Country Traditions

September 12, 2010

Curing Meat Using the old ways

Filed under: curing meat — Tags: , — dmacc502 @ 10:49 pm

We saw a photo recently of meat curing in burlap sacks in a tree on another web site, that of a country magazine.  The photo was from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, with a log cabin and a garden in the background, whereas ours was taken Saturday morning, 1/13/2001, with a radio tower and their maintenance building in the background.Using methods from an old canning and freezing cook book, we found that curing meat is not really that difficult.   Meat should be cured when it’s cold out, in November, December, or January.  Here, it’s usually too warm in November.  In 1999, it was still too warm here in December.  Cold weather is a must, unless you own a walk-in cooler or just have an extra refrigerator hanging around.  In 1999/2000, we cured our hams and bacon in an extra refrigerator in the basement.  By 2001, we were using the old ways, hanging in the tree in burlap bags.

There are two ways to cure meat, smoke and sugar cure.  Temperature is one of the most important factors.  Cold is a must, after slaughtering, before cutting the meat, and during smoking and curing.  If a smokehouse gets much above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat will destroy the enzymes in the meat that develop the aged flavor.

It’s important to keep meats in a cool place for several days after the curing process to give the salt time to penetrate throughout.  Failure to do this can cause spoilage.  Salt penetrates as it dissolves in the moisture of the meat.  SALT is the ingredient that provides the cure.  SUGAR adds flavor and helps retard the hardening action of the salt.  SALTPETER brings out and retains the reddish color of the meat.  Morton makes a pre-mixed sugar cure that can be purchased in 5-pound bags which have printed instructions on the bag.  It also contains a smoke flavoring.  This year, our local grocery did not have that available, so we went to the Butcher Shop and bought 5 pounds of the sugar cure that they use.

Successful Sugar Cure:  Chill meat quickly and keep it cold during the whole curing process, 38 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lower temperatures will interfere with penetration of the salt.  Higher temperatures may cause spoilage.  If the temperatures fall below freezing during your cure, add that number of days on to the curing time.

Weigh/measure carefully.  Use NON-iodized salt, flaked or granulated but make sure it is NOT iodized.  Canning salt works well, but non-iodized salt can be bought in the regular spice section at your store and is usually cheaper than regular salt.  Use exact measurements.

Allow enough curing time for the meat to absorb the salt.  Keep careful track of the curing time.  If you cut it short, the meat may spoil.  If you cure too long, the meat loses quality.  Keep meat under refrigeration or hanging in a cold place (38 to 45 degrees F) after curing to dry and to give the salt time to spread evenly throughout the meat.


4 pounds salt
1 1/2 pound white or light brown granulated sugar
3 ounces of saltpeter

Mix the ingredients carefully and thoroughly.  Make sure saltpeter is spread evenly throughout.  Use 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 ounce of mixture per  pound of ham and 3/4 to 1 ounce per pound of bacon.

Dry curing hams and shoulders:  Rub on half the mixture as soon as you cut the meat.  Don’t overdo it, just be sure it covers the surface.  Pack some in the shank end.  Place meat in a box, barrel, stone jar, burlap bag, or on a pan on a shelf of the refrigerator.  Hang or set in a cold place.  Repeat rub with cure every 7 days.  Leave meat in the cure 2 days per pound, but never less than 25 days.  Bacon should be done in the same fashion, but it should be cured for 1 1/2 days per pound or 7 days per 1 inch of thickness.

At the end of the curing period, remove cured meat from the sugar pack.  Brush lightly to remove excess salt.  Rinse the meat thoroughly to remove salt from the outside.  Meat can also be soaked in a cold water soak for this (if you have a place big enough to keep it in the cold water without it freezing).  If you desire the smoked flavor, smoking should be done now.  If not, or if you don’t have access to a smoke house, hang the meat in a cold place or refrigerate for at least a week, 3 weeks is better.  If you wish to smoke the meat, soak the hams and shoulders in cold water from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, bacon for 30 minutes.  Put a strong cord through the ham and shoulder shanks and tie, hang from cord to dry in a cold place, at least a week but up to 3 weeks.

Smoking meats:  Scrub the hung meat with a stiff brush and water so it will take a brighter color in smoking.  Let it dry overnight to avoid streaking.  A wet surface will not an on even color.

Hang the dry meat in the smoke house so that no two pieces are touching.  Build under it a fire of any greed hardwood, hickory, oak, pecan, or apple, or use corncobs or hardwood sawdust.  Do not use resinous woods like pine or other evergreens.    The ideal temperature for the smoke house is 80-90 degrees F.  Open the ventilator to let the moisture escape.  On the second day, close the ventilators and smoke meat until it has the color you like best.  Usually two days of smoking is enough.  Remember, a thin haze of smoke is as effective as a dense cloud.  Use  care not to overheat the meat.

