You will need several types of equipment for dry curing meat, especially if you choose to make sausages. The following list will help you get started with sourcing and using your equipment.
A kitchen scale is your friend. Measure ingredients by mass (in grams or ounces) rather than volume (cups or teaspoons) for the most accurate, safe, and reproducible results. Additionally, you will want to weigh your meats prior to drying, in order to determine when an appropriate loss of water has been achieved. You will want a digital scale that can handle the amounts that you will be weighing. Therefore, it should be able to accurately weigh something as small as a gram, and get as high as the weight of the meat you will be processing (for example, about 3 kilograms for sausage, up to 8 kilograms for a ham or larger whole muscles). It may make more sense to buy two scales: one for weighing spices, and another for weighing heavier items.
You can weigh in ounces or pounds, but the metric system (grams/kilograms) is easier to use if you will be modifying a recipe. Most scales will display weight in both the US Standard and metric units, depending on what setting is chosen.
During fermentation of sausages, you will need warm temperatures and high humidity. These conditions allow the good bacteria (both those naturally occurring in the cut of meat as well those added in the form of a culture) to grow and take over. Ideal conditions for fermenting depend on the type of culture added.
During drying of meats, you will need conditions of cool temperatures and high humidity. Ideal conditions for drying vary depending on the specific recipe.
For sausages, you will need a meat grinder. Don’t buy meat pre-ground, as the increased surface area will lead to faster spoilage. Here are some possible options:
- The stand-alone electric grinder is the best option for the serious sausage-maker. A good model will grind through meat quickly and easily. The downside is that an electric grinder is often more expensive and also requires more storage space.
- A KitchenAid mixer with a grinder attachment is adequate, but the serious sausage-maker will want to upgrade eventually. This has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive and less bulky than a stand-alone electric grinder. On the downside, it is slower, handles a smaller capacity, and can sometimes lead to smearing of the meat. Be sure to give the KitchenAid breaks so that the motor does not overheat.
- A hand-cranked grinder will also suffice, although it obviously requires a bit of muscle and more time to use. Make sure the blades are sharpened if you choose this option.
For sausages, you will need a sausage stuffer. There are three basic options:
- A hand-cranked, cylindrical stand-alone sausage stuffer is the ideal option. It is fast, easy to clean, and wastes very little meat. The downside is that these can be expensive.
- A manual, steel sausage stuffer is often quite a bit cheaper, but messier and more of a hassle to use.
- A sausage-stuffing attachment for either a KitchenAid mixer or a stand-alone electric grinder might be the most economical option, although it also comes with its own hassles. For example, it may be more likely to allow air pockets into the sausages, and the plunger may allow meat to escape around the sides.