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Hocks and bacon


James Wales
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Just starting the cure of some bacon and some pork hocks will update as the curing and smoking process goes on. Eventually ending up with porky goodness.

Both varieties of bacon are been cured using supracure at 3% of total weight. I have then used demerera sugar in a quantity of 10% of cure weight. I feel it adds a really good caramel note that I really enjoy. 

The pork hocks I have left unskinned and subtracted 40% of weight for skin and bone. I have then used supracure at a rate of 5% of subtracted weight.Having never done these before I thought better safe than sorry.

The 2 varieties of bacon are, peppercorn and juniper a personal favourite of mine and Angus and oinks rubba rubba mixed with a small quantity of rub some butt (a little experiment)The bacon will cure for 7 days as I am away for a couple of days at the end of the process otherwise it would probably of been 5 days.

The pork hocks are curing with angus and oinks the general I will leave these for 10-14 days 

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I may well have to give it a whirl as the weather cools, it would be a good sense of achievement... and of course would result in a pile of delicious bacon! :)

I'm hoping you might put up your recipe for the amazing pineapple sauce you brought to the smoking weekend, I have just the tiniest scraping left in the bottle and need more!! :)

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Hi James. It is always a good idea to work through the maths when curing as Nitrite can be toxic when used above permitted levels. Having said that though there are safety margins inherent in the commercial calculations to ensure that when eaten in "normal" amounts the Nitrite falls well below toxic levels.

When applying the math to your current cure we get:

For each 1 Kg of pork hock

  • Assuming that 40% is bone and skin this leaves 600 g of meat for the calculation
  • You applied 5% by weight of Supracure (30 g) - which contains 0.6% Nitrite, 0.6% Nitrate and 98.8% Salt
  • This contains a total of 0.18 g of Nitrite

Using the formula to calculate the Ppm of Nitrite
<weight of Nitrite in grams> / <weight of meat in grams>  * 1,000,000 = Ppm

0.18 / 600 * 1,000,000 = 300 Ppm Nitrite

This is twice the maximum limit allowed for commercial bacon production in the EU (150 Ppm).

If you had gone with the 3% Supracure you would have ended up with
0.11 / 600 * 1,000,000 = 180 Ppm Nitrite

Originally when I was only producing bacon for my own consumption I would aim for 170 Ppm however as I now sell it commercially I am required to conform to the 150 Ppm (Mg / Kg) limit.

Although what you will end up with will have a high level of both Nitrite and Nitrite do not worry this time as the amounts that you are likely to be eating are highly unlikely to take you anywhere close to toxic amounts. It would be worth in future though to do the calculation for your own peace of mind. The effective range of Nitrite for spore control has been shown to be from 50 Ppm although higher levels will produce more colour and a deeper "bacon" flavour. I would suggest that the 150 Ppm is what you should be aiming for.

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I'm not familiar with Supracure but do use an all in one cure at a rate of 30g to 35 g per kilo of meat. Usually loin, although I have got some large collars on the go at the moment. I also add about 10g of sugar per kilo. This has worked for me for a few years now and doesn't come out too salty or sweet. 10% sugar is a lot isn't it?

i also cure it for 7 days but I don't worry if it stays in that state for a couple of weeks. I vac pack. 

Not scientific as Wades but it does work consistently well. 

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1 hour ago, Steve Harford said:

I'm not familiar with Supracure but do use an all in one cure at a rate of 30g to 35 g per kilo of meat. Usually loin, although I have got some large collars on the go at the moment. I also add about 10g of sugar per kilo. This has worked for me for a few years now and doesn't come out too salty or sweet. 10% sugar is a lot isn't it?

i also cure it for 7 days but I don't worry if it stays in that state for a couple of weeks. I vac pack. 

Not scientific as Wades but it does work consistently well. 

When keeping to the usage instructions that come with commercial ready-to-use cures from reputable sources you will be fine, however care needs to be taken when deviating from the published usage or when designing your own recipes and cures.

Salt and sugar concentrations are something that most people are sensitive to and it is obvious by taste when it is used in excess. The Nitrite content of the cure is different though. For short term exposure only 4.6 grams of Nitrite is a potentially lethal dose for an average 10 stone adult and 3 grams for a 3 stone child. The more concerning issue is the longer term effect of exposure to lower concentration Nitrite as it is known to form Nitrosamines in the acid of the stomach - which has been implicated as a cause of cancer. I am not trying to scare monger here as most of us are exposed to naturally occurring Nitrites and Nitrates in our diets every day, but I think it is important for us to be aware of the amounts of Nitrites we are adding through our home cured products. Extensive research has been done in this area both in the USA and in Europe which has resulted in the maximum levels that are permitted in the foods that we buy. It is relatively simple to do the quick calculation of Nitrite content and this will ensure that we are not unwittingly exposing our loved ones and friends to potentially harmful produce.

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I bought this cure quite a whole ago from hotsmoked. Maybe we should e mail them with the nitrate calculations as the instructions that came with the Cure gives 5% as standard on the supracure. Thanks for the nitrate calculations I will use them next time and will base my future calculations on producing commercial grade products. 

I do like this quote by McGhee on nitrates (on food and cooking) "nitrosamines are known to be peril DNA damaging chemicals,  yet at present there's no clear evidence that the nitrates in cured meats increase the risk of developing cancer,  still it's probably prudent to eat cured meats in moderation and cook then gently"  

Below is the instructions for the supracure I was mentioning took some digging out

 

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Until relatively recently the maximum commercial level permitted was ~170 Ppm but this was later reduced to 150 Ppm. You will find that if we recalculate the Ppm you used based upon solid muscle meat (belly or loin for bacon) rather than meat with bone - it produces a Nitrite Ppm of 180. This is very close to the old commercial permitted maximum.

