75 or more for an electric grinder. The specific one I keep seeing is the Climax #51 meat grinder (google will pull up pictures quick enough).

Thanks again for all your help and your great blog!

EZ

Jasonmolinari said...

EZ, the only hand grinder i've used is a #5 grinder (it's a size), and it was too small. I would stay away from that.
I would get at least a #10 size grinder, and i think it would work great.

Anonymous said...

Jason -

How did you find your custom KA grinder plate worked? I've been considering the same thing, but am not sure the KA blade is sharp enough to properly cut a large grind.

-Ben

Jasonmolinari said...

Ben, now that you mention it, i've been using a proper meat grinder blade from a #10 (i think) grinder that i've modified to fit, so i don't know how the original KA blade works with the 1/2 plate.

BUT, there is a guy on ebay who sells 1/2" KA plates, and i have to assume he's using them with the original KA blade, so i think it should be fine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,
Just discovered your blog as I am learning more about my new hobby.

I've made sausage and hamburger a couple of years ago when we got the grinder attachment for our KA, but the meat that came out of it often had a lot of black liquid that looked like ground metal or machine grease on it. Was this just something that needed to be worked out of our system? (I.e. normal at first) or do we have a defective/misassembled part?

After those first few tries, we've stopped using the meat grinder because there was too luch loss from separating out the greased meat.

Thanks
Jake

Jasonmolinari said...

Hey Jake, that doesn't sound so good. I have a similar issue but it is a tiny tiny amount (like a chip of ground every pound or so).
Sounds like yours is much more. Make sure everything is nice and clean. I use a bottle brush to clean the grinder plates and get into all the nooks and crannies.
Other than that, i'm not sure what might be going on!