Curing FAQ for Beginners

Curing Beginners Guides, Frequently Asked Questions & Recipe Archive

Curing FAQ for Beginners

Postby wheels » Tue Feb 17, 2009 3:59 pm

Beginners Guide to Curing Equipment, Ingredients and Terms

This guide has been compiled for use alongside the recipes and information on the rest of this forum.

What does it cover?

After reading the guide you should know the equipment, ingredients, and terms used in curing.

What's not covered?

The equipment, ingredients and terms involved in making sausages, air dried sausages and air-dried meat, are not covered here.

Equipment

Most of the equipment used to cure meat can already be found in the home. You may need:

Kitchen knives
Plastic or other non-metallic containers
Plastic bags
Cling film
Kitchen scales
Pans
Fridge - for food safety reasons, virtually all the recipes on this site for raw products cure the meat at fridge temperature - below 5C.

Accurate scales are advised, but not essential. Digital scales accurate to 0.1gm can be bought for around £10 and are invaluable when weighing small amounts of curing salts or spices. Most forum members obtain them from ebay.

Optional Equipment

Bacon/Meat slicers - these vary in price from small domestic ones at around £30 to professional models that cost £100's, such as those from Avery Berkel. The site shop sells a mid-range model. Second-hand ones are often available on ebay. TIP: Bacon will slice more easily if placed in the freezer for ½ an hour before slicing.

Vacuum packing machine - these vary in price tremendously. Some cheaper ones are little more than bag sealers; mid-range machines costing between about £80 and £200 use special ribbed bags and produce good results. Commercial ranges start at about £1000.

Injection syringe/Brine pump - some recipes using brine cures require the brine to be injected/pumped into the meat. A special brine pump can be bought for this purpose, but many home curers use a large syringe, or a marinade injector such as the ProQ Marinade Injector

Ingredients

Meat
Meat should be fresh and of good quality. The meat can be from your local supermarket, butcher or farm-shop.

Salt
Whilst it is best to use a pure salt with no added ingredients, many people cure successfully using ordinary cooking or table salt. However, try to avoid those with iodine added. Fine ground salt is preferred as it mixes with the other ingredients more easily

Sugar
This can be ordinary table sugar, Demerara, light or dark brown sugar, maple syrup, or even treacle.

Spices, Herbs, and Flavourings
From traditional ingredients like black pepper and thyme, to more exotic fruit liquors, or even marmalade; someone will have cured meat using it. Busy cooks are already likely to have the basic herbs and spices needed.

Curing Salts
Whilst there is a trend to 'salt only' curing, and salt can certainly make meat safe, the salt level required to do so is around 10%; four times the amount generally used in cured meats. Current EU and UK scientific advice is that curing salts are the only effective chemical preventative measure against the possibility of the meat poisoning us. They protect against one of the nastiest forms of food poisoning, Clostridium botulinum, the cause of botulism.

There are three types of curing salt that you are likely to come across on this site.

Cure #1 (also known as Prague Powder #1 or Instacure #1)
This is a mixture of Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2) with Salt. Generally 6.25% Nitrite, but in the case of the site shop's cure 5.88%. The balance is Salt. Cure #1 is used to make products with short curing times.

Cure #2 (also known as Prague Powder #2 or Instacure #2)
This is a mixture of Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2) and Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3) with Salt. Generally 6.25% Nitrite and 4% Nitrate but in the case of the site shop's cure 5.67% Nitrite and 3.62% Nitrate. The rest is again Salt. Cure #2 is used in products with longer curing times.

Saltpetre
Saltpetre is Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) and is available on the shop site. It is 100% Nitrate and must be used with great care. As an example, 1 teaspoon of saltpetre is enough to cure 20kg (50lbs) of meat!
It is strongly recommended that you do not use saltpetre unless you have scales accurate to 0.1gm. Saltpetre is also used in products with longer curing times.

IMPORTANT: All these cures should be stored safely out of the reach of children, and away from ingredients such as salt and sugar that they could be mistaken for. Used properly they are safe: used incorrectly they can kill.

Optional Ingredient

Sodium Ascorbate
Sodium Ascorbate can be added to bacon cures. It is a form of Vitamin C that makes Nitrite 'reduce' more quickly and is believed to create a safer product. It is available online from Health Plus, and sometimes on ebay.

Curing Terms

Note: The term 'cure' can be used in two contexts. Firstly it can be used to describe an individual curing salt, such as Cure #1 or Saltpetre:

"Mix the cure into the salt and sugar"

Or, it can be used to describe the whole of the curing mixture, salt, sugar, herbs, curing salts etc:

"After mixing, rub the cure into the meat"

This can cause confusion until you get used to it. If in doubt, don't be scared to ask.

Types of Curing

Dry Cured - almost self-explanatory, the ingredients are mixed together and then rubbed into the meat. It is normal to apply most of the cure to the flesh - less on the fat/skin.

Wet Cure or Pickle, Brine Cure or Pickle, and Cover Cure or Pickle - basically all the same, these involve dissolving the dry ingredients in a liquid such as water or beer, and then immersing the meat in it.

Pump or Injection Cure - after making a wet cure, an amount of it is injected into the meat. The meat is normally then immersed in the remaining cure. The normal amount injected in recipes on this site is 10% of the meat's weight. For example if your meat weighs 1760gm you would inject 176gm of the brine cure. The instruction to do this is often given simply as 'Pump 10%'.

Combination Curing - a combination of pump, and dry, curing techniques where the meat is first injected, but then subsequently dry cured rather than immersed in the remaining wet cure.

Other Terms

PPM - parts per million, usually used to state the level of nitrite or nitrate in a curing mixture. It is the same as mg/kg.

Equalise/Equalisation - the act of leaving meat for a period of time after curing, for the cure to spread evenly throughout the meat. Not to be confused with Equilibrium.

Equilibrium - a more advance concept to grasp. It's the stage, generally after a long period of curing, at which the ingredients in the brine, such as nitrite and salt, have migrated into the meat to such a degree that the levels in the meat and in the brine are balanced.
Last edited by wheels on Tue Nov 03, 2009 1:53 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Postby saucisson » Tue Apr 14, 2009 1:39 pm

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