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Drying Rolled Pancetta


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Posted (edited)

I began curing a 725g piece of pork belly 26 days ago, using Prague Powder #1 mixed with common salt at the usual rate of 2.75%, with the right level of added Saltpetre to give me the equivalent of #2, and some additional common salt to bring the total salt level up to 4%. I was aiming for air-drying the cured pork to 70% of the original weight, for eating raw.

It was cured for 12 days, and has been tightly rolled and tied and wrapped in a layer of clean muslin in a wine fridge at 12C for the last 14 days, but it is proving to be incredibly reluctant to give up moisture, being still at 90% of its starting weight. Meanwhile, it is starting to show signs of white moulds (which look perfectly healthy: it's on the same shelf as a chorizo of slightly older vintage which has a significant bloom of white mould and is nearly ready to eat (at 73% of its starting weight)). 

I'm concerned about the pancetta, though, as there are signs of a sticky wetness oozing from the sides. It smells fine, but I'm doubtful that I have a success on my hands! I have an inexpensive temperature & humidity meter, and the temperature is spot on at 12C, with the relative humidity varying somewhat between 70-85% - probably too high. I was hoping to have a go at a humidity controlled drying fridge later in the year, but wonder whether anyone has any thoughts on my present work-in-progress. Should I cut my losses and start again, or is there anything I can do to save/salvage what I've got?

Edited by CliveUK
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I've cut my losses, literally, and sliced the piece into lardons for freezing as a cooking ingredient, having trimmed up the ends and made sure that the rest smelled sweet. After another 4 days since last weighing it, it had only lost 1% more weight, and was plainly never going to work as a salumi.

So I'm thinking of getting a combined temperature/humidity controller and a small dehumidifier. I can already set temperatures outside the normal fridge range as I'm using a wine fridge, and with a humidifier inside, plugged into the controller, I can get some control over the humidity - there won't be much room left, but if I get good results, I'll trade up to a full-sized fridge and override the built-in thermostat by plugging the fridge into the controller, too.

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Hi Clive...... I was hoping @Wade  may see it as he's the top man for charcuterie...he got me started off with the hobby.

I've made Pancetta myself but I didn't roll it...I left it flat..I've not got into the next step....funny enough I found the humidifier control box today...so who knows??

Ice.

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On 5/24/2021 at 11:14 AM, CliveUK said:

I've cut my losses, literally, and sliced the piece into lardons for freezing as a cooking ingredient, having trimmed up the ends and made sure that the rest smelled sweet. After another 4 days since last weighing it, it had only lost 1% more weight, and was plainly never going to work as a salumi.

So I'm thinking of getting a combined temperature/humidity controller and a small dehumidifier. I can already set temperatures outside the normal fridge range as I'm using a wine fridge, and with a humidifier inside, plugged into the controller, I can get some control over the humidity - there won't be much room left, but if I get good results, I'll trade up to a full-sized fridge and override the built-in thermostat by plugging the fridge into the controller, too.

This is a great idea. Similar to one of my fermenting fridges for beer. Humidifier and tube heater in. Plug tube heater and fridge into inkbird to control temp. Then humidifier, on all the time or is it better to have control  of humidity rather than dry as possible?

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Justin said:

 Then humidifier, on all the time or is it better to have control  of humidity rather than dry as possible?

You must control the humidity mate, around 65% to 75% relative humidity.....temp around 10c/15c.

Too high humidity can cause excessive mold, or unwanted mold types  You want the charcuterie to dry slowly and without risking case hardening.

I'm working on using my ferm fridge as a duel purpose ferm/meat drying fidge....as I said above I came across the humidity meter the other day...all I need now is one of the very small dehumidifier.

Ice.

Edited by Icefever
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55 minutes ago, Justin said:

Reading reviews on humidity sensor and switch inkbird and the like  are pretty chequered

 

 

I guess any of us can only do the best we can with the stuff we can source (within our budget). I've ordered a Kelotek KT100 controller (only £21), so if it's a disaster, I can just chuck it out. I'll use it with a similarly inexpensive (but small) thermo-electric peltier dehumidifier. The controller can power appliances up to 10A, directly, so I won't need any separate relays or anything else besides a bit of flex to wire them together. 

Time will tell whether it works, but it's pretty disappointing to have to abandon a piece after 28 days because it just isn't drying and I'm losing the battle against unappetising looking moulds ...

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13 hours ago, Justin said:

also a humidifier so it does not get too dry?

You could put a humidifier in as well but then you would have to control 3 items.  The main thoughts on keeping a curing cabinet moist is just a bowl of water, that will slowly evaporate, as the RH starts to rise the dehumid will kick in and hold at the data point.

12 hours ago, CliveUK said:

I guess any of us can only do the best we can with the stuff we can source (within our budget). I've ordered a Kelotek KT100 controller (only £21), so if it's a disaster, I can just chuck it out. I'll use it with a similarly inexpensive (but small) thermo-electric peltier dehumidifier. The controller can power appliances up to 10A, directly, so I won't need any separate relays or anything else besides a bit of flex to wire them together. 

Time will tell whether it works, but it's pretty disappointing to have to abandon a piece after 28 days because it just isn't drying and I'm losing the battle against unappetising looking moulds ...

I'm looking at this one...https://www.amazon.co.uk/Compact-Dehumidifier-Kitchen-Bedroom-Bathroom/dp/B008AIS8QM/ref=sr_1_6?adgrpid=54823699642&dchild=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsu6Kw__o8AIVBfuyCh0nuAU5EAAYASAAEgJjK_D_BwE&hvadid=259053089952&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=1007030&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=17432901352184637186&hvtargid=kwd-297381981090&hydadcr=18486_1816609&keywords=peltier+dehumidifier&qid=1622088774&sr=8-6

I need to pop my thinking head on and start working out how to wire it all in, as I said above I want to be able to make a dual fridge.

