UMAi Dry® Casings Help You Make Dry Sausage at Home

How do UMAi Dry® casings help you craft

slow fermented traditional dry sausage — and how can we do better?

This is what we asked in our December survey. Almost 450 UMAi Dry® sausage makers responded!

Your responses set us on a clear course to formulate our new UMAi Dry® Sausage Spice Blends so that you can craft the best tasting salumi recipes ever with UMAi Dry® casings.  These blends were created by the master dry sausage maker at Spark Spices. You will find spice blends for soppressata, pepperoni and salami available our website on February 1, 2016.

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Even more important, we learned a TONS from your answers to the question:

“What do you like best about UMAi Dry® casings?”

We imagined you might like the strength, ease and no fuss nature of UMAi Dry® casings, but we heard again and again how you love recreating old family recipes and (most important of all) needing no special curing or drying chamber.

  • 157 customers told us that like the EASE of UMAi Dry® casings
  • 134 customers told us they use UMAi Dry® casings because they are NO FUSS
  • 85 customers noted that the STRENGTH of UMAi Dry® casings stood out for them
  • 28 customers love RECREATING OLD RECIPES WITHOUT FEAR

Here are a few of the great comments and stories:

“First, I love the ease of use and clear and concise instructions. Money well spent there. Then, I like the strength and use of zip-ties on a near indestructible bag.”

“The ease of use has been wonderful, they are consistently strong and do not rupture during stuffing. Their shelf life is excellent and the ability to make smaller batches that with natural casings has been a plus.”

“Using without fear, humidity levels, being able to create safely under normal refrigeration conditions. I think the products are a great idea!”

“I personally like the fact that I can recreate traditional recipes any time of the year without having to limit my production to the fall.”

“The product takes the guesswork out of drying out meat.  I don’t have to worry about humidity as much and the product is always sterile so I don’t have to worry my brother flushed it out properly. :-)”

“No fear is a big one, my schedule at home is erratic at best and my wife is a conscientious objector so for me the big one is once the casing is stuffed I can leave it in the refrigerator until the weight is right with no intervention on my side…good for me. BTW, I love the product and will be buying more.”

“The best ever, salami in your own fridge fridge, most of my friends don’t think you can make your own, I don’t have to worry about bacteria etc, it is a great idea and it absolutely works. I made five Soppressata and they were eaten very quickly.”

“Umai Dry is great. Finally you guys made something so someone can make salumi without building a fermentation chamber. Love Umai dry. Keep up the great work.”

“My dad is 80, born in Italy & taught me how to make a simple traditional sopressata & sausage dried in basements with the right environment. Everyone loves it.  We also make Copacolla & it’s too much for him to breakdown the butt.   His butcher will do it for him now & he gets the joy of watching it in his fridge anytime of year.”

“The ease of use. Especially with the zip ties being all you need to seal. Also living in the south it an almost impossible climate to use traditional casings so this makes a very distant dream a home kitchen reality. ”

Thanks to all the kind folks who took time to respond to the survey and share their thoughts and stories.  

We feel really encouraged and inspired to continue building our business on the hope we help you CREATE TRADITION AT HOME®!

Keep Calm and Color On! Color your Dry Aged Feast

As you prepare for the holidays, sometimes you need a break and a little imagination to put on that perfect feast.  Our artist came up with this view of your holiday dry aged feast.

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Take a break from the hard work preparing the feast.  Chill out and color!  Print this delectable drawing of a dry aging standing rib roast. Bring out the crayons, colored pencils, watercolors–gather around the pre-feast table as a family and picture that perfect meal together.

If you are still planning for the New Years’ dinner, we’d like suggest you consider a 4-5 dry aged tenderloin, complete with seasoned crusting.  Just check out the six tenderloin recipes for this application of UMAi Dry® to “quick” dry aging delicious filet mignon or Chateaubriand.

You will find recipes for the following:

  • Fresh Herb and Garlic
  • Black Cherry and Black Pepper
  • Coffee Spice
  • Rosemary Almond
  • Fennel Seed and Rosemary
  • Chanterelle and Tarragon

We hope that you find new inspiration in this fresh idea for dry aging.  Tenderloin is already plenty tender, but dry aging for just four to five days will deepen the beefy flavor and allow the seasoning to form the perfect crust.

