Sunday, July 29, 2007

Key equipment piece #3: The curing chamber

Here we are. This is probably the post most beginners are waiting for. This is the hardest part of curing meat. The necessity to maintain a cool temperature around 50-55 deg. F/ 10-13 deg. C, and a high relative humidity, around 65%, make curing meat at home difficult. Incorrect temperatures or humidity will cause the meat to cure too slowly or too quickly and possibly spoil or yield poor results.

Let me start by saying, making a curing chamber isn't TOO difficult. It will require some spare equipment and some small modifications to the equipment, as well as some money. A complete curing chamber can be built for about $250 of parts. Let me also say, that I assume NO responsibility for anything that may happen, injuries or otherwise.

Basically making a curing chamber boils down to modifying a home refrigerator. Let me start with some refrigeration theory which will allow you to understand why we need to do what we do.

When a frost free refrigerator (pretty much all modern day fridges) cools the air by running air over the cooling coils, it condenses humidity from the air, and delivers cold, very dry air to the inside of the fridge. The air is way too dry (around 20% RH) to be any good for curing meats, so we want to put moisture, the right amount, back into it. Additionally, a fridge normally run at about 33-43 deg. F, which is too low for our uses. This means we'll have to find a way to allow the fridge to run warmer.

A good place to look for a fridge is classifieds. Without too many problems I was able to find a frost free fridge for $80. I might have been able to find one even cheaper if I had kept looking. I guess you could go buy a new fridge, but that seems to be a waste to me. Remember if you buy an old used fridge, it HAS to be the frost free type.

Now lets make the fridge run like we need it to, at 50-55 F and 65% RH.
Lets start with the easier problem: the temperature. Some fridges have an adjustable set screw which would be covered by a panel which will allow you to adjust the fridge to keep the temperature higher than the normal 43. Mine didn't have that option, so I had to rely on other measures. An external temperature controller used to control many things, and often sold as a control for freezers to make them into beer keg fridges, is easily findable. These can be found online. I found mine on Ebay.

The device is quite simple. A remote temperature probe, seen on in the picture on the left connected by a brass capillary tube to the body of the temperature controller hanging on the outsize of the fridge. The temperature is adjustable between 20 and 80 deg. F. The fridge plugs into the piggyback style plug on the controller. The controller cuts power to the fridge when it reaches the temperature setting, and allows power to the fridge once the temperature is at (set point + 4 deg.). It works very well, maintaining the temperature between 52 and 56 deg.
You can order one of these from many places on the web, there is even a reseller on Amazon. Just search for "keg temperature controller" on Google.

The next task is a little bit more difficult. Maintaining humidity. This is done using an ultrasonic room humidifier. I specify ultrasonic since the cool air ones use sponges which in short order become moldy and need to be replaced, which gets expensive. A warm mist one, well, that is just counter productive (I've tried it, believe me, it is a foolish idea:) ) as you're trying to keep the fridge cool.

Any ultrasonic humidifier will work, but you probably want one with a nice large tank so that you don't have to refill it very often. The one on the left is the one I use, it is a Sunbeam model 701, and holds about 2 gallons of water, which allows me to run it, in my fridge, at my settings, for about 15 days before having to refill it.







So you've procured yourself an ultrasonic humidifier, but how do you make it stop humidifying at the right level, instead of continuously going until the water runs out? With a hygrostat. It is a device which, just like the temperature controller above, supplies or cuts power to the attached humidifier as necessary to maintain the correct humidity level. This piece of equipment, unfortunately is quite expensive. I got mine on Ebay for $75, but they retail for about $115.


You can see in the picture on the left, the humidity setting is adjustable between 10% and 90%, and you can hook up a humidifier or a dehumidifier. This one is called the THC-1 and is made by Green Air products, and is easily found by searching for THC-1 on some search engines.








This one is another model I ran across, which can be found here: http://www.control3.com/4190p.htm .
This one was really hard to find, so much so that I can't find it again searching for it, so I'm giving you the direct link. Who knows how long it'll be a good link though.







I have seen, and bought on Ebay, an ultrasonic humidifier with a settable humidity controller on it, but they seem to be rare, I'm not sure why. The cool mist types have them, but for some reason, the ultrasonic ones don't seem to. If you end up spending as much for one as you would as buying the controller separately, I would buy them separately, so that if the humidifier breaks you can just replace that cheaply, instead of having to buy another expensive one.

So now you've got a fridge, a temperature controller an ultrasonic humidifier and a hygrostat. Now what? Well, now you set it all up INSIDE your fridge! You put the humidifier inside the fridge, the controller probe inside the fridge, and the hygrostat inside the fridge. Set your temperature to about 53 deg F, the hygrostat to about 65 and let 'er rip.

You're going to be running plugs into the fridge from extension cords which could be unsafe, so if you follow my instructions, don't email me if you electrocute yourself. This is what my fridge looks like. You can see a nice pancetta hanging in there too.

You can see my humidifier, and the humidity controller, and the temperature probe. You can also see that I made some additional modifications by drilling a hole in the side of the fridge and wiring a plug on the inside wall, instead of having an extension cord going in from the fridge hinge. You can also see a light bulb at the top of the fridge.
This bulb isn't totally necessary, but it allows you to control the humidity level in a tighter band. Without the bulb the fridge runs between 50% RH and 70% RH, but it is at the upper and lower limits for a short time. After the fridge runs to cool the air (goes to about 50% RH) the humidity drops as the air is dried (explained above), and the humidifier takes 10-15 minutes to catch up and rehumidify the air. It is at the top of the humidity level since the controller has a dead band (the point between setting and turning off or on), of about 5%, so it overshoots the humidity by a little bit. By putting a light bulb in the fridge we can introduce a small amount of heat, which will force the fridge to come on more often, drying the air more often. If you do want to do this, use a 25w bulb and run it to an adjustable dimmer do you can adjust the amount of heat you're putting into the fridge.

I'm actually not 100% sure about the necessity of the bulb, so installing one is up to you. It does seem to maintain the humidity in tighter band, but I'm not sure that it is that important.



This is a picture of my connections on the outside of the fridge. I ran 1 main power line to a supply box and put the light dimmer in there. The controller and fridge plug into the box.










Oh, one more piece of necessary equipment is a thermo hygrometer. These are small electronic devices which measure and display the humidity and temperature. You can find them on Ebay for about $8. Just put it in the fridge, and you can measure the humidity and temperature to make sure you're running at the right values. I got one with a remote probe made by Oregon Scientific so I don't have to open the fridge to see what is going on inside. The reader is inside, and the display is outside and receives the signal via radio frequency.

Before concluding, let me mention another method to control humidity. I've tried this method, and wasn't pleased with the performance. In theory a saturated salt solution with excess salt added (water in which as much salt is dissolved to saturate it, that is, so that no more salt will dissolve in it, and then adding more salt, essentially creating a tray of wet salt in a saturated salt solution), will maintain a humidity of about 70%. If the solution is placed in an area which is lower, the water will evaporate until the ambient is 70%, and if it is higher, it will absorb the humidity to lower it to about 70%. The problem I found with this method is that it all happens so slowly (the humidity changes), that it becomes useless. If you want to try this, use an oven tray and make a saturated solution in it, and place it in the fridge.

Wow, quite the blog entry. I hope the why and the how is explained clearly. If you want to cure meats at home, unfortunately for just about everything except pancetta, you'll need one of these. If you have any questions, ask, and I'll answer them if I can. While this is a bit of an investment I hope the components will last a good long while. I've had mine for about 2.5 years now and it still works well.

As far as future modifications I have in mind for the fridge, well, some sort of fresh air inlet. Normally I open the fridge and let it "air out" every few days. I'm trying to think of a way to get fresh air into it, either on a timer, or when something else turns on. Given that the fridge is in my garage, the air isn't so fresh unless I have the garage door open too, so for now I'll leave the system closed and manually refresh the air.

231 comments:

1 – 200 of 231   Newer›   Newest»
drzachary said...