I first noticed the high resulting Nitrite levels with Supracure when it is used as they recommend back in 2014 and contacted Weshenfelder at that time. They passed me on to a company called Moginita who actually manufacture the Supracure and I spoke with their technical director Fank Travers. During the conversation he agreed that the resulting Nitrite Ppm was higher than the permitted commercial maximum, but as Supracure is sold for the home curing market these commercial limits are not necessarily applicable. 

Here on the forum we will always recommend adhering the official limits Forum food safety advice

Yes, the Nitrite implication in cancer has only be shown in rats and not in humans. This has been sufficient though for both the FSA, FDA and EU to limit our exposure to it.

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Cheers for info wade. After using supracure a few years back I did reduce the recommended % I found 5% to be too high in taste more than anything else, my first few attempts were a bit salty,  it is really interesting to know what is legally allowed ( commercially). In future I will cure only having the nitrate level at 150Ppm. Do u just keep it plain with bacon or have u developed some favourings I.e treacle and porter, maple etc etc.

Edited by James Wales
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My favourite for bacon is a commercial secret but if you ever found out that it was a combination of fresh ground black pepper, Szechuan pepper and dark muscavado sugar I would have to shoot you :Gunner:

For each Kg of meat I add 10 g Black Pepper and 6 g of Szechuan pepper. Before adding it to the cure zap it in a spice/coffee grinder and then pass through a kitchen sieve to remove the larger fibrous bits of the szechuan. I use the sugar at 50% of the amount of salt.

Dagnabbit ! - How did you get me to divulge that ???

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8 hours ago, Wade said:

My favourite for bacon is a commercial secret but if you ever found out that it was a combination of fresh ground black pepper, Szechuan pepper and dark muscavado sugar I would have to shoot you :Gunner:

For each Kg of meat I add 10 g Black Pepper and 6 g of Szechuan pepper. Before adding it to the cure zap it in a spice/coffee grinder and then pass through a kitchen sieve to remove the larger fibrous bits of the szechuan. I use the sugar at 50% of the amount of salt.

Dagnabbit ! - How did you get me to divulge that ???

I haven't seen that ! :lurk:

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  • 1 year later...

Hi all

I thought I would bump this conversation as i was just about to order some smoking dust from HotsmokedUk when I thought I’d check out the cost of their Supracure and was astonished to see their recommendation of 6% of meat weight. Surely this is too high based on the above discussion and would result in a very salty bacon? Also how does their brine solution recommendation look? I assume they mean per litre?

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1 hour ago, Steve Harford said:

Hi all

I thought I would bump this conversation as i was just about to order some smoking dust from HotsmokedUk when I thought I’d check out the cost of their Supracure and was astonished to see their recommendation of 6% of meat weight. Surely this is too high based on the above discussion and would result in a very salty bacon? Also how does their brine solution recommendation look? I assume they mean per litre?

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Wade gives a good explanation of Nitrites and Nitrates in this thread If you have a decent set of scales that do tenths of grams and a spice grinder. You can do your own cures and have a bit of experimentation along with a less salty finish than what the Supracare says?

p.s. Hotsmoked have 20% of all their dusts and woods in general till 8th October according to the email I got sent today.

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As per op, Interested to know if you can buy and is it easy to find raw untreated hocks. I have only seen Gammon Hocks that have already been treated on sale and end up having to try and draw the salt content out before hotsmoking them. Hock meat is lovely but I have only seen them in gammon form before.

Edited by sotv
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10 hours ago, Steve Harford said:

I thought I would bump this conversation as i was just about to order some smoking dust from HotsmokedUk when I thought I’d check out the cost of their Supracure and was astonished to see their recommendation of 6% of meat weight. Surely this is too high based on the above discussion and would result in a very salty bacon? Also how does their brine solution recommendation look? I assume they mean per litre?

Supracure is one of those products which I wish they would either discontinue or, at least, would half their recommended application rate.

Firstly it contains Nitrate as well as Nitrite and so should be avoided when making bacon. In the USA the use of Nitrate in bacon production has been banned commercially and the EU advise against using it. The main reason it is still permitted in the EU is that throughout the EU countries there were too many "traditional" cured bacon products already being produced using Nitrate that they had to make "exceptions" for certain products. Whilst the USA and EU ban/discourage the use of Nitrates in commercially produced bacon these same rules do not apply to people curing at home. The manufacturers of Supracure take advantage of this. 

When curing, the commercial limits for ingoing Nitrite for most products in the USA and EU is 150 Ppm (mg/Kg). When using Supracure at the recommended rate the ingoing Nitrite is 360 Ppm (mg/Kg) - more than twice the permitted level. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the EU have had to make exceptions for some "traditional" products and also these rules do not apply to home curing.

The resulting salt content when you use Supracure is 6% !!! This is way too high for most peoples tastes. The optimum salt content being between 2.5-3%. If you have never made bacon before and this was used with your first attempt it is highly likely that it would put you off making it again ?

What more can I say? Supracure, when used as directed, really should be avoided. It is not breaking any regulations when used as a home cure but it would be illegal to use it commercially in the USA for making bacon and goes against EU recommendations here in the EU. If it were used at a rate of half its recommended usage it would have ingoing Nitrite of 180 Ppm (mg/Kg) and a salt content of 3% - still high, but better. It would still contain Nitrate too though which is not good when making bacon.

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