Friday, 24 August 2012


During the 34 hours of summer that it hasn't been raining we had a family BBQ. I took along some of the spicy lonzino and while chowing down I was asked what I was going to attempt next. Now, I really want to get the fermented sausage thing nailed (see the red wine salami debacle), it opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of sausage making.

Pfefferbeißer are a dried, smoked, peppery German sausage made in sheep casings. Now, you might be thinking "Ah, like a Pepperami". No. Pfefferbeißer are to Peperami what The Empire Strikes Back is to The Phantom Menace. They are similar only in that they can both be called sausage. The pepperiness comes from a mixture of ground and whole peppercorns. When you're eating one you'll get an explosion of pepper every now and then as you bite into a peppercorn (in a good way; not a face melting pepper explosion).

That's George Lucas in the background working on another re-release of The Phantom Menace
image: D. Kitchenham

A quick Google search turned up 6–7 recipes, all in German, all different. Being half German, the first bit wasn't too hard. The second bit was more challenging – the only consistent thing between the recipes was the name. Some recipes called for pure pork (a couple used a percentage of speck), another for a mixture of pork and beef, yet another for pure beef; one even said to use lamb, which is all kinds of wrong.

Now, the ingredients: pepper (obviously); cure #2 and salt, were followed by what seemed a random mix (pick 5 of the following say) of: paprika (sweet and/or hot); nutmeg; allspice; garlic; caraway; coriander; marjoram; celery powder; chili powder; brandy. Some recipes used a starter culture and glucose, others didn't. The majority of recipes called for a period of cold smoking before the sausages were dried; but I only found one website that named the wood (beech).

Clearly people have developed a recipe according to their personal taste and I'll have to do the same. After quizzing family members for their thoughts I came up with the following recipe. It's pretty minimal (compared to the others) but, if after the first batch I feel something is missing, I'd rather add to it than have to choose from a mass of ingredients to eliminate one by one.


Ingredient Percentage of meat + fat
Pork shoulder
Pork back fat
Cure #2
Black peppercorns (whole)
Black pepper (ground)
Paprika (sweet)
Milk powder
T-SPX culture
2 tsp

Meat and fat are tentatively introduced to one another.
Essentially a charcuterie first date – will they hit it off?
If you can find a butcher that will supply you with back fat I strongly recommend it. I got half a kilo of back fat for £1.90 – cheaper than your morning triple venti, sugar-free, soy milk, no foam, extra-shot-of-espresso macchiato (or whatever).

Like the Spice Girls, these spices have
solo albums that you've never heard of
The spices were weighed out ready to add to the meat before grinding.

Meat, fat and spices – together at last
The meat and spices were mixed together and ground through the coarse plate. The fat was ground separately then mixed with the meat and fat. Notice the myosin strands clinging to the sides of the bowl indicating a good bind.

The pfefferbeißer were left to ferment at room temperature for 48 hours, after which I tested the pH of the mix with some strips to make sure the pH had dropped enough (~pH 5.2). It had. I cold smoked the sausages over beech wood for 12 hours using my trusty Pro-Q CSG.


The pfefferbeißer were put into the curing chamber to dry. Now we wait.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Smoked cheese and garlic

While I gather everything together for my next charcuterie project I thought I'd try cold smoking some foods other than meat.

I'm a big fan of smoked cheese and had heard about the magic effect cold smoking has on Edam. Now, don't get me wrong: I like a bit of Edam now and then, and I'm sure it has some devoted fans; but generally the word 'Edam' is associated in the mind (somewhat unfairly) with other words such as 'rubbery', 'flavourless', 'Babybel' and perhaps 'Northern Dutch town'. I wanted to see if cold smoking could indeed turn this boring, every day, run-of-the-mill, Vauxhall Nova of a cheese into something a bit more special. The cheese was cut into 1" thick slices to allow the smoke to permeate.

Raw Edam ore mined in The Netherlands 
I also wanted to try smoking garlic. The information super towpath, as always, had a number of suggestions: smoke for at least 3 days, no  5 hours, no – you should have started smoking it before you left the womb etc. In the end I followed some advice I found in a smoking forum: I  removed most of the outer skin, sprayed with a thin coat of oil, and put it in the smoker for 3 hours (mainly because this was the time suggested for the cheese and I wasn't going to get up twice from watching whatever generic E4 comedy was on).