This is the Torah of curing chamber construction. Thank you! Also, you said in an earlier thread to email you off the blog to talk about possibly meeting (meating?) up at some point. I couldn't find your address, so here's mine: zsmith at gmail dot com. I'm quite interested in learning as much about this as I can. So far I've kept to the basics with some good results, some bad results, and some "unique" results (coffee/maple/citrus bacon.. breakfast in a single slab of meat!)

E. Nassar said...

Very, very cool Jason. If I ever decide to build a curing chamber, I'll know where to go now. I'm mostly sticking to stuff not requiring this investment at the time. Keep up the good work.

(I'm still waiting for that Cotechino. We got a few months before the holidays ;-) )

Suzie said...

Jason,
I think I may have the natural conditions for this cooling chamber on my property. For about 4 months of the year the temperature stays about 45 at night to about 65 in the day. I have a very humid forest on my land that maintains a more constant temperature about 55 degrees. I always entertained the idea of building a cave in my hillside forest. How would you recommend I go further in developing this project of making a natural chamber?

Your blog is great!

Jasonmolinari said...

Hey Suzie, those conditions do sound favorable, but i'm afraid i wouldn't know where to start. I think you need to find someone who has experience with building.

Tim said...

Thanks for the awesome blog. I've made pancetta/tesa a few times from the Bertolli book and now want to advance. I have a small wine fridge i do not use which maintains a steady 54 degrees F. The humidity is is also around 60%, which surprised me.

Any problems you foresee using this type of setup for curing? I am considering drilling a hole in the side to install a small laptop fan to circulate fresh air from the outside on a periodic basis. This would likely require me to have humidity control similar to yours.

Jasonmolinari said...

Tim, i think a wine fridge would work well, but you would need some way to maintain humidity. Wine fridges don't use the same method to chill the air as a frost-free fridge does (which is why right now it maintains about 60%), so when you put the meat in the humidity will likely shoot way up and stay there (no place for the humidity to go, and no coils to condense it onto).
You can try regulating the humidty level by putting a tray of saturated salt water, PLUS extra salt in the tray. Hypothetically this will maintain about 70% humidity by absorbing the excess when you put meat in there.
It's worth trying.
I've also thought of putting a small computer fan in my chamber to get fresh air in there periodically, but i haven't had the chance to make the modifications (nor do i know if they'll help anything).

Hart said...

Hi Jason, thinking of building one of these soon. Can you tell me why it's necessary to use a self-defrosting fridge? Thanks again for your fantastic blog! - Hart

Jasonmolinari said...

Hart, the a self-defrost fridge is needed because otherwise the chamber increases in humidity too much. In non-self-defrost fridges the air in the fridge is cooled by direct contact with a plate that has coolant running through it. Any condensate remains inside the chamber. This makes it hard to control the relative humidity.

using a self-defrost fridge keeps the air in the chamber dry (the condensate is routed out of the fridge chamber), too dry in fact, which is why we use a humidifier to bring the humidity back up.

Hart said...

I follow you. That's more-or-less what I figured. Quite the bit of ingenuity, sir. Thanks.

keith said...

I currently use a non self defrost compact fridge, to get around the high humidity i leave the door open about an inch, that way the humidity stays at about 65% and i get a little airflow. I am just waiting for the day for the fridge to stop working, cause leaving the door open causes it to run almost constantly.


k

Jasonmolinari said...

Keith, that will work, but as you said your fridge might not last long. On top of that, that method isn't going to work when it's very humid outside (like it is in Georgia during the summer), but should be fine for winter...

zach said...

this is exactly what i was looking for... thank you jason.
i am at day 1 of my salt cure of a wild boar leg.
my meat purveyor sent it to me today, and this is a spur of the moment decision to try and make prosciutto.
not exactly the best way to approach this type of project, but too late now, the pig is in the salt!!
i plan on setting up my own blog to document if this chamber gets built in time.
so glad i found yours.
thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Quick question, what do these modifications do the function of the freezer compartment? If I can't find a fridge without a freezer I'd hate to waste all that space...

matt wright said...

It seems like a lot of people who use a mini fridge get away with just using a pan of salted water in the bottom of it to help humidity.. this would obviously save you from having to use a humidifier.

This most likely wouldn't cut it for a larger fridge though.

Scott said...

I've seen ultrasonic humidifiers with a hygrostat sensor. Could this be purchased and used in lieu of both the humidifier and hygrostat?

Jasonmolinari said...

Scott, yes, they should work. Assuming the hygrostat will let you go to 70% or 75%, which would be very high for a house humidity.

Scott said...

Thanks, Jason. I was just informed by the company Sunpentown, that their ultrasonic has a maximum humidity setting of 80%.

Jasonmolinari said...

That seems perfect Scott. If and when i have to replace my humidifier, i'll have to give one of these a try.

Let me know how it works on maintainng humidity.

scott said...

Sorry to pester, Jason. Is there a reason why the external temp controller wouldn't work? I have it set at 58, one sensor is reading it at 35, the other at 33. The frig is definitely plugged into the controller.

Jasonmolinari said...

No problem scott.
Hrm..that sounds like the temperature contoller isn't controlling. Is the temperature controller sensor in the fridge? If it is, sounds like a defective unit.

scott said...

Yes, all sensors are in fridge. I have 2 oregon scientific sensors in there along with the external temp controller sensor. Now reads 30.9, frig seems a little cold, too, if this hygrometer is correct.

Jasonmolinari said...

Hrmm..sounds defective them. You can, out of interest, see at what point on the dial the fridge goes on and off....sounds like something is way off though.

scott said...

One of the sensors now reads 29.5. I turned the dial up to 68. There is some beer in the frig as well, strange that it isn't frozen, no?

Jasonmolinari said...

Nah, beer will freeze somewhere around 27 or 28 deg...so no surprise that it hasn't frozen yet.

At any point on the dial of the external tmep contoller does the fridge ever switch off? Sounds like a bad thermostat.

scott said...

I'm not sure about it ever shutting off. It seemed that it did when I first hooked it up. The freezer interior wasn't tacky anymore.

Jasonmolinari said...

You can hear when the fridge comes on and goes off. If it isn't doing that at any temperature on the dial, i think your controller is defective.

scott said...

now at 28.4, is my guanciale garbage at this point?

scott said...

oh, and just checked, frig wasn't running, I then unplugged the frig from the controller, then plugged frig directly into wall outlet, didn't run, I'm at a loss

Jasonmolinari said...

No, the guanciale should still be fine....
Is your fridge in the garage? or outside? How could it be getting colder without running?!

scott said...

That's what I was thinking. It IS in the garage, and it is frigid here in NY. I got the frig for free, it works, but is a little beat up. I wonder if the seal is broken.

Jasonmolinari said...

Uhm...well..there's your problem! I have to assume the garage is colder than the fridge (or target temp). Therefore the fridge will just eventually cool to the ambient air.

When you said it was getting colder, i assumed it was acutally running!

scott said...

I'm assuming this will pose quite a problem when I put a coppa in there in 2 weeks.

Jasonmolinari said...

Yes...it will.
I suggest you transfer your guanciale to a regular fridge. that should be fine...

For the coppa...that's going to be a problem...the only suggestion I cna offer is to put a lightbulb in the fridge, or better yet, a terrarium heater (they are heaters shaped like a lightbulb and they fit in a lightbulb socket), to generate heat inside the fridge.

That trick works when it's slightly too cold, like 45 or 50 deg...i don't know if it's going to work if your garage is below freezing!

Jasonmolinari said...

Oh, you're going to want to put the light/heater on a dimmer..so it's not heating full blast.

scott said...

yeah, it's about 10 degrees here, not sure it would work

Jasonmolinari said...

Sounds like, unless you can find a warmer place for the fridge, you're waiting until spring to cure meats:)

scott said...

BTW, thank you, sir for all your patience. I'm about to start WW3 to get a newer frig moved into the house. Not waiting until spring.

