Dry curing whole muscle is an incredible facet in the world of charcuterie. It’s easy to do, delicious, and very rewarding. If you are into sausage making and are looking for your next challenge this is a great place to start.
The difference between good charcuterie and great charcuterie comes down to drying.
Being able to dry your meat products evenly is the name of the game. First and foremost you’ll need a drying area. This can be a modified refrigerator or a basement. Regardless of where you have your drying meat you’ll want to keep the temperature around 55F, the humidity around 80%, and the air flow to a minimum. This is the first hurdle when it comes to making great charcuterie. The second hurdle is the type of material that you wrap your meat in. If your meat dries too fast it could lead to case hardening and if your meat dries too slow it could lead to spoilage. Neither of which we want.
My biggest issue when it comes to whole muscle curing comes down to the casing. Casings are generally a predetermined size where as the size of the muscles that we are curing may vary. Being able to have the exact right casing fit the muscle you are curing is a rarity. If you try to stuff your whole muscle into a casing that’s too big, the air pockets that are created between the muscle and the casing will surely grow unwanted mold. Not what I’m looking for!!
The Sausage Maker has come out with a product called Premium Dry Curing Wraps (Collagen Sheets). These sheets of collagen are designed to “wrap” around your meat and create a “skin like membrane” which will protect your meat and regulate its drying. The moisture loss from your cured meat is evenly distributed through a series of tiny perforations in the wrap.
These collagen sheets are not only sturdy but are also extra large and quite often I find myself cutting the sheets into halves and even quarters to wrap my cured meat. After many years of using these wraps I thought I would share some tips on how to get the most out of the so that you can also produce high quality charcuterie.
How to use Dry Curing Wraps
- After you muscle has finished curing rinse it off with fresh water
- Wrap the collagen sheet around the meat.
- As you wrap the meat try to remove any air pockets
- Either truss your muscle with butchers twine or use the elastic netting to secure the wrap to the muscle
- Prick your muscle with a sterilized sausage pricker to remove any remaining air pockets
- Weigh your muscle. Record the starting weight as well as your target weight
- Hang your meat in an area that is between 53F – 58F and 75% – 80% humidity
- To remove the casing simply peel it off. You can also soak your muscle in warm water for 60 – 90 seconds to soften the collagen casing up.
The Finer Details about Dry Curing Wraps
You’ll want to store these casings in a cool dry place. I like to keep mine in a zip lock bag in a cabinet. This storage method will preserve the freshness of these casings allowing them to remain soft for a very long time.
If you need to cut your sheet you can do so by placing the Premium Dry Curing Wrap on a dry cutting board and with a sharp knife slice your sheet to the size you need. This method will give you the cleanest lines and allow you to save any unused portion of the wrap for later use.
These sheets should be applied to meat that is moist and tacky. This will give the wraps the perfect surface to cling to and eventually create a skin like membrane. If the meat is dripping wet after it’s been rinsed off simply blot the meat with a paper towel then apply the wrap.
One last thing. When wrapping these sheets around your meat it’s important to remember that these sheets are designed to regulate moisture loss. With this in mind it’s not necessary to wrap your meat like a mummy. One layer of collage sheet with a little overlap is sufficient to do the job. I have seen many people wrap this sheet around their meat several times and although this may look cool it’s a waste of a good sheet and completely unnecessary.
These sheets are the perfect solution for dry curing meat. You can wrap any piece of cured meat (regardless of it’s shape) and in just a short time start enjoying some high quality charcuterie. Here are a few examples of the types of charcuterie you can make with these wraps: culatello, pancetta, bresaola, guanciale, duck prosciutto, lonzino, speck, country ham, prosciutto, coppa, and more….
In addition to using collagen sheets these for dry curing whole muscles you can also use these wraps as a “patch” for other charcuterie. I will often “patch” my salami if I want a little taste test during the drying process.
Enjoy the videos demonstration of these Premium Dry Curing Wraps and if you have any questions about how to use these wrap be sure to let me know in the comment section below.
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