Smoke my pretties
I used cherry wood this time; after 3 hours cold smoking everything was taken out and left to rest for 24 hours. The Edam worked out well: it has slight smokey taste, and is delicious. It could do with a longer smoking time perhaps, but not bad for a first try. I'll report back on the garlic once I've used it

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Spicy lonzino results

Last week I cut open the spicy lonzino but I've only just got round to updating the blog. It had lost just over 30% of its weight when I took it out of the chamber. Feast your eyes on its meaty glory:

Not the greatest photo. Sorry.
It looks pretty good (ignoring the dubious photography), wouldn't you agree? It is pretty spicy, I got a chilli flake on the third bite that I wasn't expecting, but not ridiculously so. It tastes much better than previous lonzino attempts. I think that the longer hanging period (because it was much larger than ones I've done before) really helps to develop the flavour.

So, success then? Well, all is not as it seems. I mentioned in a previous post that my cured meats (particularly the salami) have been drying faster than the underpants on Satan's washing line. The same thing has happened to this lonzino: quite a bit of case hardening. In fact, the central one-third was still a bit too soft and won't be eaten. There was also a little bit of green mould growth on one end (where the casing had come away from the meat); hopefully this will be less of a problem in future now that I have a mould culture to apply to the outside before things go into the chamber.

The case hardening is almost certainly due to the fan at the back of the wine fridge. The fridge is Peltier cooled, so it needs a fan to move the air inside over the heat exchanger. If you disconnect the fan (which I have tried) the heat exchanger doesn't work properly and the chamber heats up. I can think of two possible ways forward:
  1. Hook up the existing fan/a new fan so that it can be controlled independently;
  2. Add an air diffuser to reduce the air flow 
I've decided to go with option 2 mainly because it's cheaper and simpler. I bought some muslin, wet it, and hung it over the rack in the back of the chamber like a curtain. The ends sit in a seed tray that is filled with water. I spent a few days moving the muslin diffuser back and forth to block the air flow from the fan and seeing how it affected the conditions inside; I seem to have it down now. The addition of the seed tray means that the diffuser also acts like a wick, drawing moisture that is then evaporated by the fan. So far, this has meant the relative humidity has stayed pretty stable. Time will tell I guess.

Friday, 20 July 2012

"Enthusiasm is followed by disappointment and even depression, and then by renewed enthusiasm."

-Murray Gell-Mann

That's right, disappointment. I said in my last post that I thought the salamis were drying too quickly: turns out I was right. The salamis have all lost ~40% of their starting weights, so I thought it was time to cut into one to have a look. Feast your eyes on an excellent example of case hardening: 

The salami version of the RRoD
The outside has dried too fast, forming a relatively impermeable layer preventing the escape of moisture from the centre, which is still a bit too moist. Although this wasn't a great success, some things give me hope:
  1. Great bind on the salami; high five!
  2. No fat smearing. Again, high five!
  3. Copious mould growth;
  4. Fermentation success (I'd checked with pH strips) as they have a good 'salami' aroma
All good things I'm sure you'll agree; however, the case hardening is a pretty big setback that needs to be investigated and rectified before I attempt any more salami. A quick read on the interwebs turned up some advice regarding case hardening: one suggestion was to vacuum pack the salamis and stick them in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I don't have anything to lose (and it was a good excuse to get my new vacuum packer out), so I did just that. I'll take a look at them in 10 days or so and see how they're doing.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Salami update

After 48 hours fermenting the salamis have got a nice covering of white mould; I'm surprised how quickly it grew. There are a few bald stripes where the mould culture didn't reach, but they are slowly being colonised. I've weighed them all and put them in the curing chamber to dry. In a few weeks they should be ready!

I weighed the salamis today (8 days after I hung them to dry); they've all lost 15-20% of their initial weights. I suspect they are drying too fast and that I might see a bit of case hardening when I eventually cut them open. Patience grasshopper...