Wishing you and yours a memorable dry aged feast!

ASK MAUREEN: How Much Salt Do I Need??

“J” asks:

  • “In the recipe archive for capicola, the recipe asks for 6 tbsps of salt for 4 1/2 pounds of meat, but on the video the lady only uses 3 tbsps. of salt for 4 1/2 pounds of meat.  Could you please verify which of the recipes is correct?”

“J,” Good catch!  A bit more salt is better than a bit too little, but what you want is that critical 3% salt to weight of meat.

To do this you need a good kitchen scale!!

The TYPE and BRAND of salt make a huge difference in “How much” salt you get when you simply measure with teaspoons.  You must use non-iodized salt in charcuterie and fermented sausage.  It is also important to use kosher salt–though not all kosher salt is alike.
Here’s the thing, typical American volume measurements are terrible for measuring salt accurately. In fact, Mortons Kosher Salt is almost double the weight of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt! You really need a scale to weigh the salt and make sure it is that safe 2.5-3% of the weight of the meat.
For safety, we have adjusted all the volume measurements in our recipes for Diamond Crystal Kosher salt.  It is the “lightest” and “fluffiest” of the common salts.  If you don’t have a scale and you use a more dense salt, you will get a saltier recipe.
AND PLEASE get a good kitchen scale!!  You will need it to weigh your start and finish weight, too.  Remember:  Dry until you achieve 35-40% weight loss.
TARGET = start weight x 0.65

 

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,
Maureen

Customer Support

Always best to check with the community at the UMAi Dry® Forum

ASK MAUREEN: What’s a “Good” Fridge for Dry Aging?

  • New to using UMAI bags and concerned my first attempt has failed. Would appreciate advice whether to persist or bin it. Temperature control has been all over the place.  Some days the meat feels really solid/frozen; other days more pliable, even soft.  Is it likely my fridge is not frost free and hence the dry bag system is not going work?  Have other UMAI bags and was going to try prosciutto and salamis, but not starting until I have more confidence that my refrigeration is appropriate.  Would appreciate any advice.–O.

MAUREEN’S RESPONSE:

Hello, O.

First of all, thank you for the fearlessly thorough, honest description of your process. You are certainly very persistent and creative in trying to make this work with the fridge you’ve got. It is safe to say this is NOT an appropriate environment for dry aging or dry curing the precious meat you are aging in UMAi Dry®.

There are two simple rules for UMAi Dry®-appropriate refrigerator choice:
1) The temp must remain consistently between 1-4C (34-38F), or safe for holding milk for 7-10 days.
2) The freezer attached to the fridge (not sure whether you indicated your appliance has a freezer or not), must remain frost free.

A third (often surprising) guideline is that the fridge should be regularly opened and closed. We have designed the UMAi Dry® application to be best suited to everyone’s kitchen fridge. This is VERY different advice to most dry aging advice (i.e. “commando”) or curing chambers.

Onto you REAL question: Is this meat safe? Obviously, we cannot see or smell the results, so we can only offer there guidelines.

Is the color fairly evenly mahogany brown (not grey or bluish tint)? Is the texture of the ‘bark’ more or less firm all the way around the piece (‘hard, solid plastic,’ as you have described it)?

The TRUE TEST of whether you process has failed or not is the sniff test. As the meat scientists tell us time after time, “The nose knows.” If you sniff the surface of the meat through the UMAi Dry® and detect a ‘pleasant, forest-y, funky’ aroma, you are probably good to remove the UMAi Dry®, trim the ‘bark,’ cut into steaks and cook as appropriate for a steak.

If, however, you smell what strikes you as ‘rotten flesh,’ trust your instincts and do not plan to eat. We would suggest going ahead and “unwrapping” the meat to as to study the color and texture of both bark and inner meat. We would certainly like to learn from your experience–freezing and thawing and overheating the meat such as your refrigerator has done during this dry aging process.

Before you go on to another project, make sure you have some space in a modern, frost free fridge. Using stackable racks can make it easier to use your kitchen fridge.

