Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Daydreaming of a Curing Box

I've been a combination of busy and lazy. Haven't really started any projects, just daydreaming about them. Mr. Dave has been working on Frankenfridge (a curing chamber) and that has gotten me rethinking the curing box that has been rattling around in my head. I don't really have the space or the desire to jackass a fridge or vertical freezer into the basement. And the new super basement dehumidifier has rendered my old setup useless. The air temperature in the basement is pretty much in the curing wheelhouse year round. July and August might get a little hot for curing but not by much. Really all I need down there is a space where I could control the humidity.

Here's where the plan is currently: Get some cheep wood. Right now cheapest is pine shiplap from Home Depot. Thirty five bucks should buy enough shiplap to make a 2' by 2' by 4'high box. I'd find something cheap and clear for the top. The inside of the box gets covered with a few coats of this mineral oil. There are also a few racks that support dowels (for hanging salami and other projects) attached to the walls of the box. At the floor level, the box is held up with small shims to allow for airflow. Near the top of one wall of the box, there is a hole with a small fan. The fan will come on every so often to move the air around. The fan will also come on if the humidity gets too high. Finally, the humidity: I looked at this in a Pet Smart and liked it. The price is better here though.

Drill a small hole in the side and the hose from a fogger can get piped inside. It looked like you could upgrade the 1 liter bottle to a 2 liter bottle. I like this controller that handles the temperature and humidity by itself. With this particular setup, I wouldn't need the temperature control.

But the controller is $100. Humidity controllers without the temperature control run in the $80s.  I think with scrounging, stuff I have, stuff sitting in my father-in-laws barn, and a well-timed trip to Rochester to avoid shipping on the mineral oil...the combined cost of everything else is less than the controller. Probably close to it, but less. On the plus side, the controller would still work if I ever moved to a fridge or vertical freezer.

The cost of this system is just too damn close to the price of one that includes temperature control too. There are cheaper controllers, but the one I saw at Pet Smart looked like a piece of junk. I wonder how many lizards it has killed or at the very least made very uncomfortable for weeks at a time. If I'm going to throw $200 at a half assed curing chamber, why not throw $250 at it and do it right? And then if I'm going to throw $250 at it, why not throw a little more money in and get something with a glass door? It is a very slippery slope.

The answer to these"Why?" questions is because I'm too cheap to buy this toy. Somehow I rationalized the overpriced pressure cooker (which I use at least once a week including earlier tonight). A curing chamber...if I had the right plan, I think I would steal some of my brick oven savings from myself. I'm not there yet.


  1. I have found that my set-up is functioning great with some further minor tweaks that I will prob. post about soon.

    It is still not a plug in and walk away system, you kind of have to monitor it. The main problem that I have is that the humidity controller does not have a "dead zone," i.e. either the dehumidify or humidify function is on at all times. This causes too much air movement and will lead to drying.

    I just put in about 5 petite hams the other day. As they release moisture they keep the humidity very high, so at this point I have the fridge on the temp. controller keeping the chamber at 55 deg and I have the exhaust fan plugged into the dehumidify plug on the humidity controller. When the humidity gets above 70,the fan kicks on. This has worked splendidly and kept me right at 55 deg/70% relative humidity.

    When the hams have dried to the point where they aren't releasing the requisite moisture, I will plug the humidifier back in (the one I cobbled together is essentially the same as the reptile one you pictured) and unplug the exhaust fan. I have the humidifier on the same circuit as a very small lap top fan to keep a little air circulation going then too.

    I think my set up is a good (but pretty expensive) solution and I have very high hopes that with some care and attention I can start producing large diameter salamis and even dry-cured hams at will.

    I am sure something will go wrong, but I am enjoying all of the tinkering and thinking. It keeps me occupied.

  2. Sounds like Frankenfridge is making progress. If I build something, one goal would be not having to babysit the unit. Go away for a weekend or if I have to travel for work, no one would take care of it. Maybe I could talk the kids into it.

    Auberins also has this humidity controller without a a built in temperature controller. It is about the same price, but has another toggle that can turn on a dehumidifier or fan if the humidity gets too high.

    I know what you mean about keeping occupied. After everyone went to bed last night, I made some pizza dough.

    1. Yeah, I bought this one (humidity controller)-

      My problem with it is that there is no "dead zone." As I said, either the humidifier is on or the dehumidify is on. This is too much air movement. If you want a true walk away and forget chamber I think you need a programable "dead zone" of about 7-10% so the thing just sits still for periods of time.

      In any event, what I am pretty much only fidgeting with my set up because I am obsessive. I think I have it to the point where a once a week check/adjustment/water refill is all that is needed.

      I currently have 4 smoked hams, 1 "lonzino," and 3 salamis in there. I don't have high hopes for the salamis because they were in there from the start while I was still sorting things out... We shall see. I am itching to try an Nduja recipe so that will probably go in there soon too.

  3. Scott over at the Sausage Debauchery store has the hot pepper for Nduja. There was another blog that got hacked and then shut down that made several batches of Nduja. He once melted it and used it as a pasta sauce. Looked awesome.

    Scott also has some wild fennel I've wanted to try out for a run of salami. Never got to it though. Here's the link to his online store.