Jasonmolinari said...

hahah, you're welcome.
I think there is no need for a newer fridge. My fridge is old too, but it works. I say, fight one battle at a time..get the fridge moved inside..then when this one stops working, get a new one:)

scott said...

Reason I say newer one is this one was a dirty Craigslist special. It would be a condition to moving it inside. I will try this one inside first to see if everything works correctly. Also, isn't 58% RH a little high without a humidifier?

Jasonmolinari said...

If you have meat in the fridge i could see how it could be at 58%..the meat is releasing water..
It seems a little high....but i wouldn't worry too too much about it.

scott said...

Thank you again for the free education :) mille grazie!

Jasonmolinari said...

Prego

scott said...

New issue. Can't seem to keep RH under 70%, been as high as 79%. I currently have the humidifier hygrometer set at 28%, yet it continues to climb, no matter how low I set it. I know it has to do with the wet meat hanging inside. What I'm concerned about is the wet meat drying and the humidity plummeting. I also have about an 8 degree discrepancy between the tempeture set on the external temperature controller(which also reads the same on the humidifier hygrometer) and what is read on my oregon scientific hygrometer. The RH reads the same on both hygrometers. Not sure which would be right and whether or not to just split the difference. Thanks again.

Jasonmolinari said...

The humidity can only drop if the fridge actually cycles on and off. If that doesn't happen, or if it doesn't happen often enough because the external temperature and the fridge target temperature are too close, you're going to have this problem.

You can try putting a small heat source in the fridge, to force it to cycle more often, like a 20W lightbulb.

scott said...

Forgot to add, I was able to get the frig placed inside(had to get a newer one). External temp controller set at 54, hygrometer reads 60, humidifier hygrometer reads 54, actually. I've removed the plug from the hole drilled in the side, to allow some air circulation(did this about 4 hours ago) All I wanted to do is hang a couple coppe and sppressate, this has turned into a complete obsession and 2nd full time job!

Jasonmolinari said...

I don't follow the problem then. If your humidifier hygromter is set at 54, and a hygrometer reads 60, that's pretty darn close.
My humidity controller is set at about 62%, to get my chamber to be between 68 and 75%.

You'll never get the humidity super stable..as long as it averages around 70% it should be fine.

scott said...

No, my humidifier's thermometer reads 54 degrees. It is set at 26%RH right now, just got home and it went up to 84%. The temperature is +- 5 degrees. This humidity will not come down under 70%, in fact, like I just wrote, wants to stay in the high 70, low 80% range. I guess I'll have to install the light bulb. Is there something else easier I could use, I'm not all that handy, installing a light bulb seems a little daunting to me.

Jasonmolinari said...

I'm not sure what you could use in place of a light bulb..anything that can generate a little heat. Really wiring a light bulb is about as simple as it gets, it's 2 wires and a plug wired to a socket.

You can also put a baking tray of salt in there to try to bring the humidity down to around 70%.

scott said...

A light bulb it will be then. Starting to get frustrated. I've become a meat babysitter.

Jasonmolinari said...

Yeah..sounds frustrating. Ideally, the fridge setup should have been tested before it actually had to be used:)

scott said...

I agree, I have zero patience. Silly, really. I think all I have is a 60W bulb, is this too strong? Was about to put a small lamp in there to give it a go.

Jasonmolinari said...

Yes, 60W is too strong. If i remember i use a 25 or 45 watt bulb, and i hav eit on a dimmer so it's on just a little.

A lamp would work...throw it in there, with a 20w bulb or so, and see if it helps the situation. The fridge should cycle more often.

scott said...

Thanks again. Dude, I'm so sorry to break your balls EVERY day.

Jasonmolinari said...

It's Ok. You'll get it working eventually!

scott said...

Well, sir, your advice was aces(as usual). I put a small desk lamp with a 20Wbulb, to see how it would work. 8 hours later, temp was 58 RH was 69%. Anyway, lamp was not hooked up to a dimmer. This morning, the RH was in the 50's. I was able to purchase a very small lamp with a 35W bulb with an internal dimmer for $17 at home depot. This has been a home run. Thanks once again. BTW, my crappy chunked coppa has developed a beautiful, natural mold, no spray!

Rick said...

Just happened across this blog, and thought I'd throw in one suggestion. I've never cured meat, but I've converted old (non-working) refrigerators for use incubating reptile eggs. The trick I used for gently heating the inside of the fridge was placing a sheet of something called "heat tape". It's very thin, clear plastic sheeting with an electrically resistant grid running through it. It's the same idea as the rear windshield defroster in your car. You hook up a stripped extension cord to one end and tape off the other end. You can use a standard light dimmer to reduce its wattage and the heat it produces. It's very popular for using under the glass of terraria due to its even, gentle heating and the ease with which the temp can be controlled. A little (or a lot) of this could be used inside a fridge in a winter garage to gently bring the temp up enough to make the rest of the system work. It's inexpensive, simple as anything to wire up, and available in different widths and resistances. You cut it to the exact length you want and tape it to whatever interior surface of the fridge you like. If you google "heat tape" and "reptile" or "terrarium," you'll find some examples and places to order. Hope this presents another option for your designs. Good Luck!

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Rick, that's a great tip.

scott said...

Nice, Rick, I could have used this about 2 weeks ago. Instead, I had to buy a newer frig to put inside my house. I will definitely try this in the garage frig. Thanks.

adam said...

im glad to see some enthusiasm for curing your own meats at home. got a question about the box....could you use a wine fridge, humidity gauge, and either a dehumidifier or humidifier (depending on the type of meat) to produce the same results? you can get each of these pieces for about 25 bucks- which is much less than the 250 for converting a fridge.
let me know what you think

Jasonmolinari said...

Adam, i don't see why not. A fridge is a fridge.

Anonymous said...

Do you know of any commercially available cure chambers?

Jasonmolinari said...

No, sorry, i don't know about any commercial cure chambers

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your new addition to the family.

I finally bought my fridge today. I have had the other equipment for quite some time and am ready to put everything into action. I am a little hesitant drilling through the fridge wall. I hit the freon line on my homebrew fridge while putting in my tap system last year and had to scrap it. Wish me luck . . .

scott said...

If it's a large, regular frig, the wall is nothing but plastic and insulation. I've done it with 2 friges, no problems.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott - will give it a go tomorrow. I see you have the lamp set up etc. in the fridge - do you run your electrical cords through the door or did you insert an outlet in the fridge like Jason? Thanks for the help!

scott said...

Right through the door. I am not as electrically inclined as Jason.

matt said...

I have recently been using a large wine fridge (about person height), which has worked out really great. The refrigeration unit is inside the chamber, which helps with air circulation, and a bit with humidity. I still have a humidifier in the bottom of it, and with some tuning, it stays between 55-60F and 65%-72% humidity.

Jasonmolinari said...

That wine fridge sounds great Matt. What model/make is it, for those who wish to buy a duplicate setup of yours?

Anonymous said...

great site
this is ws my solution

http://forum.sausagemaking.org/viewtopic.php?t=5608

Anonymous said...

Jason, thanks for your time on this. Is there any reason I can't use an upright freezer instead of a refridge? - Thanks Jay

Jasonmolinari said...

Most freezers are not "frost-free", which means the humidity that is in there will stay in there as opposed to being pulled out, and replaced with the correct amount by our humidifier.
It might work fine, but it'll take some experimenting.

Anonymous said...

Jason, thanks again for your time. On Craiglist a can find several frost-free freezers so I think they are pretty readily available but my concern is that since if would run less often it may not condense the air properly. Austin's average RH ranges from 83%AM-59%PM. I like the idea of using a freezer just so that there is no wasted space and when I make something like a dried sausage I would want to make a lot. My only concern is removing humidity from the freezer. How much success have you had in removing humidity? Is the light bulb effective? -Jay

Jasonmolinari said...

the amount of moisture removed from the air will depend on how often the freezer runs. If it doesn't run often enough the lightbulb warms the air to force it to run more often. It does work quite well.

scott said...

