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Mar 12, 2009 10:03 AM

Curing Meats (split from New England board)

Oh yeah, you'll find that saltpeter, curing salt and sodium nitrates aren't all the same thing.
Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) isn't recommended for curing.
Curing salt is generally sodium nitrite (or nitrate, again, different animals with different purposes) mixed with common salt.
Sodium nitrate breaks down to sodium nitrite.
(listen to me, the 'expert' haha - just stuff I learned in the past couple of years...)
Again, learn the differences and how to use them properly.

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  1. True, true. They are not the same, and do require careful mesuring. About the only thing I always mesure in my kitchen. Unless you are doing dry cured hams or sausage the only thing you need is pink salt (sodium nitrite, aka prauge powder about that, another name or the same thing) for corning and curing.
    One of my favs from Charc is Tasso Ham. Pork shoulder cut in to 1 inch thick stakes, then dredged in 'Basic Cure' (Kosher, Pink Salt and sugar I think) then cured for only a few hours. Rinse off cure, pat dry and dredge in spice mix of allspice, white pepper and cayenne and smoke till cooked thru. Dice this stuff up and throw it in gumbo/jambolaya...awesome. When I make jambo I just make a stew of veg&toms and use this stuff to compeletly flavor the dish. If you didn't have a smoker you could probably cook it in the oven to a lesser finish product.

    9 Replies
    1. re: chrisandbetsyc

      You guys are right, not all the same thing. I was a bit hasty with the first post as I wanted to get back to the beer at hand! I figure most people interchange all the names so much I would just ask for them all. I have used Prauge P for curing before and it is great, you just can't find it outside of the commercial kitchen to easily. Actually I haven't found it anywhere except online with sites like the ones you guys have suggested. All the bacon I have been making at home tastes awesome I am just sick of it all having that "gray" look. Most sausages I can go with out using it as I haven't tried to air dry any at home yet but I am still working that out. I just eat um up fresh> Cheers

      1. re: kingeats

        Lotsa people really get down on nitrates and preservatives (perhaps rightly so, in their opinion). Using nitrites as a cure or as a flavorant or as a preservative or as an anti-botulism agent is totally fine with me.
        I agree, a corned beef just isn't the same without the curing. Ham the same. Etc etc.

        Nitrites can be hazardous and I think thats partly why they're not on the store shelves. In a pinch, go to a butcher where they make their own charcuterie and maybe they'll sell you some. Only drawback would be the cost, I had to go that route once and paid dearly. I keep a 5lb tub of instacure#1 and 1lb of #2 on hand (from the site I listed above)

        I don't use any nitrites in my fresh sausage either - just stuff them, keep in fridge over night to develop flavors, then freeze them.
        I do use #1 in the mix when I air dry them. I used to dry maybe 10% of my batch, but they're so addictive, I now dry about 40%.
        Give it a try in your basement - hang a few links in a cool part, maybe run a fan over it. in about 10-12 days, you have some good eats. I have a very basic Italian recipe if you'd like. Just can't do this in the summer, too hot
        I use the #2 on air-dried lonza.

        I've corned pork ribs (as suggested by someone on CHOW) and had them in boiled dinner (kinda like corned beef and cabbage). Very good. Made hash with the leftover rib meat...delicious!
        Pickled pigs feet. Could never get them right, until I cured them before pickling.
        I've got a brisket curing in brine now (since March 1). I've also pumped it with the cure. Firing that up for St. Patricks.

        chrisandbetsyc, I'm gonna give the tasso idea a try soon! Whats your measures for allspice/pepper/cayenne?

        1. re: porker

          I took it out of Ruhlman's Charcuterie book which is at work. I'll pass it along tomorrow, mealwhile, tell me more about pickle pigs feet. I got a local pig farmer who is selling me pork butts and he says one bit he can't sell is feet. Cured then pickled? Need to know more about this.
          I've been doing fresh sausage at the Pint for a year now. And I converted a walk-in to cellar conditions (60 degrees and 60% humidity) to store potatoes, onions, winer squash and curing sausage. I just haven't got around to doing it yet. I'm a little gun shy because of the fear of serving something that is potentially fatal. That would suck. Would love to see your recipie for dry sausage. And what is lonza?

          1. re: chrisandbetsyc


            I am in your area. Would you mind telling me where you are getting your pork products? I also get my pork from a local pig farmer, but was wondering if there might be more.


            1. re: hilltowner

              Bostrom Farm here in Greenfield. Kyle stopped in this past week and said he sells most his stuff to Hope & Olive, but does some at Farmer's Markets (not sure which ones). I know he has a farm stand here in town but I got the impression he didn't do much out of it. He was quite quick to respond to my emails. Where are you getting local pork? It's been very frustrating trying to source local pork. I'm covered for beef but why is it so hard to find pork or even chx? Price difference is pretty shocking. Even if I could find enough local pork to supply me completly, think anyone would pay $15 for a pulled pork sandwich?

              1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                Funny you mention pulled pork sandwiches. I've got a butt on the counter right now waiting for an overnight slow cook right now. I use the smoker in the summer, but right now it's in the attic and it's too cold, and I don't deal with it in the winter.

                I get my pork from Manda Farm, in Plainfield, (I'm in Ashfield), but they're a pretty small operation. And you're right, it is very expensive, especially as compared to what I pay for beef at Foxbard and chicken from Diemand. I suspect it has to do with the size of the "herd", (not sure what it is for pigs). But I like them, and they also sell rendered leaf lard and also fatback, which I also love.

