Recently I have started an adventure into curing pork belly for bacon and pancetta. My first attempt worked wonderfully.
Alas my second round has made me consider I have gone wrong somewhere. Only about 8 hours after I started my curing process I noticed bubbles starting to form in the bag, and also considerably more moisture been released from the meat.
The method for my first and second batch was only 1:1 salt and raw sugar. I made four different spice mixes, but used the same ratio of salt and sugar for each batch. Then vac packed the meat and stored in the fridge, turning each 24 hours.
I was wondering if anyone could tell me why this has occurred, and whether it is something that I should be concerned about.
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
posted 1 year ago
Brenden Turley wrote:
Is there a test other than sensory for botulism that I can perform at home?
Other than dying from it there is no quick easy home test for botulism. It is all about prevention. In curing meat the normal goal is to have the nitrate and salt content high enough to prevent it. Nitrate is the faster protection so if you are eliminating it you are putting everyone eating the meat at risk. Salt levels once they get high enough provide protection but it takes time for that to happen. And if the boutulism grows first remember it is the toxin it leaves behind that kills so even if the salt does eventually kill it the damage is done. And you do not want to skimp on salt as it is the primary protection if you are eliminating nitrates. Sugar does help too. Now you can destroy the toxin with heat but that takes way more heat than is commonly used cooking meat. If you look it up you find you need at least 5 minutes at 185 degrees to destroy the toxin.
My father cured meat all the time growing up. We had the 10 gallon crock and the hams were the first thing cut carcass while it was still warm. The cure was injected into the veins and arteries of the meat before the blood had time to clot and them collapse This distributes it throughout the meat. Heavy fat was then trimmed and they went into the crock full of cure solution. We always used a commercial cure solution that I am sure was full of nitrates. My father added other seasonings to it at times but the base was the Hormel brown sugar and salt cure. The crock lived in the old fridge and the hams and bacon were in something like a couple of weeks to a month before then being frozen in the freezer.
Years ago my husband bought pesto at Costco. This is a refrigerated product, but he stuck it in a kitchen cabinet. Some time later, he cooked up a pot of noodles, poured out the water, then grabbed the pesto. When he opened the jar it went PFFffffft, like it had been under pressure. He dumped the pesto on the pasta, then stopped and thought about the sound. Realizing that the food wasn't safe to eat, he walked outside and dumped the whole thing in the chicken coop.
If he had asked me, I would have told him NO don't give that to my chickens, but I wasn't around. When I heard about it and ran outside to see, I saw that the pieces of pasta without any pesto on them had been eaten, but none of the pesto was touched by the birds. Over the next several days through a few rains, the pasta got rinsed off and then they ate all the pasta. No birds were paralyzed.
When I was a pediatric resident in the mid-90's, we had a baby that was paralyzed by botulism. The toxin produced by the bacteria binds irreversibly to the neuromuscular junction. This child was completely paralyzed, could not swallow, but was able to breathe. They were fed via a nasogastric tube and every 15 minutes the nurse came to suck out their mouth so they wouldn't choke on their own saliva. After a few weeks, the baby started to move again, bit by bit. We assumed the culprit was honey (this is why you're advised not to give honey to babies) but everybody denied giving the baby honey. The baby did have a complete recovery, but it took a long time. My attending said it was just luck that the diaphragm wasn't affected so the baby didn't need to be on a respirator.
I guess my point is, botulism is not to be taken lightly.
To be safe just start over. The cost of that pork belly, the sugar and the salt is small compared to botulism related medical bills. And you don't have to throw it away, just cook it thoroughly for lunch or supper.
Temperature greater than boiling (212°F) is needed to kill spores... The toxin is heat-labile though and can be destroyed at > 185°F after five minutes or longer, or at > 176°F for 10 minutes or longer.
I have moved the suspect belly from the fridge to the waste. I have now gone and bought some curing salt 2% nitrites.
I am still a stubborn fool though; I am trying a Pancatta recipe that I have in a book.
For the next attempt at bacon I will try with the curing salts. I suppose poor nitrites and nitrates have a bad reputation from over use in the past and used properly in small amounts are fairly safe. At least as much as a couple of cold beers every day.
Thanks again for the information.
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