How to Ferment Salami and What it Does

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.

(Last Updated On: November 5, 2023)

Specifically talking about the fermentation stage, which is decreasing the pH level in the salami, which produces a more acidic environment.

Hey there, fellows cured meat enthusiasts!

I want to talk about one of the crucial aspects of salami fermentation that gives it that irresistible tang and distinct flavor.

Yes, I’m referring to the creation of an acidic environment during the fermentation stage.

Producing the finest salami and achieving the perfect balance of flavors is an art form.

And at the heart of this art lies the concept of pH levels.

I’ve done enough batches to ‘begin’ to learn the in’s and out’s of making dry-cured salami, I’ve used pH testing tools also to highlight some aspects, and I’ll go over that, too

During fermentation, the pH of the salami gradually decreases, resulting in a more acidic environment. This drop in pH is not just a chemical transformation; it’s a flavor revolution that transforms ordinary meat into a delectable treat.

How to Ferment Salami

Add a starter culture to the ground meat: there are various cultural or traditional methods that can be used to ferment the salami and create the desired acidic environment.

The Safest most Consistent way to Ferment Salami

  1. Purchase Starter Culture (should come in chillbox)
  2. Keep in Freezer
  3. Rehydrate for at least 30 mins with filtered water
  4. Add to Salami mixture after spices/salt
  5. Ferment at the specified time, temperature, and humidity
  6. Hang at Drying Temperatures for Salami

For some cured meats I’ve seen that they actually put whole dry cured meats that are not inoculated with starter cultures. They keep the cured meats at higher than drying temperatures with high humidity, similar to drying humidity approx 80%.

I will try and focus on the practical knowledge, as opposed to the technical. This is how I understand the topic easier.

The Role of the Fermentation Stage in Salami

But what exactly is happening during fermentation?

It’s a symphony of microscopic life.

We use beneficial bacteria, known as starter cultures. These incredible organisms work their magic and breaking down sugars in the meat and converting them into lactic acid.

Why is this conversion so important, you ask?

Well, it accomplishes two vital things: flavor development and safety.

The lactic acid produced during fermentation not only gives salami its signature tang but also creates an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s like a natural shield protecting our beloved salami.

Starter cultures with slow fermentation have less tang.

This is known more in Central European Countries, I believe.

Now, let’s talk about flavor.

Fermentation is where alchemy happens. The lactic acid, along with other byproducts of bacterial activity, interacts with the proteins in the meat, breaking them down and releasing various savoury flavors. The longer the fermentation, the more time these flavors have to develop and intertwine, resulting in a more pronounced and sophisticated taste profile.

Not all salami you buy will be produced like this, well, many aren’t producing how I do it.

Many commercial producers who do large-scale supermarket salami will use fast ‘pacification’ to make the meat ‘safe’, salt of course is included. It’s actually skipping the artisanal and traditional approach which I am talking about in detail here.

Here is a salami ingredient package of this fast-production salami product (I don’t think it should be labeled Salami, more like acidic cured sausage)

The fermentation stage requires careful control and monitoring

pH in Salami Fermentation

5.3ph is the Goal across nearly all formal dry-cured salami recipes I’ve seen.

pH, often referred to as the “potential of Hydrogen,” is a measure of acidity or alkalinity in substance. In the context of salami fermentation, pH levels play a pivotal role in the development of flavors, the control of bacterial growth, and ultimately the quality and safety of the end product.

Here is a table of tests we did with salami we were making, 2 with starter cultures, 1 traditional Cold Smoked Small Diameter Hungarian Style and 1 with red wine but not starter culture.

Factors Affecting pH Levels During Salami Fermentation

Starter Culture Selection

The choice of the starter culture can have a profound impact on pH levels.

Different strains of bacteria, present in the culture, produce varying amounts of lactic acid affecting the rate and extent of acidification. Selecting the right starter culture with specific acidifying properties can help achieve the desired pH balance and flavor development.

Temperature Control

Temperature plays a vital role in salami fermentation, including pH regulation. Higher temperatures tend to accelerate the fermentation process, leading to a more rapid decrease in pH levels.

What I showcase is how to convert old frost free fridge into either drying chambers for cured meat or you can ferment in them too

Monitoring and maintaining the ideal fermentation temperature is crucial to achieve the desired pH range.


The humidity level in the fermentation environment can affect microbial activity and pH levels. Optimal humidity provides an ideal environment for the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Fermentation Time

The duration of fermentation significantly impacts pH levels. A longer fermentation time allows for a more extended period of acid production, leading to a greater decrease in pH levels and more pronounced tanginess. Balancing the fermentation time is crucial.

Meat Composition

The meat itself can vary depending on factors like the animal’s diet and muscle activity. Meat with a higher initial pH may require a more extended fermentation time to reach the desired acidity. Furthermore, the fat-to-lean ratio can impact the texture and flavor of the salami, indirectly affecting the perception of acidity.

Choosing the Right Starter Culture for Acidification in Salami

Here is a table below with common starter cultures and flavor indications:

Starter CultureFlavor ContributionCommercial Names
Lactobacillus plantarumClean and mild lactic acid tangF-RM-52, T-SPX, FLORA ST-DCU
Staphylococcus xylosusEarthy, nutty, slightly sweetF-RM-33, F-RM-35, FLORA ST-DCU-3
Pediococcus acidilacticiTanginess and acidity enhancementF-RM-58, T-PC, FLORA PFL-AC
Staphylococcus carnosusSavory, robust, meatyF-RM-56, T-SC-100, FLORA ST-CU
Lactobacillus sakeiMild flavor contribution, acidityF-LC, LHP, FLORA PFL-SC

Monitoring pH Changes During Salami Fermentation

ph testing has been an interesting learning curve.

Most ph Meters have electrodes that will last 12-24 months, the first ph Meter I bought, the one below, cannot attach a replaceable electrode, therefore it’s single-use. I was rather surprised about it, since it’s about $100 dollars.

pH Measurements: Tools and Techniques

Some commercial drying chambers have inbuilt ph Meters, currently a friend has one where we make mostly large batch salami. However, it did cost like $20k.

Apera Instruments have a decent model of ph Meters

The Importance of pH in Texture and Shelf Life of Fermented Salami

Maintaining the appropriate pH levels during salami fermentation is essential for achieving the desired texture, extending shelf life and ensuring the safety of the product.

The acidic environment created through fermentation helps create the characteristic firmness and binding the proteins together.

It also acts as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and extending the salami’s shelf life. The interplay of pH with flavors contributes to the overall sensory experience, making fermented salami a delight to savor.

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.


Leave a Comment