Cure Your OwnPosted by Cliff Hammerschmidt on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Tags for this Article: charcuterie, cooking techniques, pork
Most people think that curing your own meats is a quick way to waste meat, or worse, end up in the hospital (or even worse: dead). While there is some risk involved, it can be minimized. People have been curing meats for centuries and, when it’s done correctly, it has produced some pretty tasty results. I do recommend you read a good book (e.g. “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing” by Michael Ruhlman) on the subject before you start, and that you are anal retentive about sanitation during the process. If at any point you have doubts about the result throw it out; do not eat it.
Okay, legal stuff: If you try to replicate this recipe and get sick (and/or die) from it, you agree it’s your own fault and that I warned you it was dangerous and could potentially kill you.
Now let’s get into the meaty stuff. For my first foray into home curing I decided to go with what my research indicated would be the easiest to pull off: a whole muscle cure using nitrate salt (Prague Powder #2). I know some people are against using nitrates to cure meat, but the amounts involved are tiny (<0.3% by weight) and considered safe (or at least safer than if you didn’t use them). I mail ordered curing salts from the internet (stuffers.com).
For the meat, I used a 200g pork loin from Cutter Ranch. The use of high quality meat matters, since it’s not going to be cooked.
- loin 200g (100%)
- salt 7g (3.5%)
- pepper 2g (1%)
- cure #2 0.5g (0.25%)
- juniper 0.5g (0.25%)
- fennel 0.5g (0.25%)
- thai basil flowers/buds 3.5g (1.75%, optional)
Everything is scaled to the weight of the meat. The use of a fine scale (0.1g or finer) is a must. Exceeding 0.3% of cure #2 by weight is not a good idea (nitrates in large doses have been linked to cancer). Mix everything except the loin together in a grinder and slather it all over the meat. Place the result in your (normal) fridge and leave it uncovered.
It’ll start off quite wet:
After 7 to 10 days it’ll be dry enough to hang. Wipe off the excess cure and use kitchen twine to hang the meat:
You want a cool place that will not exceed 15 degrees Celsius or drop below 5 degrees; 10 degrees is ideal. I happen to have a wine fridge that fits the bill. The biggest issue with using a wine fridge is it tends to get too dry. I know that sounds weird, since we are trying to dry out the meat. The problem is that the outside of the meat can dry out too fast and end up locking moisture into the middle of the meat. Ideal humidity for drying meat is around 70%. You should monitor both the temperature and humidity. If you have less control over humidity (large fluctuations) then use smaller (thinner) cuts of meat. Adding water in a pan in the bottom of the fridge will help to increase the humidity as well. Note that if you use thinner cuts, the final result will be saltier so you may want to decrease the amount of salt in the original recipe. Experimentation is key!
After a few more weeks (exact time will vary based on humidity and thickness of the cut), the meat will have lost around half of its original weight. You should end up with a a dark-colored and firm-textured meat:
Only you can decide if it’s worth the effort and risk involved in curing your own meat. I was very happy with the result, and will continue to experiment with making my own home cured products.