CliveUK Posted February 26, 2021 Share Posted February 26, 2021 (edited) I started my own curing because commercial (supermarket) bacon was expensive, and yet spewed forth horrible white foam in the presence of heat, while shrinking to nearly nothing and tasting of nothing at all. Twenty years ago, I didn't find any useful information about the seemingly mysterious proprietary curing mixtures (Prague / Instacure) and no one (then) was worried about a link between nitrates and cancer, and I settled on some very old recipes that used saltpetre (alone) in conjunction with common salt. The formula that stuck with me was Jane Grigson's (in Charcuterie & French Pork Cooking, 1967) that mixed saltpetre at the rate of 1 oz to 2 1/2 lbs common salt (1:40 or 2.5%), saying that such a quantity would cure 12 lbs of meat. The method I have followed for years and years has been to rub quite generous amounts of such a mixture (including sugar and spices) over the surface of either belly or loin in a small food-grade polythene box (ie not vacpacked), and to allow the salts to draw moisture from the meat (lots of it, particularly for the first 3/4 days), and to pour off that liquid and renew the salt with more. Over 7 days, I use between 25-35% of the starting weight of the meat (!) and then the meat is rinsed, dried for several days, smoked and later sliced. I tend to vacpac the sliced bacon, to avoid oxidation, and it emerges dry, NOT too salty (although I do like well-seasoned food) and with a sheen that is very, well, bacon-like. I don't eat much of it: it's an occasional treat, but it's good bacon. I recently did a review of recipes available online (in places like this forum) circulating between curing enthusiasts, and find that such an approach horrifies. Instead, meat is vacpacked with the same proportion of curing salt that I would use in sausage-making: 2-3%, with a relatively tiny quantity of nitrite and no nitrate at all. I don't doubt that such curing produces safe meat, but can't see how it deals with all that unwanted liquid, nor why I read 'eat within 2-3 weeks, or freeze' recommendations. Bacon used to hang, all winter, from a hook in the larder and keep perfectly for months... Is there a middle way? Steven Lamb, in the River Cottage Curing Book adopts a similar basic technique to mine (but doesn't use nitrites/nitrates, at all), but his basic cure calls for 500 g common salt + 500 g sugar + spices for 2 kg meat: rubbed on, poured off and repeated. HIs is a 'modern' recipe, but an old-fashioned technique. Obviously, only a tiny proportion of all this salt is being actually absorbed in the meat or it would be impossible to eat (and it isn't) - and yet the basic approach seems to be completely rejected by most curers. I wondered about trying a hybrid technique: dosing the meat with plenty of salt/sugar (no additives) for a couple of days, first, to draw out all that excessive moisture, and THEN applying a small quantity of cure (perhaps made up with Instacure #1) in a sealed pouch for the remainder of the curing duration, to control the total salt absorption, and to avoid excessive amounts of nitrites. Any thoughts, either on that proposition, specifically, or the general gulf between the two basic approaches? Edited February 26, 2021 by CliveUK 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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