Sorry to interject. I figured I could concur with Jason. Yes, the light will absolutely help. However, after months of trial and error(and pestering Jason) my chamber was not consistent until I installed a humidistat. I went through 2 expensive humidifiers without one. In my opinion, there is no other way to go, bite the bullet and buy a humidistat.

Jasonmolinari said...

Oh, yeah, a hygrostat (humidistat) is pretty necessary...otherwise you'll be forever chasing the humidity level as the meat dries out and lets off less moisture.
I didn't realize you weren't going to use a humidistat.

Anonymous said...

Jason, how did you wire the plug on the outside box for power? Did you use an extension cord and cut one end off so that the plug would be hard wired? In your picture I see the fridge and thermostat plugged and I see two wires hanging out of the bottom of the plug box.

Also, I was reading a in a sausage fermenting book that the light in your fridge may cause the fat in your sausage to go rancid. You might consider wrapping the bulb in a thin layer of foil just to minimize the light. - JAY

Jasonmolinari said...

Jay, yes, i hardwired the outside plug to an extension cord, and that powers the external plugs.

I've also read about the light/rancidity issue, but have never run into it. If it concerns you, buy a terrarium heat lamp. It looks like a bulb, and fits in a bulb socket, but just makes heat, no light. I don't think wrapping in foil will work. It'll cause too much heat to be retained by the bulb and it'll probably burn out pretty quickly i imagine.

Anonymous said...

I Found a ultrasonic humidifier w/ hygrostat for around $50. Have you heard anything about these and would it work?

Jasonmolinari said...

I'd love to see it, but you didn't include a link or any information. Can you tell us the brand or anything more specific?
$50 sounds about right really.

scott said...

I would avoid the humidifier with built hygrostat. I went through 2 in 6 months. You can buy a cheap humidifier and hook it up with a separate hygrostat. When I finally did this, I was able to just set it and forget it. The other way was a nightmare, never right.

Jasonmolinari said...

Scott, what humidifier are you using now? I think mine finally crapped out after years of use, and needs to be replaced.

scott said...

You're gonna laugh at this one. I bought the cheapest one I could find just to get it paired and working with the hygrostat. I didn't want to burn out another so quickly. It's worked adequately. Get 2 weeks out of 1 fill.

http://www.amazon.com/Kaz-5520B-PersonalMist-Ultrasonic-Humidifier/dp/B0009HAZBS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1258057832&sr=8-1

Jasonmolinari said...

Cool, thanks. Worth a try for $14.

Anonymous said...

Link for humidifier w/ humidistat.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LFSUL0

matt said...

Anon - I have that exact humidifier and it is absolutely terrible.

It's humidistat is REALLY inaccurate, and unfortunately cannot be controlled by an external one since you have to press a power button on the unit to turn it on (and the button isn't an old switch type that stays on). The humidistat typically read 20% lower than actual humidity, but that really varied daily, which made it impossible to have it dialed in properly.

After about 2 months the unit's humidistat packed up.

I just bought a a humidifier controller from grainger (http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/items/1UHG3), and a cheap ultrasonic humidifier. I will let you know how it works out.

Mamaliga said...

This is precious info about the curing chamber and thanks a lot for posting!
I am getting ready to convert our old chest freezer into a curing chamber, and this info came at the right time. Got the temp line regulator from McMasterCar.com now hunting for a decent humidifier with an in-built regulator.

Until then I will use the saturated salt solution since I already stuffing the sausages today.

Thanks again!

Gabi @ Mamaliga.com

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Gabi. Glad it helps.

Gabi Bucataru said...

So, Jason -

I have my temperature line regulator, saturated salt water in place, but I do have a problem. The temperature in my basement (in Chicago) is 50 degrees (with these insane under freezing temps outside) and the temperature inside the freezer is 49 F.
Obviously the temp regulator wouldn't even kick in since I have it set at 55 F.

So what do you recommend for situations like these? Maybe placing a heater in the freezer? Hehe...

thanks!
Gabi.

Jasonmolinari said...

Gabi, a heater is exactly correct. I use a light bulb, but preferentially it would be a ceramic terrarium heater, which emits heat but no light.
They're something like this:
http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/2533/product.web

Gabi Bucataru said...

AHA!

I suspected so! Thanks for the tip and link. But until I get that terarrium, what wattage you suggest if using a simple bulb? Maybe 40 watts?

Gabi.

Jasonmolinari said...

I think 40 watts should be enough, but i would also put it on a dimmer, so you can adjust it down. It may be too much otherwise, and will have your fridge cycling all the time, which will cause it to eventually wear out sooner.

Gabi Bucataru said...

It makes sense, Jason - thanks a lot for the tip!

gabi.

Carolina Rig said...

I've got a mini-fridge that I converted into a kegerator. When I don't have beer on tap, I am considering turning the mini-fridge into a cure chamber. Thoughts? Anybody else try this? Size of humidifier is my major concern right now. I've found small 'personal' humidifiers that would potentially work...but I'd probably have to fill the thing up twice a day...or would I? Thanks for the suggestions/help.

Brian

Jasonmolinari said...

This would work, as long as you can adjust temp up to about 52-58 deg. F.
Mini fridges actually run high humidity since they don't have an external condensor where the water would collect. It all stays inside the fridge.

Read through the comments, people have mentioned using them before. Mostly a pan of wet salt will be sufficient to be able to cure stuff in it and keep an acceptable humidity level.

Gabi Bucataru said...

Jason - really quick:

Your KegWorks temperature controller controls cool and heat also?

thanks!

Gabi.

Jasonmolinari said...

Gabi, no, it controls only cooling.

Jennifer said...

Jason,
thanks for all your input on the subject! Just to let you know, i think i found the perfect item for people just starting out! Do a google search for 'Air-2'. It is a combo humidistat/thermostat where you could plug in the frige and the humidifier directly into the unit. I just ordered it and will let you know how it works out for me.

Jasonmolinari said...

thanks Jennifer, I can't find anything searching for Air-2. Do you have a direct link to somewhere?

I've seen that type of product before, and my concern is the total power it can "switch" wasn't that high. I think 8 or 10 amps. A fridge alone probably pulls that much, so if you add a humidifier to switch as well, you could burn the thing out before too long.

Let me know how it works though. I'm interested in a simpler solution.

Jennifer said...

Here is the direct product link:

http://www.horticulturesource.com/c-a-p-custom-automated-products-independent-temperature-humidity-controller-p4816/?osCsid=8f94a00f24cf59402eebb7cf1260037c

And here is the product sheet, its max amperage is 15 amps.

http://www.randmsupply.com/images/link/AIR-2Instructions.pdf

I ordered a small ionic humidifier... I hope this will work... What do you think? I didnt think about the amp pull (not big in electrical...)
Specification:

Voltage: 220v~50Hz
Power: 20w
Water temperature: ﹤40℃
Water tank capacity: 1.2L
Size: 125*125*320mm
Weight: 750g

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280495772317&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT

Jasonmolinari said...

Jennifer, that humidifier is 220V, that's a european market item.
thanks for the link on the thermostat/humidistat. It looks great.

Jasonmolinari said...

Jennifer, i also see that the AIR-2 is for a dehumidifier. I assume this is switchable? One would turn the outlet on when it reaches the set point, the other would turn it on when it drop below the set point...

Jennifer said...

Grrr... Well I hope its switchable... I didn't notice that. I guess thats what I get for jumping the gun! Ill let you know what its all about when it gets here cause its on its way!

chipman said...

Jason I have my curing chamber 99% ready to go. I want to get a couple of Prosciutto's in there as well as I want to be able to do my salamis throughout the year. Will I have to make many adjustments so to use the same chamber for both processes as the prosciutto is going to have to hang for at least a year. I don't want to have them take up all opportunity to hang salami as I decide to add to it. I think prosciutto needs to be at 60 degrees and 77% humidity. Your thoughts and any help are greatly appreciated.

Jasonmolinari said...

Chipman, i've never made a prosciutto, but generally, everything i make uses the same humidity/temp...about 55deg./75% RH.

chipman said...

