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Dry Salt Cures for Meat  RSS feed

 
                            
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Has anyone here cured meat solely with salt?

It's that time of the year again when friends are having their livestock butchered and they send the bones/meatscraps my way for my dogs. I do not have any refrigeration and it's a bit warm out yet for nature to do the trick. I don't have a root cellar (yet!). I was initially planning on trying to can some this year,then changed my mind as it sometimes freezes inside of my cabin during the winter. No sense canning,then having everything freeze and break.  So for this year... I'm going to attempt to preserve some of the meat scraps (intended for dog food later in the winter)with salt.  I have lots of questions:

1) Is anyone experienced with this?
2) How much salt per pound of meat will I need?
3) How often do I need to change the salt?
4) What do I do with the "used" moist salt?
   
 
                            
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Oops, Premature Send there...

Once the meat is entirely dried, how is it best to store it?

How much rinsing/soaking is necessary to remove the salty taste/lower salt content before cooking?

Any other suggestions/thoughts/ideas?

Thanks!
 
                            
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The "Great Salt Experiment" is under way!

I spoke with a friend who has experience both in packing cod in salt (was employed by a commercial fishery) and in curing hides for tanning with salt.

Last night I packed approximately 50 pounds of meat trimmings in salt. I used a large sized plastic cement mixing container, lined it with waxed paper. Put down a layer of salt, then put in a layer of meat trimmings (various sizes, some as small as 1/2 inch diameter, some very thin, but as long as 5 inches. Then another layer of salt, another layer of meat.

I used plain sodium choloride, purchased as livestock salt from the local feedstore. Afterwords my friend called and told me that when they packed Cod they used rock salt. I'm thinking that from a bacterial standpoint that I get better surface coverage with the salt Iused as it was fine granules.

Anyway, after I got all of the meat scraps layered in salt, I wasn't comfortable that the salt was covering each piece, so I gradually turned and mixed and added even more salt. Finally utilizing the entire 50 pound's of salt I had on hand. This morning I checked on everything and there are a couple of spots where the salt is a bit darker color (from absorbing the moisture from the meat). I'm wondering if I need to add more or change the salt.

I guess when curing hides, the salt is often changed at least once time and sometimes more.

I can't imagine our ancestors throwing away such large quantities of salt. Of course I'm sure my goats and sheep would be glad to enjoy it, but since  there is some blood and body fluids (YUCK) absorbed in it, I won't be giving any to them.

I found an article on desalination of water which is interesting:
http://www.howeverythingworks.org/supplements/water_purification.pdf
and using a Fresnel lens a small distillery could be heated a minimal cost. But wouldn't that still leave impurities in the salt?

Also, after I had the meat set up in the salt, I realized that it would be better to do it somehow so that it is better ventilated, more circulation to it.

I don't know if I should "stir" it up periodically or not.

Again, appreciating everyone's thoughts on this. If you haven't done it and have a comment, please share. I'd love to be successful at doing this.

Feral
 
                            
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Don't know if anyone is interested in this or not, but maybe someone will be in the future....

So, I'm finding a need more surface area for the meat to cure in. Using the cement mixing tub (which I'm still using), the salt absorbs the moisture, but then the moisture doesn't have any place to go to. I turned it a couple of times yesterday, which allows the air to get to the top layer and evaporates the moisture from the salt, but the layers underneath stay damp.

Some ideas I had last night, could use a table frame, with screening, could use old cotton pillow cases like bags and hang them....

I have received another phone call from someone who had two cows butchered, they will be cutting meat on Monday..... so more meat scraps available. If I could just figure out an easy way to preserve, this would be awesome!

re: salt cures, still concerned that the meat will be too salty when I go to use it.

Feral
 
                            
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YUCK, Super YUCKY!

So yesterday I had something really uhhhh... have I mentioned the word "yucky" happen.  I was going to re mix and apply more salt if needed. I'm trying to keep the meat turned regularly to allow aeration.  Still using the cement mixing container, which now ways well over 100 pounds. Anyway, the meat scraps were in standing fluid. Nearly 1 1/2 gallons of fluid. I coudn't believe it. Looked like someone had dumped a small bucket of water in the on top of them. For whatever reason, the liquids came out of the meat! I wasn't ready and hadn't planned on this. I drained it into my driveway, hoping the high salinity won't do a whole lot of damage to the surrounding plants.

This morning--the same thing! I do cover it during the night. Some sort of major liquification going on.

I've read several articles on salt curing which recommends a brine mix. For anyone trying to do a "total cure" like I am, not just preping for jerky or doing a rub, I would have to say that the liquid part of the brine isn't necessary. Put the salt on,leave it a couple of days and Voila! Instant brine.

