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.