Thanks how about 60 degrees for most salami is this to warm? Also if anyone has any experience with prosciutto please chime in or email me please.

Jasonmolinari said...

60 is borderline in my opinion. But i think i've seen recipes state 60 deg.
That seems warm to me.

Angie B said...

Hi Jason, just a quick one; I've been looking for the right hygrostat and have come accross this one (see link below). Do you think this is suitable?

http://docs-europe.origin.electrocomponents.com/webdocs/0dc3/0900766b80dc32a7.pdf

Thanks,
Angie

Jasonmolinari said...

ANGIE, that seems to turn on a device when it reaches a set point, which would be a dehumidification solution, not a humidification solution.

chipman said...

Take a look at this today and today only looks good for a humidifier

http://woot.com/
05/06/10

Angie B said...

Hi Jason, sorry to bother you again, but i am really keen to go ahead with this project and purchase the various devices needed. Problem is i'm not too clued up on all the electrical/wiring side of things (although i can get someone to help with the initial installation), i just need to purchase the right stuff first. After further research this is what i am about to buy, i just need some expert confirmation from you that i am on the right track.

1. Temperature controller:

http://za.rs-online.com/web/search/searchBrowseAction.html?method=browseSubRange&Ne=4294954291&N=4294277991&productNum=6618281

x2 (one for the fermentation box and one for the curing chamber)

2. I've bought a large-tank ultrasonic humidifier

3. Humidity controller:

http://za.rs-online.com/web/search/searchBrowseAction.html?method=getProduct&R=0540558#header


4. Hygro-thermometer:

Digital Hygro-Thermometer (3rd last on page)
70mm Dial Hygrometer (2nd last on page)

http://www.pminstrumentation.co.za/products/hygrometers/hygrometerslist.asp

It's mainly 1 and 3 that i'm worried about. Please help. Thanks, in advance.

Jasonmolinari said...

Angie, you're making this way too hard. I've laid out piece by piece what you need to buy, why are you searching for something different?
All the items you list need serious wiring, and may or amy not work for this application (not to mention they seem much more expensive). The items I list are plug-and-play. They're prewired for our application and work well. I suggest you source them.

You can find the hygrostat by using my link above for the one with the digital display or googling THC-1.
The thermostat:
http://www.kegworks.com/product.php?productid=18114

thermohygrometer: http://cgi.ebay.com/Honeywell-Wireless-Indoor-Outdoor-Thermo-Hygrometer-NEW-/160407385674?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item255906764a

Are you not in the US maybe?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog. I needed to understand what each piece does so I have installed one at a time and recorded what happens. For my fridge, the light was essential. Without it, the fridge did not go on often enough and humidity levels sky rocketed. I installed a bulb and would turn it on/off in one hour intervals to see what would happen to the humidity. It turns out that you can almost control the humidity with the light and a humidity controller like the THC-1. It takes no time at all for the light to bring the humidity down (about 50%/hour) and it slowly creaps up at a rate of about 6%/hour. Theoritically, the THC-1 with the dehumidifier setting may work. Again, this is with my fridge and I am sure they are all slightly different. This interests me because of less energy consumption (always running a light and a humidify when needed) because you don't need the humidifier.

However, I could be way off...

Also, WRT temp. I have read other sites that suggest 56-60 degrees and 70-80 humidity for salami's and prosciuttos but you suggest 50-55 degrees and 65% humidity. does it matter that much. Do you take 56 as your average and let it hover +- a couple degrees and 68% humidity +- a coupld percent?

Thanks!

Norm.

Jasonmolinari said...

Norm, i set my temperature at 54 and it fluctuates between 58 and 53 or so.
I usually run at about 70% humidity too...rather than 65%..but i think either will work OK.

Anonymous said...

Jason, thanks for such a wonderful place to come learn about this aspect of charcuterie. I have been wanting to jump into the fray and needs this knowledge. i have been reading over the comments and was wondering if you could make me a suggestion: I have a garage that stays at 55-60 all winter (winter begins to set in here the end of October and lasts till mid May) I have nowhere at home to build a box, we live in a house the size of postage stamp. The garage is across town so I can't monitor it constantly. All I need to control is the humidity? It's pretty dry here. Can I just build a box and add a humidity contoller or do I need to add a temp controller. Rading over the posts if I use the fridge setup I would need to add a way to get the fridge to cycle to contol the temp, so since the temp range is good maybe just a box of some sort? Thanks in advance!

Jasonmolinari said...

If the room/garage stays at 55-60 that should work out veyr well for temperature. You will need to control humidity though. Building a box and putting a humidity system in it should work well.
I assume the garage doesn't smell bad or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's good news! Thanks SO much for your quick reply! My husband said it probably drops to 50 during the reall cold snaps so it looks like I will need to control the temp too. It seems that setting up a fridge system will be our most fool proof option. Or can we build a box and add temp and humidity control units? What would we build it out of? The garage is "clean", no odors or chemicals. Mostly just storage. No cars.

Anonymous said...

Jason, what about setting up one of those grow tents that people use to grown things indoors?

Jasonmolinari said...

even at 50 deg., you should be ok.
If the garage is normally at 55-60, and you put a fridge in there to try to maintain 55, it isn't going to do much, since you'll be at that temperature already.

I would build the box out of wood, and line it with plastic to make it make it a little more sealed to moisture loss. Why not just buy an old broken fridge, and just use it as a box?

You're probably going to have some high-humidity issues when you first put the meat in there, since it's going to let off a lot of moisture and you're not going to have a fridge cycling to dry it out.

valerie said...

Jason, would a dehumidifier/humidifer installed in the box handle the moisture? Would I need to have some kind of air ciculation, a small fan perhaps?

Jasonmolinari said...

valerie, yes, but i know of no such instrument that can handle dehumidification as well as humidifications.

Add to that that most dehumidifiers put out dry air that is hot, and you're asking for trouble in a non-refrigerated space.

that's why using a frost free fridge works out so well. It puts out cold dry air, and adding humidity to it is much easier than removing humidity.

You could use large trays of wet salt. Theoretically that will absorb and release moisture to keep the humidity around 70%...the only issue is that it occurs quite slowly.

valerie said...

Jason, I agree, the fridge setup is going to be the most fool proof from what I understand since I can't baby sit the garage, we live across town. I will have to include a way to get the fridge to cycle on and off with a temp control and a heat source since the garage is rather chilly. Do I have that right? I will look into non-light producing heat sources so as to not degrade the meat. Do I have this all right? I will go back and read through the posts etc to find the recommendations for the heat source, and the temp controls. I looked in my local paper and see plenty of refridgerators for sale cheap. Hopefully I will be up and running in the next month, we have 1/2 a lovely pastured pig from my friends who run a pastured/grass-fed meat and dairy operation nearby. I am splitting with another woman who has done a bit of charcuterie and is really siked aobut it! Hopefully we'll be doing workshops before long! I'm president of the new Weston Price Foundation chapter that we are starting here in our high mountain valley! Wish me luck and thank you for your insights and knowledge!

Jasonmolinari said...

Valeries...pretty much all correct...i will say i'd be a little concerned about not being able to monitor the temperature/humidity closely during the first few trail runs as you learn where to set the hygrometer, the light, the fans, the fridge temps etc.etc.....

valerie said...

Jsaon, good advice, how often would I need to check on it, daily? twice a day? thats doable, a lot to watch and keep checks on. I wish we could put it in the house but not a chance of that happening. If we could easily get the freezer out and into the garage we could put it in here, hmm, something to think about. It was a beast getting it in. Again, please share with me how often I you would suggest I check on that list of criteria?

Jasonmolinari said...

i would say at least daily when you first start doing it, once everything seems stable every 3-4 days should be ok

valerie said...

Jason, once a day is totally doable so putting it in the garage seems like a good option for us, thanks again! Im sure I'll be back with more questions! off I go...!

