Pepperoni

Pepperoni is a great sausage to make. If you search the web you’ll find lots of ways to prepare pepperoni with each way giving this sausage a unique flavor and texture.

Todays recipe will closely resemble store bought pepperoni (but better). This method of making pepperoni is considered advanced sausage making and will require the use of some special equipment. We will be curing, fermenting, smoking, drying, then cooking. It’s going to be amazing.

Before we get to this recipe lets talk about the special equipment. The first piece of equipment you will need if you plan on making this version of pepperoni is a pH tester. Pepperoni is known for having “sourly” notes, and this is achieved through fermentation. Fermenting the meat meat is all about creating an environment that’s inhospitable to unwanted bacteria. As the good bacteria in your meat begin to release lactic acid the pH of your meat begins to drop creating a “safe zone”. The lower your pH gets the tangier your pepperoni will be. A pH tester will help you know when your meat has reached it’s target and is safe to move on to the next step. I use a pH meter from Apera Instruments (PH60S-Z). This unit is fast, reliable, and versatile. In addition to testing my fermented meats I also use this for cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, and soil testing (just to name a few).

Now that the pH is out of the way we need to find a place to dry our pepperoni. We want our pepperoni to dry evenly and slowly. The best place for this is a controlled environment where we can adjust the temperature and humidity. I use a modified refrigerator with a few controllers, a humidifier, and a dehumidifier. Check out my “How to build a salami chamber” post for a complete break down. This controlled environment will produce the best most consistent results. What’s great is that once you have this special chamber you can then start making salami, cheese, pancetta, prosciutto, and all sorts of other cool projects.

The last piece of equipment (which is optional) is a smoker. I use a cold smoker from smokin-it smokers . The versatile smoker allows me to either cold smoke or apply a better regulated smoke when I’m cooking.

Let’s talk about the process. We start with our casings. We will be using beef rounds for this project. These casings are not edible and thicker that your standard hog casings. I normally rinse them well and soak them overnight. If you plan on using synthetic casings for pepperoni then you only need to soak them for 15 minutes or so in luke warm water.

Next the proteins. Beef and pork. I like going a little heavy on the pork but you can adjust it how ever you want and see if you like the results. We will be grinding this on a 4.5mm plate so make sure to cut your meat and fat into small cubes and partially freeze it.

Once you have your meat ground up rechill it (we want out meat mixture to stay in the low/mid 30’s through this entire process). While your meat is rechilling, it’s time to rehydrate your starter culture. I will be using LHP-DRY for this pepperoni. The reason I like this starter culture is because it is designed for fast acidification. It will ferment your meat very quickly and give us a nice “tangy” flavor in our finished product. This has quickly become my preferred culture as it works extremely well in things like summer sausage and snack sticks also. To rehydrate your culture you just need to add the amount you plan on using in some distilled water, mix it, and let it rehydrate for 30 minutes.

I like to have “mise en place” (everything in it’s place) when making sausages so while my culture is rehydrating I get all of my spices weighed and place them in a small container.

When it comes time to mix we are going to combine the cold meat, starter culture, and spices together. We want to mix it till our mixture gets tacky. If you grab a small handful and turn your hand upside down the meat mixture will stick to your hand. Once you mix your meat, stuff it tightly into your casings, and place it in an area to ferment.

The dextrose in this recipe will act as a food for our starter culture and as the bacteria eat the dextrose they multiply and release lactic acid. Each starter culture has it’s own parameters and for this starter culture we want to place our pepperoni in an area that is between 80F-90F with high humidity. Generally an oven (that’s off) with the light on can reach these temperatures and adding a tray of hot water will keep the humidity high during this fermentation step. We are targeting a pH of anything under 4.9. For this starter culture it normally takes between 16-24 hours for this to happen. I generally test my pH at 16 hours to see where I am at. The lower your pH gets the tangier your pepperoni will be. I personally like to target the 4.6-4.8 range.

Once your pepperoni has hit it’s pH target you now get to make some decisions. I personally like to cold smoke, dry, then cook but if you want to smoke, cook, then dry that’s ok too. Which ever way you choose to make this your pepperoni it will come out delicious as I’ve done it both ways with great results.

Follow semi dried fermented sausage preparation practices when making this sausage.
  1. Clean and Sanitize all of your equipment.
  2. Keep your meat and grinder parts super cold (below 34F)
  3. Rehydrate the starter culture for 30 minutes
  4. Mix your very chilled meat, starter culture, and seasonings till the mince becomes tacky
  5. Stuff the mince into sausage casings and prick out any air pockets
  6. Ferment for 18-24 hours till you reach target pH
  7. OPTIONAL: Cold smoke for 2 hours
  8. Dry in a controlled environment (55f and 80% rH) for 4-10 days (We are targeting a 20% weight loss)
  9. Cook till the internal temperature reaches 135-145F

Here are a few things you might find useful when making sausage

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!

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ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4
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4.75 from 4 votes

Pepperoni

A semi dried sausage that's makes a perfect pizza topping
Prep Time20 hrs
drying time7 d

If you are making sausage adjust the servings to reflect the total weight of your meat and fat

Servings: 1000 grams

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Clean, rinse, and rehydrate your casings
  • Clean your meat of any silver skin, sinew, arteries and cut into small cubes.  Place the meat and fat in the freezer for an hour or until the temp reaches 32f – 34F.
  • Rehydrate the starter Culture LHP-Dry in some distilled water (use 1/2 tsp of this culture in 1/4 cup of distilled water for every 5# of meat)
  • Grind chilled pork, fat, and beef through 4.5mm plate.
  • Mix all ingredients with cold meat till very tacky
  • Stuff firmly into 40mm-43mm beef rounds
  • Ferment at 80F – 85F for 18 hours, 90-85% humidity till pH reads 4.6 – 4.8 (the lower it goes the tangier your pepperoni will taste).
  • OPTIONAL: After fermentation lightly cold smoke the pepperoni for 2 hours
  • Place pepperoni in a drying chamber set to 55F and 80% humidity. Dry for 4-10 days. (You are looking for a 20% weight loss)
  • Once dried slowly cook your pepperoni till the internal temp reaches 135-145F. I use my smoker with a tray of water added for higher humidity and gradually increase the temperature over the course of 5 – 6 hours. Here's my cooking schedule:
    -125F for 1hr
    -135F for 1.5hr
    -145f for 1.5hr
    -155F till the internal temp reaches 135F
  • Another way to do this is to cook your pepperoni is sous vide. Cook at 140F for 2 hours

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2 thoughts on “Pepperoni

  1. Eric Foster
    Eric Foster

    5 stars
    I have some 32 mm UMAI casings I’m not sure if they can be cold smoked. I’ve posted the question on their facebook page. I’ll let you know. If not I have some powdered smoke I use for jerky that should work. It would be 1 tsp for a kilo batch.
    From there I’ll Sous vide at 140 for 32 minutes plus five for safety. Well, That’s my game plan, I’ll keep you posted. I really can’t thank you enough for all the work you’ve done creating this series. I’m getting a lot out of it.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Hey Eric. I don’t think you can smoke the Umai casings. Let me know what you find out though..

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