Author Topic: Built a dry-curing chamber....  (Read 10670 times)

Offline ExpatCanadian

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Built a dry-curing chamber....
« on: November 14, 2010, 03:50:29 am »

After my recent success with some semi-dried cervelat, I decided it was time to get serious and set myself up to do some longer term proper air dried meats and sausages.  So...  off to eBay I went and bought a used fridge for £9 ($15).  I got what I paid for  :-[, and although the fridge works fine, the seal on the door was so grubby and mildewed that I ended up having to replace it, and I found out after being sold a replacement seal, that this particular model of fridge has the kind of door with an integrated seal that wasn't replaceable on it's own....  so I had to get a whole new door which cost me another £44  >:(

But, onwards and upwards.  I didn't think at the time to take any photos of the process, but I've got a few photos now of the finished product.  It works really well, and I can control temperature to within 1 degree and humidity to within a couple of %.  I've currently got it running at fridge temperatures with a "coppa" curing in it until its ready to start drying (separate post).





The extraction fan for dehumidification is controlled by a mechanical hygrostat.  It will actually switch between 2 connected items, so could technically control both the humidifier AND extraction fan. But, either one or the other item is always on, there is no way to program it, and in practice this causes around +/- 20% fluctuation in humidity...  not tight enough control for fermenting and drying.  So, I've just got it connected to the dehumidification circuit and will set it so it kicks in around 5% above my desired RH to bring it back down again.


Used a 3" (76mm) hole saw to cut the holes for the air exhaust and intakes.  I had previously ran the fridge and made sure no cooling was taking place on the sides....  in another blog post I read on this subject as the guy was drilling through the side of his fridge he cut the refrigerant line, destroying his ability to cool the chamber!




Sorry about this photo...  didn't want to move the fridge again to take an uncluttered view of the extraction vent  :D




Can't wait to try it out!


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Offline BuyLowSellHigh

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2010, 04:25:21 am »
Wow!  That is a beautiful piece of work.  Fantastic job!

I haven't previously seen one with an external vent before, much less controlled forced ventilation, and your controls are incredible.  Can you tell us who makes the controllers and where you got them?

I've never seen a refrigerator like that either - no freezer compartment and all the shelf levels.  It looks like a cross between a restaurant and home unit.

You should be on a roll for cry curing.  Going to try prosciutto?
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Offline squirtthecat

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2010, 04:58:05 am »
Going to try prosciutto?

My wife saw a copy of Charcuterie on my desk and asked "can you make prosciutto?? what does it take??".  I'll show her this post.   ;D
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Offline ExpatCanadian

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2010, 05:08:10 am »

I agonised quite a lot over the controls, took me ages to actually settle on the combo I went with.  It was frustrating, because the temperature controller is EXACTLY what is needed, and between the fridge and the 100w heater, I have a temperature range of around 0oC (maybe less, but don't want to stress the old fridge!) up to around 35oC.  BUT, there just doesn't seem to be a similar controller available for humidity, one that will allow you to program a set point and a dead zone so that it will either humidify OR dehumidify OR sit tight with both off until one or the other is needed again according to the tolerance you've set.  So, hence the 2 separate humidity controllers. 

Anyway, I used the following place for some of the stuff, the internal mechanical hygrostat, the PTY heater, the DIN rail and some of the wiring supplies:
http://uk.rs-online.com/web/search/searchBrowseAction.html?method=browseSection&Ne=4294957561&N=4294965055

The above have a presence in the US under the following company:
http://www.alliedelec.com/

I used this place for the temperature and digital humidity controllers:
http://www.forttex.com/

My humidifier is this one...  it's really good, as it is adjustable from a fog down to a barely discernible wisp of vapor coming out:
http://www.kaz-europe.com/cool-mist-vh5000e/

The fan is just an AC computer enclosure fan.  I had wanted everything to run on mains level voltage for convenience.  Unfortunately, when I went to wire in the little PTY heater, it turn out the fan on it was 24v (switchable DC or AC).  So I ended up having to wire it into a 220 --> 24v AC to AC transformer.  The nice thing about that heater is the fan is run independantly.  It's tiny, but provides just enough air flow to keep the air moving slightly inside the chamber when it's closed.  Of course, when the exhaust fan kicks in, the whole unit will get it's air replaced...

The fridge is what's referred to over here (UK) as a larder fridge... no freezer. They're fairly common, and this particular one didn't have much wasted space inside, especially at the bottom where the compressor sits.  You do also get the regular fridges with both fridge and freezer...  but they are still only around 55-60cm wide, and this form factor is kind of standard for Europe.  The wide style North American fridges are available, but not as common and very expensive over here.

As for Prosciutto...  well, the sky's the limit really!  It's a pretty massive time commitment....  at least a year, possibly up to 3!  I've already warned my wife that when we move back to Canada and have LOTs of space, I'm going to have one of these for fermenting, one for curing and one for long-term storage  ;D ;D ;D



“Moderation sir, aye, moderation is my rule. Nine or ten is reasonable refreshment, but after that it’s apt to degenerate into drinking” - An Old Highland Saying

Offline punchlock

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2010, 05:19:45 am »
This is a great project you have done expat. I can't wait to see how your coppa turns out.