                I think, perhaps, till now, there wasn't much of a market for local meats. Perhaps someday soon things will change. I really hope to find chicken closer to me than Wendell, (that's quite a hike from Ashfield). I have a friend who raises chickens for sale, but, again, it's a small operation and he has to sell them for something like 20-25 dollars to make it worthwhile. That's a hefty sum for a chicken. Or maybe that's what it should be after all. Who knows.

                1. re: hilltowner

                  Yes, the whole 'true cost' of our ingredients is a facinating subject. It's especially hard for me (as a chef whose restaurant prides itself in serving as much local product as possible) to justify such a high menu price to make the margin we need to. Pork is a perfect example. I can pay $1.90# for Iowa crap or $6# for local. Thats 3X!! Same goes for produce mostly. We pay way more for lettuce grown up the street than the stuff shipped accross the country. Something is not right. I don't belive it the fault of my farmer friends, I truely belive they are chanrging me what they need to but I can understand other restaurants saying, "Know what, we need to keep our cost down so California produce it is." So the problem is that these massive farms are too efficient? Are people willing to pay more for food? Have you heard the stats that say Americans pay proportinaly the least amount of their income on food. Very confusing topic.

            2. re: chrisandbetsyc

              Hey chrisandbetsyc,
              I'm assuming the Pint is The People's Pint in Greenfield MA? (google is a wonderful thing sometimes). I have ancestors from Deerfield (the Deerfield massacre...some ended up as prisoners, but I digress).

              I ran two restaurants for about 16 years and know your trepidation about serving home-cure.
              Funny thing is one of our favorite Montreal restaurants is Italian-family run. They make their own fresh and dried sausage, capicolli, and sopressata. One of the owners, Dino, showed me their drying room in the basement and said his uncle did all the work. Got me thinking that you gotta be real sure of your product to offer it in-house. Then again, I thought, where did the commercial big guys start off, but as mom and pop operations.
              But yeah, it seems daunting (and especially in the lawsuit land of the US and A, haha).

              I had an old Italian friend who showed me how to make Italian sausage. He air dried his without nitrites (didn't 'believe' in them) - salt only and never had problems. He abided by a common-salt rule of thumb, 15grams salt per kilogram of meat. This works out to 3TBL salt per 2kg meat.
              "less, the meat won't cure, more, it'll be too salty" he'd say.
              Me? I use his methods (the salt rule) with added instacure#1 (what is it, 1 tsp per 5lbs meat?).
              My recipe is not exact, but two legs give me about 16kg (about 35 lbs) of meat/fat.
              Grind (I like a coarse grind).
              salt (16kg/2kg x 3TBL salt = 24TBL)
              (here's where it gets unexact...)
              2 handfull fennel seeds
              1 handful black pepper
              2 handful crushed chili pepper
              2 handful cayenne

              Add more or less of each item (except salt) to your taste.
              for my dried portion, I'd add 1tsp instacure per 5lbs (I know, I know, I'm mixing kilos, lbs, etc etc.... I live in Canada...)

              Mix well

              Stuff into casings.

              I tie the ends with string, twist into links and voila, sausage.

              For the dry, I hang them in my basement on hooks. Each end on one hook, hanging in a U shape, making sure no sausages are touching.
              Put an oscillating fan on them and check them every other day until I get the consistency I want.
              My friend liked his still moist and chewy. I prefer them a bit drier.

              Sorry, but the wife is putting dinner out and I gotta eat.
              I'll get back with more stuff!

              1. re: porker

                Dried sausage part deux.
                I know that drying rooms should be temp and humidity controlled for consistency, but I simply blocked off the coldest corner of my basement and gave it a whirl. It works well. I also do this as a hobby, not en masse, so no need (for me) to get crazy.

                I'd be cautious about air drying in the same room with potatoes and onions. Don't have too much experience (although I'd buy 50 sacks of spanish onions direct from the farmer in sept/oct for $8/bag and store them in the basement) but I'm just wondering about gas from decomposing onion and potato affecting the sausage. Again, no experience, just wondering.

                Your pig farmer can't sell feet. Is this because of some law, or there is simply no market?
                For pickling, I make a brine, similar to Ruhlman (water/pickling spice/salt/instacure).
                The feet are split and cross cut (with the butcher's band saw), washed, then brined for 4-5 days.
                Rinse and simmer in water/pickling spice/bay leaf 3 hours or so.
                Drain and rinse again, remove whatever large bones you can.
                Pack in jars, top with hot pickling liquid (3/4 vinegar 1/4 water).
                You can process if you'd like, but I simply refrigerate and eat.
                Slight problem is the carry-over collagen which makes the cold pickle gel. I'm going to boil the feet longer next time and change the cooking liquid often. Hopefully remove most of the collagen.
                End up with something like this

                Its also not for everyone; you gotta gnaw around the bones for tasty bits of meat and tendon.

                Does your farmer have tongue? Pickled tongue is also very good. Batali offers tongue as an app at Babbo. Might be lamb or sheep, but its all good.

                Finally lonza. Don't know why its called that, just heard my Italian friends name it (it may be Italian for loin).
                Basically pork loin.
                Different people prepare it differently. I season an entire de-boned loin (maybe trim off the ends to get a uniform length), stuff in a casing, let hang to dry (months).
                Instacure#2 (nitrate mix) is used here as it breaks down to nitrite over time. Kind of a time-release cure.
                Slice and enjoy!