Hope this helps!!

Maureen

Steak Can Fend Off Heart Disease?

Yes, you read right.

Steak may actually repair your heart.

New research published in the journal Nutrition indicates that consuming meat can positively impact your heart.  “The impact is the same as if you were to stop smoking, cut back on your sodium intake, or exercise more,” explained Korin Miller in For a Healthier Heart, Eat … Steak? on Yahoo Health in August of 2015.

Heathy Heart article

Researchers were looking at intake of seven amino acids (the building blocks of protein) recognized as possessing heart-healthy properties.

In a comparative study of twins, researchers found that the twin with the healthier heart consumed more of the amino acids found in protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy, beans, lentils, broccoli, and spinach.

In our bodies, amino acids help generate new tissue and repair damaged tissue.  Researchers found that consuming more amino acids from meat (glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine) resulted in less-stiff arteries.

These same animal-based amino acids were also linked to lower blood pressure. “Since both high blood pressure and stiff arteries are linked to heart disease, researchers concluded that getting more amino acids in your diet — from meat and plants — can have a positive impact on your heart,” Miller summarized.

The thing to keep in mind is that a little goes a long way.  A palm-sized steak (3 ounces) provides enough of the essential amino acids to be beneficial to heart hearth.

ASK MAUREEN: Don’t Mistake Oxygen for Air; or UMAi Dry® for a Vacuum Bag

Everyday we receive emails and phone calls from customers asking for information, advice, reassurance.  Our front line “BagLady” Maureen provides knowledgeable answers in an ever-patient manner.  Her many years as a teacher are a tremendous asset.

In her honor, we introduce “ASK MAUREEN.”  This column will share Maureen’s answers to “life’s persistent questions.”

Today, a very, very common question:

  • I’m confused….does air get in or only out of the umai dry bags? what is “oxygen exchange”? J

Hello, J.

What you need to understand is that “air” is not the same as “oxygen.”  There are two reasons we emphasize that UMAi Dry® is oxygen-permeable:

1)  Oxygen helps produce good dry aged results.

2)  Oxygen prevents the scary anaerobic bacteria that can form within vacuum packaged food.

If you  are vacuum packaging food, you absolutely MUST remove all air or risk spoilage of the food or dangerous conditions within the bag.  UMAi Dry® does not pose that risk.

UMAi Dry® is applied with a vacuum sealer only to pull the bag into best contact with the moist surface of the meat—not to form a vacuum.  It is the bond that forms between that meat surface and UMAi Dry®  that is the key.  You only need 75-80% of the surface to bond with UMAi Dry® for consistent, reliable results.

Initially, UMAi Dry® will appear to hold a vacuum, meaning it keeps “air” out.  However, it allows oxygen molecules to pass through the material, just as it allows moisture to release.   It is like a membrane—protecting the meat, but not “suffocating” it. The enzymes in the meat get the oxygen they need to tenderize and improve the flavor during dry aging.

While you can breathe both oxygen and air, it is the oxygen that will keep you alive.  Similarly, while you can seal a piece of meat into both UMAi Dry® and a vacuum bag, it is the UMAi Dry® that allows the meat to transform like fine wine.

Hope this helps!

Maureen

Sous Vide Cooking Guarantees a Perfect Steak Every Time

Congratulations! Dry aging done! Your ribeye, striploin or sirloin is ready. Now it’s time to trim the “bark” off, cut it into steaks, and get ready to enjoy, share or preserve to savor over time.

Steak lover beware: Dry aged steak cooks faster than “wet-aged” steak. With the lower water content, there is none of the weep and shrivel to indicate doneness. Time has provided tenderness that you don’t want to unintentionally turn to shoe leather.

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The ultimate way to cook a steak is sous vide, under vacuum in a controlled temperature water bath. Once the meat has reached the desired temperature of the bath, the meat is cooked perfectly edge to edge. Polish the steak off with a quick sear on a grill or frying pan. This is the secret to a perfect steak.