Jasonmolinari said...

good luck. I would suggest starting with something that doesn't require perfect humidity control, like a pancetta. It'll get you familiar with the interactions of temperature, humidity, the light and all the controls.

valerie said...

Great suggestion Jason! I will follow that advice. Thanks again!

staffan said...

Hi!

i've been looking around the web for information about meat curing in my native language (swedish) but haven't found much of great value, curing isn't really that big up here in the the north...maybe the dry winters?
But since I found your blog today i've been reading for hours and i've had a smile on my face all the time! truly amazing job, very inspiring reading!

just so you know, keep it up :)

/Staffan from Sweden

Jasonmolinari said...

Staffan, i'm glad i could help! Keep us up to date with your experiments from Sweden.

explosivebeer said...

Jason, fantastic work and thanks for sharing. I'm excited to jump in and build a chamber.

I've recently been researching cigar paraphernalia as I'm getting a humidor and thought I'd see if you've ever heard of anyone using silica beads (similar concept to the salt method but possibly more effective) or electronic cigar humidifiers to control humidity.

Cigars are supposed to be kept at 70% humidity so some of the concepts may cross over. Anyway, thanks for sharing all your knowledge!

Jasonmolinari said...

explosivebeer: i haven't heard of anyone used silica beads, but they're certainly worth a try. Let me know how they work out.

explosivebeer said...

I'm not sure how I'll control my humidification yet but if I use those beads I'll definitely let you know.

Cheers,
Brandon

Kristen England said...

Jason,

Have you tried propylene glycol? Its what nearly all cigar humidors use now. A simple 50:50 mixture of PG with water will give you a resid humidity of ~65-70%. Its quite no brainer and non-toxic. It can be found at nearly any feed and tack store and runs about $7-8 per gallon. Wicked cheap.

Kristen

Jasonmolinari said...

Kristen, i have on tried it personally, but spoke about it in another post; http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/2008/01/more-humidification-ideas.html

thanks for the idea though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

This may seem like a dumb question.. How do you run the cords from the ultrasonic humidifier etc out of the fridge when creating your chamber? A) you leave the door slightly open, which .cant be it as wont the fridge will ice up/not work properly?
B) if you drill a hole so that the cords can go through, do you have to put rubber stoppers (or something to that affect) to minimize the amount of air that passes through the drilled hole.

Lastly if its option B, which i presume it is, how do you know where to drill the hole - the back, sides or door of the fridge?

Sorry for the dumb questions.. i dont want to buy a fridge and the break it in the process of creating a curing chamber.

Awsome blog.

regards.

Matt

Jasonmolinari said...

MAtt, either works. If you run the wires in teh door, the door gasket will form around the wires, no problem.

I drilled a hole. No gasket. Just a small hole to bring power inside the fridge and have an outlet inside the fridge. This is probably very stupid and rather dangerous though!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,
I'm just starting out and wondered what your thoughts were on using old wine fridges (like a dorm fridge) for a curing chamber. Is air circulation the biggest concern with these? Will the RH inside just get way out of control if i don't cut some sort of air holes/fan into it?
What if I just opened the door every day? I'm trying to not have to cut up the fridge. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. Alex

Jasonmolinari said...

Wine fridges can work well because they have built in temp control. The problem is humidity. Too much at teh start and not enough at the end.
Since the air is never dried out the humidity tends to be high at the beginning while the salame are drying out at lot at the start...
then when they're almost done, the humidity is generally a bit low.

You can try putting a tray of wet salt at the bottom..that will slowly absorb excess RH over 75% or release humidity when you're below 75%...but it works very slowly.

No holes needed..just have to keep an eye on it.

FrankieM83 said...

Hi Jason, I'm wondering if you can point me in the right direction. I am trying to make our wine cellar into a dry curing chamber using the same technology as you would in a refrigerator. I purchased the Traceable humidity controller and a 4.5 gal humidifier from home depot (not ultrasonic). The humidifier has a built in humidistat in it but only goes to 55%. My problem is that the Humidifier has a power button and it needs to be pushed to turn on. Even if the traceable humidity controller allows power through the outlet, the humidifier wont turn on unless you push the button. Dose the humidifier you recommend automatically turn on when your humidistat tells it to? If so do you think it could handle a room about 250 square feet?

Jasonmolinari said...

Frankie, if your going to use a humidistat/controller, you need a humidifier that bascally has a hard on/off switch, not an electronic one which has to be pressed to turn it on.
Additionally, you're going to have problems with that humidifier, the wick is going to get moldy quite quickly sitting in a 70-80% RH environment, plus when it comes on the fan is really strong, which may or may not be a problem.
I don't know that i've tried all the humidifiers i recommend, but i know that most "cheap" one just have an "off-low-high" switch so it's always on as long as there is power going to it, which is what you want.

I'm not sure how big an area this could handle..it really depends on how often the fridge runs , how much meat you have in there, etc.etc...hard to say.

Peter said...

Hello Jason,

I've been following your blog for several weeks now and I must say it is very informative.

I just put together my curing chamber and I had a few questions. I noticed that the reading on my humidity controller(Dayton Humidifier Controller) is not the same or even close to the reading on my humidity meter (which was calibrated). Any possible reasons?

Also, I've put in 3 lonzino in the chmaber and I now notice there is mold starting to appear on the meat. However, the mold is mostly white with some spots that appear to be slightly green. I know that green is not a good sign. However, I'm keeping the mumidity level between 70-75% and the temperature around 10C, with the door slightlyopen for air flow. Any thoughts?

chipman said...

Make sure you watch out for flying insects you do not want anything even landing on your meat this is a perfect environment for bad bacteria and most flying critters have lots of it on there feet. Also better to be off a degree or 2 and a percent or 2 than to be open for contamination. This is just my opinion after throwing away $40.00 worth of Meat and 20 hours because of a couple of flys.

Jasonmolinari said...

Peter, the inaccuracy between real measurement and controller could be caused by poor air circulation in chamber, miscalibrated equipment or who knows what else. Trust your calibrated meter.

Green mold is generally not good. Wipe them down with a vinegar/water wash. That's why it's good to innoculate with the spray mold. It'll quickly conquer the salume and not allow other mold formations (most of the time).

Chipman: yes..insects would be bad

Peter said...

Jason,

Is there anything I can do to improve air flow. I guess the open door isn't cutting it?

As for the mold, if I wipe it down with water/vinegar will that alter the taste of the final product? Also, do I just wipe down the green spots or the entire piece?

Is there a ratio I should follow for water/vinegar solution. 50/50?

Sorry for all the questions. It's my first batch and I really want to avoid throwing everything in the trash.


Peter

Jasonmolinari said...

Peter 50/50 will do. It won't affect the taste. I would wipe it all down.

You can wire a small computer fan to come on with the humidifier. That'll help blow the humidity around the chamber without overdrying the prodcut b/c it only comes on with humidifier.

Peter said...

Jason,

I actaully already have a small fan configured to switch on when the humidifer is triggered.

Could it be that my fridge is too small? Would too small a space cause mold issues? I have an old fridge with a freezer on the top (with a seperate door) and the bottom fridge compartment is not really that big.

Peter

Jasonmolinari said...

Peter, don't think the size of the environment affects the mold...sometimes mold just colonizes our stuff...wipe and keep an eye on it. It's the best you can do.

Anonymous said...

Jason, I am trying to build a cure fridge. I live in san francisco and the ambient temperature is hardly above 65 degrees. I have the basic setup that you have done, minus the light, but the refrigerator doesnt kick on because the outside temp is so low. I feel like in order to get soem air ciculating through the chamber the fridge needs to run. Im hesitant to install a light because of its adverse affects on fat. Do you think an "under tank" reptile heater would do the trick to make it turn on more; or do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks,Dave
Great blog BTW!

Jasonmolinari said...

Dave, if you don't want to use a bulb, get a ceramic terrarium heater bulb. It plugs into a bulb socket but emits only heat, and no light.

dave said...