This experiment might be getting a bit out of control, but I'm going to stick with it for a bit longer. Meat scraps are an ugly dusky color, but there is no foul odor and no signs of spoilage.

Feral
 
                            
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Hey, it's looking good today, like pieces of beef jerky! Not dry yet, but getting there.

Meat is a greyish brown color, no red or pink left in it. I didn't add any saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to retain color. The only additive is salt (sodium chloride).

Feral
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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If you're willing to heat it enough, you can get all the organic impurities out of the salt, leaving some iron etc.

Every similar recipe I've seen (including similar ones for olives and other vegetable foods) involves discarding the liquid that the salt draws out from the food.

There are similar ways to use sugar, in which case the liquid would be perfect for making compost tea.
 
                            
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Excellent! If I did that, I would be comfortable augmenting my goats regular mineral supplement with it.

Sugar preserving may be a better way to go... not sure, but I'm concerned as to how salty these meat scraps will be when they are "done". I'm assuming that I will rinse them well, possibly even soak them... but the salt content will probably still be really high. Maybe too high for any dogs except for one affected by Addison's disease!

I haven't had any more of the big "liquification" things that happened the other day. But because I had soo much weight in the container, I ended up draining it into my driveway. I keep going home expecting to see bears customizing my driveway (digging it up because it smells/tastes good!) Hasn't happened yet, but it was a foolish thing for me to do.

Feral
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Feral wrote:...the salt content will probably still be really high. Maybe too high...


I think, traditionally, salt and meat were scarce enough that salted meat was basically a seasoning.

Even if this is for dog food, dogs are omnivores like us, and some vegetable (or seed-based) ingredients would help balance out the salt, without necessarily pushing their diet out of whack.
 
                            
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Different people feed different ways..... and that can get pretty controversial... but I usually have a quality free choice kibble available at all times and provide extras in the way of raw meat, bones, veges, eggs (they can always have as many eggs as they want). I also cook for them... my dogs love pastas.    They are very spoiled.

I have access to all of these meat scraps this time of year, way less throughout the year I don't have refrigeration, I don't have power. I would just love to be able to stretch out what I can get now throughout the year... that's how this whole experiment started.

I appreciate your concern for my dogs. I love them a lot, they get me through each day and I do my best for them in return. Anyway, thank you again for being concerned!

Feral
 
Leila Rich
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Feral, I've been told excessive salt's really bad for dogs, you might want to look into that further.
If you can't freeze it, I'm at a loss as to preservation. Drying? Canning?
Salt's a major dessicant: all that liquid is totally expected btw.
 
Leila Rich
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Now there's an idea: I haven't read the confit thread, but your meat and fat surplus could well be a dog food solution!
I used to cook professionally and my caveat would be, ensure the meat is completely submerged in fat as it cools down: cooking in a large roasting pan covered in foil then transferring to a narrow-mouthed crock or stainless bucket works well. Keep it as cool as you can.
 
                            
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Excess salt IS really bad for dogs. This is all simply an experiment that I wanted to try. As the whole technique is something I'm totally unfamiliar with, I had no idea that the meat would end up as salty as it has. But now I know.

At this point, I suspect what I have is 50 pounds (or less as it dries....) of great dog treats for my dog who has Addison's. I don't think any of it is going to be fit for my other dogs to eat.

Canning sounds good and I may do that in the future after I have a root cellar. For this year it simply isn't an option as it's not uncommon that it freezes INSIDE my cabin during the winter. I dress for it, don't worry about it a whole lot, but I'm not going to take the time to can and have everything freeze and break... or worse.. break a seal and have spoilage.

As time goes by and financial resources improve, I'd hope to add not only a root cellar, but also an ice house.

I would just love to be able to put butchering season surplus to a good use for my dogs.
 
                          
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Feral, sorry I didnt see your post sooner. I have been off the forum for over a week, I think. I have taken our venison scraps and dried them, just as I do for our jerky, but without the marinade, just a wee bit of salt and smoked it. Smoke helps to preserve and even has an anti-bacterial action. Smoked tanning helps in its preservation. The drying saves space and requires no electricity for storage. I double bag them in paper bags and store them in a cool, dry place. The dogs love it and it helps out with the cost of dog food.
 
                            
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Thank you, I think that is what I'm going to have to do.  The salting has been a "failure" as I was trying to find a way to quickly and easily preserve fairly large quantities without refrigeration/power.

It really does help out with the cost of dog food!
 
