Thursday, April 11, 2013

Curing Chamber - How to Cure Meat at Home

Curing meats and aging cheeses is an age old process.  It requires very strict temperature and humidity regulation to get it right.  We will show you how to make an easy in home chamber to do it.
Aging cheeses is one of the most beautiful things on the planet.  Natural bacteria takes over and gives rise to thousands of different flavors.  There is no end to what the bacteria can do.  With the right chamber there is no stopping us from our creations!
Curing meats  is a very delicate process.  It is used as another way to preserve meats for long time storage.  We have already shown one form, smoking meat.  Another common form is salt packing (we will discuss this later).  Curing meats uses nitrite/nitrate components to aid in the preservation process.  Discovered long ago in the early 1800's saltpeter (a form of nitrites) was used to start curing their meats.  It was preferred (and generally is still today) over salt packing because the nitrites give the meat its characteristic red color.  To bring this in perspective, Slim Jim's, salami, pepperoni, longaniza, etc.  Its all cured and we just made a chamber to do it!!
First thing you will need is a space to do it in.  We live in Utah (feels like the driest state in the country) which is not good for maintaining humidity levels.  Some of you might get away with using a cold basement or pantry (might get away with it in New Hampshire).  So we went to our local appliance store and got a great deal on an old refurbished fridge.

 The fridge doesn't need to be fancy.  We couldn't find a good full fridge so we have a freezer component.  You can put your drinks up there to chill while you are aging your goods for later.  We gutted the whole bottom portion of all the drawers and racks.  You only need to keep the top one to hang the meats and have a place to let the cheeses sit.  A fridge is great for a curing chamber as well because it is normally insulated very well.  It also is very easy to get in and out of (If you're us we practice about 50 times a day).


Now for the equipment!!!  We have chosen these two products for our humidifier and temperature control device.  First, a humidifier for the addition of humidity.  Most meats and cheese cure and age at a constant humidity of around 80%.  We read up on tons of humidifiers because none were getting good reviews.  This one seemed to be the best.



It has a built in hygrostat (measures humidity levels) and turns off when it gets to the desired humidity.  The reviews on this humidifier , and all the others for that matter, were mediocre.  We think that people were trying to humidify a whole room with this little guy and getting upset when it would turn off.  For a small fridge this one is perfect! 

Remember to always try and use filtered water and clean the machine out well.  We don't want to introduce new bacteria into the chamber.  Also we used this humidifier because it uses the superfine cool mist.  We don't want hot or boiled humidity or big droplets.  The fine mist allows for better aging and curing conditions.  Let us know if you like another but this was our choice!




Next tool is a temperature regulator.  A standard fridge will maintain a temperature of around 40 degrees.  This is not optimal for curing.  It needs to stay at around 55 degrees.  So there are a lot of these out there but this is the one we decided to get based on reviews and performance.

 The fridge gets plugged in to it and then you set the temperature you desire.  It will turn on and off the fridge to maintain a higher temperature required for curing.  You can see the copper wiring in the pictures... this gets put into the fridge to measure internal temps.


Assembly is easy.  Plug everything in, and make it look as pretty as possible.  The wire gets threaded through (we just put it through the hinge of the fridge door).  Turn everything on and done!  This is what ours looks like!


Our Beautiful Curing Chamber!



Let us know what yours looks like!  Ask us any questions on products too!  We did way too much research for our own good!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our aged cheeses and cured meats!!
                                                            
                                       
Thanks Jay and Roos for building it with me,

P

                                           
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