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Curing of Meats, Hams and SausagesGo to page 1, 2, 3 Next Page >>
Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:55 amForum Host
In the past, people around the world cured fish, meats and cheeses in order not to waste valuable food and to insure against poor harvests or hunting seasons. Although a salt-rich diet is currently implicated in risk for heart disease, protein deficiency was the greater historical problem.
Evidence shows that ancient Middle East and oriental cultures actively dried foods as early as 12,000 B.C. in the hot sun (dehydration). Later cultures left more evidence and each would have methods and materials to reflect their unique food supplies—fish, wild game, domestic animals, etc. These early cultures also used salt to help desiccate foods. Salting was common and even culinary by choosing raw salts from different sources (rock salt, sea salt, spiced salt, etc.).
Salt cod, which was air-dried in cool northern Europe, was a civilization-changing food product, in that a bountiful but perishable food supply could be converted to a form that allowed for wide travel and thus exploration. Salt cod is known as bacalao (Spanish), bakaiļao (Basque), bacallà (Catalan), morue (French), baccalà (Italian), bacalhau (Portuguese), klippfisk/clipfish (Scandinavian), saltfiskur (Icelandic), bakalar (Croatian), and Saltfish (Caribbean). Salted fish and meat was widely used on ships during the Age of Sail, as it is non-perishable and easily stored. It constituted the majority of shipboard diet even as late as 1938.
In current food preparation parlance, curing refers to various preservation and flavoring processes, especially of meat or fish, by the addition of a combination of salt, sugar and either nitrate or nitrite. Many curing processes also involve smoking.
Curing with salt and sugar may be called salting, salt-curing, sugar-curing or honey-curing. The application of pellets of salt, called corns, is often called corning. Curing in a water solution or brine is called wet-curing or pickling or brining. The curing of fish is sometimes called kippering.
Table salt, which consists primarily of sodium chloride, is the most important ingredient for curing food and is used in relatively large quantities. Salt kills and inhibits the growth of microorganisms by drawing water out of the cells of both microbe and food alike through osmosis. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria. Once properly salted, the food's interior contains enough salt to exert osmotic pressures that prevent or retard the growth of many undesirable microbes.
In the 1800’s, it was discovered that certain sources of salt gave meat a red color instead of the usual unappetizing gray. Consumers overwhelmingly preferred the red colored meat. In this mixture of salts was saltpeter (nitrites or NaNO3 or KNO3). As the microbiology of Clostridium botulinum became clear in the 1920’s, it was realized that these nitrites inhibited the organism.
Nitrates and nitrites (in the form of saltpeter, which is potassium nitrate) have been used to preserve meat for centuries. Sodium nitrite, which is available in blends with names like curing salt, Instacure #1, or “pink salt.” (It is dyed pink to prevent accidental confusion with regular salt) offers an additional layer of protection. A small amount of nitrite very effectively inhibits microbes, including botulism bacteria. It also reacts with the meat to produce the characteristic bright pink color of, for example, corned beef. In addition, nitrite adds its own unique flavor.
Caution must be exercised in adding nitrate or nitrite to meat, since too much of either of these ingredients can be toxic to humans. In using these materials never use more than called for in the recipe. A little is enough. Federal regulations permit a maximum addition of 2.75 ounces of sodium or potassium nitrate per 100 pounds of chopped meat, and 0.25 ounce sodium or potassium nitrite per 100 pounds of chopped meat. Potassium nitrate (saltpeter) was the salt historically used for curing. However, sodium nitrite alone, or in combination with nitrate, has largely replaced the straight nitrate cure. Since these small quantities are difficult to weigh out on most available scales, it is strongly recommended that a commercial premixed cure be used when nitrate or nitrite is called for in the recipe. The premixes have been diluted with salt so that the small quantities which must be added can more easily be weighed. This reduces the possibility of serious error in handling pure nitrate or nitrite. Several premixes are available. Many local grocery stores stock Morton® Tender Quick® and other brands of premix cure. Use this premix as the salt in the recipe and it will supply the needed amount of nitrite simply and safely. Much controversy has surrounded the use of nitrite in recent years. However, this has been settled and all sausage products produced using nitrite have been shown to be free of the known carcinogens.
Although often used in curing to give a pleasant taste, sugar can also be used to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria such as those of the Lactobacillus genus. Dextrose or sucrose that is used in this fashion ferments the food. As the unwanted bacterial growth is delayed, the salt tolerant lactobacillus outcompetes them and further prevents their growth by generating an acidic environment (around 4.5 pH) through production of lactic acid. This inhibits the growth of other microbes and accounts for the tangy flavor of some cured products.
