Building a Salami Chamber/Cheese Cave

So you ‘re itching to get into a new hobby. Maybe something like advanced charcuterie (salami/salumi) or even cheese making. Well you’ve come to the right place because today I’ll be showing you how to build a drying/aging chamber for your salami or cheese…

Before we begin I want to say that if you don’t feel like building a drying/aging chamber and just want to buy one The Sausage Maker makes a great cabinet that can be used to make salami, cheese, prosciutto, pancetta, and all of those tasty treats that you’ve come to love. It’s not cheap but it’s a worthy investment if you want a high quality piece of equipment for your new hobby. Click hereto learn more about it: The Sausage Maker dry aging/curing cabinet

To build one yourself isn’t very complicated and you can do this with most fridges with just a few tweaks. Before we begin I just want you to know that I’m here to help, so if you choose to go down this rabbit hole you can (at the very least) count on me to help you out if you run into a situation. Just reach out in the comment section and we’ll figure it out.

Let’s get started. The first thing you need to do is figure out where you plan on having this chamber. Are you planning on putting it in a basement, outside, or in your office. Where you place your new chamber it isn’t too important but it may be the factor that determines how large it is.

Once you’ve figured out where you want your new cheese cave/ Salami chamber it’s now time to find a fridge. Any fridge will work just as long as it’s frost free (a frost free fridge keeps the environment dry inside by not allowing ice to build up on the coils). Craig’s list is a great place to find a used fridge for this hobby. Wine fridges are good as well. Dorm fridges are often not frost free but you’ll have to check. The one I used in my video cost me $100. I bought it used from a convenient store.

There are 2 big issues when it comes to producing good quality cheese or salami. The first is air flow and the second is humidity. Let’s address air flow.

The air flow in your fridge will be one of the determining factors as to the quality of your product. Too much air flow is detrimental as it will cause your product to dry too fast. In the case of salami too much air flow results in something called dry ring on in severe situations case hardening. This is where the outside dries too fast forming a tough outer “skin” or ring that prevents the inside from drying evenly.

The first thing you will want to do is monitor the air flow in your new chamber. I like to place butchers twine in various spots in the fridge to see what kind of movement is happening. If the strings are swaying back and forth then that means I’ve got too much air flow. If the strings are barely moving then I’m most likely good to go.

In the video posted below I was able to disconnect the fan from my fridge and remove it. I then replaced the fan with a low speed computer fan. The idea is to have a very gentle amount of air flow. Just enough to move the air around but not enough to feel it.

Every Fridge is Different

As you read through this tutorial remember that every fridge is slightly different and every chamber build will be unique. You will have to determine what works best for you based off of trial and error.

The second most important element to creating an effective drying chamber is humidity. The environment inside your chamber is critical. You can have the best recipe, the cleanest work space, the most technologically advanced processing equipment but if the environment in your chamber isn’t right you will not produce a high quality product. It’s important to remember that in salami or cheese production the assembly or making of it only takes 12-24 hours. The rest of the time (which can be 30-90 days) it’s in your chamber drying and aging. This is where many problems tend to happen and is almost always the difference between mediocre and greatness.

To control the environment in your chamber we need to focus on 2 pieces of equipment. One that controls the temperature and one that controls the humidity. There are a few options out there when it comes to these controllers as some are more complicated than others and require some sort of electrical knowledge. For the purpose of simplicity we are going to go the “plug & play” route. These in my opinion are the easiest to use. A great affordable option is from a company called Ink Bird.

The temperature controller from Ink Bird comes in a WiFi version or a regular version. Either work fine and both do the same thing, control the temperature in your chamber. There are 2 plugs on the controller, one for the cooling and one for the heating. All you do is plug your refrigerator into the cooling port and if you are going to be using a heating element then you would plug that into the heating port (a heating element isn’t necessary unless yo live in an area that gets really cold and your chamber is exposed to that type of weather). That’s it. Your Ink Bird Device now controls your equipment and based off of how you program it it will turn your refrigeration on or off to get you to the right temperature. Check out my blog post if you need to know how to program the ink bird ITC-308 Temperature controller

The humidity controller from Ink Bird also comes in a WiFi version or a regular version. This unit works in the same way as the temperature controller. There are 2 plugs. “Work 1 and Work 2”. Work 1 is where you plug in a humidifier and work 2 is where you plug in a dehumidifier. Once all that is plugged in your Ink Bird controller then takes over these units turning them on and off based off of your set values. This will regulate the humidity in your chamber.