Leif Kravis
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Feral, the salt should be a max of a pound to about 30 lbs of meat , as the salt is absorbed into the meat, water is drawn out the two are attempting to equalize salinity, in your case the salt is really only being used to alter the ph levels and moisture content  so that bacteria are inhibited during the process of drying the meat. with small pieces its easier to work with a brine solution in containers that can be refridgerated for a few days, and they should be stirred when they feel sort of stiff in texture they are removed from the brine, rinsed with cold water and patted dry then placed on your drying racks. if you want them to be dried hard  i'd do a brine with a small amount of  what's known as cure #2, it is typically added to dry cured sausages  to inhibit the possibility of botulism during the drying process.
the brines normally use equal parts sugar and coarse salt.

The liquid was a natural brine being formed and it should have been kept in your vat and yes stirring once a day was a good idea, remember the smaller the pieces the shorter the brining time. also if you want to make old fashioned brined meats , e.g. corned beef , type things, the scraps can be kept salted in a cool place and soaked before using just like the salt went in by osmosis a lot of it can be drawn out by soaking in a container in the fridge and changing the water a few times,

cheers
 
Neal McSpadden
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Maybe a biltong like process would have been easier/less yucky than the pickling you tried?
 
Alan Whitaker
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From my talks with old timers here in the South, when they cured their hams, bacon and shoulders, they used a wooden box with salt in the bottom, a layer of meat, then more salt alternating.  Until all the meat was covered with salt.  The wooden box allowed the liquids to drain as you are looking for a salt-dried meat.  The salt pulls the moisture from the meat and bacteria that is present and keeps it from growing.  After a set number of days (30 or so), the meat is washed and hung to dry and age.
I've not tried this yet, but I have wild hogs and three I've fed out, I going to give it a try this winter. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Salt curing hams is really pretty easy but it isn't fast. First you need to prepare the ham by trimming and patting the meat dry with towels (paper ones are fine). Next you coat the ham with salt (coarse, kosher type) and set the ham(s) in a cool space covered with the salt.
You will check on your hams every few days, making sure they are still covered with the salt, continue this process for 2 weeks.
At the end of the two weeks of salt cure you lift the ham(s) and rinse all salt off them, cover with cheese cloth and hang them in an area that has a fairly consistent temperature around 40 degrees f.
It is helpful to have this space well ventilated. The hams will live here for at least 6 months and with proper conditions you can age them up to 6 years.

Some people like to do the salting cure then give them a cold smoke prior to hanging them in the cold storage space.

With out the smoking, you will end up with a product that can be eaten as is (thin slices will taste best).

The Spanish area (Spain and Portugal) is where this type of curing is best known but the Italians, French and Germans are also masters of salt curing meats.

Redhawk
 
Jeremy Franklin
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I watched a really good YouTube video on salted pork, which, as i understood it, was specifically a way of preserving the meat, not treating it. In other words, it was used in place of refrigeration, and the end product was supposedly something similar to fresh meat with only a little salt flavor. Watch it yourself, this guy's channel is great for permies food prep.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Jeremy, If you are preserving meat aren't you treating it?  I don't understand your statement.
The salted pork in that video seems to be more modern than the charcuterie I was describing, which has been practiced for at least 800 years and most likely far longer.

Salting meats is as old as the discovery of salt, the prime, most costly hams on earth are salted then washed then aged.
Their flavors of the various hams vary by what the hogs (pigs) ate the last three months of their lives, the salting simply preserves the meat.
True salting with out some form of cold storage would be very similar to salted cod, where the meat was packed in salt and not removed from the salt until time to soak it for eating. This is the method used by sailing ships to preserve meat for eating while on a voyage.
Salted cod usually needs to be soaked for at least 3 days to re-hydrate the flesh and remove a significant amount of the salt.

This is very different than how hams are created in the USA, where nitrates, along with salt are pumped into the meat prior to it being smoked or cooked.
A true salt cured meat is a wonder to the taste buds, it doesn't taste very salty at all.

Redhawk
 
Dave de Basque
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Salt curing hams is really pretty easy but it isn't fast. First you need to prepare the ham by trimming and patting the meat dry with towels (paper ones are fine). Next you coat the ham with salt (coarse, kosher type) and set the ham(s) in a cool space covered with the salt.
You will check on your hams every few days, making sure they are still covered with the salt, continue this process for 2 weeks.
At the end of the two weeks of salt cure you lift the ham(s) and rinse all salt off them, cover with cheese cloth and hang them in an area that has a fairly consistent temperature around 40 degrees f.
It is helpful to have this space well ventilated. The hams will live here for at least 6 months and with proper conditions you can age them up to 6 years.

Some people like to do the salting cure then give them a cold smoke prior to hanging them in the cold storage space.

With out the smoking, you will end up with a product that can be eaten as is (thin slices will taste best).

The Spanish area (Spain and Portugal) is where this type of curing is best known but the Italians, French and Germans are also masters of salt curing meats.