Freezing dry aged steaks:
Dry aged steaks freeze very well with minimal impact on taste or texture. Because of the reduced moisture content, dry aged steaks are less susceptible than wet aged steaks to freeze damage that is a result of water crystal formation. Simply vacuum seal your dry aged steaks into vacuum/sous vide bags and place them in the freezer. For best results, thaw the steaks very slowly in the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before grilling or cooking sous vide. You might want “hot tub” the steaks in lukewarm water for an hour or so before cooking so you know they are just right when you toss them on the grill.

Cooking dry aged steaks:
Dry aged steaks tend to cook faster than wet aged steaks because there is just less water in them to “bring to a boil.” The steak will reach doneness in much less time. So, keep an eye on those steaks, use a quick read thermometer, and pull them off before they reach temp to let the carry over do the trick.

Many chefs will quick sear the steak before vacuum packing with a pat of butter and some seasoning. When you sous vide this way, the flavors expand and penetrate the meat delectably. Sous vide cooking is your best guarantee of steak perfection—exact temperature, ideal texture, complete nutritional value and maximum flavor.

One great resource on the web, ChefSteps.com, offers a great visual guide to temperature and doneness. They also offer online video classes on how to cook perfect proteins and more sous vide.  Check out their Map of Sous Vide Cooking:

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When it Comes to Charcuterie, Weight is Everything

Charcuterie is a simple craft.  There are Three Fundamental Rules:

  • #1  3% salt to weight of meat
  • #2  0.25% slow acting curing salt (eg. Instacure #2) to weight of meat
  • #3  dry cure until meat has lost 35-40% of its original weight

Basically, all that is required is meat, salt and patience (and UMAi Dry®!)  Of course, you need the correct proportion of salt to meat.  To achieve this, you must choose the right salt and measure it by weight.

Since North Americans most often measure ingredients by volume (cups and teaspoons) rather than weight, obeying the Three Fundamental Rules can be impossible in a kitchen that lacks a basic kitchen scale.

So… first, you need a scale. If you don’t have one, check out the model that we offer:  Escali Primo Digital NSF-rated Scale.

Next… you need to know your salt. “Salt is salt is salt,” some say.  But this can be a risky oversimplification when it comes to choosing and measuring salt for home crafted charcuterie.  Not all salt is alike–even when labeled “Kosher.”

In Warning: Measure Your Salt by Edward Schneider, we learn that one cup of Morton’s kosher salt weighs 250 grams while one cup of Diamond Crystal kosher salt weighs 135 grams!  Because these two kosher types are manufactured very differently, one brand weighs almost twice as much as the other.

What’s more, if you use regular table salt (NOTE: Never use iodized salt for charcuterie projects), know that one cup of table salt weighs in at 300 grams–even saltier than the Morton’s kosher.

Imagine the flavor of the capicola made with one cup of Morton’s kosher salt or unionized table salt?!  Safe amount of salt, but possibly not very palatable results.

UMAi Dry® recipes provide both volume and weight measurements for the convenience of our customers.  Please note that our volume measurements are all based upon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (the lightest, aka “least salty”).  This way, we ensure that our recipes provide the minimum proportion-by-volume of salt for safety.

As Mr. Schneider warns, “… whenever recipe writers are rash enough to give a precise measurement for salt, they ought to specify what kind they’re talking about. Some do; but even then, some just say “kosher salt” — I’ve done this myself, but I’ve stopped, and I promise never to do it again.

We hope you will take his advice to heart.  Know your salt.  Use a scale.

Guarantee safe, flavorful home-crafted charcuterie–with UMAi Dry®!

The secret to a great steak is hidden in your fridge

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When we think of wine, images of rotting grapes don’t come to mind, but rather we imagine a noble drink that matures and gets better with time. Some of the finest cheeses aren’t spoiled or rotten, but rather inoculated with mold and aged to add complexity of flavor and texture. When it comes to meat however, most people believe that fresh meat is better. While that holds true for your hamburgers, chicken and turkey, it isn’t true for steak quality beef. A secret to a tender and flavorful great steak is aging.

In the old days beef was left hanging in barns for weeks to mature and achieve the flavor that makes steak that special meal that we crave. Dry aged steak is still the gold standard for beef. Because of high cost most beef today isn’t dry aged, but rather “wet aged” – left aging in ordinary air and water tight plastic bags.

