Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Made Salami

I recently became intrigued with the idea of making my own cold cuts. I like knowing what's in my food and I like learning new things. So I Googled and I read, and I researched, and I found a fairly simple recipe for salami to start on in my new quest.

The recipe I found called for...

1 pound ground beef
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon curing salt
1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
3/4 cup water

I was concerned about the curing salt... I read and researched substitutes but there was little to be found, it seems to make a sausage you really need curing salt... which contains salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate, and sometimes a few other ingredients, depending on the brand. It was the nitrates that concerned me, I was going for an old time product, without dangerous chemicals. There were a few recipes out there that did NOT contain the nitrates, but not many, and if made in that way would yield a product that was not really a cured meat, would need to be refrigerated or frozen (which was fine with me), and would also be unattractive and gray instead of the pinkish brown we associate with salami. I went back and forth with myself, trying to decide. It was my first sausage... I decided to go exactly by the recipe... this time.

Also, in my reading and research, I found out that nitrates have been used in curing meats for years and years... I found many OLD, really old recipes that didn't call for curing salt, but did call for salt, sugar, and an ingredient I was not very familiar with... saltpeter... yup, the old ingredient in gunpowder... a LOT of old meat curing recipes call for saltpeter... Just what IS this old-fashioned ingredient? I asked. 

Back to Google!! Lo, and behold, saltpeter is a nitrate! Either potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate... both go by the handle saltpeter.

Anyway... here's what I did...

First, I put my ground beef into a big stainless steel bowl. I had a package of 4 pounds of ground beef, so I multiplied my recipe 4X.

I assembled the rest of my ingredients. I found the curing salt at my local sportsman's store in the meat and game curing section. My local grocery store did not have it, or at least I couldn't find it... I've read some supermarkets carry it, but mine does not.

I added all the ingredients to the ground beef in the stainless steel bowl, adding the water last...

Then I mixed it all up with my hands (I assure you, my hands were well-washed and very clean)... it's important to mix well, for like 5 minutes, so you don't get salty spots... you want everything incorporated very very well.

Once my ingredients were well mixed, it was time to shape my mixture into cylinders. I made 4 cylinders with the meat mixture, wrapping each tightly in aluminum foil.

Then you let them sit... in the refrigerator, to allow the ingredients to mingle and marry... 24-48 hours... so I waited... once in awhile I opened the fridge and looked at my aluminum foil wrapped cylinders, but really they would have been fine if I hadn't checked on them... they just needed to sit there and marinate, mingle, and marry. They didn't need me at all during that 24-48 hours.

Once the mingle time was up (I think I let mine go for about 36 hours, I couldn't wait any longer!)... I took the cylinders out of the fridge. I preheated my oven to 325 degrees for a good 15 minutes... then I poked some holes in the foil so the juices could drip out of the salami as it cooked.

I placed it on a wire rack in a deep baking pan to keep it up and out of the drippings... it needed to cook until no more juices flowed out.

I placed my row of cylinders of salami into the oven and cooked it for 1 hour 45 minutes, checking on it occasionally. After the time was up, I removed it from the oven and unrolled the foil... it was still a little juicy, so I reduced the oven temperature to 170 degrees and set them back in to dry just a bit more. (I left them in the warm oven for maybe another 45 minutes while I cooked dinner, spaghetti and salad, by the way)

Once the salamis were nice and dehumidified (not sure that's the technical term here, but there was no more juice running out), I allowed them to cool to room temperature before slicing.

They sliced up nicely, with a rich pink/brown color and all those flecks of red pepper flakes... I was so proud!

I vacuum sealed the slices using my Food Saver and stored some in the refrigerator, and put some in the freezer (not because I HAVE to, but because it's convenient for me).

The taste test revealed a delicious salami!

I do think next time (and there WILL be a next time!) I will spice it up a little more, maybe a little more pepper flakes, and maybe some peppercorns. We'll see. Mr. G says they'd be fantastic with some sharp cheddar cheese and some pickles or olives. Yum! And maybe I'll try this recipe without the curing salt some time... I'd just mix half sugar, half salt, and leave out the nitrate... just to see if I could do it successfully.


  1. Granny,

    There IS a very good reason to keep the saltpeter in products such as this. I know there is much media ranting about the so-called dangers of nitrites, but the alternatives are worse.

    In short the nitrate quickly gets metabolized to nitrite. And this functions to eliminate the risk of botulinus toxins which has serious consequences if it is present. The USDA regulates amounts allowable in commercially cured products, so it is nearly universally found in prepared meat products.

    Does much more good than harm.


    1. Thank you Winston for your input! I'll stick with my nitrates for now. ~~Granny

  2. The second to last pic looks a bit like meatloaf, but the last pic looks like salami. What is the consistency?

    1. When I first sliced it, it did look a bit like meatloaf, after vacuum sealing and refrigerating, the consistency seems to have tightened up become more dense and more like salami... maybe a little looser than "store bought" but not as loose as meatloaf now. It's quite nice! ~~Granny

  3. You shouldn't need to add the saltpeter, however, if you freeze it, right?

    1. It will be fine without the saltpeter if you freeze it, but remember it probably won't have that pink/reddish brown color either, it will most likely be more grayish. ~~Granny

  4. I put together a batch today with kosher salt, a little sugar, and put a little spoon of tomato paste to hopefully combat a little of the gray/brown. I also added a couple of links of mild Italian pork sausage since I had them in the freezer and fresh garlic and a half of a jalapeño. You have inspired me to give this a try finally. Can't wait to see how it comes out. 48 hrs is a long time to wait.

    1. Sounds yummy Amanda! Let me know how it turns out. ~~Granny

  5. It seems simple now that I read your post......

  6. Elena, it really was pretty simple! Thanks for reading! ~~Granny

  7. http://www.sausagemaker.com/ is an excellent source of sausage making supplies, although their spice mixes are for people who don't realize you can put this together yourself.

    Also if you don't have it, Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie (with a second volume due out this year, Salumi) is an excellent book on what you are doing any why with sausage making.

    If you are going to age the sausage, needed in much cured meat, you need the curing salts. It gives you sausage rather than rotten meat.

    Found you today via facebook, I also can and am interested in all aspects of food preperation. http://menu-vldyson.blogspot.com/ http://blog.charcuteire.com/

    1. Thanks for stopping by Warner, and for the helpful information. ~~Granny

    2. Warner,

      Got this error message on your link
      Page not found
      Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Dyson's Delectables does not exist.

  8. simply the best treat lol we make our own also. Try mustard seeds, minced onion, minced jalapeno peppers and or even a good hard cheese cut in small pieces.....The possibilities are endless.

  9. Great idea. I want to make Italian sausage from ground turkey so badly. I am still trying to find a good recipe.

  10. Granny - This could be even made better by grinding your own meat. My recipes for sausage and salami have you mix the salt and such with the meat, no water. And have it cure in the fridge for 4 days, mixing once a day. Then it has you shape it and cook it in a low oven for 8 - 10 hours. Makes an excellent meat. The kids love it! I use Morton's Tender Quick Salt. Found in the salt section at the grocery.

  11. A good addition to this recipe is mustard seed.I agree it needs more pepper flakes and garlic.Thanks for all your hard work!!

  12. I am going to try this with ground venison. It sounds great!

    1. Would like to know if using Venison comes out the same as the beef.


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