Redhawk


Redhawk, as usual, your information is spot on. "Jamón serrano" and "jamón ibérico" ("Mountain ham" and "Iberian ham," basically two grades of the same thing) are a big deal around my neck of the woods and it is done as you say.

I haven't done this myself, aspiring vegan that I am, but from local hearsay/tradition I would add the following. First of all, leave the fat on! That's what has the flavor and will also keep it from drying out later on. Hang the meat properly for a while (a week or two) before starting to get more of the blood and excess humidity out and start the aging process. You need a *lot* of kosher/rock salt, about the same weight as your ham. (Btw, "kosher" salt is actually misnamed, it is koshering salt -- as it draws the blood out, it is part of the process to make meat kosher, but I digress...). Every time you handle the ham, give it a bit of a massage, always trying to draw any remaining blood out. Just put the ham onto a bed of kosher salt in a box, and cover it up completely with more salt. Let it sit in a cool, dry place and massage and turn it every few days. It will not shed a lot of liquid. Some say two weeks, some say 40 days, in any case, after a certain time your ham is cured. Now you can smoke it a bit or not, I say not. And then hang it indefinitely, the longer the better as long as it doesn't dry out, which is the end of the world. Other than this, the flavor improves with age. We pass on covering it with cheesecloth, it just hangs anywhere, here's a pic from a local bar:



The color of the meat changes from red to brown to even almost black as it ages, and the black ones command the highest prices. You can certainly pay $100/lb if you like. RedHawk's 6 years is no exaggeration.

Some people like to de-bone the ham (takes skill and experience) and use a slicer. Slice your ham paper-thin, it tastes MUCH better because of the texture this gives. In any case, once you start carving your ham, everything changes. You must cover up the cut end obsessively well with wax paper and keep the slices wrapped (not exposed to air) until serving time, they will dry out very fast once exposed to air. They also stick to each other, so careful how you layer them. It is a crime to serve cold, the fat needs to be at the right temperature to bring out the taste. So room temperature or a bit warmer actually is ideal.

Cooking good ham is a crime. If it didn't come out so well or is starting to dry out, OK, go ahead and throw some in a grilled cheese sandwich, but otherwise, don't dare cook it, that takes away all the years of art and waiting you've put into it.

You do not need more ingredients than just plain kosher salt and ham. No need to inject, brine, sterilize, or otherwise complicate anything.

If your high school Spanish is still fresh, just search on the web for "Cómo curar un jamón" (How to cure a ham) or "Cómo curar un jamón en casa" (How to cure a ham at home) on YouTube (OK to write it without the accents) and you can see the process in action in videos of varying quality.

I found a couple that seem worth watching, both from Argentina (which is not Spain, but they like Spanish food a lot):

An OK quality series of short videos on the different stages of the process, all in pretty rapid-fire spoken Argentine Spanish -- Link to #1 in the series

An hour-long video shot by a hyperactive kid with some good instructions written in Spanish onscreen
 
Jeremy Franklin
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau Jeremy, If you are preserving meat aren't you treating it?  I don't understand your statement.
The salted pork in that video seems to be more modern than the charcuterie I was describing, which has been practiced for at least 800 years and most likely far longer.

Redhawk


I guess I'm suggesting pure preservation as opposed to specifically trying to change the flavor or texture of the meat, such as with jerky or spiced sausage. I was only referring the video, which i haven't watched in a while,  but thought I remembered it being pretty useful. My memory could be off, however.

Likewise, I'm not sure what your point was in mentioning the age of the technique, unless you're one of those that just assumes that if an idea is older, that means it's necessarily better. I wasn't contradicting your post, in any case.  Just trying to add to the discussing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Jeremy, I was not trying to discount your post in any way, terribly sorry if I did.  I like many of the methods of preservation of foods, in fact I worked for Bryan Foods as a chemist/biologist for a while and learned a lot about how they make their products.

We plan on trying canning meats some time in the future and then there is pickling. I learned the Jamon Iberico method for ham making and that is my preferred method to use since I would be a novice at the others.
Charcuterie is an awesome field to study, every preservation method falls into the category.

The age of a method is only important from the fact that if it survived that long, it must work very well.
Kind of like herbology, it has been around for thousands of years, would people still use it if it didn't work?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Dave, thanks for catching my lack of explaining trimming. I should have said; trim up the ham so it is neat at the joint end, leaving as much of the fat cap as possible.

I like to cure hams with the hoof attached, same as I was taught by the Jamon folks years ago. Like you I think cooking good ham is a crime, cooking hams should hit the fire as a raw piece of meat only.

We raise American Guinea Hogs and they should make very tasty hams, I will know in about one year now.
 