Thanks. Im assuming that those ceramic heating bulbs arent compatible with a dimming switch. The lowest wattage that i could find was 50 watts. Do you think i should i hook the light socket into a temperature control switch like you have on your fermentation box? My next question might be a little stupid but should i set them at both the same temperature or should they be changed a couple degrees so one is always on? Thank you for the help.

Jasonmolinari said...

As far as i know, those bulb should be dimmable. They're just a resistive element encased in ceramic i believe. You won't be able to see how "dim" it is, but it should be dimmable.

jandyb said...

Hi Jason,

Awesome Blog. I've been trolling around for a few days now. Read most of the posts.

I married into an Italian family, and the "art" of cured sausage/meat making is part of the culture. Every year the siblings gather to a huge sausage making event....often we make as much as 8 shoulders at a time. My wife, I and kids use about 3 shoulders for ourselves. I am really getting into it, and have dabbled a few times over the years. We live in Southern Ontario, and around here Italians take advantage of the temp in the middle of winter to help cure the sausage. They usually use a Fruit Cellar (with a couple of outside vents) to maintain the temp.

Unfortunately I do not have a fruit cellar in my house, so I am trying the Garage. It seems that there is no real solid understanding on how the whole process works in the family....it's one of those "We do it this way, because our family has always done it this way, and it has worked until now". So when something goes wrong, there are no answers. I have learned so much from your blogs and other information on the Internet.

My first foray into this was 2 years ago. Tried hanging some sausage in the garage. Temp seems to stay about 2-5C during the winter. We ended up throwing it out. :) Now after the research I realise that the RH was way too low, and the sausage dried too fast.

This year I am trying again. About 1 week into the hanging of the sausage, I read about the 70% RH target, and put a humidifier and a hygrometer in the Garage. It tends to jump up and down as I do not have any sensors, and am turning on and off the humidifier manually.
I am going to put it on a timer today.

My question is about the weight loss. I know that the target weight loss as the sausage dries is about 30-35% of it's original weight. Is there a way of telling if your sausage is drying too fast by weighing on a regular basis? I weighed one strand last week and again this week, and it lost 14% of it's weight....however, I did not get the original weight of the strand when I hung it.

btw: This year I also pressed the sausage once it got to a certain level of dryness. One of my relatives does this, and it helps to prevent the center not drying if the outside is drying too fast.

Andy

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Andy. I don't personally know what the weight loss curve looks like and how to tell if it's going to fast as i've never recorded the weights at regular intervals. I do know the salame will lose weight more rapidly at the beginning because it's so wet at the start.

I think the weight loss curve will also depend on the casing used and the shape of the product and its surface area.

The RH is important but the range that it'll work at is pretty big. I'd say anywhere between 65-80 and you shuold be OK.

Also, using smaller casings (or thinner products like your relative did) is generally easier and less sensitive to humidity issues. So try using some smaller casings like hog casings (real small) or beef rounds (about 40mm).

good luck

Bob said...

I found TrickleStar has a temp and humidity controller. Humidity features:
- Adjustable humidity level 25% to 85%
- Dehumidifying / humidifying modes
- Battery backup, internal rechargeable battery
- Easy to use interface
Each are about 30 bucks, just google tricklestar.

http://www.tricklestar.com/US/601CC_US_W_features.html

Neat stuff my friend. I've been banging on a smoker for the past couple of years, this seems a natural progression. Found this book too: Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages by the Marianski Brothers. You know anything about it? Can you recommend any books that show and talk about the actual production part and not just recipes?

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks for the controller tip Bob.
As far as books, the Marianski bros books are quite good. They need editing help, but they have good info.

Take a look at my recommended book list on the right side of the page.

Joe Cody said...

Hi Jason
I'm new to this, but I have noticed that Samsung make a wine fridge that has humidity control. It claime temp between 3-18c and humidity between 55-75%
Would such a fridge be an "off the shelf" solution, albeit a costly one?
Joe

Jasonmolinari said...

Joe, it sounds like that should work quite well. What is the fridge model? I'd like to take a look

Joe Cody said...

Thanks for the reply Jason. This is the one

http://www.samsung.com/hk_en/consumer/appliances/refrigerators/winecellar/RW33EBSS1/XSH/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail&tab=feature

RW33EBSS

Jasonmolinari said...

It doesn't seem to have humidity control. Just that it keeps it between 55-75%. That's not good. That's too big a range. It needs to bemore like 70-75%

Joe Cody said...

That was my concern

Thanks for your comments

Joe

Reg said...

Hi guys. A month or so ago I purchased two of the larger wine coolers with insulated glass doors from a liquidation store here in Niagara Falls Ont. Paid $125 for each one. I'm sure just about every centre would have this type of outlet were they sell scratched or dented appliences. I can run at 55 degrees with humidity levels ranging from 70 all the way up to 90% depending on how much heavily salted water you put in the bottom. Just this morninmg I put in two capicollos, two lonzinos and two schenkins. Just looked at the humidity and it is 81% with no water in the bottom. This should level off over the next week or so then I will make adjustments if required.

One of the coolers will be used for meats and the other for cheeses when I start making again and that will be very soon.

Jason thanks for the great reads

Reg

Anonymous said...

Jason-

Do you leave the light on full-time in your chamber or is it on a timer to come on periodically? I was looking at putting a 1 foot piece of the flex watt heat tape (http://www.bigappleherp.com/Flex-Watt-Heat-Tape?whence=) that was mentioned earlier in the comments in my rig. This should put out about 20watts but it would be a consistent heat source... does this sound like a good approach?

Thx,
Brian

Jasonmolinari said...

brian, i turn the light on as needed when i load up the chamber with lots of new wet meats, to force the fridge to cycle more often. As the meats dry and lose less moisture the bulb isn't necessary anymore. It won't hurt, it'll just cuase more energy use and wear on the fridge.

I like hte idea of using heat tape! 20W might be too high though. Hard to say how much power my dimmed bulb is using.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason that makes sense. As an alternative to even the heat tape which is fixed wattage and would get taped inside the fridge permanently I came across Adjust A Temp Heat Mats which have much more flexibility and adaptability... (http://www.bigappleherp.com/Big-Apple-Adjust-A-Temp-Heat-Mats-Model-CA?sc=2&category=14). They come in various sizes, wattage (22, 14, 7 and 4), and power settings (high, med., low) and at about $20-25 is pretty cheap for the task.

I'm thinking I will get the 14 watt heat mat and a small fan and attach them both to a timer to cycle on and off for 15 mins every couple of hours. Playing with the power setting on the heat mat and the length of time it cycles on for should help me find a sweet spot for equilibrating humidity during the first couple weeks of drying.

Really great blog Jason. Very helpful.

-Brian

Jasonmolinari said...

That sounds good Brian, relatively adjustable heat source..

Anonymous said...

If my math is right...a 7 watt power source in a 22.4 cubic foot fridge will raise the temp by roughly 1 degree F/minute. That is a much faster rate of change than I would have thought but it makes perfect sense that you have a 20 watt bulb on a dimmer. Humidity and starting temperature will change air density and the heat capacity of the air in the fridge but 7 watt = 1 degree F/minute might be a good rule of thumb for anyone thinking through design of their chamber. Obviously this rule of thumb only works for a 22 cubic ft fridge as the smaller wine fridges or dorm sizes are going to heat up much faster.

-Brian

Jasonmolinari said...

Sounds like you've done the thermal analysis on the system, thanks, but did you account for conduction through all the walls? 1 deg./min seems way high..i'm sure there are a lot of dynamic and static effects which aren't accounted for in your analysis.

but it's certainly a start. thanks.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog & fantastic ideas. I've done some curing & aging of meat, but without the controls. This has me psyched to build a chamber using this device: http://www.amazon.com/Webcontrol-Universal-Temperature-Humidity-Controller/dp/B001H4JXLU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1256497812&sr=1-1&tag=5336653668-20

I've been looking for a reason to get one....

With the eight outputs and some solid state relays, I think I'd be able to control all aspects (airflow, humidity, heating, cooling) with one device that I can monitor remotely.

