UMAi Dry Charcuterie

Have you been wanting to get into home curing your own charcuterie, but lack the space to hang the meats to dry? Well, now there’s a solution. And it works fairly well.

I don’t remember how I came across this product, UMAi Dry®, but I thought I’d give it a try. I have a dedicated refrigerator for hanging my charcuterie to dry, but I sometimes have trouble maintaining the right humidity in there. Too much humidity and things go wildly moldy; too little and they have case hardening.

I’ve now done two projects in the UMAi Dry bags, a Lonzino and a Coppa. Both have had a bit of case hardening by the time they had lost 30% of their weight. The meats taste good, but the Coppa seems a bit under seasoned. I followed the recipes that came with the bags. Next time I’ll just the recipes I’ve been using since #CharcutePalooza in 2011.

To use the UMAi Dry system you cure the meats in the normal way: rub the cure on and store in the fridge for the allotted time, about a week or two depending on the recipe. At the end of the cure you vacuum seal the meat in the UMAi Dry bag using one of their VacMouse pads sandwiched in between the bag layers. I’m not clear what these do, but they’re deemed essential by UMAi Dry. Then you put the meat on a rack in the fridge until it’s lost it’s 30% of weight. In my projects that was around 3 weeks. I found that I needed to put a paper towel on the rack to prevent discoloration of the meat.

You can also dry age steaks with the UMAi Dry system. The bags are specially made for allowing airflow.

My biggest criticism of the system is that their website contains only instructional videos. I don’t want to have to sit through a 20 minute video to find the answer to a question. They don’t have a troubleshooting page either to help me with the case hardening issue. Their customer service quickly replaced my lost order and let me keep the extra when it finally showed up several weeks later. That was awesome. However, when contacting them about whether I could use the bags in a curing fridge their answer was curt, bordering on snotty. I realize they can’t endorse using the product outside what it’s designed and tested for, but they could have said that in a much nicer way. Finally, they need to delay asking for a review of the product until there’s been sufficient time to actually cure something.


Curing, #CharcutePalooza month 11

OK, don’t get mad at me, but I get to make and excuse and brag at the same time. I can’t resist. I was in Paris when this month’s challenge was announced. I didn’t get home until the evening of the 23rd. That sure shaved some time off this challenge and this was a challenge that you needed a lot of time. Curing doesn’t always come on a schedule.
Still I woke up on the 24th not feeling any effects of jet lag. Over coffee and morning TV I tried to find a challenge that I could complete in the time left, thinking I only had until November 15th. I had just made salami last month and it went really quickly, so I decided that Sopresatta would be a good choice, as it’s similar.

Well, the best laid plans of Mice and Men, as they say. I went to the butcher, came home and started in. Doing things a little out of order, I ground the meat and fat and added all the spices, milk powder, dextrose, etc. Then came time to get the starter culture out of the freezer. Oops. The recipe calls for 20 grams and I only had 11. That’s right, when I made the salami, I made a half recipe. Shoot.

What to do? Consult the book. Read about the starter and it’s role and how important that is. The package says it’s good for 220 pounds of meat. Upon further investigation I read in the book that the critical number for us home cooks is 1/4 of the package. That’s about 6.25 grams. I had 11 grams, that seemed like a good enough number. I forged ahead. I stuffed, I weighed, labeled and set out to let the bacteria get going. I wish I’d have thought of some way to keep the sausage at 85°F as recommended. Another Charcutepaloozer used a heat blanket in her closed and off oven. Smart! As it was only about 75°F during the day and lower at night I let them “incubate” a bit longer than the 12 hours stated in the recipe.
They went from grey to pink overnight. That is a good sign that the curing salt has done it’s job. I hung them in the curing fridge and crossed my fingers. Actually, I was pretty confident that everything would be fine. That is until I weighed them a week later. Only a 7-8 percent drop in weight.

Today they’re not quite ready, down 27% and still a little soft. I tasted a few slices of one. It so reminds me of pepperoni pizza topping. The flavors are similar and I can imagine it cooked and crispy. I’ll incorporate it into my final challenge.

As it happened, I was able to get a Bresaola cured, once I realized that we had additional time for this challenge. IMG_3440
When I was a kid and I was sick or my mother was sick there were a couple of things she made that were super easy. Once was hamburger gravy over toast. Brown hamburger meat, add milk and thicken with flour, seasoned generously with salt. I loved it. Our school cafeteria served it fairly often too, but over mashed potatoes.

The other dish mom made was what we called dried beef gravy. Basically the same dish, but with a jar of Armour dried beef shredded instead of the hamburger. Salty and comforting. So, this memory came up and got me to wondering what dried beef was. I did a few internet searches and realized that it’s in the book and called Bresaola. I had to make it. I couldn’t drive to the butcher fast enough to get an beef eye of round. My first one is pictured at the bottom of this post. My second is to the right.

I made some dried beef gravy over mashed potatoes with my first Bresaola, but is was almost too refined. It didn’t trigger memories like I thought it would. However, it was scrumptious. It’s very nice on a platter of cured meats.

I also did some other curing projects throughout the year. They were very successful and the highlights are below.

At the top is a picture of my salami sliced from last month. I followed the recipe in the book with the addition of orange zest. A local, very popular, purveyor puts orange in theirs and it gave me the idea. The salami turned out great, if a bit sour. That sourness has mellowed as the salami has aged, shrink wrapped in my fridge. Some I just had seems to have balanced out quite a bit. The process was the same as the Sopressata above and I’ll admit I’m finally getting fairly good at stuffing sausages by myself.

Back in April our CSA delivered to us a tied up roast that merely said “pork leg”.IMG_8771 I asked about what I could do with it and Kate suggested Noix de Jambon. I researched, read, watched videos. I got the general idea and forged ahead. I made one piece of the leg meat into this “Nut of Ham”. It’s cured in salt for a day and then smoked. You can see it to the right. It was good, hammy, but a bit dry. I had trouble controlling my smoker and it may have gotten too hot. “Lightly” smoked was what Kate said. This was definitely more smoked than that.

Feeling super confident I decided to my own thing with the rest of the leg. I had been reading about Lonzino and Lomo. Both looked gorgeous and more like the dried hams that I enjoy. Lonzino is made with pork loin, a solid piece of meat. I figured there shouldn’t be any reason I couldn’t use the recipe on leg meat instead. I used Hank Shaw’s recipe, which has P1050954you cure in the fridge for 12 days and then hang for at least 12 days. I was ecstatic at how it turned out. This was basically a quick proscuitto. No, it doesn’t get the same depth of flavor as something aged 12 months, but I was very happy with it. I’ve made it again with small leg pieces.IMG_8732

Finally, here’s a picture of my first Bresaola. It was a bit more photogenic and had a bit stronger flavor as it was smaller around and the spices penetrated it better.

I will definitely be using this curing technique long after #charcutepalooza is over.

Recipes in: Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
By Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn.