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®!

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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Pancetta recipe – made in a home fridge

Pancetta is the original bacon. Amazingly enough it is a very easy thing to make at home.

This pancetta recipe is a classic example of refrigerator charcuterie that has consistent results and requires no special set-up.

The Roman legionnaires were snacking on this delectable meat candy in between battles.

This traditional pork belly preparation can be made either as a slab (stesa) or roll (arrotolata), as you prefer.

Here is the recipe we used:

Pork belly           (we used two 5 lb. pieces)               10 lb. (4.5kg)

Garlic, minced                      4 cloves

InstaCure #2   (0.25% of meat weight)   2 tsp (11g)

Kosher salt (3% of meat weight)   3/4 cup (120g)

Dark brown sugar                  2 tbsp (30g)

Black pepper, coarsely ground  4 tbsp (8g)

Juniper berries, crushed            2 tbsp (10g)

Bay leaves, crumbled               4 (4g)

Nutmeg, freshly grated             1 tsp (2g)

Fresh thyme                    4 or 5 sprigs

Here are some beauty shots of the end product:

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We started out with two 5lb pieces of pork belly that we bought at our nearby Whole Foods supermarket

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We ground up the spices and the curing salt together and rubbed the bellies with the mixture:

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We placed each belly into a Ziplock plastic bag and put in the refrigerator for two weeks

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After the two weeks we  washed off the excess cure and spices. Don’t mind the burn marks on our chef-trainees arms he didn’t get them making Pancetta.

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We rolled one of the bellies and tied it with butchers twine (say it with me) Arrottolata! and left the other one flat Stesa style.

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The bellies are ready to go into UMAi Dry at this point. UMAi Dry is a special membrane material that will allow the pancetta to age in our home fridge. We have done this pancetta a couple of times inUMAi Dry and each time the results were excellent and consistent.

UMAi Dry looks like a regular plastic bag, but it has magic properties of letting the moisture out and letting oxygen in, while protecting the meat and its surroundings from mold, odors and other undesirable things.

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UMAi Dry is applied with a vacuum sealer, but it is not a vacuum bag. All we have to do is to get the bag into the contact with the moist meat surface and it a few days, the bag will stick to the meat and it will age/dry perfectly.

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Here it is all sealed up in UMAi Dry and ready to go rest in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.

Yea I know, thats a long time, but all good things are worth the wait.

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Voila! 7 weeks later we have a delectable hunk of meat candy. Best served thinly sliced on a slicer we like the Chef’s Choice Model 632 slicer with non-serrated blade.

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