My Shopping list would be the controller: $35
Humidity sensor (ebay): $15
2 x Temp Sensor (ebay): $4
4 x SSR (ebay): $20

I'm thinking that I'd use two temp sensors in different locations...& use the fan to minimize differential (probably overkill). I was thinking four SSRs to control: Fridge, humidifier, fan, light/heat source.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add that there's a good discussion of uses of this controller over at cocoontech (which is where I learned of it): http://www.cocoontech.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=15005&hl=%20ethernet%20%20temperature%20%20humidity&st=0

Jasonmolinari said...

Thats a really cool integrated controller! thanks for pointing it out

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what I was thinking of building, but I was going to put a hole from the freezer to the fridge compartment add a fan then hook a smoke generator to the freezer compartment for cold smoking.

Jasonmolinari said...

Should work as a cold smoker, but i dont think i'd be using it as a curing chamber after that.

Anonymous said...

I love you

Joyfulhomemaker said...

how would this have been done prior to refridgeration?
Cheers

BarryS said...

Jason,

Fantastic site. A ton of really helpful info.
I have a room in the basement that is 9w x 8d x 7h. So its 72sf and 504cf. It is completely below ground, has cinderblock exterior walls and a concrete ceiling. It is basically under a porch area. I am trying to figure out the best way to utilize this room for a curing chamber.
Any suggestions you may have on best way to achieve this?

Jasonmolinari said...

Barry, i dont have much experience with whole rooms, i would insulate and water proof, and then get a Coolbot to control a window HVAC...you'll have to humidify or dehumidify...not sure which.

wahooclay said...

New to the blog. Great info. Just starting to build my curing chamber. Found a combined temperature and humidity controller for terrariums, Zoo Med Hygrotherm, $65 w/free shipping from petmountain.com (http://www.petmountain.com/show_product/11442-515078?creload=1317970653925). Should have fairly tight range control for each. We'll see if it works.

Jasonmolinari said...

thanks wahooclay. A couple people have mentione that, and it seems great, assuming your fridge + humidi are less than 1000W.

reefer trucks said...

That makes it more proven. I agree to every commenter here.

Salume_Slim said...

Dear God, I have found nirvana and a sensei in one blog!!! Thank you Mr. Molinari. I have been cooking for over 40 years and traveled the world for my work as an aerospace engineer, That career is over, and I now work in the health care industry where I get to cook on a daily basis (my passion!).

I have noticed that as time goes by, American food becomes more tasteless. I would rather have a 2 pound Korean chicken than 10 lbs of plump american chicken breast. Flavor rules!

I have been interested in curing meats for years, but have never had the opportunity. I have been brining for years, as well as fermenting (vinegars), smoking (trout/salmon), and curing fish (lox) etc, just to add some flavor to the foods I eat. I miss the salume, brasciola, prosciutti/serrano and pancetta I enjoyed while living in Europe for 13 years. I am unimpressed with "domestic" pancetta, prosciutti, etc.

I started to take a look at the economics of great food. I needed some Pancetta for a meal (to feed 6). $18/LB, imported, and generic quaility, IMHO. Not bad, not great. My next thought was, make my own Pancetta, simple enough, air dry. Then the wheels started spinning. An average 11 Lb side of pork, with skin would yield about 7 lbs of pancetta, barring massive failure, for an expenditure of around $40 here in Pennsylvania. 7 lbs @ $18 = $126.00, Hmmmmm. Which cot me to thinking....not always a good thing.

Several years ago, I was gifted a double door drink cooler (Sierra Mist) which had been drilled through as a keg cooler, before the donor lost interest. I have kept this cooler in a barn since then. This is a 40 Cu Ft unit, controlled from 25-60 degrees F. This will be my chamber, or at least the first chamber. Will work on the hygronimics? and let you know the results.

This might become a small cottage industry. One thing I promise, is to let you know how all of this turns out.

All of you have been an inspiration, to take my skills to another level.

Jasonmolinari said...

Salume_slim, glad i could get you kickstarted in this hobby! Not only is it cheaper than buying the stuff, you'll find it is quite a bit better too most of the time.

Hope you are able to turn your cooler into a curing chamber. I know someone who was able to turn a drink cooler into a chamber...it just took some finagling with baffles to control air flow.

lobb said...

wahooclay, what's the verdict on the zoo med hygrotherm?
seems like 1000w should be enough, right?

Kenth said...

My latest curing chamber http://korvoteknik.blogspot.com/search/label/Fermenteringssk%C3%A5p

Anonymous said...

Jason: I have a 4.3 cu.ft. Whirlpool fridge which is the right size for my throughput of cured meats, but it is not a frost-free. How about installing a compact Peltier style dehumidifier and run it to adjust the over humidification of the area of the fridge while curing. Essentially doing the opposite of the humidifier: removing the extra humidity from the air before it get a chance to solidify as ice on the cold coils. If the humiditry gets too low, then the ultrasonic humidifier kicks in. what do you think?

NinoAmarena

Jasonmolinari said...

Nino, sounds like it should work....only 1 way to find out though!

Trey said...

Jason, could you possibly use a freezer for making the curing chamber? I ask only because it's hard to find a fridge that isn't segmented with a freezer, and an upright freezer would give you much more room than a typical by side fridge.

Jasonmolinari said...

Trey, i think it should work, as long as the cooling system funnels humidity out.

BillH said...

Jason...please tell me I'm not completely in the drink here. I purchased a used smaller commercial fridge to set this up...didn't realize at the time that in the top of it there is the dreaded cooling plates that the air circulates over...the condensate collects and drains to the outside...anyway to decrease the humidity level? Right now it's jumping all over the place depending on whether the fridge is running or not. I'm wondering if I got the temp controller and set to the desired temp if this would help. Can't bear to tell the boss I screwed the pooch on this one.

BillH said...

Hey, just read a few more posts...any word if the compact Peltier style dehumidifier idea worked?

Jasonmolinari said...

Bill hard to say if the fridge will work or not. If the moisture gets piped out in some way, rather than staying in teh fridge it might work fine.
You just really need to try it.

Michael Tesser said...

Or you could just check out our website instead

http://www.stagionello.it/lang-en/5-salami

Michael

Jasonmolinari said...

Michael, I have. They're beautiful chambers. But i'm not sure many people have the means to purchase one of yours, vs, the $300 it takes to set up one like mine :)

Not to mention they have to be shipped from Italy and you have to deal with 220v vs. 110.

If your company would like to send me a chamber i will gladly take it :)

Kenth said...

I am building curingcambers, you can se my blog how i make them.

http://korvoteknik.blogspot.se/search/label/curingcamber

BillH said...

Jason, just might have lucked out...with the temp controller on it the temp is staying right at 58 degrees and the humidity @ 60%...going to try something simple first and see...thanks for sharing all your knowledge!

Jason said...

Can you use a cigar electronic humidifier in the fridge? It operates on distilled water, has a fan to circulate air, built in digital hygrometer, humidity control, etc; all in one unit.

Anonymous said...

Would an old wine fridge work? They are humidity/temperature controlled and have small exhaust fan. Pretty sure the temperature range is correct too.

Jasonmolinari said...

Most wine fridges will not work that well. They'll run high on humidity as they have no way to effectively remove moisture from the air.

I'm sure this depends on the type of wine fridge too though.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I live i Portland, OR and the basement temps here are usually steady around 60. however the current humidity levels are more in the 40-50's. I was thinking to raise the humidity i could simply cure the meat by purchasing a big plastic bin (or plastic trash can), hang from that, puch some hole for circulation, and add a small tray of salt/water at bottom to up the humidity. Any issues with this?

Anonymous said...

To clarify I would still be hanging the meat in my basement where the temp is a steady 60 but i would hang it in an upside down plasic trash can with a dish of salt/water at bottom to up the humidity some. I would drill some holes into the can to promote some air flow. This would also help alleviate concerns about animals, etc. Sound like it would work?

Jasonmolinari said...

I don't know if it'll work. ONly 1 way to find out....

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