Anne Miller
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Bryant, Dave and Jeremy
Thanks for contributing to this thread.  I have read it several times.  My husband is the one who has in the past done ham, corned beef and corned venison.  I am sorry I didn't pay more attention at the time.
I was busy doing pickles at the time.

I love the bar picture. Thanks, Dave

For anyone interested here are two links with more information about " Jamon Iberico method for ham making".  Thanks, Bryant

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/03/inside-the-secret-world-of-super-premium-spanish-jamon-iberico.html

http://www.jamon.com/curing.html

Very interesting to read!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Thought some folks might want to see this, it is from my ham curing note book I wrote while learning how to cure a ham properly in Spain.

Traditional Method of Ham Curing

The first step in curing any type of ham is butchering and cutting, after which comes the part of shaping (TRIM) which involves the removal of parts of fat and muscle on the outer layer and skin.
The meat is then covered in sea salt for a week or two and then rinsed thoroughly. (check hams at least every two days, rubbing hands over the ham to check for firming. recover with fresh salt when finished checking)
Next comes the stage of settling. (Need oak racks with spaced slats to lay the hams on for this part of the process. Cheese cloth can be used as a buffer layer if desired)
Settling involves the proper distribution of salt spread throughout the flesh, and drying of the cuts. (ham will feel firm under touch when this step is finished, expect it to take a few weeks at the least. Can use a "prick" to test for proper dispersion but not advised)
The process of settling may last for a month or two. (salt will take a long time to disperse throughout the meat, we want it to reach the bone so no bacteria can gain a foot hold)
After the settling process, the hams are hung in the drying rooms for up to six months at a temperature not less than 33° f (not 30 f as I had previously had listed here) and not more than 55° F. At this stage of curing, proteins and fats in the pork begin to transform, beginning the creation of a ham.

The next stage of ham curing is called the aging process.
The process of aging takes place in the aging room where the conditions fluctuate with the seasons, and up to 40% of the weight of the ham melts away. (Rooms can be above ground, need adjustable windows up high and near floor for proper air circulation. Light needs to be low so painting glass windows will help that)
The aging process for an "Ibérico de Bellota" ham spans between two and four years. (need humidity and temp gauges in at least three areas of the room. check gauges daily, hams by feel (pressing) at least once a week. Might need to change hanging area if curing to fast or slow)
Jamon can be cured up to 6 years when conditons are controlled with regards to air flow, temperature and humidity. (Smell the room, odors will tell you a lot about how things are going with the hams.)
Once there is a hard "rind", humidity can be in the 50-60 % range which will extend the length of aging time available. (Cave is best for this part of the process)
Traditionally this process is managed by controlling airflow from the outside, overseen by a maestro de jamón or ham master. (I may never get this good at it but I can try)
A Cave is nearly ideal for storing once the aging is doing well, I have an area I can dig one just for this use.

Modern Method of Ham Curing  (Nice but equipment is not cheap and I'm not going to be making hundreds of hams for sale)

With the advancement of technology and growing health awareness, producers have come up with a four stage ham curing technique, which is:
◦Salting and washing (same)
◦Time for rest (same but better controlled)
◦Dry and mature (done in meat locker type rooms)
◦Bodega (the real aging)

Salting and Washing:

First off, pigs are slaughtered and cut into hams. (don't forget to trim at this stage)
The hams are then covered in sea salt for a week or two (the exact time mostly depends on the weight of the ham).
The curing room is kept at a temperature of near freezing with the humidity maintained at 80 or 90%. Afterwards, the salt is removed from the skin of the ham using tepid water.

Time for Rest:

After the hams are washed properly, they are kept inside a room of temperature of 5 to 15° C (my book miss labeled this as f) with the humidity at 80 to 90% for one to two months.
This long storage time allows the hams to spread the salt evenly throughout.

Dry and Mature:

When the resting time is over, the ham is moved to the Secadero (drying zone) in which the temperature and humidity are maintained by automatic means with the help high quality mechanism of ventilation. (humidity is lowered slowly, temperature is raised same way)
During this stage of curing, the ham keeps losing the moisture from within which allows the ham to retain its aroma.

Bodega Stage:

In the last stage of curing, the ham is hung in a bodega (cellars).
This stage lasts for around two to four years.
The biochemical process continues throughout this stage as well.
And at the end of this stage, the ham gets its final aroma and flavor.
This stage is carefully managed by a modern computer system for the optimal temperature and humidity.

I will not be using the new method because of costs of equipment.
The old way is going to be best for my purposes and easier for me to set up for.


