First there were micro breweries… then micro wineries… and now there appears to be an emerging trend in artisan salami, cotta, and sausage making, we call it micro meat curing (let’s call it as the French do, charcuterie because there is no English word to capture it completely).

There are a lot of famous and not so famous people taking up the hobby of charcuterie or meat curing, Kate Middleton and Paul Ryan to name just two.  So it may seem like DIY gone wild, but with everyone cutting costs, it sort of falls in line with today’s trends. 

Written by Kent Penning

Curing (From

In its simplest form the word ‘curing’ means ‘saving’ or ‘preserving’ meat and the definition covers preservation processes such as: drying, salting and smoking. When applied to home made meat products, the term ‘curing’ usually means ‘preserved with salt and nitrite.’ When this term is applied to products made commercially it will mean that meats are prepared with salt, nitrite, ascorbates, erythorbates and dozens more chemicals that are pumped into the meat. Meat cured only with salt, will have a better flavor but will also develop an objectionable dark color.

 Artison Salami Maker Needs Curing Refrigerator for Consistent Temperature

Our story begins with a friend of a friend approaching me about building a specialty curing refrigerator for his salami and cottas.  I learned that there are specific refrigeration temperature requirements for his needs.  John explained that he wanted a curing box that would consistently deliver 50°F – 60F° at 65%-80% RH.  John had been looking and could not find anything on the market for his needs, it just didn’t exist.

During the education process we discussed that wine storage boxes and their similar refrigeration requirements.  This wasn’t really what he wanted.  John went shopping for something for equipment that he could use for his artisan salami, cotta, and sausage making.  In his search he found and chose a used commercial refrigeration unit specifically a glass door True refrigerator that closely matched his vision. (Pictured below) 

Curing Refrigerator cropped 003

After examining the True refrigerator John picked, I designed a new cooling system and control system to meet John’s needs.  To accommodate his requirements a new smaller condensing unit and an expansion valve were installed.

We were fortunate that our plan came together so well that even the controller was just thin enough to hide behind the plastic trim panel and the existing wiring was altered so it would work for John’s curing refrigerator needs. (Controls pictured below)

Curing Refrigerator Controls 002-resized-600

Of course when altering a piece of equipment for specific temperature needs testing must be done to assure that it meets the new requirements.  This unit was tested for three (3) weeks, during the system “Test Mode” it passed with flying colors.

John came into our office and discussed his salami, cotta and sausage plans and it was then that we realized how meticulous this hobby is, to do it right anyway.  That conversation was very enlightening.  John hopes to sell these cured meats to local specialty stores because he enjoys this hobby so much he plans on producing more than he can personally use and selling the meats will help him pay for his hobby.

Anyone considering selling cured meats should be aware that this requires another level of scrutiny from the Code of Federal Regulations.  These regulations are in place to assure that the cured meats are safe to eat. That’s why it is important that the new custom unit perform.  John picked up his newly reconfigured True refrigerator so he can continue his Salami, Cotta and Sausage making.

After speaking to John it appears that a dry curing period per batch of meat takes about 60 days.  As we hear from him about his successes we will update you.    We hope to provide some pictures for your viewing.

Should you wish to have a commercial refrigerator customized like this, feel free to contact Cold Craft, Inc. 408.374.7292. 

Additional information…

For more information about micro meat curing please visit this site has recipies and sausage recipe secrets Like the ones below:

Sausage Recipe Secrets

1. Fat. The meat for a sausage should contain about 25 – 30% fat in it. This will make the sausage tender and juicy, without fat it will feel dry. This is not such a big amount as it might seem so at first. Fresh sausages made in the USA can legally contain 50% fat and this is what you get in a supermarket. The fat is cheap and the manufacturer is not going to replace it with a higher priced lean meat. This is where the main advantage of making products at home comes to play: you are in control. Avoid beef fat which is yellow and tastes inferior to pork fat. Fat from lamb or wild game should not be used either, unless you make original sausages like Turkish Sucuk or Scottish Haggis. Sheep or goat fat has a specific odor which lowers quality of the sausage.

2. Salt. The sausage needs salt. Salt contributes to flavor, curing and firmness, water holding and juiciness, binding and texture (protein extraction), safety and it prevents water cooking loss. In general sausages contain 1.5-2% salt. About 3.5-5% will be the upper limit of acceptability, anything more and the product will be too salty. Get the calculator and punch in some numbers. Or if you use the metric system you don’t even need the calculator: You need 2 grams of salt per 100 grams of meat. If you buy ten times more meat (1 kg) you will also need ten times more salt (20 grams). Now for the rest of your life you don’t have to worry about salt in your recipes. If you want a consistent product, weigh out your salt. Estimating salt per cups or spoons can be deceiving as not all salts weigh the same per unit volume.

