I am now the proud owner of an F.Dick sausage stuffer.
Over the past few months, I have slowly searched for and acquired some newer and more substantial equipment for making sausage. The equipment I owned for years was functional, but not nearly as precise or as much fun to use. Below are a few pics of old vs. new.
This German designed beauty holds 12 pounds of ground meat, and cranks so smoothly and easily. Here’s to German engineering!
Below is the first stuffer I owned. Kind of looks like an industrial strength Playdough toy. It holds 3 pounds of meat at a time, but in reality, it didn’t work well if you filled it more than halfway at a time. That’s a lot of messy refilling of the chamber every time you want to make sausage. None of the pieces are particularly tight, so a lot of ground meat squirts out of both ends as you press down the lever. Mostly, it is really difficult to press down the lever and control the speed (can I say “through-put” in a non computer context).
The new F.Dick works with a very large crank, and a nicely fitting plate to push meat downward and out into casings. Much more manageable for a 4-year-old assistant. And much more pleasant for me to use too. Plus, it proudly displays its “DICK” label, which makes me laugh. Fitting 10 meters of sausage casing over the stuffing tubes (not shown) looks really dirty, and is worth a laugh.
I’ve discussed the importance of accurately measuring the change in acidity during the fermentation process when making salami. These inexpensive pH strips work, but I recently upgraded.
Below is a digital pH meter with a probe, which is much more precise. I just need a holster so I can strap my cell phone and fancy new pH meter to my belt. Its all about fashion in my world of meat.
Water Activity (Aw) Meter
In previous posts, I’ve tried to explain the importance of measuring the water activity (Aw) in meat. In order for meat to be shelf-stable at room temperature, you have to reliably know that the water activity measures less than .85. This ensures that there is not enough moisture for bacteria to grow. Unfortunately, most Aw meters cost a fortune. $1600 is the cost of a hand-held digital Aw meter, and someday, after I’ve sold thousands of pounds of charcuterie, and become unreasonably wealthy from this protein-hobby, I will go digital.
In the meantime, I was able to find a German-made analog Aw meter made in the mid 1970’s that works nicely. Who knew that something like this could be found on EBay. This Aw meter consists of a stainless steel cup with a sensor built into the lid. Fill the cup with water, screw on the lid, and wait 3 hours. The Aw meter should read 1.0. This is the simple calibration exercise used to ensure that the dial is lined up correctly. To test the Aw of dried meat, a sample of chopped up salami is placed in the cup. Wait 3 hours, and hope that the number is at or below the required .85. If not, the salami needs more time drying.
Below is a hand-held digital Aw meter. Very pricey, but it provides an accurate reading in just 5 minutes. I am perfectly happy waiting 3 hours for the final measurement. $50 for a perfectly functional antique is much more inline with my budget these days.
Humidity and Temperature control
Below is the humistat/thermostat I’ve been using for fermenting and aging. Yes, if you look closely, you’ll see that it is made by “Zoo Med”, a company that makes gear sold in pet stores, and used by reptile owners. But it is accurate and serves my needs perfectly. This dual-purpose tool allows me to plug in a fan (or AC) and also a humidifier, set the maximum allowable temp and humidity. When the temperature reaches 60 degrees F, the fan (or AC) turns off. When the humidity reaches 70%, the humidifier cut off. A very simple concept, but it saves the day when you need to monitor and control temperature and humidity.
Below is a work-in-progress. The new walk-in cooler has insulated walls, floor, and ceiling, and plenty of shelving. When this is done, it will be an environmentally controlled (temp and humidity) box, with circulating fresh air, and plenty of space for hanging treats to age. There should be plenty of room for wine and cheese too.
Status on the prosciutto:
Salting: 30 of 30 days complete
Drying: 56 of 90 days complete
Aging 0 of 360 days complete