*edited temperatures listed to be correct
 
Maureen Atsali
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I am happy to see this thread revived.
I live in the tropics, without refridgeration, or electricity.  In the past, when we have butchered animals, we just end up sharing it with all the neighbors because we have no way to preserve the meat.  There doesn't seem to be any meat-preserving traditions left in the village (perhaps because meat-eating is largely a priveledge of the upper class).  My husband says that his grandparents used to do some kind of smoking/drying, but he doesn't know the exact proceedure. (His grandfather was the village butcher.) There is a large Islamic population here, perhaps that's why pork curing isn't around, even though almost every villager keeps a pig.

So here's what I'm looking at:

Our climate ranges from the 50's at night to the 70's and 80's during the day.  We have rainy seasons and dry seasons, but it is not very humid. 

I do not have any specialty supplies available.  I have salt - which is sea-salt.  I have never seen kosher salt, and if I do locate it in the city, it will be a tiny package at an expensive price.

I'm a little worried, because a lot of these posts mention keeping the hams in a cool place... and I don't have a place that is consistantly cool.
 
I know nothing about meat-preservation, I'm a complete newbie, and a rather timid one at that.  I don't have access to good medical care if I happen to mess it up and get food poisoning!
 
Dave de Basque
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Back to Jeremy's post above and the salt pork video: Thanks a lot Jeremy, I didn't have time to watch it when you posted but did just now. That looks like another good way to preserve with just salt (and some salty water).

I had always wondered what salt pork actually was, and I suspected that the hard-to-find modern product with the same name was just high-priced bacon and did not resemble the original at all -- now I know! And this YouTube channel it comes from, Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc. -- looks great as you say, for taking your diet and your food preparation back a few centuries. At least that is a bit of a holy grail for me... The food system as a whole in developed countries has gone to hell in a handbasket at least since WWII and it's great to recover a bit of pre-industrial wisdom. And you gotta love someone who actually sells 2-gallon oak barrels for home use these days. Nice resource for permies, as you say, thanks!

The description of the way to prepare the salt pork for eating reminds me of the salt cod that is so loved where I live. People joke that the best place to desalinate your cod is in the tank of a flush toilet because it changes the water frequently for you, automatically    . Seriously, two or three water changes over the course of 12-24 hours are usually good for cod. Thicker pieces take much longer than thinner ones. It's best to at least taste the soaking water and/or actually tear a piece off and taste, keeping in mind that the inside of a thick piece will be saltier than the outside. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually very easy to over-soak your cod and make it so bland that you actually need to add salt when cooking it. Also, at the end of the soaking process you need to be very careful about spoilage -- the preserving salt has mostly leached out and the fish can now spoil quickly like fresh fish can, so it needs to be in a very cool place. I don't think salt pork would be so sensitive, but still worth keeping in mind.

One thing I notice about salt cod is how different it is from fresh cod. The salting process firms up the flesh and concentrates the flavors. So de-salted salt cod is IMHO a much better culinary product than fresh cod. Though there are some times when the softer texture and mild taste of fresh cod are what you want. In any case, given the overfishing of cod, like so many other species, it's better to enjoy either in your imagination or only very occasionally.
 
Dave de Basque
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Anne -- Thanks for the great links you provided, in English, even! Nice lyrical description in the first link, and the second was great -- I didn't imagine that such a complete description of the actual curing process would exist in English, that's wonderful.

Bryant -- Wow, your notes are incredible, thank you! You are such a contribution to permies! Just one point of fact, under the "Time for Rest" part -- I think that the temperatures there must be in centigrade, not Fahrenheit, no?

Maureen -- Your village sharing tradition sounds great... make sure it continues once you master tropical meat preservation! One thing you have going for you is the low humidity in your climate. For dry-curing meat with salt, excessive humidity at certain stages can derail the process and lead to spoilage. If you need to add more humidity to the air, that is probably much easier than taking it out. So one point in your favor. You might try to look at RedHawk's or Anne's humidity guidelines and time the process so that earlier stages take place in your rainy season and the drying stage starts at the beginning of your dry season. Your temperature range does not sound too bad, but a cooler place would be ideal for the beginning and end of the process. Is there any chance you could dig out a little underground room and ventilate it well? (Like a permie root cellar. Or perhaps suspended in a well?) If not just find the coolest shady place you can with decent airflow and give it a try, I would say.

As far as salt, just use the coarsest salt you can find. I'm actually not sure why this is, but almost all the instructions I've seen for dry-curing meat call for rock salt/kosher salt instead of fine-grain salt. I suppose this might be because it allows more airflow around the meat as it's curing. Perhaps if the salt you have available is more on the fine side, you could make up for this by removing and turning it frequently? Worth an experiment.

Others please correct me (as I haven't actually done this, I repeat, I'm just operating on what I've heard), but I think if any part of the meat starts to spoil, it will be very obvious to the eye and to the nose. If there's anything suspicious about the meat that could lead to food poisoning, I suspect you will know it.