Salt perception can be an acquired taste. If you decide to go on a low sodium diet and start decreasing the amount of salt you consume, in about three weeks time you may reach a point when your food tastes enjoyable, though you use less salt than before. This is fine as long as you prepare those meals for yourself. When making sausages for your friends, try to adhere to the amount of salt the original recipe calls for, as other people might like a different amount of salt. When smoking large amounts of meat that will be kept for a week or longer, remember that it will keep on drying out (losing moisture). Salt will, however, remain inside and your sausage will now taste saltier and will be of a smaller diameter. The meat flavor will also be stronger now. In such a case you may use less salt than originally planned for, let’s say 15 g/kg. That will not apply when making a fresh sausage which will be consumed in a matter of days, and (1.8-2%) salt will be fine.

There are different types of salt and people often speculate which kind is the best. Well, probably the cheapest salt that is known as rock or canning salt might be the best as it is very pure. Salt was originally mined and transported in huge slabs to different areas. It was a valuable commodity and was named after the mine which had produced it. Different mines produced salt with different impurities content. If a particular salt contained more Nitrate, it would impart pink color to the meat and improve its keeping qualities. Such salt would be popular for meat preservation.Table salt that we use for general cooking contains many added ingredients such as iodine (there is a non-iodized salt, too) and anti-caking agents such as sodium silicoaluminate or magnesium carbonate that prevent salt from acquiring moisture. Pure rock salt will lump together and will not shift from a salt shaker. Salt lumping is of a minor inconvenience as the hardened salt can be reversed to its original powdery form by shaking the container. Cleaner salt will produce cleaner gelatin in a head cheese. Some salts are finely ground and some are flaked. A finely ground salt will be more suitable for curing fish in brine. Due to a short time involved finely pulverized salt will penetrate fish flesh faster. On the other hand dry cured products such as ham or bacon which cure for weeks at the time, might benefit from a coarsely ground salt.

For brining purposes both table salt and kosher salt will work equally well in terms of providing the desired effects, though kosher salt – and in particular Diamond® Crystal kosher salt dissolves more readily. What is important to remember is that kosher salts are less dense than ordinary table salts and measure quite differently from a volume standpoint. Kosher salt has larger crystals and is bulkier. A given weight of Diamond® Crystal takes up nearly twice the volume as the same weight of table salt. One teaspoon of table salt weighs 6 g but 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt weighs 4.8 g. Five tablespoons of Diamond® Kosher Salt (72 g) or five tablespoons of Morton® Table Salt (90 g) will add a different percentage of salt to your product as the former salt is much lighter. Yet when you weigh 90 g of salt on a scale it makes no difference what kind of salt you choose. Ninety grams of table salt equals to 90 g of flaked salt regardless of the volume they might occupy. The table below shows approximate equivalent amounts of different salts:

Table Salt 1 cup 292 g (10.3 oz)
Morton® Kosher Salt 1⅓ to 1½ cup 218 g (7.7 oz)
Diamond® Crystal Kosher Salt 1 cup 142 g (5 oz)

As you can see it is always advisable to weigh out your salt. The above table proves how misleading a recipe can be if listed ingredients are measured in volume units only (cups, spoons, etc).

Sea salt. Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and what is left is the salt plus impurities which were in sea water. Those impurities include different minerals and chemicals such as magnesium, calcium or nitrate. If a substantial amount of Nitrate is present, such salt will somewhat cure meats and make them pink. Due to imputities sea salt may taste a bit bitter. Sea salt is occasionally added to dry cured and air dried products which are made without Nitrates. Nevertheless such a manufacturing process is not recommended for an amateur. Each gallon of sea water (8.33 lb) produces more than 1/4 pound of salt.

3. Pepper. It is available as whole seeds but you have to grind it. Like in a case of coffee beans, the advantage is that you get a fresher aroma when grinding seeds just before use. It is available as coarse grind, sometimes called butcher’s grind or fine grind. A recipe will call for a particular grind but the final choice will be up to you. Black pepper is normally used in fresh sausages and blood sausages, and white pepper is used in others. Polish sausage might need coarse grind black pepper, but a hot dog, Bologna or Krakowska sausage will call for a fine grind white pepper. The dividing line is whether you want to see the pepper in your product or not. Otherwise it makes no difference and you can replace black pepper with the same amount of white pepper, although the black pepper is a bit hotter. Pepper is added at 0.1-0.4% (1.0-4.0 g per 1 kg of meat). The definition of pepper can be confusing at times. Both white and black pepper are produced by the same plant.

Black pepper – unripe seeds of the plant with the skin left on.

White pepper – ripe seeds with the skin removed.

Then there is Capsicums family of peppers which includes hot red pepper, Cayenne pepper, chili pepper and paprika. Chili powder is a combination of chili pepper, cumin, oregano and garlic. Red pepper can be referred to as Cayenne pepper as both are very hot. Interestingly, the smaller the fruit of pepper is, the stronger the pepper. California produces most peppers by variety and volume except tabasco peppers which are grown in Louisiana and made into Tabasco sauce.

Click here to read entire article on sausage receipe secrets


After speaking to John it appears that a dry curing period per batch of meat takes about 60 days.  As we hear from him about his successes we will update you.    We hope to provide some pictures for your viewing.

Should you wish to have a commercial refrigerator customized like this, feel free to contact Cold Craft, Inc. 408.374.7292.




If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.

408.374.7292 or [email protected]

By Published On: September 24, 2014