Ice.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Icefever said:

I'm looking at this one...

I've ordered the same dehumidifier (but differently badged) - it should come, today, along with the controller, so I should soon have an idea of whether I can get the control I'm seeking.

Edited by CliveUK
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11 minutes ago, Icefever said:

 

Brilliant....I'm watching how you get on...any tips will be welcome.  This is a video I found a while back and it helped me....you may have seen it??

 

Ice.

No, I hadn't seen that - interesting. I found it refreshing to hear anyone from the Americas admitting that curing might occur without nitrites in backward places like Europe. Traditional methods are not easily reduced to a spreadsheet formula: 'if you are dry curing do this, and if you are wet curing, do that'. I am still finding my own way in this hobby - so no one should take advice from me, but my instinct is to question the wisdom of any dogmatic approach, and then to read more widely. 
 

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I agree 100%, staying safe is the primary factor,  I've been curing bacon for a few years now...into sausages as well did a Kielbasa a few weeks back. I want to take the next step up the ladder to even better things.

Ice.

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I have couple in my garage to keep it dry. this is the smaller one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B078S7PXD7/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I am not sure about water bowl as dehumdifier will just dry that out.  But ok. If i do this I would have mister and dehumidifier so it keeps in the mid point of what is desirable easily The other  inkbirds I have already inkbirds to control temperature (ie for brewing),  What temp is desirable? 18 to 20 c would be nice as can put in the fermenter larder fridges  whilst brewing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have wired up the controller and have it working. Experimentally, I have set the threshold at which the dehumidifier comes on to 70% RH, and it cuts out again at 65%. I've a piece of bacon gone into the fridge today, and it will be interesting to compare the rate of weight loss with some active control of humidity.

I have the fridge at 12C, and I'm not really sure what a good average RH would be at that temperture. I'm aware, in general terms, that as temperature drops the RH rises and I've read several suggestions for suitable ranges to avoid over dry conditions, but they often don't mention any particular temperature. Is anyone aware of a rule of thumb or source of reliable guidance - I don't want to waste good meat!

BTW, the controller was easy to wire up, and having settled down, it is showing very similar readings to my separate temperature & humidity monitor, so either they are both rubbish, or they are both about right...

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Posted (edited)

After a week, I can report that the controller seems to be working well. A small piece (450 g) of dry-cured streaky bacon has lost 20% of its starting weight, and a larger piece of rolled pancetta (c700 g) has lost 15% weight in the same time. I changed the controller settings to cause the dehumidifier to cut in at 75% RH and drop out again at 70%.

I haven't had to spend very much to get some control over drying rate, so will go ahead and begin some bresaola and salami in the coming days. My only reservation is over the longevity of the controller and associated dehumidifier. I'm surprised to see just how volatile the RH is from minute to minute and how short is the cycle between the dehumidifier cutting in and out again. Will it go the distance ...

Edited by CliveUK
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Well sorted Clive 👍...any photos of your setup would be interesting for those thinking about having a go.  We're off to Booker this morning and I'll be coming home with a whole pork loin, and maybe a slab of belly?? I've got to get the next lot of curing started as we're getting low on bacon.

 

Ice.

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, Icefever said:

...any photos of your setup would be interesting for those thinking about having a go.

There's not a lot to see. I'm using a 30cm wide under-counter wine fridge (for now), so space is a bit tight. The white cable is the mains supply and the fridge door closes onto it (slightly compressing the door seal), so I haven't had to make any holes or permanent alteration to the fridge. It terminates in one half of an in-line connector, and the other side is connected to the power in wires to the controller. It has two pairs of switched power out wires (one for temperature control and the other for humidity control). The temperature control is not currently required (because I can set the fridge's thermostat, directly), so both pairs run to a female three pin outlet (with the temperature control pair safely terminated, inside). The dehumidifier has its power supply/transformer plugged in to the outlet and the only control on the dehumidifier (an on/off switch) is left permanently 'on', so that the controller takes over the switching function.

Operation is simple. The desired humidity range (min to max) can be set in increments of 0.1%. I currently have it cutting in at 75% and dropping out again at 70%. The sensor is connected to the controller via another cable and can be placed anywhere within 1.5m of the controller. So far, there is only a tiny bit of water in the dehumidifier (but the weather has been warm and dry), but if I watch the controller, I can see that the RH occasionally gets to 75%+, and then the dehumidifier runs for a minute or two to bring it back to 70% before cutting out again. The RH overshoots (presumably due to the lag in the sensor measurement) but only slightly, but the RH soon creeps up again (within a minute or so) back to within my chosen range.

If the setup proves durable I'll probably look for a 2nd hand larder fridge that I can adapt as a more ambitious project. I'll connect the fridge compressor to the controller for temperature control (overriding the built-in thermostat) and probably drill small holes through the rear to keep the cables out of sight/tidy. I've spent £50 on the controller and dehumidifier, and the whole project might give me change out of £100 if I find a suitable fridge.

The second picture is of the small piece of rolled pancetta that has been drying for 10 days. It is at just under 85% of the original weight, so about half way to my 70% target. It is ready to have the strings retied to keep the roll tight.

IMG_2988.JPG

IMG_2989.JPG

Edited by CliveUK
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  • 3 weeks later...

So the small piece begun on 30-May has now lost 30% weight after 30 days drying using my repurposed wine fridge & dehumidifier (12C and 70-75% RH). It was cut into for today's lunch and made a lovely centrepiece to a platter of mixed salume (along with chorizo and n'duja).

IMG_5418.JPG

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