For a first experiment, you might want to try Jeremy's salt pork method as describe in the video above, it seems less finicky and easier to get right.

OTOH, there is probably a bit too much specifying and perfecting in the instructions for dry-curing ham. Keep in mind that this product is now a big money-maker in Europe and is one of the world's finest and most expensive gourmet culinary products. So of course all the marketing people really play up all the the super-exquisite, careful, scientific, and complicated aspects they can in order to justify the high prices they charge. But this historically was a country product that average farmers made on their farms, without anything like the ability to control temperature and humidity in the way described. Of course, an art was developed and passed down in families over the generations and they worked with what they had to reproduce roughly something like the conditions described. But they had no way to get so specific or scientific about it. I think the main question is whether the coolest temperatures you experience in the year, in the coolest places you can find, are cool enough to do this. And I would venture that the answer is yes, as your husband's grandparents apparently did some kind of similar process back in the day. It may take some experimentation to adapt it to your climate properly, but surely there will be a way to do this well and safely.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Thanks Dave,
Unfortunately my internet connection is too slow to play videos, so I couldn't watch the piece on salt pork.  I have read a bit on the internet about making salt pork, and everything always says to stick it in the fridge to cure.  The need for a cool place is a thorn in my side.  I also wanted to try making aged cheese, but oooops, need a cheese cave.  I'm afraid I'm not very handy at building things.  :/ might be a lost cause.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Kola Dave,  yes the book you buy for the curing course  had those temps marked f but they are actually c. other temps in the book were correctly labeled, I asked about that at the time since if those were f it would be frozen.
The maestro I got to study under laughed when I showed that error to him. Then he said, "you pay attention, that will make you almost as good as me in time."
I never bothered to change the notation in the book, which is why the error showed up when I typed those notes in here. 

The reason for coarse salt is so less is taken in over a short time period, the coarse salt also continues to move into the meat and fat because there are enough spaces that no hard film develops.
Coarse salt is also easier to handle when rubbing it into the ham as you coat it first then pile it on and work the salt in around the ham.

At first I thought fine salt would work fairly well since you want the salt touching every little bit of the ham, but it also gets sucked in quicker and that causes a hard film (crust) to form which stops the salt from really moving into the ham.
I tried doing a ham with fine sea salt and I ruined it because I didn't adjust for time for the fine salt, forgot about it crusting over and didn't realize I was actually preventing salt movement.
The one I tried fine salt on actually spoiled from that hard film stopping salt ingress.
If all you can get is fine salt then you are going to want to replace the salt daily by removing the ham, brushing it off with a stiff bristle brush then reapply fresh salt.
Since I use 35 to 50 lbs. of salt per ham, using fine salt would get really expensive as well as not working so great

One more thing about salt for preserving ham or any other meat, Do Not Use Iodized Salt. The meat will end up tasting metallic and that is just nasty.

Redhawk
 
Maureen Atsali
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Oooeeey, Redhawk.  Well, that pretty much clinches it for me.  I don't think I have ever seen any un-iodized affordable salt.  The fine/sea salt is not expensive here (about 50 cents per 2-kilo bag) but its all iodized.  (There is a goiter problem in this country, it may be the governments way of trying to force a solution on the "ignorant" population.)  I should mention that it is NOT as fine as the salt sold in the USA, but still not as course as kosher.  What a bummer.  I'll have to keep looking for other alternatives.  I used to make jerky when I had a food dehydrator, but I haven't tried that here where I have no machines.  Anyone have a link or resources to good jerky threads?  Smoking without any machines?  And did I mention how NOT handy I am at building things?  I can grow almost anything, I can raise up animals, I can cook, and I am good with kids... but God help me, I am lousy with a hammer!

Thanks everyone, for sharing your knowledge and expertise on this site.  I am always learning something new, and I appreciate it so much.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Maureen, where in Kenya exactly are you located? I might be able to help you find a source that is affordable and close at hand.

If you can find "Koshering" salt, it will never have iodine in it. If there is any Jewish community around, they will have iodine free Koshering salt in their stores.

There is a way to remove KI (potassium iodide) from salt.

alternatively; I can give you directions for drying meat (like my ancestors did it) it is a viable method which it sounds like your village lost the knowledge of.
Just let me know if that is of interest to you, I will be happy to share that knowledge with you

Redhawk
 
Anne Miller
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Maureen Atsali wrote:I'm a little worried, because a lot of these posts mention keeping the hams in a cool place... and I don't have a place that is consistantly cool.
 
I know nothing about meat-preservation, I'm a complete newbie, and a rather timid one at that.  I don't have access to good medical care if I happen to mess it up and get food poisoning!