Offline SouthernSmoked

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2010, 06:24:35 am »
Wow! Dang that is nice. 

Fantastic job!
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Offline Tenpoint5

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2010, 07:27:23 am »
Great finish to a Awesome project ExPat
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Offline BuyLowSellHigh

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2010, 07:29:39 am »
Very, very nice Expat.  I doubt when I get around to it mine will ever be that nice or sophisticated.

As for the fridge, I've never seen the larder design.  Need to check with my appliance expert if anything like that might be available over here.  I am very familiar with European refrigerators, dinky little things that they are, and Dutch kitchens too (which fight with the bathroom for being the smallest room in the house).  Thus far I've been thinking along the lines of an upright freezer.

Please keep us posted on your results.  This is great stuff!

Going to try prosciutto?

My wife saw a copy of Charcuterie on my desk and asked "can you make prosciutto?? what does it take??".  I'll show her this post.   ;D

STC - if you want to know about prosciutto get Paul Bertolli's book Cooking by Hand.  When he was running Olivetto he made several dozen each year, and I believe he still makes them at Fra Mani.  In his book he shows how to do it, with all the details, starting with the proper butchering of the leg, which will be hard to come by in the U.S. unless you have a willing butcher who gets his hogs in at least sides.  The butchering, trimming and handling of the raw leg are all fairly important to eliminate entry routes for bacteria that lead to spoilage.  After that, it gets complicated.   :-\

I would be very happy if I could come close to the dry aged Virgina hams I grew up with, and ecstatic if I could approximate a Smithfiled ham.
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Offline 3rensho

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2010, 07:31:27 am »
What a superb job!!  You're gonna have a lot of fun with that.  I got my controller from forttex too.  Works like a charm.
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Offline ExpatCanadian

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2010, 08:54:13 am »
I would be very happy if I could come close to the dry aged Virgina hams I grew up with, and ecstatic if I could approximate a Smithfiled ham.

I've never eaten Virginia ham...  but a little while ago came across the following method for making one, and decided it might be a worthy objective to aim for at some point:

http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/cure_smoke/virginia_ham.pdf

Just curious, can you guys buy saltpeter over there? I just bought some from a sausage supply place over here just to have on hand in case I do come across an old school recipe that calls for it.

By the way "Cooking by Hand" is on my Christmas list...  hopefully someone in my family will pick it up for me...  otherwise it may just have to be a "gift to self"  :D

3rensho, I would be interested in seeing your own setup.  I posted earlier this year on a friend who does all his own stuff near Flims...  and had intended to spend some time with him this autumn as he did his annual week or 2 of sausage making and meat curing.  Work commitments kept me from doing it this year, so it'll have to be another time...  but I am still amazed at what he does with nothing but fresh meat, experience and Alpine air!

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Offline 3rensho

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2010, 09:21:34 am »
Quote
3rensho, I would be interested in seeing your own setup

Expat, I'd be embarrassed to show you my setup.  Just a big box, ultrasonic humidifier and fan on bottom and a couple of holes drilled in the side for slow ventilation.  No temp. control because the wine cellar stays pretty much right on through winter.  It does however work very well.   I have posted pix of it on a salami thread I started and maybe on a carne salata thread.  To be perfectly frank I've made good salami, bresaola and pancetta just hanging it in the cellar but the humidity control does give a better result in deep winter when the air is real dry.  Another trick I've learned is not to use commercial starter cultures and molds.  They are designed for very rapid production and drop the pH to 5 or less almost overnight.  They turn out finished salami in a week. That does not yield a good product IMHO.  Just sour and no depth of flavors.  You want to give the flavor producing bacteria a couple of days to do their thing before the pH gets too low.    When I make a batch of air dried sausage I first buy a non-commercial salami from a hand producer.  I grind some of the skinned salami and mix it well into my sausage mix to inoculate it, then stuff it.  I take the moldy skin from the same salami, soak in lukewarm water for 20 minutes and then brush the outside of my fresh salami to inoculate it with a good mold.  That combination works a treat.
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Offline Sailor

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2010, 10:59:34 am »
I am amazed at the things that you guys build.  This is one fantastic looking job!  I think if it can be built, someone on the forum will figure out a way to build it. 


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Offline Quarlow

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2010, 11:24:23 am »
Wow the processes you go through for the stuff we eat without even knowing what it tales to make the stuff. Just this little chat makes you appreciate it even more. I hope someday to be able to join the ranks but I think I would never get to the depths you 2 have. Very nice dryer Expat.
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Offline classicrockgriller

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2010, 11:25:32 am »
I am speechless and that is Hard to do to me. ;D

Just frickin' AWESOME!

WOW! I read this thing 5 times. SWEET!


Offline Sailor

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Re: Built a dry-curing chamber....
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2010, 11:56:29 am »
I am speechless and that is Hard to do to me. ;D

Just frickin' AWESOME!

WOW! I read this thing 5 times. SWEET!


You think you need to get new glasses?   ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D


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