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Matthews

14 hours in, have we ruined our ham and prosciutto?

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My wife and I just got our pig back from the butcher, she made a cider brine from a river cottage book we have. We left the brine on the kitchen side overnight to cool. Our kitchen is a steady 20c. In the morning we cut up both hams, most of which was soaked in the brine and a 1.3kg chunk was put into a salt box. I hadn't read about the curing techniques, my wife read the books whilst I was dealing with the sausages. She said that we could leave the brine soaked meat and the salt box on the side in the kitchen. I woke up in the middle of the night about 14 hours after putting the meat into brine and salt box. I started thinking about this temperature, so I started to read the books and both the recipes say to keep the meat in a cool area whilst salting/brining. I wouldn't say 20c is cool and the brine would have been 20c when we started. My wife is always complaining about the house being to cold, we have very different ideas about a comfortable room temperature.

Have we ruined our meat before we have even started?

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50 minutes ago, Matthews said:

I started to read the books and both the recipes say to keep the meat in a cool area whilst salting/brining. I wouldn't say 20c is cool and the brine would have been 20c when we started.

@Wade is the man for this to be 100% sure,  my first question is what % salt brine did you make???  a higher % you may be ok??   but from what I've learned I would say 20c is to hot. From what I know when I brine is that the meat should be around 4c, very simular to a fridge temp. We also cook using sous vide, and 20c is a third of the temp to fully cook pork, beef.

 

Ice.

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Thanks for replying.

this is the recipe

Ham - Brined:
Half Leg/Ham
2.2kg Salt PDV
2l Apple Juice
2l Cider
2kg Brown Sugar
Pepper Corns - Handful
Coriander Seeds - Handful
Cloves - Tablespoon
Bay Leaves - 2
Thyme - Bunch
Zest of 2 oranges

3 litres of water

 

Edited by Matthews

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I think I would get another bit and start again. Fridge is  best but if the room was cooler I would be happy. 20degs is bit high. Not worth the risk?  @Wade

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I was thinking it was destined for the bin, I was hoping someone would have a good reason that I wouldn't have to waste so many joints from my home reared pig.

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Yes 20 C is not classed as a cool place.... but before you bin it.....

Calculating from your recipe Your brine solution was very strong (just over 30%) and the sugar was just under 30%. This would have been sufficient to inhibit bacterial growth in the brine. Yes the brine should have been chilled and there is a possibility that the the meat may have started to degrade inside through natural enzyme action so I would not continue to brine this piece . HOWEVER... Once you took it out of the brine did you put it in the fridge? If so then give it a good rinse off under cold running water, cut it in half and give it the sniff test (the nose is a great detector of meat going off). If it smells OK then I would simply roast the meat as joints and it should be OK. If it smells "off" then bin it.

It is fairly typical for the popular celebrity home curing books to use a lot of salt - and the one you described above used a lot of salt. This is often to compensate for them not using any nitrate/nitrite cure and the end product usually tends to taste very salty. You didnt give the weight of the leg that you put in the brine or whether it was on or off the bone. Assuming the meat weighed ~5 Kg and it was left in the brine long enough for it to penetrate to the centre, the maximum salt concentration in the meat could be approaching 18% ! If it was bone in then you needed to also inject some of the brine close to the bone to prevent Bone Sour.

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A popular curing brine that is used alot in the USA is one called "Pops Brine". I have used it very sucessfully** and is a good all-round curing brine for hams and bacon.
** I actually prefer to dry cure or inject rather than brine as I find they give more predictable results.

The brine ingedients are shown below for 1 Litre and 5 Litres. Just multiply up as required for larger volumes. I have reduced the sugar quantity from the original USA recipe to better suit the UK pallet.

  1 Litre   5 Litres  
Water 1000 g 5000 g
Cooking salt 65 g 325 g
White sugar 25 g 125 g
Light brown sugar 25 g 125 g
Cure#1 4.5 g 22.5 g

The resulting brine would then be

Salt   6.5 %  
Sugar   5 %  
Nitrite   281

mg/Kg (Ppm)

The salt, sugar and cure concentrations are higher in the brine than you use when dry curing as not all of the cure goes into the meat. It diffuses throughout the meat until it reaches an quiilibrium. If you were to use 5 litres of this brine with 4 Kg of meat then the resulting equilibrium concentrations would be (up to) Salt - 3.6%, Sugar - 2.8% and Nitrite 156 mg/Kg.

To ensure that the brine covers the meat while it is curing, place the meat and brine in a large plastic bag in the bucket and then seal the bag after squeezing out as much of the air as possible.

If you do not have any cure#1 then please give me your address and I will put some in the post for you to get you started.

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Wow, I've not started curing/brining yet. I'll wait till I've got a more dedicated set up but where did you learn all this wonderful information? It's fantastic reading it and great that people can get such accurate/specialist advice. 

 

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One of the objectives of this forum is to try to help de-mystify the science behind home curing. Once you understand a few simple calculations then everything will suddenly fall into place. When you have cured your first slab of bacon you will wonder why you had not been doing it before. You do not need much in the way of equipment. For bacon you need the salt, sugar and cure, some kitchen scales (that preferably weigh to 1/10th of a gram), a plastic bag and a fridge.

One important thing to remember is ... if in doubt ask. Everyone on here who cures has had to start at some point - and no question is too basic to ask.

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