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Is it cured?


markie_q
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How do you know when meat has cured?

I have some pork belly which has had a commercial brand cure on it. It was immediately vac packed and put in the fridge.

It's been in for 1 day per 1/2 inch +1 as recommended, but not much liquid at all seems to have been extracted. 

Is it better to leave it longer?

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10 minutes ago, markie_q said:

is it a bit of a gamble?

:thumb1:  You've hit the nail on the head Mark.............our first lot we did 7 days , the second lot went to I think 10 days. This lot now is 14 days,  and I've left the other bay on going maybe mid week say  16/17 days.  I'm new to all this only on our 3rd  try so far.. If you want to,  rinse it off slap on a wire tray and back in the fridge.  Want are you going to do with it??  cut & eat or smoke.

Ice.

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? can't beat a gamble!

I have another lot, slightly bigger that went in at the same time. It's ready on Wednesday (in theory). So will leave it until then.

The plan is to rinse and leave them in the fridge drying until Friday and then smoke overnight on Friday. 

How long do you smoke for? I've read 12-18 is recommended.

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35 minutes ago, markie_q said:

Hi Ice,

Thanks for the picture.

It's been in for nine days so far. In theory it should have been ready yesterday. 

How will you know it's done or is it a bit of a gamble?

Mark

Hi Mark

Within reason it is not possible to over cure the bacon when dry curing. A good rule of thumb is to allow 7 days for streaky bacon and 10 days for back bacon. Even if you left both for 14 days that would not be a problem as all you are doing is giving the cure sufficient time to equilibrate throughout the meat. 

Do not worry about the amount of liquid produced - that will vary a lot between pieces of meat. If you vacuum pack during the curing period you will get very little released - more if you are using a ziplock bag. Unlike salmon, "dry curing" bacon is not about trying to remove water during the curing period but more about adding salt and Nitrite. It is the Nitrite in the Cure#1 that gives bacon its "bacony" flavour.

Smoking the bacon after curing is all a matter of personal taste. 18-24 hours is good but some smoke as little as 8 hours and others for 48 hours +. The time also depends somewhat on the smoking wood used too - the stronger the wood flavour the shorted the smoke time required. As this is your first batch I would start with 24 hours and see if you think it needs more or less for batch 2. All of the smoking does not have to be done at the same time. If it is warm during the day then it is perfectly OK to smoke for, say, 3 nights at 8 hours per night, returning to the fridge during the day. Once it has been smoked then wrap it and leave it in the fridge for a few days before slicing (I leave mine for 5 days) to allow the smoke flavour to penetrate.

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:thumb1: When I first started to cure bacon I had exactly the same concerns and questions. After a couple of batches you will find that you become very comfortable doing it and will want to experiment.

The best way to take the uncertainty out of curing is to understand what you are trying to achieve and why. This will be different depending on the meat/fish being cured. Once you have done that then you will see what each of the steps contributes to the end result and the different ways it can be achieved. With bacon it is all about getting the salt and Nitrite into the meat and the smoking is really just getting the the depth of flavour that suits your pallet. With Salmon it is more about the removal of water from the fish.

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30 minutes ago, markie_q said:

I guess the difficulty with bacon is, until you cut into it and cook it, there's no real way of knowing. 

I kind of thought it would shrink and go stiffer. 

The 7 days for normal belly, 10 days for thick belly and loin will ensure that it is fully cured. Don't forget that the cure already inside the meat when you wash off the outer residual cure will continue to diffuse inwards to the centre whist it is being smoked and rested afterwards. Providing you use the correct strength cure then you can have a very high degree of confidence that the meat is fully cured. Whilst we are applying Nitrite at 150 mg/Kg (Ppm) the concentration at the centre of the meat only has to reach 50 mg/Kg for it to have the required effect on colour/flavour and to be an effective anti microbial.

You will probably not notice the meat shrink but it should end up with a firmer texture.

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Before I answer this - what was the cure mix that you applied? 

If you calculated the cure mix to have an ingoing salt concentration of 2-3% then do not soak - just rinse thoroughly under a cold running tap. The only reason to soak after curing is when too much salt has been applied e.g. in a ready mixed cures (often as much as 5% salt) or you have miscalculated the amount of added salt in your own cure mix. 

Yes it is good to hang the bacon for a day or two after it has been rinsed as this dries the surface and also gives the cure even more time to diffuse evenly throughout the meat.

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The A&O bacon cures are applied at a rate of 5% of the weight of the meat therefore the maximum the ingoing salt content could be is 5%. The actual applied salt would be less than this though as it also contains the flavourings. Do the packs have an ingredients list as I cannot see any online. If so could you upload a photo of the list?

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