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®!

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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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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Cold Smoked Salmon – a new method

Cold smoking salmon is a method that is often out of reach for most. The cold smoking set up involves smoking the fish at low temperature for a long period of time (like 2-3 days). Cold smoking imparts that coveted smoke flavor to the fish. Cold smoking allows the fish to dry and take on a prosciutto like texture.

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While visiting Montreal this summer we discovered a new more kitchen friendly method for creating an amazingly flavorful and delicious looking Cold “Smoked” Salmon. This method is also quite safe as everything happens under refrigeration and the fish is not exposed to high temperatures.

This recipe came from our friend Yan Garzon of

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The recipe for the cure was very simple:

500 gr of coarse salt
-500 gr of brown sugar
– 20 gr of spices of your choice (Montreal steak seasoning finely ground)
-sweet ground paprika (enough to cover de filet)
-10 gr of ground black pepper

One interesting thing is that the Montreal seasoning which is marketed mainly for steak, actually contains a perfect mix of spices traditionally suited for salmon:

Here is the Montreal seasoning recipe:
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp crushed black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp crushed coriander
1 tsp dill
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

We prepared more cure than was needed for this particular cure and did a little experiment creating four different recipes for Cold “Smoked” Salmon:

We did a cure in 4 different ratios of cure/fish by weight: 5%, 10%, 25% and 50%

The basic method was as follows:

Mix all of these together and keep in a Ziploc bag or Mason jar.
Method
1-cover the filet with some paprika that you sprinkle on it. Purpose is to get a nice red colored finish product:

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2-Use a big Ziploc bag to fit your fish filet, and you can cut the filet in 2 or 4 part, as you wish to fit in your curing bag and after in the UMAI DRY bags.

3-Weigh the fish and put in the bag two table spoons of liquid smoke, and 50% of the fish weight of curing solution also. (we made 4 batches of various ratios)

4-toss the bag and the mix evenly so it covers the flesh part

5-Put in the fridge for 7 days, and turn it every day.

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As you can see after a couple of days of curing the salt pulled out various amounts of water from the fish most being pulled out by the 50% cure ratio
6-After 7 days, take out of the ziplock bags and lightly rinse under fresh cold water, and dry with clean paper towel.

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7-Vacuum seal in UMAI DRY Small Charcuterie Bag and keep in the fridge on a open wire rack for about 12 days. The fish must be elevated to allow airflow all the way around it to allow moisture to evaporate through the bag.

The UMAi Dry bags are special bags that allow the fish to dry in the refrigerator. The moisture loss will develop a flavor and texture of cold smoked salmon. The UMAi Dry bags are used mainly in Charcuterie and Salumi applications for creating capicola, bresaola, pancetta in a home refrigerator.

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When the fish was fully cured and dried it has lost an average 35% of its original weight:

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This product is very shelf stable when refrigerated and can last a couple of months if vacuum sealed in regular Foodsaver bags.

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5 Tips for making Dry sausage with UMAi Dry

To make good looking and good tasting dry sausage with UMAi Dry is not that hard. There a few basic practices to follow to ensure you get the very best results for your effort and patience.

Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Keep the meat cold: Slice the meat into thick slices (+/- ¾ in./1 cm) and partially freeze prior to cutting them into cubes for grinding. Keep the meat as cold as possible through each step of the process right until it is stuffed into UMAi Dry® casing. Keeping the meat cold (aka icy, nearly frozen) makes grinding and mixing easy as can be.  Frozen meat grinds out with much better definition. The ground meat will keep its shape.   The defined grind will also allow the spices and cure to distribute more easily and evenly, coating each individual particle. Finally. stuffing a cold sausage mixture guarantees an well-defined appearance to the finished dry sausage, achieving a classic salumi look.

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2. Grind large: Use a large hole plate when grinding the meat for dry sausage. Larger meat particles will allow faster, more even drying.  It will also give the sausage the classic texture of a fine salami. Smaller grind will take longer to dry and create a less defined texture.

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3. Use paddles or other tools to mix cure and spices into the ground meat :  If you use hands, you end up with frozen digits and sticky meat, making even mixing next to impossible. Wood, plastic or metal paddles will help keep the ground meat cold and help coat each particle with cure and spices for an even mix. Once the spices and cure coat the sausage particles well, you can use hands to knead the mixture until it gets stiff, indicating a stable mixture.

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4. Use a dedicated stuffer to stuff the casing: This is a lesson we’ve learned the hard way.  Hand grinders and grinder stuffer attachments will generally result paste like or doughy re-ground meat–very undesirable for a classic dry sausage. A dedicated stuffer will work more gently, preserving the structure of the meat.  The result is the well-defined particle pattern of classic salami.

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5. Ferment the sausage in a protected space with little air flow: Fermentation is one of the most critical steps in making dry sausage.  During this step the sausage should be prevented from drying. Fermenting sausages should be placed in an area with little to no air movement.  Rapid airflow can dry out the outside of the sausage preventing the outer surface from properly fermenting. As a result you may have uneven drying and poor appearance of the finished product. We’ve begun to use an oven or similar enclosed space. One sausage maker showed us how he rigged up a paper grocery bag umbrella-style to shelter the batch of sausages he hung to ferment.

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These are practices we’ve found helpful in our pursuit of making better and better dry sausage.  We hope they help you get the best results for all the time, effort and patience you will put into mastering the art of salumi!

Ever heard of backslop? A bit about starter cultures…

What is starter culture? A starter culture is a specific mix of micro-organisms that convert various sugars in the sausage mix into various organic acids. By doing so, the starter culture imparts a distinct flavor to the sausage, develops the color of the sausage, and preserves the sausage by creating an environment that prevents harmful bacteria from growing.  Starter cultures have one more very important function in sausage making:  the micro-organisms in the starter culture help in nitrate conversion and thereby reduce the levels of residual nitrate in the fermented dry sausages, making the product more wholesome.

Pure forms of starter cultures have not been around for very long since their production requires modern incubation and clean room equipment. The predecessor of the modern starter culture was a method called “back slopping.” Yes…, back slopping.  This is what the old timers called a process where part of the old already fermented batch of sausage was thrown back into the new mix. The already fermented product contained the necessary micro-organisms to start the fermentation of the new batch. This is also sometimes described as “spontaneous” fermentation. This form of fermentation in not utilized in industrial use in the US any longer, due to potential for contamination.

When we make dry sausages with UMAi Dry, we use the starter culture method to ensure consistent results. We recommend Bactoferm T-SPX European-style slow-fermenting starter culture because its fermentation temperature matches room temperature 65-70F. This is both convenient and matches the desired balanced not-too-tart flavor that we look for in our Italian dry salami.

Venison hard salami made with UMAi Dry casing

Venison hard salami made with UMAi Dry casing