Soppressata w-credit

In honor of this month’s #charcutepalooza challenge over at Mrs. Wheelbarrow, I’m reposting this soppressata recipe from a couple years back. Wishing all who take up the challenge well. Happy curing!

While David Lebovitz considers molecular gastronomy and  The Alinea Cookbook in a long and thoughtful post today (he approaches with great skepticism, as he’s a traditionalist at heart, and leaves with appreciation having come back round to where he’d begun but by a whole new route), I would like to consider some of the oldest molecular gastronomical magic known to man.  Combining ground pork and salt and seasonings, introducing to it some microscopic creatures, and waiting for it to dry a little, to achieve a tangy flavorful sausage that has never gone above room temperature.

In December, a few of us went in on a pig.  One of the pleasures of hand-raised hog is the quality of its meat when dry-cured.  I’ve dry-cured grocery store pork and it’s terrible. Grocery store pork is, typically, uniformly bad, but the dry-curing process magnifies the badness.

Of the many things we did with the hog was use shoulder meat and back fat to make soppressata and I also tested a product not yet available when Charcuterie came out: a mold culture from  Another first was the environment.  Among the most asked charcuterie questions I get is “What can I dry-cure meat in?”  I bought a $90 dorm-room sized fridge from Sears specifically to test this method.  Both the mold and the fridge worked perfectly.  I was able to set the fridge to it’s warmest setting and it stayed at around 60 degrees.  I kept a pan of salt water in it for additional moisture. I spooned the dissolved mold culture over the sausage and it developed a beautiful coating of mold, like a powdered donut.  (The reason you want this, is that that the good mold protects the sausage from growing bad mold.)  I recommend both products, though i look forward to more tests.

Here’s the recipe for a standard soppressata, adapted from Charcuterie.  The DQ Cure #2 (sodium nitrate) is critical in that it prevents the growth of botulism within the sausage. I used a beef middle, also from butcher packer, but you can use hog casings if you wish.  I added a lot of coarsely chopped black pepper to the one above and did half the following recipe. It dried in about 4 weeks to a perfect, not overly chewy consistency, with a tangy, garlicky, peppery deliciousness.

Standard Soppressata

  • 1 pound/450 grams farm-raised pork fat, diced
  • 4 pounds/1800 kilogram farm-raised boneless pork shoulder, diced
  • 2-1/3 ounces/65 grams kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon/7 grams DQ Curing Salt #2
  • 3 tablespoon/30 grams dextrose (or sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon/6 grams minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon/2 grams red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters Pinot Bianco, or comparable dry white wine
  • 1/4 to 1/2 package live starter culture Bactoferm
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters distilled water
  • hog casing or beef middles for stuffing
  • mold culture if using (linked above)
    1. Be sure the meat is very, very cold.  The fat can even be partially frozen. Grind it through a large die into the bowl of a standing mixer.
    2. Add the salts, sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes to the meat.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until seasonings are thoroughly distributed, adding the wine as you mix. Dissolve the Bactoferm in the water and add it to the mixing bowl. Continue to mix until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, a minute or so.
    3. Stuff the mixture tightly into casings.  Weigh your sausage and record this weight.  Hang at room temperature for 12 hours to “incubate” the bacteria; the beneficial bacteria will grow and produce more lactic acid in warmer temperatures.
    4. Move to whatever drying environment you’re using.  If using a mold culture, follow the instructions introducing it to your soppressata now.  Ideally, this sauasage should hang at 60 degrees F./15 degrees C. with 60%-70% humidity.  The sausage is “done” when it’s lost 30 percent of its weight, which usually takes between 3 and 4 weeks.  When it’s lost that weight, slice thinly to serve.  To store it, wrap it in parchment and refrigerate.