Both the temperature and humidity controller have probes that go inside of your chamber. I like to place mine directly in the center but any where in the middle or on the walls is completely ok. Just be sure not to put the probes directly in the line of your humidifier’s mist.

Before we finish I do want to mention a few things about the humidifier and the dehumidifier. Your humidifier and dehumidifier need to have auto on features. This means that your unit needs to be able to automatically turn off when the power is restored to it (the controllers will be turning them on and off as they maintain the right humidity). Not all humidifiers/dehumidifiers can do this. In the Eva Dry line there are 2 units that are capable of doing this. The EDV-2500 and the EDV-1100. The EDV-2500 is perfect for the larger chambers and the EDV-1100 is perfect for smaller chambers.

Your chamber is now complete. You now have control over the three most critical elements in your chamber; air flow, temperature, and humidity. There are some (very rare) circumstances where someone might add a vent hole one the side of the fridge. I have never needed to do this but if you feel like this is something that you need to do be aware that there are gas lines that run through the walls of your fridge and if you puncture one of these gas lines repairing it is a slight pain in the a**. Trust me I know….

As far as the details go in regards to cable management, well I’ll leave that up to you just remember to completely sanitize your chamber before you use it. I like to use a sanitizer called iodophor for this purpose as it’s easy, effective, and painless to use.

Below I’ve compiled a list of suggested items that you might need when building a drying chamber. Depending on your fridge and your situation some of these are optional and some are mandatory. I’ve included several different size humidifiers and dehumidifiers as this will be dictated by the amount of space you have available. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions..

Here’s what you might need:

If you want to see the different things that we use in operation our be sure to check out our new Amazon Store.

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23 thoughts on “Building a Salami Chamber/Cheese Cave

  1. jeff armstrong
    jeff armstrong

    nice job! I’m an avid hunter and subscribe to “if you shoot it-eat it”. Built a great smoker with temp control and cold smoke generator and with the help of a local meat processor have enjoyed making cured smoked hams to a variety of wild pork sausages Now it’s time (I’m 72) to step into your world of cured meats. Am in the process of locating a fixture to serve as a chamber and really appreciate your valuable information and enthusiasm.

  2. Eric
    Eric

    Hey Jeff. That’s great to hear. Welcome to the rabbit hole!! If along your journey you run into any issues or questions I want you to know that you can count on me for help. Talk soon.

  3. Charles
    Charles

    Eric…HELP! LOL I made 2 genoa salamis recently with T-SPX and fermented them for 72 hours at around 69*F…color and aroma was fantastic! I moved them to the garage for the drying period and they’ve been there for about 10 days. I am finding it horribly difficult to maintain a humidity level of around 80%…probably half of that despite the humidifier. I’ve noticed that the mince has moved away from the collagen casing is some spots on both salamis and the weight has already decreased by about 12%! The temperature in the garage has been around 47-50*F and the salami’s have hardened a bit but are still ‘soft’ when squeezed…Am I in trouble here? I know the drying parameters are off and I’m concerned about spoilage (Instacure #2 was part of the recipe, of course)…should I be worried? As always, thanks in advance….

  4. Eric
    Eric

    Hey Charles. That’s a tough one. Mu guess is there’s too much air flow in your garage. Out of curiosity what is the diameter of your salami? If your salami stays in this condition there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a dry ring on your salami as it’s drying. This by itself isn’t that big of a deal but it might take away from the eating experience as the outer ring of your salami will be tough (still edible). If it’s really “breezy” in your garage and your salami is drying super fast the you could get something called case hardening which is when the outer “dry ring” gets so dry that moisture from the salami can no longer escape. This will cause your salami to have spoilage in it. The outside will feel firm but the inside will have a raw like appearance and texture

    If you can create a barrier around the salami to protect it from air flow that would help. You could also place the humidifier inside that barrier (just make sure the humidity doesn’t get too high).