Dry aging is the true way to extract the best texture and taste from a good steak. During dry aging, the enzymes inside the meat tenderize and transform the beef like fine wine. Dry aging is the ultimate form of aging beef, it tenderizes the meat, intensifies the beefy flavor and imparts the nutty, oaky flavor unique to the old fashioned dry aged steak. Top tier steak houses around the world serve dry aged beef. UMAi Dry® makes it possible for anyone with a fridge create the original slow food.

UMAI Dry, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company, markets a breathable plastic for dry aging beef and dry curing meat in your fridge. Yes, the one you open several time a day to get at your food.

The material, called UMAI Dry, releases moisture and allows oxygen to permeate creating the authentic flavor and texture of dry-aged steak or dry-cured meats like capicola, pancetta, bresaola. Have you ever imagined that you can make those yourself?IMG_9689
The material is sold as bags for application that requires a vacuum sealer.
The company sells its product mostly through their website right now, but is running a Kickstarter campaign to introduce their Artisan Meat Kits into specialty kitchen and grilling stores. The kit comes with a vacuum sealer and all necessary components to dry age 3 -18 lb ribeye or striploin steak cuts and dry cure 5 different charcuterie projects like capicola, pancetta or bresaola.

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UMAi Dry (originally called DrybagSteak) was started in 2009 by Thea Lopatka, a former teacher, interculturalist and expert on Japanese culture. The idea for the company was introduced to Thea by her college friend Igor Pilko, who is a packaging engineer. Thea grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is the daughter of Chicago-transplant parents who were avid gourmet food enthusiasts in the 60’s. Thea was introduced to dry-aged steak as a child, when her father would order a quarter of beef to be hung at the local gourmet supermarket, Byerlys.
When college friend Igor Pilko contacted her in 2007 and demonstrated the use of UMAI Dry to her, the flavor of the dry-aged steak brought back an all-but-forgotten taste from her childhood. Wanting to share this genuinely-aged beef flavor, Thea introduced the product to several restaurant chefs and received positive reviews. She started selling bags for dry aging beef out of her apartment in 2008, at the same time supporting her self by doing freelance Japanese interpreting for a local air conditioning manufacturer.
By 2010, the sales had grown and DrybagSteak moved to an office in Wayzata, MN.
In 2011, the company relocated to their current office in Minneapolis and in 2012 introduced dry curing applications for UMAI Dry material: UMAI Charcuterie and UMAI Salumi.

In 2009, Kansas State University conducted a study on the effectiveness of the UMAI Dry material comparing different aging times effect on taste and texture. A similar earlier study by Kansas State University, conducted in 2005, compared moisture permeable polymer material to traditional open-air dry aging. The basic results of the studies demonstrated that dry aging beef in UMAI bags resulted in taste and texture similar to traditional open air process.

Sausage making across two continents

We are always grateful to receive special “Creating Tradition at Home” stories from our customers. We feel that this recent email embodies the spirit of UMAi Dry as well as adds a real Australian pioneer flavor to the story.

Our customer Anthony who incidentally now calls Ohio his home sent this email to us:

Sausage making is very popular in Australia. I came from a 24,000 acre sheep and cattle station in Western Queensland. As many of my mates do. We slaughtered all own cattle, sheep and pigs. Making bacon, ham, sausages (fresh and cured), corned meat and obviously all the fresh cuts. It was not uncommon to kill 8 or 10 sheep at a time or 2 head of cattle. Pig killing was a family affair on the weekends.

I attach a few photos from about 1992 with the old German gent who taught me the skills and me and my son (who is now 26). Oh how I wish we had Umai dry in those days. It would have saved so much work. The photo with the hanging sausages is of Black and White pudding made from the head and offal of the pig. I still make it from time to time also.

I do pay great attention to detail when working with meat and enjoy using your product as previously mentioned.

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Coincidentally Anthony was inquiring about an issue he encountered while making his salami and stuffing UMAi Dry casing. The casing sometimes tends to bulge when pressure builds up inside. That is an inherent property of the material and rarely creates some funny looking shapes like shown below. As Anthony said himself most of the sausages turned out looking fantastic.

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