If you liked this post on Curing Ground Meat: Soppressata, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


25 Wonderful responses to “Curing Ground Meat: Soppressata”

  • Tags

    Every once in a while I hear or read that the best charcuterie is made in Lyons, France. You even have a saucisson sec recipe in “Charcuterie.” So how come we never hear about people trying to recreate Lyons masterpieces? Have things gone downhill there or is it just a case of the squeaky Tuscan wheel getting all the grease? (in a good way, of course)

  • MrsWheelbarrow

    Thanks for reposting this, Michael. I’m now thinking a soppressata should join the other sausages happily curing in my garage. And Tags, while I adore the sausages of Lyons, and the Tuscan ones are heady, I believe the Gascon style saucisse and saucisson seche are very strong contenders.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    so now youre Mrs. Gascony, arent you cathy! i do like the simplicity of dominique’s saussicon. and tags, that is a good point, the italian salami get all the credit. i had the best of the best in lyon (working on the Bouchon book) and it was superb.

  • rob fettig

    really looking forward to your next book “Salumi”. went to Forest Grill for the first time and I was blown away by the quality chef Polcyn presented on his charcuterie plate. the white mold culture from butcher-packer is awesome stuff to work with and should be a must have for any DIY cured sausage makers.

  • MAG

    Hmmmmm. What’s up? David Leibovitz’s post on MG goes back in 2009, today he blogged about a chocolate caramel tart. Are you in some sort of time warp?

  • feltman

    which bactoferm formula do you recommend?
    there appears to be several types?

  • Elisabeth

    I would love to know the refrigerator model #. I make cheese and I cannot find a small fridge that I can reliably set to 55. I do have an older wine fridge that I use for this purpose but I need another one as it is small. I’m also looking forward to trying some of these things (I bought your book!) once I get some pigs to raise.

    • Mantonat

      A wine fridge is probably better than a dorm fridge since they are designed to maintain cellar temp and they also generally have a thermostat on the outside with a temp. reading. A regular refrigerator uses alot more electricity to maintain a high temp than a wine fridge and the motor will burn out more quickly because the thermostat is constantly adjusting when it’s set much above standard refrigeration temps. Target sells a pretty cheap model in a variety of sizes.

  • Ryan McKern

    Can you describe how you used the dorm fridge? Are you putting things on shelves or have you emptied out out some and rigged up some sort of bar to hand small cuts from?

    • ruhlman

      I put a pan of salt water in there, I rig foil below freezer element to divert dripping water and i suspend salami from the rack.

  • James G

    This would be a wonderful recipe to make here in New Zealand, but we cannot get Bactoferm. I have made some of your other sausages with the dark-box-in-the-fridge-for-a-month method; would that work for this??

  • Beachfinn

    I’ve rigged a small fridge with a walk in fridge thermostat and two humidstats to keep the moisture in check. In FL I really only need dehumidification and for that i use a tiny unit inside a fridge. Easiest way to control the temp is a keg thermostat that has a plug and a outlet with a remote censor (amazon Johnson Controls Digital Thermostat Control Unit for example).

  • JoeF_JohnM

    Michael – about the bactoferm- the instructions on but B&P website read to me like you mix it in water and then in the meat before you put it in the casing, but your instuctions seem to be to put it on (with a paintbrush or dipping it) after it’s been cased and hung at room temp? Can you expand on that a little? Thanks!

    • marc

      There are two different cultures being referenced here. One is a”live starter culture” that is mixed in with the meat. The other (optional) is a culture that is sprayed, dipped or painted on after stuffing to develop a white (desirable) surface mold.

  • kyle

    great stuff! I just finished Charcuterie on the bus this morning. I’ve got a huge list of things to try. I’ve read on other blogs that the nitrate is for color preservation, not botulism prevention. So some people opt not to use it. One CIA graduate said the same thing. So are you being really cautious with using it or was that guy an idiot? I’d rather use it just because dying from being stubborn’s a dumb way to go

  • steve

    have you ever done or know of prosciutto made w/o skin? fat layer only? the packing plants in my area cannot scald and keep skin on(legally or willingly). Got a nice local hog ready to go to the processor real soon.

  • fg

    Michael, I assume this mold culture would be beneficial for all dry cured sausages, yes? Whole cuts as well such as bresaola?


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