Making salami at home is like turning meat into art. There’s really nothing like it. You have a blank canvas, a palette full of spices, and virtually limitless combinations of textures and flavor. The process of making salami is relatively straight forward and as long as you work in a clean environment, practice sanitary measures, and stick to the “processes” you’ll be able to make high quality salami at home. You can read about the entire process in my Italian Genoa post.
Salami making has many hurdles that one must aim to achieve in order to produce a safe and edible product (I know how scary that must sound but it’s really not that crazy).
Salami Making Hurdles
- Working in a clean environment with sanitized equipment
- Using fresh meat
- Curing with the right amount of salt
- Curing with the right amount of nitrite/nitrate
- Fermenting the meat to below 5.3
- Drying the salami to reach a water activity level of below 0.91
- Using starter cultures
- Smoking your salami
- Cooking your salami (semi dried sausages)
One of the hurdles involved in making salami is “fermentation”. Fermenting your salami reduces the ph and “acidifies” your sausage. As soon as you add a starter culture to your salami, the bacteria begin consuming the sugar in your recipe and at the same time they start to release lactic acid. This acid is what causes the pH to start dropping. For salami production we consider anything under a 5.3 to be “the safe zone”. In this zone the environment becomes unwelcoming to bad bacteria. The lower the number goes the more acidic/tangy a salami will be (think pepperoni or summer sausage that has a pH of 4.7-4.8).
If you try to begin drying your salami and the pH is above 5.3 then you will have an environment that is very welcoming to all sorts of bad bacteria. This is where the problems begin.
So how do you know when your salami has hit the right pH? The easy answer is to use a good pH meter. Having a high quality pH meter is like an insurance policy for your charcuterie. It’s the one device that will give you peace of mind in knowing that your salami is safe to begin drying and then eventually eat. There are some ph meters that can run you in the upwards of $500 and $600 but you don’t need to spend that much to get accurate readings. I personally like the pH meter by Apera Instruments – PH60S-Z. This pH meter is priced mid range, portable, and has lots of incredible features that will really help you in your salami making journey. Oh, in case I forget to mention you can also use this pH meter to garden, make sourdough bread, kombucha, cheese, sauerkraut, hydroponics, and lots more.
One of my favorite features about this pH meter is that you can use it through an app on your IOS or Android. Through the app you can set an an alarm feature that will trigger the meter to change colors when you hit your target values. In addition to that you can literally watch the pH drop from your smart phone in the comfort of your living room.
This alarm feature comes in very handy especially if you are targeting a specific pH. As you get better at making salami you will find that you won’t need this feature as often because you will have a better understanding over how your salami ferments.
Before I tell you how to activate this option you need to know that by doing this trick you will shorten the life span of your probe. I’m not talking about over night but by a little bit. That’s why I suggest to use it in the beginning and learn from what it teaches you. Eventually you won’t need to do it any more. The second thing that you need to know is that you shouldn’t leave this probe in temperature above 85-90F or below 65F. Finally, the third thing that you need to know is that your probe works best when it’s fully hydrated. If you leave the probe in your meat sample for 12-18 hours the probe will become dehydrated and not give good readings. So with this in mind I recommend doing this trick about 5-6 hours before you think your salami has finished fermenting. Otherwise, every 6 hours take it out of your sample and rehydrate it in your KCL (storage) solution for about 30 minutes.
With all that out of the way let me tell you how to turn this feature on. To activate the alarm feature on this pH meter access the app from your smart phone. Click on the menu and go to settings. Select general and then select the “Automatic Power Off” option at the bottom and once you get to that screen turn the “auto-off” switch off. You want the unit to continuously run.
Next go back to the settings and select the “alarm” option. You will see a high alarm and a low alarm. In our case we will be selecting the low alarm (as our pH will be dropping). I set mine to 5. This means that when the pH drops and reaches 5.0 the meter’s screen will turn red letting me know my value has been reached. Once you select your target toggle the on switch and click save. Exit the menu and you are good to go. Place your probe in your sample and allow it to begin reading.
That’s it. You can now target a specific pH and nail it. Enjoy the video presentation as I demonstrate how to do this and if you have any questions be sure to let me know.
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