Homemade Soppressata and Saussicon Sec

Dry-Cured Soppressata and Saussicon Sec at Home
Homemade soppressata (left) and Saussicon Sec (right)

I was feeling bold after making homemade dry-cured Spanish Chorizo. It was such a success I was ready to tackle new sausage recipes and techniques. I decided for my next batch, I'd do one variety with a real ferment and one variety without a starter culture. I decided to go with soppressata and saussicon sec.

Dry cured sausage is a relatively simple process that requires attention to detail more than actual cooking prowess. You do need to make sure everything is spotlessly clean, you are relying on bacteria to do your preservation, you don't want to bring the wrong microorganisms to the party. You also have to be meticulous with measurement, since a little curing salt is necessary, but too little and you are opening the door to food-borne illness and too much not only ruins the product but is potentially poisonous as well.  You grind meat and fat, then mix in seasonings, your curing salt and starter culture if using. Next, you stuff the mixture into casings, then hang the sausages to dry in a temperature and humidity specific environment. I use a little wine fridge and a hygrometer to keep the temperature 55-58 F with about 75% humidity. Once hanging, the sausages slowly dry and cure, and after a few weeks (to months depending on the recipe and the size of your sausages) the raw meat has transformed into sausage goodness. 

Since the basic recipe for chorizo worked very well for me, I went back to Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and looked at the recipes for soppressata and saussicon sec. The ingredients and proportions were very different and I decided I'd split my 5 lbs of meat into two halves and make both.

Saussicon sec is a French dry-cured sausage that doesn't use a starter culture. I was very excited to try it because it relies more on the natural bacteria present in the meat and the seasonings are far more subtle than soppressata. This sausage was mixed, stuffed, and placed in the mini fridge right away.

Soppressata is an Italian style dry cured salami, sometimes pressed, with a hint of tanginess from acidic ingredients like white wine and an initial ferment. That means, before hanging the sausage in my temperature and humidity controlled mini-fridge I needed to hang the sausage in a warmer, more humid climate, to really get the bacteria working. Since I didn't have a means of maintaining 85 degrees with 80% humidity in my mini fridge, I decided I'd do the initial ferment in my spare bathroom.

Soppressata fermenting in my spare bathroom.
After the 24 hour ferment in my bathroom, the soppressata was transformed. The color was rosier and the smell was, well, kind of tangy.

Newly hung sausages, soppressata on the left, saussicon sec on the right.
The sausages hung for 3 weeks, with me weighing the meat weekly, waiting for the sausages to lose 30-40% of their initial weight. By the 3rd week, the scale said the sausages were ready, but they still felt too soft to me, so I let them go another week. At this point, they smelled good, looked good, and felt good, so it was time to dig in.

Soppressata on top, saussicon sec on bottom.

I cut into the sausages and felt the immediate pride of success. They tasted awesome. The soppressata had a little tang and a little heat, but also a nubby, fatty, texture that melted blissfully in your mouth. My only complaint is I felt like it needed an herbal element. Next time I make it, I'm adding a little fennel to the mix. The saussicon sec was full-on porky goodness. The lack of starter culture and minimal seasonings brings a clean, meaty pork flavor.

The craziest thing to me is that while both sausages have lost almost 40% of their starting weight, I still feel like they'll improve with more drying time. I definitely learned from the chorizo the difference a little extra time makes, so I can't wait to crack into these sausages again in the next two weeks and see where I feel they are perfect.

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