Drying Fridge Update

Chorizo drying in the fridgeIn May I wrote about my fridge set-up for air drying meat. It's now been fine-tuned through experience and seems to be working OK at present.

There's no doubt that if you can find somewhere that has the temperature and humidity conditions needed, it's far easier than trying to artificially create them; a cellar or pantry in an older house should be ideal, particularly if the summer months are avoided. "Summer", I hear you say, what bloomin' summer?

That said, the first time I used my new set-up the weather was scorching hot and humid with it. The fan moving air from outside the fridge to the inside just resulted in the fridge working overtime to keep cool, and the already humid air increased in relative humidity as it cooled - not what I wanted at all Doh! The fan has been moved and the vent covered; it now just circulates air in the fridge, and then only when the fridge motor is actually running as it's connected to the fridge's temperature controller. It's quite a large computer fan though and I'm going to replace it with a smaller less powerful one in due course as whilst you need air-flow you don't want a gale!

The hygrostat now operates a dehumidifier in the room the fridge is in to lower humidity when required instead of operating the fan. The mini-fogger which was used to increase humidity when required, has been replaced with a humidifier which works far better and is less messy.

I also find that a tray of salt in the fridge keeps the humidity nicely balanced - it's changed daily (when I remember).

The system is still better at increasing humidity than reducing it but I think it's working as well as I should expect for such a Heath Robinson arrangement! Short of digging a cellar, I guess it's the best I'll get; certainly everyone's enjoyed the meat I've dried so far, and it's nice to be doing it safely.

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Flamin' Smoker

I've been tinkering with my smoker set up for a couple of years now and it's just about getting to how I want it: or so I thought until today when the wood chips burst into flames!

Anyway, the partridge I was smoking seem to be OK, but what should have been a simple job became an absolute pain.

Smoked Partridge

The problems are basically my fault, the original sketches I did have a metal plate between the burner and the smoking chamber:

Smoker drawing

The burner in the filing cabinet to the left is for cold smoking

The burner set-up for hot smoking:

Smoker detail

Regrettably we failed to install the metal plate. Not only would it physically stop the flames from igniting the wood, but it would also restrict the air supply to the wood, meaning less chance of ignition. I also thought that the pebbles on a mesh shelf, which spread the smoke so successfully, would be sufficient to stop any fat dropping onto the wood. Oh, how wrong can you be? A good drip tray will be simple to install, I can do that myself, but the metal plate will have to wait until my Nephew, Mickey, can get time off from refurbishing his house to do it.

Why the apparently over elaborate set up, when you can hot smoke easily in a barrel or metal drum? It's true you can, or even a biscuit tin and a small burner. The reason I do it this way is because I smoke sausages. These have specific temperature control requirements that would be very difficult to achieve using a less controllable system.

Boy's Toys

I have written before about the chemicals and equipment used for curing and sausage making but when 'the bug' bites you'll undoubtedly end up buying (investing in?) even more.

Sooner or later you'll want to move on from that cheap slicer that you bought from Argos, it slices bread very nicely but struggles with uncooked meat, so you'll look for a commercial slicer. You realise that you'll never get away with buying a new one 'cos your partner will have a fit, so off you go to ebay.

After awaiting its arrival like an expectant father, you'll end up having to clean it up, just like a new-born baby! Half a day, and lots of elbow grease later, you'll be slicing everything in sight! I know, you don't believe me, but take my word for it, you will.

Berkel Slicer

It'll be the turn of the mincer next. You'll get fed up of using the Kenwood Chef for larger amounts of meat and look for a dedicated mincer/grinder. You'll have a look at something like this one which receives excellent reviews, but you'll convince yourself that you really need something more like this. It's just... Well it's just...Ok I'll say it... It's just more manly... More macho. Trouble is, with a champagne throat but beer pocket, you can't justify (get away with!) spending that much. So it's off to ebay again. Weeks later you may drop lucky and pick up one of these:


A bit like me, the finishing isn't that brilliant but it's built like a brick outhouse! It weighs over 20kg and absolutely whips the meat through it's 70mm head.

It's then that you realise that your sausages are working out at about £20 a pound but you've just got to have proper sausage stuffer. It makes the process so much easier.

Sausage Stuffer

Another £70 quid lighter!

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Bean Can Smoker

If you've followed this blog, you will have seen the posts about making bacon. Your friends will no doubt be asking you to make more, and you'll be cursing me for even suggesting it. Then along will come some bright spark and say they like smoked bacon best and why don't you make that. Now, the sensible person would just tell them to get lost or to make their own. However, you've proved you're not sensible by making bacon in the first place! It's inevitable you'll give in eventually, so you might as well just get it over with and give in now!

You could, of course, just cheat and buy a smoked bacon flavour cure from sausagemaking.co.uk but that's the easy way, and we know you don't take the easy option ...do you?

So, to help out, here's my cheap and cheerful smoker.

Click here, there's more to read...

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