Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Room Where it Happened

No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens – Lin-Manual Miranda
The townhouse complex that we have lived in for almost 14 years is composed of units in about four different “flavors". When we moved across the street two years ago we chose a unit with the same layout as our previous home. Much better appointed, if I do say so, but other than the nagging issue of a switch being on the other side of the door than our previous home, the same basic layout.

The biggest difference is in the basement. Prior owners had chosen to turn some of the unfinished portion of the basement into usable living space. Really enjoyable usable living space. There is a small cost. At the old place I had room to occasionally hang sausages to dry cure. A minor inconvenience to be sure, but like many of my friends here in Buffalo I do enjoy creating my own cured meats.

Sometime in the past year I read an article about a new product called UMAi Dry®. It is a plastic sheathing that allows you to do a variety of meat drying activities in your own refrigerator. Here is a description from their website:
UMAi Dry® is a unique scientifically-proven, chef-tested technology that allows anyone to create custom dry aged steak and dry cured meats at home. The material forms a bond with the proteins on the surface of the meat allowing moisture release and oxygen exchange while blocking odors and contamination. With UMAi Dry® you can craft dry aged steak, charcuterie or slow-fermented dry sausage in any well-ventilated cooler or refrigerator without risk of spoilage.
My first experiments with UMAi Dry® was dry aging meat – in this case an eye of round. The round is placed on rinsed in the bag, and with one extra step vacuum sealed with my Foodsaver vacuum sealer. The bag is placed on a rack in the refrigerator and it ages just beautifully.

Having had success with that I moved on to trying dry cured sausages. The recipe I used was a modification of Ruhlman and Polcyn’s soprassata recipe from their book Salumi. The modifications I made were in seasoning, not in composition. It was made with the same contents including pink salt and bactoferm.

The most difficult part of the process was dealing with the “casings". Because it is essentially a long thin plastic bag you cannot mount it on the fill spout of your sausage stuff are easily. Quite different from an intestine. I am sure that I can, with experimentation, find a way to do it more easily, but this time I could’ve used a third hand. On the other hand you don’t need a vacuum sealer for sausages you simply push the sausage into the casing after filling to exhaust the air and seal it with the provided cable ties. (Of course these small cable ties were not designed for big hands that have arthritis, but regular cable ties work as well).

The sausages were then hung in a warm place for two days to allow the fermenting bacteria to wake up. Not much different from what you do to activate a standard dry cured sausage. After that stage the sausage was placed on a rack in a refrigerator for about three weeks following the instructions for weight loss of a properly cured sausage.

It may not be traditional, but the results are pretty amazing. And once you peel the plastic wrapping off the surface of the sausages dried enough so that you’d be hard-pressed to miss the usual sausage casing.

I’d say that this system is worth trying, especially if you don’t have the space (or the comfort zone) to dry a casing filled sausage.

And, I was in the room where it happened.

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