Assorted homemade cured sausages displaying a variety of spices and textures on a light surface.

Homemade Salami, Learning from Mistakes – The Only Way

Share this:

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

After making homemade salami numerous times over the years, we have learned a lot from our mistakes, which I wish to share.

Smaller diameter salami is easier to produce using the dry cured process than larger diameter.

In many of these examples, the Salami was assessed and thrown in the rubbish. This is why salami making (equipment I wrote about for salami) is one of the more advanced charcuterie meat curing you can do.

It is tough to encapsulate everything that needs to be done in a recipe since many other nuances and subtle skills can only be obtained through experience.

Here is a list of the salami mistakes/errors, and I will elaborate on how to avoid these below:

  • Bind – Under Mixed/Kneaded Meat
  • Excessive Fat in Salami
  • Synthetic Vs. Natural Casings
  • Compression Netting Over and Under Filling Casing
  • Defrosting Meat for Salami
  • Old Starter Cultures

Salami Mistakes and What Was Learned

Let’s go over some subtle learning from quite a few batches.

Bind – Under Mixed/Kneaded Meat

Ph testing, highlights the lack of bind for this salami mixture.
You can see it on the meat. While this pH testing is happening, it has no tackiness. It looks more like minced meat than a salami bind.

The best picture I could provide showed the lack of binding, and the salami is above while testing the pH for the fermentation stage.

We have often found that when you think the meat salami (salami category link) mixture has been mixed enough, whether you do this by hand or with a mixer tool.

You often need to spend five or 10 minutes longer needing, squashing, and squeezing the meat. The larger grinding plate diameters also mean you must mix the meat mixture more. Using 5 to 6 mm cutting plates will mean the bind is not as fast to create.

The picture below showcases a salami mixture that has an adequate bind. I have tried to visualize the tackiness by splitting some meat mixture, which leaves strains and a stringy texture.

Myosin has been extracted, and this salami meat mixture is 'binding' together
Myosin has been extracted, and this salami meat mixture binds together.

Meat Not Being Worked Enough to Extract Myosin – That is why the bind Is inadequate.

The myosin is extracted from the leaner meat; the salt also assists in the process.

Solution:

Continue mixing the meat until it’s tacky and sticks to the palm of your hand when inverted. Overworking the meat mixture is better than underworking it.

Excessive Fat in Salami

No bind too much fat. Not good sausage or salami small
Too much fat, not enough bind. The synthetic casing doesn’t stick to the meat during drying.

We only made this mistake once when making homemade salami (here are some easier salami making options I wrote about), but if you have excessive fat, you have less myosin to extract from the leaner meat.

Also, it may take longer to create the tackiness desired in the bind with large amounts of fat.

Solution:

It’s easier to take a lean cut, like a pork hind leg trimmed of fat, and use the pork back fat in the mixture.

The pork shoulder of a farm-raised, well-fed pig needs to be examined closely; often, it contains enough fat for salami and sausage (differences).

Pork belly can also be up to 70% fat.

Intramuscular fat can be harder to see, sometimes known as ‘marbling‘ on meat (i.e. Waygu).

Below is an example of frozen cubed shoulder meat we were thawing for salami. This is only pork shoulder with no additional fat.

The finished product is the final image at the end of this article, which highlights the visible fat level.

Marbling and fat in the pork shoulder, meat is for salami.
Both intramuscular and hard fat in the thawing pork shoulder.

Synthetic Vs. Natural Casing

Excessive mold growth, then hardened casing. Salami was not edible.
Excessive mold growth, then hardened case, didn’t stick to the meat mixture. Not enough binding was done initially, either.

I believe you will have more consistency with natural casings. They are harder to work with, and more inconvenient, but they are more malleable.

The theory was that the excessive mold on the casing had dried the synthetic casing and made it unable to adhere to it. However, the problem was likely multifaceted.

The salami casing for dry-cured meats should be attached and shrink as the meat dries.

You can see other mistakes in the picture above, such as excessive fat and lack of binding.

Solution:

Develop binding properly, and make sure you don’t get excessive mold on outside that dries onto casing.

Compression Netting for Larger Diameter Salami

These netted salami we stuffed.
You can see that the netted salami we stuffed is overstuffed. It was a struggle to get into the netting. Beef bungs are better slightly underfilled and applied with weight on top.

Overfilling and Underfilling: In the case of the above large-diameter salami using bung casings, underfilling is a lot better than overfilling.

As mentioned in the description, weight can be used, especially since this salami is called “soppressata,” which translates to ‘pressed salami. And as a usually oval shape. We forgot to do the pressing, though the results were solid; here is the finished product below:

Cross section of a salami with good bind.
There is some slight case hardening, and it is drier on the outside, but it is excellent. The salami can be vacuum-packed to equalize the hardening—it takes 1 to 2 months.

The picture above also shows that the meat is very close to rupturing through the casing. It ruptured in one area, which is not shown in this picture.

Solution:

Defrosting Meat for Salami

This isn’t so much a mistake as an observation that might alter outcomes when making salami at home (other reasons why people don’t try to make salami).

We thawed 40 lb (approx. 20kg) of pork shoulder for salami. Below is a picture of the water that leeched out of the meat during thawing.

Thawed pork shoulder, moisture extraction.

Old Starter Culture

Most of the bought laboratory-grown-type frozen starter cultures, such as T-SPX, have an expiry date of 12 months, and one batch of salami we made the culture was probably 18 months, about six months past the use-by date.

It should be noticeable during the fermentation stage. In one instance, after 12 to 24 hours, there was no sour or tangy smell typically produced from these starter cultures.

Another way to check to see how activated the start culture is when removing it from the freezer. Shake the packet. It should be lumpy in any way. This package wasn’t lumpy but it also did not ferment the salami.

Quick Thought

You don’t need fermentation for every salami to work, however. It’s another tool and layer of protection.

It can also add another layer of complexity to the salami.

Finally

When it all comes together – after learning from many mistakes – here is one of the better batches of spicy salami we created below.

Spicy, successful, and delicious!

Finished dry cured salami, with a good bind.

Share this:

Leave a Comment