I have become rather interested in raising my own ethical meat sources and have been considering ways to preserve all that goodness once it is time to harvest. The modern approach seems to basically consist of freezing, but of course our ancestors did not have freezers.
So I am interested in hearing some of your favourite ways to preserve larger quantities of meat that don't involve freezing. I've seen different forms of fermenting, drying and smoking. What might be some of the pros and cons of the different traditional methods? Then there is the whole idea of nitrates, how they play into curing meats and the effects they might have on our health. Are there more traditional alternatives to sodium nitrate? Any thoughts on this would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Salt curing and air drying is my preservation method of choice because it's easy to do and it lasts nearly forever. I've got a handful of duck legs and breasts plus some venison hanging up in the kitchen that were preserved back in December and January. Take down one or two, throw it in a pot of beans, and you're set.
Preserving meat this way requires only two things: salt and twine (and you could probably get by without the twine). No special equipment, no special skills, just a bunch of salt and time.
I've heard of the salt brine, or just packing the meat in barrels of salt. both are supposed to be very effective, but you need to rinse the meat off and I've heard they till are very salty. If you're looking for electricity-free preservation, I've heard of drying cooked ground beef from the backpack chef website. The other way i can think of isn't electricity free to do, but the end result is. Freeze-drying. there are some home freeze-drying machines now, and I've heard nothing but good things from those that bought them. while it is energy intensive, if you want really long lasting food it can't be beat.
A third option which is definitely not what you're looking for but still a viable strategy is to store the meat 'on the hoof'. most popular with families raising small animals like chicken or rabbits and utterly impossible for the bigger animals, the idea is you slaughter that morning and eat it all before it goes bad.
Smoking is another option but there seems to be a bit of back and forth about it in that truly effective curing seems to use some questionable materials. doing this also affects the meat taste (for the better, hopefully!)
Thanks Morgwino. I'd never thought of freeze drying. I'm going to check that out. I am for sure more interested in the no electricity methods, but like you say, once it's done it lasts without continual input.
Fresh is best for sure. It seems like raising small livestock might be the most economical given you can eat the whole thing in a day or two.
Here in our region inItaly people eat ‘carne salada’, which is beef that the locals used to ferment in kraut pots in a brine with rosemary. It is fermented in the brine for at least 15 days, but can go longer.
I unfortunately don’t know the exact process or how long the meat keeps afterwards. The resulting meat is still basically raw, and they eat it much like you would carpaccio (so thinly sliced and eaten raw). I think it is delicious, and doesn’t taste very salty at all. So it is definitely possible to preserve your meat in a brine, but I would have to do some digging to find a recipe on how to do it!
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