Cool hams, shoulders, and bacon.  Pack in cotton bag if desired.  Smoked meats may be hung in a dry place or refrigerated.  You can hang the hams to age, if desired, in a tight, cool, dry, well-ventilated place for at least 6 months.  Shoulders should be used before 6 months.  A good aging temperature is from 70-80 degrees F.  Below 45 degrees, little aging occurs.  Hams should not be aged for more than a year unless they weigh over 25 pounds.  To stop aging, put the meat in cold storage, wrap and freeze it.   Hams and bacon can be frozen directly after curing without the aging process also, if the aged flavor is not desired.

Curing Methods for Game
There are several general methods of
curing, with a number of modifications
for each method. These methods
include pickle curing, dry curing,
dry salt curing, or application of curing solutions by osmosis, stitch pump, spray pump, artery pump, and machine pump.
Pickle Curing
A typical pickle curing solution could include water and salt (called a “plain” or “salt” pickle); water, salt, nitrate, and/or nitrite; or water, salt, nitrate, and/or nitrite to which sugar has been added (a “sweet” pickle).
Other ingredients could be added to enhance flavor. A basic brine solution generally consists of 1 lb brown sugar, 2 lbs uniodized salt, and 3 gallons of water. Use a noncorrosive container to hold the brine and meat during the curing process. Wood, crockery, stainless steel, or plastic containers work well. Place the meat in the container and pour the brine over it until it is covered. If the meat floats, you may have to place a weight on it to keep it submerged. Turn the meat in the brine periodically to cover all surfaces.
Dry Curing
Dry curing involves the rubbing and
packing of meat in salt and other
compounds for considerable periods
of time. Dry curing materials might
include salt alone; salt, nitrate, and/
or nitrite; or salt, nitrate, and/or nitrite
with sugar. One example of a dry
cure is dry sugar cure:
Dry Sugar Curing
A full concentration of the following ingredients (the “8–3–2–1 formula”) is applied directly to the meat surface:
8 pounds table or curing salt
3 pounds cane sugar
2 ounces nitrate (saltpeter)
1 ounce sodium or potassium
Use 1 ounce of 8-3-2-1 formula for
each pound of meat. Place rubbed
meats in boxes under refrigerated
(<40° F) conditions. Cure 7 days per inch of meat thickness.
Dry Salt Curing
Another modification of the dry curing
method, commonly referred to
as dry salt curing, involves salt only
or salt plus nitrate. Just before being
covered with the dry mix, the meat
may be momentarily moistened to
facilitate penetration of the salt into the muscle.
Injecting or Pumping
The purpose of injecting or pumping
is to distribute pickle ingredients
throughout the interior of the meat
to cure it from the inside out as well
as from the outside in. This protects
the meat against spoilage and provides
a more even curing. Once the
brine solution is applied by any of the
methods described below, curing
should take place in a refrigerated or
cool room at temperatures less than
35° F. Rearrange the meat at least
once during the curing process to
ensure even distribution of the cure
into the product. Do not recycle the
brine because of the possibility of
bacterial growth over time.
Five general methods are used to
apply curing solutions to meat and
poultry cuts:
1. Osmosisinvolves covering the
meat cuts with dry cure or completely submerging them in a curing solution for an extended period of time.
Using this method, the brine soaks the meat approximately ½ inch per 24 hours. Thus, the cure does not penetrate deeply into the meat with this method. For pieces of game meat or birds more than 2 inches thick, pumping with brine is advised (see below). Cure ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices or slabs for at least 24 hours.
2. The stitch method involves in-
jecting curing solution deep into the muscles with a single orifice needle.
With this method, you can quickly get
deep penetration of the solution into
the product. Start by scrubbing the
pump in warm soap water and rinsing
it. Then, to keep the pump sanitary
while pumping meat, do not
touch the needle with your hands or
lay it down. When not in use, the
pump needle should be placed enddown
in the container that holds the
pickle. To use it, draw the pump full
of pickle and insert the needle all the
way into the meat. Push with slow,
even pressure. As pickle is forced into
the meat, draw the pump toward you
to distribute the pickle as evenly as
possible. Always fill the pump full of
pickle to prevent air pockets. The
meat will bulge a little, and a small
amount of pickle will run out of it
when the pump is withdrawn. To stop
this, pinch the needle holes together
with your thumb and forefinger for
a few seconds. Use three or four
pumpfuls of pickle for legs and shoulders
that weigh 10 to 15 pounds, and
five or six pumpfuls for those that
weigh 15 to 25 pounds

Read more at How to Cure Meat – The Michigan Sportsman Forums


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: