The process of curing meat is very old and serves to preserve the meat for later consumption. With just a few simple ingredients - salt, nitrites and, of course, time - the meat is transformed: its watery and flexible texture becomes drier and harder. On the other hand, the flavor intensifies and develops. Free from excess water, the meat has a delicious taste that satisfies the most demanding palates. Learn how to dry and cure meat for a fraction of the price you would pay at the supermarket. Just be careful with safety standards to prevent the meat from spoiling.
Method 1 of 2: Dry Cure
Step 1. Decide what kind of meat you want to use
Many people choose to cure ham, but you can use beef and even a very exotic one like venison. With quality meat, it's easier to get a good result. But if you've never cured meat before, it's best to start with pork, especially the belly or backside. These are pieces of meat that guarantee a good taste even if some mistakes are made during the process.
As a general rule, use meats made up of a single muscle group. This is the case of pork loin, beef muscle, mutton legs and duck breast. All these meats are very popular options for the method of curing
Step 2. If necessary, remove excess fat, tendons or meat
Let's say you want to make canopy slices. You can buy boneless pork shoulder and cut the end of it away from the top. You can use the harder end to make sausages and do the curing process with the top, drying it.
Step 3. For larger cuts, you can insert the knife into the meat to allow the salt to penetrate better
For example, pork belly comes with a good layer of fat and making the small cuts will allow the salt and nitrite mixture to penetrate deeper, optimizing the healing process.
Step 4. You can choose a ready-made mix of curing salts or make it yourself
Salt causes water to come out of the meat and increases the flavor of the meat, but it does not stop botulism germs from proliferating. To combat this problem, it is customary to add other salts, such as sodium nitrite. Botulism is a dangerous disease that causes respiratory arrest and paralysis. The culprit is a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.
- Typically, one part cure salts to 9 part common salt is used.
- An alternative is to add sodium nitrite yourself. In this case, you will need to precisely measure the proportion of nitrite to table salt.
- Healing salts are usually reddish or pink in color. Manufacturers use colorings so that professional cooks don't confuse regular salt with curing salts. Also, in high amounts, sodium nitrite becomes toxic. For example, if you use nitrite in place of sodium chloride (common salt) in a soup, you would feel sick after consuming it. The coloring in the salt does not influence the color that results from the curing process; the determining factor for the reddish color of cured meats is sodium nitrite.
Step 5. Use the ratio of 2 grams of nitrite to 1000 grams of common salt
You can also take the total amount of common salt you are going to use and multiply it by 0.002. The result will be the amount of sodium nitrite needed in the curing salt mixture.
Step 6. Add spices to the curing salt mixture
Be careful not to overdo it, but if seasoned correctly, the meat gains even more flavor. Use a black pepper grinder to process the spices before adding them to the mixture. Here are some suggestions:
- Peppercorns. Black, white or green peppers cannot be missing from your mix.
- Sugar. A little demerara sugar gives a caramel touch to the flavor of the cure.
- Coriander and mustard seeds. Their aroma is reminiscent of smoked meat.
- Star anise. It gives a slightly sweet touch and reminds a little of the aroma of almonds. A pinch makes a big difference.
- Anise. Usually associated with sweets, it enhances the flavor of meats as well.
- Lemon peel zest. They add a slightly acidic flavor that goes well with fatter meats.
Step 7. Rub the mixture into the meat with your hands even
Spread the mixture evenly through the meat. Line a tray with parchment paper and spread a generous layer of curing salt with spices. Place the meat on the pan with the fat facing up. Cover the meat with curing salt. To aid the meat dehydration process, you can place a piece of parchment paper over the meat and place another tray and two bricks (or other heavy object) on top of it. The weight of the bricks will squeeze the meat, which will expel water from the fibers and let the salt penetrate more quickly.
- Not use metal trays without lining them with wax paper. That's because the metal reacts with salt and nitrite. Always leave a sheet of baking paper between the salt and the tray.
- If the cut of meat you want to cure is rounded and you want to keep this shape, just stop using weights to squeeze the meat, as explained above. The pressure method is often used for cuts like pork belly, for example, which will be rolled later.
Step 8. Refrigerate the meat for seven to ten days
Store meat in the refrigerator so that it is well ventilated. After this period, most of the moisture in the meat will have been absorbed by the salt.
Step 9. After seven to ten days, remove from refrigerator and rinse to remove excess curing salt
Wash with plenty of cold running water to remove as much salt as possible. Let it drip onto a higher object. Use paper towels to dry it completely.
Step 10. Wrap the meat (optional)
Most cured meats don't need to be rolled, but some are better this way. One of them is the pork belly to make a panceta. Wrap very tightly to avoid leaving room for bacteria to proliferate.
To start rolling the meat, it's easier if it's square or rectangular in shape. Cut the meat so that it is the desired shape and save the leftovers to make soups or broths
Step 11. Wrap the meat tightly with a cotton cloth
This prevents moisture from accumulating on the outside of the meat as it cures. Spend two layers of cloth on each side of the meat. Tie a knot at the ends. If possible, make another knot over the meat so you can hang it on a hook.
Step 12. Tie string through meat to maintain shape during curing
This technique is especially useful for rolled meats, as it is avoided as soon as they lose their shape. Use butcher-bought string to tie cured meats and sausages. Tie it tight and secure with knots. Cut off the leftover string.
Step 13. Label the date and hang the meat in a cool, ventilated, dark place for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of two months
The ideal is to leave the piece of meat in a cold room, but any dark environment where the temperature does not exceed 21 degrees will do.
Step 14. Time to taste the cured meat
After removing the string and cloth, cut the meat into very thin slices. Store any leftovers immediately in the refrigerator.
Method 2 of 2: Marinade for Healing
Step 1. Choose the piece of meat
The marinade goes well with ham and other smoked meats. Try marinating the ham and then smoking it.
Step 2. Prepare the marinade
Make a simple marinade and add the sodium nitrite and common salt. Try this recipe: Mix the ingredients below in 4 liters of water and bring to a boil. Then let it cool completely.
- Two cups of brown sugar.
- A cup and a half of rock salt.
- Half a cup of spices used in pickles (eg mustard seeds, fennel, coriander, dill, celery, cloves, etc.).
- Eight teaspoons of Himalayan salt (it's pink, but you can't mistake it for sodium nitrite.).
Step 3. Place the meat in an airtight plastic bag
It needs to be big enough to accommodate the meat and marinade. If the piece of meat is quite large, it is best to leave it in a properly sized pot and then add the liquid from the marinade. Add 2 to 4 liters of ice water to the marinade to dilute the mixture. Mix well before closing the container.
Step 4. The marinade curing time depends on the weight of the piece of meat
For every kilo of meat, a day of curing in the refrigerator is necessary. If the cut is more than a kilogram, turn the meat every 24 hours if you can. That's because salt tends to accumulate at the bottom.
Make a new marinade mix to replace the old one every 7 days to keep the meat from spoiling
Step 5. Thoroughly rinse the meat with cold water to remove all the crystallized salt on the surface
Step 6. Let the meat drip on a screen for 24 hours in a well-ventilated place
Then store in the refrigerator. Consume within 30 days.
Step 7. Smoke the meat
Pieces that have been marinated like ham are great when smoked. You can buy a food smoker. It costs an average of 900 reais.