Smoking is another method of curing. Although more frequently used for flavor than preservation, smoke is an antimicrobial and antioxidant. The smoke particles adhere to the outer surfaces of food, inhibiting bacterial growth and oxidation. Smoke-curing is generally done in one of two ways. The cold-smoking method (which can take up to a month, depending on the food) smokes the food at between 70° to 90°F. Hot-smoking partially or totally cooks the food by treating it at temperatures ranging from 100° to 190°F.
Dry cure: Dry curing was the original method of preserving meat through a dry rub method of cure application. This method, which was brought forward from early civilization to the 21st century, involves mixing the cure ingredients and subsequently rubbing the mixture on the external surfaces of the meat to be cured. This is followed by extended storage and subsequent re-applications of the cure mixture (called overhauling). Although this cure method requires 1-2 months (or longer) for larger pork cuts such as hams and involves a large amount of shrinkage, it is considered a popular method for curing hams in Virginia.
The optimal cure time for maximum cure penetration is 7 days per inch of product thickness, or 2 days per pound of product. The preferred temperature during curing is 40°F. This temperature will increase the speed of the cure penetration and reactions and reduce microbial spoilage. In Virginia, the best time to dry cure hams is in late December.
Wet Cure: Wet-curing is mostly commonly used for pork that is going to be used for making hams, but it does also make pretty good bacon. It involves immersing the raw meat in a brine solution for a number of days at a low temperature. The end product doesn't differ a huge amount from dry curing and the process is as simple, if requiring a bit more equipment.
To make the brine put all of the ingredients together in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil hard for 10 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Once cooled transfer to the receptacle you're going to use for the curing process. This can be made of glass, plastic or earthenware as the solution can corrode metal, which will leach into the meat and ruin the batch. The brine needs to be cooled to between 35F/2C and 39F/4C before adding the meat. Under this temperature the curing action will cease, above it the chances of the meat spoiling become high.
As with aged cheese, mold growth is common among cured meats that are aged. Molds may be removed with a mixture of 10% acetic acid and 90% water or other equivalent rinses. After the mold is trimmed or removed by scrubbing and rinsing, the product is satisfactory for consumption.
Molds are common in the air and will thrive if proper temperature and moisture conditions (as during curing and aging) exist. An effective way to prevent molds on cured and smoked meats is to store them in a dry, well ventilated room with a temperature range of 45 - 55°F and a relative humidity of less than 68%. Unwrapped meat should not touch other meat. This method of holding increases dehydration, but weight loss is less expensive than loss from trimming mold.
The panoply of preserved foods is impressive, especially the enormous array and diversity of smoked, cured and salted meats, sausages, vegetables/fruits and cheeses. Polish, Czech, Hungarian and German meat specialties all but eclipse both familiar and lesser-known Italian deli products. Besides the more familiar kielbasas, bratwursts and Pick salami, one can also enjoy Spanish chorizo and Serrano ham, Irish or Canadian bacon and Middle Eastern-style halal smoked meats.
It's not just meats that are cured or brined. Often referred to as aging, ripening or affinage, curing is the process of holding cheeses in carefully controlled environments to allow the development of micro-organisms that usually accentuate the basic cheese flavors. Cheese curing can be done by several methods, including injecting or spraying the cheese with specific bacteria or by wrapping the cheese in various flavored materials.
Most of your favorite cheeses fall within this category: Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Brie, Camembert, and Chevres. Parmigiano-Reggiano, Appenzeller and Feta are examples of brine-cured cheeses.
In recent years, a better-informed North American public has been more willing to sample preserved meats that have no bearing on personal upbringing but simply impart flavor or style to dishes. This is largely thanks to television food personalities who prepare recipes, write cookbooks and provide inspiration to those who want to experiment in the kitchen.
Ham (the basic curing steps of a dry-cured American country ham are the same as those used to make prosciutto di Parma, French jambon de Bayonne, German Schwarzwalder Schincken, Spanish jamón ibérico, Elenski but, and Chinese Jinhua ham). The differences in these products are due to many other (often strictly controlled) factors, such as the breed and feed of the pigs, the spices/sugars added to the cure (if any), the aging times, whether the meat is smoked or not, etc.
