Salami aficionados are often struck with an intense urge to ferment and cure their own sausages. A simple curing chamber carved from an old refrigerator is large enough to accommodate most home sausage makers' needs. When you start curing sausage for the whole family, however, a small climate-controlled salami room may become a necessity. Commercial equipment is available designed especially for this process, but it can drive your home sausage making adventure's startup costs into the clouds. However, if you're willing to adjust your room's climate settings manually, you can turn any windowless space into a salami curing chamber within a reasonable budget.
Things You'll Need
- Window mounted room air conditioner
- Pre-hung steel door
- Tape measure
- Reciprocating saw
- Circular saw
- 2-by-4-inch stud-grade lumber, 8 feet long
- Power screwdriver
- 2-1/2-inch long screws
- Utility knife
- Standard drywall
- Drywall screws
- Drywall compound
- Drywall tape
- Joint compound knife
- Batt insulation
- Construction staples
- Marine grade plywood
- Water-resistant drywall
- Drywall saw
- Sheet vinyl flooring
- Caulk gun
- Contractor's adhesive
- 1/2-inch foam board insulation
- Latex caulk
- Humidifier with built-in hygrostat
- Oscillating fan
- Stainless steel hooks
Constructing the Shell
Choose a location where there is already a small window or where you can punch a hole through to the outside for a window air conditioner, and where you will only have to add a minimum of new joints. Purchase a window air conditioner unit rated for the square footage of your future salami room.
Strip the location of any carpet and wood trim. Remove any windows and board them temporarily. Rough in the framing for the open sides of the room, placing studs at 2 foot intervals. Measure your steel door and add the allowance specified by the manufacturer for the door framing. Shim the frame at both the top and bottom. Screw it securely to the wall, ceiling and floor.
Fit the pre-hung door in the framed doorway and shim it. Check the door for plum before screwing it to the framing.
Measure your air conditioner's case, adding 1/4 inch to each side. Frame an existing window opening or pre-cut hole to these dimensions. Hire a licensed electrician to rough-in a dedicated outlet for the air conditioner, as well as outlets for your humidifier and fan as far from the air conditioner as is practical. Instruct the electrician to rough-in a light on the ceiling and a switch near the door's opening.
Hang drywall on the outside of your framing using drywall screws, countersinking each screw. Fit the pieces together tightly. Tape the seams with drywall tape. Cover the tape and 1/2 inch on either side with drywall compound and fill the screw holes.
Install batt insulation from the inside of the room using construction staples. Cut a piece of marine plywood to fit the floor of the room. Screw it to the subfloor.
Finishing the Room
Install water-resistant drywall on the framed walls, cutting small holes with a drywall saw for the roughed-in electrical. Pull the wires through the holes. Drywall existing walls and ceiling if they have extensive damage. Secure the drywall, but do not tape or apply compound.
Cut the vinyl flooring an inch wider than the room in all dimensions. Start laying it in the furthest corner, fitting the vinyl against both walls radiating from that corner. Smooth the vinyl down as you move across the back wall. Push the vinyl into the second corner (do not bend all the way over) and cut away the excess. Continue along the wall, trimming and pushing the vinyl against the floor. Repeat for the front wall.
Return to the back corner and check the vinyl's fit one last time. Fold the vinyl flooring over to expose the back half of the subfloor. Apply construction adhesive to the subfloor until you are within 6 inches of the vinyl. Unfold the vinyl, quickly pushing out any bubbles and smoothing it into either corner. Allow the glue to tack before repeating on the other half of the vinyl. Apply a wide bead of caulk around the flooring at the wall.
Cut sections of foam board to fit over the drywall, cutting openings for wiring. Starting in the back corner, glue the foam board to the wall one section at a time. Caulk each joint. Repeat for the ceiling, using a glue that tacks instantly. Call the electrician to finish your electrical installation with outdoor rated outlets and sockets. Finish the outside of the chamber and repair any damaged siding.
Equipping the Chamber
Install the air conditioner by tilting it through the hole from the inside. Screw it to the wall using the pre-drilled mounting holes on the frame. Apply caulk where the air conditioner meets the wall.
Set up the humidifier in a corner far from the air conditioner to prevent it working excessively. Place an oscillating fan in a corner diagonal from the air conditioner to encourage air circulation.
Mount stainless steel hooks in the ceiling at least 18 inches from the walls. Hang a basic hygrometer and thermometer near the level where your salami will be cured. Set your air conditioner to the temperature specified in your salami recipe and do the same for the humidifier. Leave the room sealed for 12 hours before checking the settings against the hygrometer and thermometer. Adjust until the chamber reaches the correct temperature and humidity.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't be alarmed if your walls sweat while the salami room is in use. With humidity in excess of 75 percent, this is highly likely. If your foam and vinyl joints are well sealed, water won't damage the walls.
- With the addition of a small heater, you can use your DIY salami curing room for fermentation if you turn off the air conditioner and adjust the humidifier settings.
- Always have electrical work done by a licensed professional; your insurance company may not pay for fire damage if your wiring was not completed with a permit.
- Do not sell or barter any salami cured in a home salami room as it has not been inspected by the USDA.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images