    1. Charles
      Charles

      The missus made an encasement from an old shower curtain liner that I have mounted on a frame approximately 3′ x 3′ x 3’….the humidifier sits below on a shelf…so there is protection from drafts. The salamis are 1 7/8″ and 2 1/2″ so nothing overly wide…I really need to have a fermenting/drying chamber but my problem is space…I have none. Last years salamis did come out quite dry and hard even with the shower curtain liner drying area….we’ll see what happens with the two currently in question! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions….greatly appreciated..

      1. Eric
        Eric

        Super. Hopefully that’s enough to slow down the drying and block some of the air flow. Keep me updated

        1. Charles
          Charles

          I will…as it stands now, humidity seems to be my nemesis…without a fermenting/drying chamber I believe I’m doomed…Guess I’ll stick with fresh sausage…safer and equally as tasty! Thanks so much for your feedback…greatly appreciated….As an aside….salamis were made on Oct 21….how soon can they be consumed (dried or otherwise) based on the Instacure #2 as an ingredient…I’m under the impression (?) that no product containing Instacure#2 should be consumed within 30 days…am I correct in assuming this?

  5. Jonathan
    Jonathan

    Hi,
    I was thinking of adding a variable speed controller to the original fan of my refrigerator. It looks very similar to yours. Do you see any problems with lowering the speed of the original coil fan instead of adding a computer fan. Thanks great videos .

    1. Eric
      Eric

      It really all depends on how fast your fan is spinning right now. All you want is the most minimum of air flow. Just barely enough to gently move the air around. You shouldn’t be able to feel it. If you can slow the fan that’s currently in there down enough I say it’s worth a try. You could always remove it and replace it with a computer fan if it’s still blowing too much air..

  6. Steve Glenn
    Steve Glenn

    Is it possible to use a sue vide to ferment? Wanting to make a venison Lebanon bologna that calls for fermenting for 48 hours at 85 degrees F using F-RM-52>

    Thank you

    1. Eric
      Eric

      yes. You can ferment using a sous vide 😁

  7. Mark Schultz
    Mark Schultz

    I have a fridge like the 2nd drying chamber in your video. Do I have to cut out the divider. I would like to be able to use the freezer when I’m not drying sausage

    1. Eric
      Eric

      My advice would be to cut it out. If you plan on using a temperature controller the controller will be cutting your fridge on and off to regulate the internal temp of the fridge part. This will greatly effect the freezer section as well.

  8. Guy Mickel
    Guy Mickel

    I have a freezer I’d like to convert to a curing chamber. Is the inkbird temperature controller all I would need to keep the temperature right?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Freezers are a little tricky as they are generally not frost free so the humidity is always going to be very high, but to answer your question yes. That controller would be all you need to control the temperature.

  9. Ryan Moore
    Ryan Moore

    Would a Eurocave wine fridge work as a curing chamber. It’s 67″H x 26″W x 26″D and it maintains temps of 42-66 degrees. Thinking maybe just a humidifier/dehumidifier set up. Thoughts?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      sounds like it should work fine. A humidity controller and a humidifier/dehumidifier might be all you need..

  10. Andy
    Andy

    How can I tell if a fridge is frost free? I don’t know where the coils are, and old fridges don’t usually come with a manual/instructions :). I read somewhere that if a small fridge has a little freezer compartment at the top, then it’s not suitable. Which is unfortunate, because that’s what I got before digging in to the interwebs. Any advice you can offer would be great.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      That is correct. If there is a freezer that ices oven then it’s not suitable. Your humidity will always be a problem.

  11. Larry
    Larry

    I see you recommend a 1 gal. or 1.5 gal. humidifier. I am using one of the smaller ones–a 2.2 L tank (so that’s about a half gallon). I find that I need to refill it daily or close to it. This isn’t going to work if I have to be away from home for multiple days. Have you run across anyone who modified their humidifier tank to increase its capacity? I found a few discussions, but nothing concrete. Thanks.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I haven’t seen anything concrete as well. I have seen concepts where the humidifier was outside the chamber and then a hose was used to pipe in the humidity. This was so that they could use a bigger humidifier but other than that I haven’t seen any tank modifications..

  12. Rodney Filizetti
    Rodney Filizetti

    Hi I’ve made salami many times before but in a basement. I want to try building this cabinet I do have an old Pepsi or Coke cooler just like you had a demonstration I have ordered all the parts you had in your by now information that you sent. Please contact me and then I will finish the order

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I’m not sure what you mean… Did you have a question about something?

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