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I am curing sausages, pork salami in hog casing to be precise. I am having a hard time maintaining both the temperature and the humidity necessary. I have no trouble controlling temperature 60F/15C. (I have a small wine refrigerator) however the relative humidity in it is getting up to the 85-89% range. (As measured by an admittedly uncalibrated hygrometer but which reads 67% when set in the room containing the refrigerator)

The relative humidity elsewhere is somewhere in the 50-70% range depending on the room and time of day. However the temperature varies between 67F/19C and 76F/24C.

The recommended target range is 60F/15C for temperature and 70% for relative humidity.

So far I am not having bad mold problems, just a few tiny flecks of white(acceptable/good) mold. The smallest of the sheep casing test sausages in fact lost it's 30% in weight and seems done. The hog casing sausages are losing weight, but at a much slower rate than expected (presumably due to higher humidity).

Everywhere I look there is a TON of information on raising the humidity in your curing chamber, not so much on lowering it. Suggestions for lowering the humidity of the chamber would also be helpful.

Should I put the sausages in another hanging container with lower humidity and higher, uncontrolled/ambient temperatures? Should I let them continue to poke along at the higher humidity and dry very slowly, and possibly not at all?

EDITED TO ADD: Silica Gel, at least in the quantity I placed in the cooler had no measurable effect on the humidity. Possibly more silica gel would have done more.

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You ned to get your hands on a computer fan (they are designed to run 24hrs a day). I simply mounted one of these inside wall of my curing chamber (down low - as wet air drops), cut a hole in the wall of the fridge with a hole saw - which allows the fan to exhaust the moist air from within the curing chamber. I also cut a similar sized hole at the top of the curing chamber on the opposite side which allows dry air to enter the chamber as the wet air is exhausted. I have it rigged up to a cheap humidity controller I purchased off ebay, so when the controller detects high humidity (whatever you set it at), it exhausts the humid air.

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I am now in fact using a computer fan inside my tiny wine fridge. In order to keep it running I just spliced it onto an old 5v phone charger I cut the end off of. I didn't put a hole in the fridge. With the slower air flow due to running at 5v instead of 12v and just circulating the air in the fridge I have gotten near perfect results. –  Laura Thomas Oct 16 '12 at 15:15
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I have a vent in my curing chamber that's an old refrigerator converted over.I used a metal dryer vent and caulked the perimeter once installed, i also leave the metal flap open a bit with a magnet. This allows circulation of air inside of the chamber via the fan. I have a steady 58 degrees with 70% RH.

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Too humid an environment will, as you are seeing, slow the curing process down. As long as they are still decreasing in weight you should be OK but you need to be careful of moisture forming on the outside of the casings as this may encourage nastier moulds to grow beyond the white one expected on salami.

If they are not losing weight at all this is a problem as this indicates the water content within the sausage is not decreasing and a high water content will encourage bacteria growth and eventually spoil the meat.

Try opening up the refrigerator you are using for a few hours a day to let the moisture out (the trade off is that you will heat it up a bit but if it's only for a few hours you should be OK). If a more severe drop in humidity is needed then aim a desk fan at them and run it for an hour or so a day. Circulating the air around the sausages will help remove the moisture but may not be all that economical when you consider the electricity bill.

EDIT:

If opening the fridge and/or using a fan don't work for you a more radical approach that might work could be to try Silica Gel packs (like the ones you get in electronics packaging) in the bottom of the fridge. This is a totally untested idea but theoretically should work as they are designed to absorb moisture and are non-toxic (although the label warns against eating them it's more a choking hazard than any poison to worry about). I'd be very interested to hear how successful you are if you try this route.

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I have in fact considered silica gel. I have some coming by mail, I'll report back if I see any difference. –  Laura Thomas Oct 13 '10 at 21:35
    
Opening the door will lower the humidity, that's basically the same technique used in a lumber-drying kiln: open the vents to let the moist air out, dryer air will be drawn in. –  Ward Oct 14 '10 at 3:43
    
Silca Gel in volumes that would fit in my tiny fridge with the sausages wouldn't get the job done. Could be in a bigger fridge with a bigger volume of silica it would work fine. See my comment above to see how I solved it with a fan. –  Laura Thomas Oct 16 '12 at 15:17
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