Cold smoked chorizo

Cold smoked chorizo after hanging

Cold smoked chorizo

This is a cold smoked, Mexican style fresh chorizo sausage.

I made these to test out my original curing chamber setup (with the vivarium controller), as they only need to hang for about 5-7 days. Plus I wanted to use my newly built cold smoker 🙂

Shopping list (adjust the amounts according to how much meat / fat you have. The ratios are important):

  • 1.5kg pork shoulder, or a mixture of shoulder and belly, diced into 1″ cubes
  • 650g back fat diced into smaller cubes than the meat (if you can’t get back fat, use a greater ratio of belly)
  • 40g Sea salt
  • 6g of Cure #1 (pink salt)
  • 25g dried chilli powder
  • 3g white pepper
  • 75g dehydrated skimmed milk
  • 15g dried cumin
  • Thinly sliced spring onions – 120g or so, green part included
  • About 60ml cold water, and some ice cubes
  • Natural hog casings
  • Cold smoker / dust / pellets

Get your sausage on:

Important: Make sure you’ve got your grinder blades in the freezer for a few hours to help keep everything super cold and stop the fat smearing when grinding, and get your hog casings in some warmish water so they’re ready to be stuffed. If you have room, put the meat and fat into the freezer for a while too.

  • Put ice cubes in one mixing bowl and then put the other bowl into it
  • Mix the diced meat, salts, herbs and milk powder together and grind them through the coarse plate on your grinder, into the iced bowl
  • Grind the fat through the fine plate into the iced bowl with the meat in
  • Mix this all together with the spring onions and a splash of cold water, it’ll go sticky when you mix it – you want this
  • Take a small piece and fry it off in a pan to check the seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Make sure that you put the rest of the mixture in the fridge while you do this
  • Rinse the casings out thoroughly. Don’t let go else they’ll disappear down the plug hole!
  • Stuff your sausages into the casings, and twist into links. Whatever length you like
chorizo coil

Chorizo coil

chorizo links

And now with links!

  • Put them uncovered in the fridge overnight to build up a pellicle so that they take the smoke better
  • Stick them on your cold smoker for a few hours (I think mine had about 5 hours), they should have some nice colouration by then
Looking pretty good after a cold smokin'

Looking pretty good after a cold smokin’

  • Then hang them in the fridge (curing chamber, etc) for about 5 days. Ideally they want about 70% humidity. Mine were in there for a week and the humidity was all over the place, but they turned out fine. I was testing out the viability of the reptile vivarium controller as a curing chamber controller at the time, but I decided that more control was needed, hence sausageBot was born.
Hang them for about 5-7 days

Hang them for about 5-7 days

  • You can then freeze them and they’ll keep for ages, or keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks max.
  • For bonus points, vacuum seal them – they take up less room and you won’t get any freezer burn. Plus it’s good fun.
Vacuum packed for freezing

I love this thing.

That’s it!

Unsurprisingly you can use them like any fresh chorizo – they’re particularly good with chicken, in risotto, or just fried up as a tapas dish.

Kielbasa Wiejska

Kielbasa Wiejska

Kielbasa Wiejska

A fresh Polish sausage – heavy on the garlic and marjoram. Courtesy of Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie.

you need:

  • 1Kg Pork shoulder, diced.
  • 20g Sea salt (or other non-iodised salt)
  • 35g crushed garlic
  • 10g finely chopped fresh marjoram
  • 5g freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of cold water
  • a bag of ice
  • About 6ft of natural hog casings – I get mine from sausagemaking.org (they last for months if stored in their salty bag in the fridge)

Grab a big non-reactive mixing bowl and mix everything apart from the water together really well, then cover it with clingfilm and stick it in the fridge overnight. Your fridge will smell heavily of garlic in the morning, so maybe use double clingfilm, and remove any eggs you have in there 🙂

Get your mincer blades, the spiral thing and other metal mincer bits and put them in the freezer so they’re seriously cold when you come to mince / stuff it. It’s better to have everything almost freezing when you make sausages otherwise the fat can smear. It’s not so essential for a fine ground fresh sausage such as this, but it’s a good habit to get into nonetheless.

The next day, soak your hog casings in a bowl of warm water for about an hour or so, changing the water every now and then. Offer one end up to a tap and run some water through them to clean them out. Tip: Don’t let go, it’ll disappear down the plughole in about 2 seconds flat if you let it!

