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Fermenting without starter cultures

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 16:18
If I decide to make soppressata without a culture, do you still add dextrose? How much? What temp for fermenting? Still monitor ph? How long shoild the fermenting take?

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 17:24
by redzed
Fermenting without a starter culture is definately possible but also carries an amount of risk and uncertainty. It's something like fermenting wine with wild yeasts, you might make an excellent wine one day and the next time the wine will be taken over by volatile compounds and be undrinkable. Fermenting meat with indigenous bacteria is similar because not all lactic bacteria will result in a good tasting product, so it all depends on the source, quality and freshness of your meat. And then there are the risks of spoilage and even pathogenic bacteria. You can read all about that in Marianski's book. When using a starter culture you initiate the fermentation process immediately, and this results in the LAB from the package to dominate. When you rely on naturally occurring flora, fermentation will take longer to start and complete, but also allow for the growth of unwanted bacteria.

So if you want to ferment without starter cultures make sure you use fresh meat and low pH meat. Certainly not over 5.8 and better yet, something in the 5.6-5.7 range. Using a smaller diameter casing, that is not over 50mm is also more safe. Some traditional curers achieve a 5.0 pH without the addition of sugars, but that is usually difficult to achieve. Adding 3g/kg of dextrose can be enough to lower the pH to 5.3-5.2 without the use of starter cultures.

I remember you asking a question a little while ago about people who post on Facebook groups and don't use starter cultures. They often write that they tried starters but don't like the sour flavour that resulted. That is because they didn't use the cultures properly and don't understand how they work. They add too much sugar and ferment at high temperature and have no idea what the pH is. And unfortunately much of that comes from recipes in popular books such as those by Ruhlman and Polcyn and websites run by Poli, Shaw and others. Many add a good dose of booze to their mix which immediately lowers the pH and lowers microbial activity and not much fermentation occurs.

Having said that, I have made dried cured products successfully without starter cultures, so I am not saying that it can't be done or that you should not do it. Check the pH through the process and post the results for us.

Posted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 14:48
OK, I`m giving it a shot only because I am curious as to what it does to the taste being SPX was so different than 007, so the culture must be adding/altering flavor. I made 64 pounds using a mild and hot recipe that I`ve made before. I did keep a sample from each one because I am still curious as to what it does to the PH. I am fermenting at 68 degrees F and added 1.6% sweet dry red wine along with the same amount of dextrose I always use. Let`s see what happens. Thanks.

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 05:24
by redzed
How much dextose?

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 06:18
by jrittvo

How did the T-SPX taste different from the 007? Is it something you can describe? Did you ferment them both to the same pH? I have only ever used T-SPX, so I'm curious how you found another culture to be different in taste.

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:58
I used the T-SPX once. It definitely had a much stronger cheesier flavor and smell. The BLC-007 is more mild, and I prefer it.

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 12:03
redzed, I used .3% dextrose and 1.6% red wine ( on the sweat side). The pork was 5.8 before I added any ingredients. After 30 hours, I am reading 5.5 at 67 degrees F. I'm looking for a better PH meter. I'm not liking the Milwaukee with the external glass probe. Unless I don't know what I'm doing, I feel like it has to be calibrated before every use lately.

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 13:23
by Bob K
The Probes life span is around 2 years at best, time for a new probe. Its not the meter itself. It will also take longer to get a reading when they start to go.

New meat probe ... a920b1.htm

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 01:33
If you don't use a starter culture, but you used .3% dextrose, will the PH drop? If not, how do you know when to stop fermentation process and hang them in the chamber?

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 07:08
by redzed
Give us the pH readings after 48 and 72 hours.

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:35
It`s holding at 5.68 after 54 hours. Its been there for quite a while

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:57
I moved them to the chamber

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 18:00
by redzed
I would have raised the temp a few degrees and tried to ferment for 72 hours before moving to the chamber. Review the guidelines for recommended fermentation times here: ... /standards

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 21:41
Do you transfer them back or is it too late?

Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 07:25
by redzed
Hard to say, but a warm temp might promote some growth of the lactic acid bacteria. I tried to explain in my earlier post that fermenting with indigineous bacteria takes a lot longer than with a starter culture.