I know little about meat preservation just what I am reading and researching to get a better understanding.  I was giving a sausage recipe that did not require refrigeration ... I never made it.

I don't want to start a off topic discussion so I have found some links for you to look at.  I hope these help.

21 day shelf life for chicken, fish and meat?

"Years ago, I knew an old Native American woman who said as a child their family would kill a pig in the fall, grind a lot into sausage, cook the sausage, pack it in a crock of some kind, pour the fat over the meat to cover it. Throughout the winter they pulled meat out of the crock. She told me she could remember sneaking sausage out to eat. It sounded like a fat sealed method of food preservation, and a high risk food at that."

Fat-Sealed-Canning

Wes Hunter wrote:Confit is a great preservation technique--easy and delicious.  Most commonly done with ducks and to a lesser extent geese, but I made some venison confit (with lard) that turned out pretty well.  The biggest trick, I think, is not over-salting, which is easy to do if you leave the salted meat even one extra day before cooking.  Duck confit makes a great, quick meal (preferably with a hunk of bread, some pickles, a slice or two of cheese, and maybe a green salad), perfect for busy summer days.


ways-preserving-food-refrigeration-freezing

what-the-heck-is-confit

John Polk wrote:  Sausages were created around the world to utilize the lesser cuts in a form that could be kept without refrigeration.


https://permies.com/t/58821/Problems-stumbling-untapped-market#500766
 
Maureen Atsali
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Redhawk- I am located in Western Kenya, in a place called Imanga.  You won't find that on a map.    The nearest places to look for resources near me:  Mumias Town (This is about 40 minutes away, where I go for my monthly shopping.)  Kakamega town (about an hour and a half)  or Kisumu City (2.5 hours).  Nairobi is a 9 hour bus-ride for me, a trip I usually only make once or twice a year.  There are no Jewish communities here, that I know of.  There was one in Mombasa (18 hours away) but they were being targeted by terrorist groups and I think they may have moved on.

I would LOVE to have instructions on how you are drying meats.  I have tried to get information from village elders, but nobody seems to remember.  They all know it used to be done, but there is no one who does it.  As it is currently, not many people who slaughter their own animals - unless its for a major function where they will be feeding a lot of people, like a funeral or a wedding - so there is no need to preserve the meat.  People are just walking to the butcher in Lunza to buy beef by the kilo.  They raise their pigs and cows and then sell them instead of butchering.

Anne - thanks so much for the links!  I haven't had time to look at them in detail yet, but I will definitely be checking them out.  We keep ducks here too, but as we are such a large family, there is any leftover to worry about preserving!
 
Ferne Reid
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Any advice on salt curing with smaller meats like poultry and rabbit?

We are just getting production up again after moving last year, and are looking at finally having some rabbits to butcher soon. We don't have refrigeration either (bought raw land, and the solar system we currently have can handle lights and laptops, but not a fridge or freezer ... yet). It's chilly here in West Tennessee at the moment, but it won't be long before the temps and humidity will be climbing.

Most likely we'll just be butchering one animal at a time, but I'd really like to figure out a way to keep the meat from spoiling while allowing it to sit until the rigor's gone. I do prefer tender meat.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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you can salt cure duck just as you would a ham, cover the duck with salt rubbing it in then let it sit a day, turn the duck and recover with salt.
Three to five days should do a fine job for a duck. Since they are smaller and don't have the thick layer of fat, they will cure faster, so you will need to watch the meat so you can rinse well once the salt has penetrated through to the bone.
Once rinsed you need to let it rest, just like a ham but a duck will probably only need one to two weeks for this step, where a ham might rest for two to six months.

Redhawk
 
Ferne Reid
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Thank you! I have a neighbor who is getting some duck meat this weekend ... he's going to split it with me, so I'll have a chance to try it. Can't wait!
 
Wes Hunter
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This is a fascinating, informative thread.

We killed a pig the week before last, and I've got a ham curing (and hopefully not slowly rotting) in the bathroom-turned-pantry.  I put an inch-thick layer of salt in the bottom of a wooden crate, then put the ham on (25 lb. hunk, give or take), then poured and poured and poured more salt over the top, rubbing it in well, especially on the cut ends.  I used Redmond salt, hence the pinkish hue.  (Those two brighter pink hunks of meat on top are jowls that I just threw on today.)

I'm a bit concerned about just salting such a big piece of meat, what with the worries about getting the salt all the way to the bone to prevent spoilage, but in the end I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.  The ham has been in the salt for just a week now, so it'll be a while yet before I know anything.

The second photo is a handful of duck "hams" (boneless breasts) that have been salted and air-cured.  They're fully done now, I just haven't gotten around to eating them all yet.
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