Open your garlicky fridge, take the mixture out and run it through the now ice-cold fine plate on your mincer – into a bowl which is in another same sized bowl with ice cubes in.

Put a splash of water in (really, just a very little bit), and mix like a madman with a wooden spoon while it’s still in the bowl above the iced-bowl. If you’ve got one, you can stick it in a food mixer with a paddle attachment for a minute or so, until it starts to get sticky and evenly mixed.

Cover the mixture with clingfilm again and stick it back in the fridge while you fry a piece – to check the seasoning. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Stuff the mixture into the hog casings (this is much easier and more fun with 2 people), then twist them into links. I made them into about 6″ links.

That’s it!

Fry a couple off and have them with sauerkraut, crusty bread, gherkins and mustard. Lovely.

They freeze really well, especially if you vacuum seal them.

Note: they’re very garlicky. I love garlic but I might tone it down a little next time 🙂

Building a dry curing chamber

I’m building a dry curing chamber out of a fridge – for fermented sausages and drying cured meats. This means I can make salami, guanciale, coppa and all the other really good stuff.

When you’re hanging meats to dry them (prosciutto, for example) you need the relative humidity to be about 70%RH, and the temperature in the region of 12-15C, warmer and wetter than most fridges are prepared to run, so you need some additional equipment to maintain these parameters. We don’t have ideal conditions in the UK to do this without a little gadgetry.

I won’t go over all the ins and outs of how to do this here – these guys have done it all before and are the authority on it as far as I can see:

http://mattikaarts.com/blog/charcuterie/meat-curing-at-home-the-setup/

http://curedmeats.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/key-equipment-piece-3-curing-chamber.html

http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?e=780

Look at all that beautiful stuff they make. mmmmm.

Anyway, I bought a large fridge, here it is:

My soon to be Curing fridge

My soon to be Curing fridge

Should have enough room in there!

I also bought a reptile vivarium controller which monitors and controls temperature and humidity, and an ultrasonic humidifier. I plugged all this in to see how it would work without anything sausagey hanging in there. I set the temperature to 13C, and the variance to 2C. This means that the fridge compressor starts when the temperature gets up to 15C, and stops cooling when it hits 11C. Simple enough. But temperature control is the easy part.

Controlling relative humidity is far more tricky. When running empty, the humidity in the chamber was all over the place, going from too high, to far too low. Hardly ideal, and would have ended up ruining quite a lot of potentially tasty meat.

So I made a sacrificial batch of Mexican style chorizo to test out the chamber’s drying capabilities. This cold-smoked chorizo only needed to hang for about a week, long enough for me to work out how well / terribly it might behave.

I hung up the sausages and began monitoring. They hung  in there for a week and by that time they’d lost roughly 20% weight. But the humidity was still all over the place so for things which need much longer drying times this might not end well.

Here they are after being hung – I’ll make another post about how I made them at some point.

Cold smoked chorizo after hanging

Cold smoked chorizo after hanging

But I need more flexibility and control.

I was chatting all this through with my friend Spandex – (he is both tall and wise) –  and he said, “Someone must have done this with Arduino before”. I’d heard of Arduino before but never had experience with home electronics projects (other than building PCs), and the thought of wiring up mains appliances to relays is frankly pretty terrifying. He makes a lot of cool modular synth stuff so it’s right up his street.

So we hatched a plan to build a “sausageBot” – an Arduino-based controller which will monitor everything via sensors, and control all the equipment through relays. Spandex will be doing all the wiring and soldering and I’ll be asking daft questions and thinking about meat.

In return I have offered to pay him in cured meats. What a winner.

Here are a couple of mock-ups of how the case for sausageBot might look once finished:

Enclosure mockup - front

Enclosure mockup – front

Enclosure mockup - top

Enclosure mockup – top

last night we started to build the innards.

We went for a “let’s put something together and see what happens” approach. We’ve got a basic layout on breadboard, with the arduino reading temperature and humidity from the sensor, and we’ve also wired up the circuit for the first relay. Exciting stuff!

Sausagebot breadboard test

Sausagebot breadboard test

Temperature and humidity values being recorded

It’s alive!

It’s obviously very early days but exciting nonetheless. Will post more progress when there’s some to show 🙂