Bacon and Pancetta
Chinese Sausage (lap cheung)
CURING AND SMOKING GAME SAUSAGE
Cured vegetable products include:
(Click on Fermentation ~ Pickles, Sauerkraut and Vegetables for more information on these)
Some recipes in the db:
How to Dry Beef
Armenian Basterma (Dried Cured Beef)
Corned Beef (Corn Your Own)
Pickling Corned Beef
Home-Cured Brisket (Corned Beef)
Home Cured Corned Beef
How to Cure Hams
Sugar Cure for Pork, Bacon, Ham
How to Pickle-Cure Bacon
Home Cured Pork
Linguica Portuguese Sausage
Paul Grauman's"Wild" Summer Sausage
SOUJOOKH (sue-juke)-Armenian spiced dried sausage
Chinese Style Gravlax(Cured Salmon)
Gin and Juniper Cured Salmon - Scandinavian Gravlax
Recipe -- Herb Cured Tuna
Gravlax (Swedish Sugar and Salt Cured Salmon)
New England Pickled Oysters
Sam's Smoked Sockeye (Salmon)
Pan Smoked Salmon Southwestern Style
Home-Cured Duck Prosciutto
Kitchen hygiene, as always, is of paramount importance in food preservation:
1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food. Wash hands each time you return to the kitchen.
2. Gather all necessary equipment before starting. Make sure you have everything you need before you start or you may not be able to find it in time later.
3. Wash all utensils and work area with soap and water.
SMOKEHOUSE PLAN #1
SMOKEHOUSE PLAN #2 (concrete masonry)
BARREL SMOKEHOUSE PLAN a small unit made from a wooden barrel
Reference books you may be interested in:
Please feel free to add a comment, suggest a recipe or relate a story.
Last edited by Molly53 on Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total
Red Apple Guy
Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:39 pmForum Host
Wow! After reading that, I think I'm cured!
That's quite a "white paper" on curing and all things related.
I've dabbled a little in curing and cold smoking, but just to the extent of making gravlax and cold smoking salmon. Both were made long ago and by methods now lost to my feeble mind.
Now, I do have some excellent homemade bacon in the freezer. I have a friend who is very excited about curing meats and does a fine job of it. I'll have to see if I can get him over here to the forum.
Also, SarasotaCook spent the night in a smokehouse with some salmon in June (a smokehouse of your dreams - TV, vents, AC). Now that lady is dedicated.
Red Apple Guy
Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:39 pmFood.com Groupie
I just did a couple Sockeye fillets with a br sugar/Kosher salt cure (2 parts sugar:1 part salt) Then bathed i honey and 8 hours of alder smoke. anothe rcoat of honey and into a vaccu suck bag for a week.
Some kinda great!
Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:01 pmFood.com Groupie
Since I was sent an email, asking me to contribute to this thread (not sure why??) but all I can add, is that my oldest son was given a copy of the book you have listed here, titled "Charcuterie" and he used recipes in it to cure the most delicious bacon, as well as pancetta. I have pictures (but don't know how to post them here) of the pancetta hanging and aging (funny that it does not get any kind of pests, nor any smell during this aging process) and the pancetta turned out beautifully! Both freeze well after curing, if individually packaged and vacuum sealed. We think our son missed his calling, and could go into business selling these! But unfortunately, it is NOT cheap to make it, and people aren't going to want to spend $6 a lb. for bacon, no matter how good it is! So we'll just enjoy it ourselves, and give some as gifts.
But for anyone interested, of the books listed, Charcuterie was one we guarantee has delicious recipes, and easy to follow instructions for those venturing into this area of cooking.
Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:14 pmFood.com Groupie
Red Apple Guy wrote:
Sounds great Smoky.
Good to see you Red! Wish I had more time to stop and visit but I'm hustling to get ready for a 2 week trip to the great north east coast.
For folks that want to try curing meat in a safe and idiot proof way, you might want to try Hi Mointain products...in particular, their Buckboard Bacon is great!
PaulO in MA
Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:18 pmFood.com Groupie
My first attempt at curing and smoking pork belly to bake bacon was way too salty. Seems to be a common problem the first time people try making bacon according to discussions I've read at the several barbeque web sites I have bookmarked.
Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:37 pmForum Host
If you think your bacon is too salty, try soaking it in cold water for about an hour. This will leach out some of the salt.
Alternatively, slice it up fine and use for stews and soups as both an ingredient and a seasoning.
And from the web:
After smoking and chilling, cut a slice from the middle of the slab (the ends are always saltier and not a good test) and fry it up. If it's too salty, cover the slabs with ice water and soak for 4 or 5 hours. Pour off the water and try again. I've had to do this for 2 or 3 cycles in the past and the bacon came out fine. What you don't want to do is soak it until the slab gets water logged or you remove so much salt it spoils quickly
PaulO in MA
Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:41 pmFood.com Groupie
All the barbeque sites I chacked said to soak it for a while.
My wife didn't find it too bad. Her mother is from Virginia, and she said it reminds her of Smithfield ham.
May make it again before it gets too cold, as I'm almost done with it. Want to get a better cut of pork belly, too.
It's fine when used in a recipe, such as pasta carbonara. But, it's too salty for me to have by itself as a brreakfast side.
Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:20 pmFood.com Groupie
I grew up in the country and we had a salt box for pork for years. We would butcher hogs during the months of December and January. My dad was a meat cutter during the first 7-8 years of my life and knew his way around a carcass. He also knew how to salt cure pork. I never got to learn the art, due to us getting a freezer before I was old enough to learn salt curing. I do remember him letting the meat sit out and also him later rubbing salt into or onto the meat and then putting it into the salt box and covering with salt. I am not sure how long it was before we started eating but I remember how great it was. I loved the bacon and fatback for breakfast. This thread has brought to mind many childhood memories. Thanks!
Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:31 pmForum Host
I wish I knew more about this - both my parents grew up on farms, where sausage, ham, bacon etc., was smoked and preserved for use throughout the coming seasons. But we never experienced this, what with WWII and their coming to the uS.
And about 30 years ago I was a tenant in a building owned by two lovely elderly people - newlyweds in their 80s after both were widowed. He was a retired butcher, and as they did not drive, he had converted the garage to a smokehouse. The scented smoke pouring out of there was divine, and he would share some of his wonderful creations with me. I'd drive him to the store when he had more to buy than he could carry. It was a fair trade-off for a poor graduate student.
Red Apple Guy
Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:21 pmForum Host
Smoky Okie wrote:
Red Apple Guy wrote:
Sounds great Smoky.
Good to see you Red! Wish I had more time to stop and visit but I'm hustling to get ready for a 2 week trip to the great north east coast......
Oh no! I'll pray for you.
Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:35 pmFood.com Groupie
Good thread Molly!
Note that you could add to your list of brined fish, and brining methods the Scandanavian method of making lutefisk (mind, I wouldn't thank you for a portion, tastes like bad fish boiled in ammonia, or at least that's what stands out in memory after all these years.
My Father spoke of being on "Relief" during the Great Depression of the 1930's, when Newfoundland (then a separate British Colony) sent salt cod to the Prairies...other anecdotal accounts hint that it wasn't cured properly, but Dad always said that you nailed it to a pine plank and soaked overnight and through the day in a tub of water, then boiled it...and threw the fish away and ate the plank!
I have a 30 year old Mennonite Church CookBook, celebrating the umpteenth anniversary of a church, with recipe contributions by elderly members, including the step by step preparation of smoked sausage and/or what we might call "balogna"...I may also have something on the making of "headcheese" aka "naval beef", and a few historical anecdotes of how pork was "smoked" in trees and such in the mid 19th century. Can't say I've done these myself, my efforts have been limited to being a spare pair of hands for my BiL who likes to smoke fish, with a brine, and of course my own efforts with the gas grill and woodchips.
The best expert that I know for this would be Chef Shadows, who is a remarkably experienced man at antique or ancient cooking methods, perhaps we should ask if he could contribute to the thread.
We live in a time of remarkable technological advances...the refridgerator only became a domestic staple within the last sixty years in North America, and keeping meat from rotting is and was an important thing...."canning" meat was really only developed back around 1815 or so..my Dad was relating going out to the "cabin" back in the late '40's and having only a "pit" to put food into to keep it cool...as little as 30 years ago, the power outages would knock the fridge out, and you'd have to figure out how to keep it wrapped in sleeping bags (for insulation) and/or how to wrap food in plastic and sink it in the well, or the "cold water creek" to preserve it, versus what could you do on a stone BBQ with woodchips to sort of "smoke" it, that it would not spoil as quickly...
Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:42 pmFood.com Groupie
I just now got a chance to read the full article. Man that is an encyclopedia.
One thing that I might add, and I don;t believe that I saw reference to it is that most modern hams and bacon are "pumped" with a flavor adjusted brine.
they use a multi needle injector head and pump the brine into the meat which results in a full cure in just a few hours. that is why there is such a difference between country ham or for that matter Prosciutto and hams like Cure 81 or Kentucky legend.
Here are some pix from my recent sockeye cure.
Here is the raw fish with the pin bones pulled out:
Here it is under the cure
Then the next day after about 24 hours, notice how the cure sucked excess moisture out of the fish and dissolved itself:
I rinsed it and soaked it for about 2 1/2 hours to get the extra salt out of the meat. Look at the color change due to the cure:
And basking in the alder smoke:
I used a smoke pistol and an ice chest with ice in the bottom. it maintained 50° or so temps in 95° weather.
Here is a look at the finished sliced fish:
for those of you that think it was a lot of work for a little fish, I have to tell you that the end result was worth every minute of it. You just can;t buy fish like this...anywhere.
If you are interested in the Smoke Pistol, you can find them at www.usbbqsupply.com
thanx for the look, hope you enjoyed.
Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:27 pmFood.com Groupie
Noting a lot of meats are today "brined" in order to plump them up (and increase their weight and thus their price) and the recent thing of "sodium free" cuts (at increased per pound price)
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