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Curing meat the old fashioned way

Discussion in 'The Self-Sufficient Kitchen - From Recipes to Proc' started by big brown horse, Feb 21, 2010.

  1. Feb 21, 2010
    big brown horse

    big brown horse Hoof In Mouth

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    http://www.sugarmountainhome.com/livestock/curingmeat.html

    Thought I'd share. :)

    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.

    SUGAR CURE MIXTURE

    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.

    Before the year 2000 hit, we were asked by friends of ours if we knew ways to put up meat. We have recipes for home canning meat also. We recently gave some canning classes that included butchering & canning chicken. We've shared these recipes & our experiences with friends and relatives alike. We also make jerky with our dehydrators, which is another good method of preserving meat AND giving it some additional flavor! Mmmmm...
  2. Feb 21, 2010
    Iceblink

    Iceblink Maa Maa Mama

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    That looks really cool. Our property has an old smokehouse. Unfortunately, the family who owned this house took to storing gas and chemicals in it for the past 20 years, so I'm afraid it wold blow up if we tried to use it.

    I love the descriptions in "Little House in the Big Woods" where Laura talks about smoking their meat in a wood stump, then hanging it up in the attic with all the colorful squash and pumpkins.
  3. Feb 27, 2010
    noobiechickenlady

    noobiechickenlady Almost Self-Reliant

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    I'm so excited & ready to try my hand at curing. I just bought the book Cold-Smoking & Salt-Curing Meat, Fish, & Game by A. D. Livingston.

    The temps are still relatively low for Mississippi, but thankfully if it warms up I have a spare fridge to use.
  4. Mar 2, 2010
    kcsunshine

    kcsunshine Almost Self-Reliant

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    I have a copy of a recipe my grandmother wrote out for curing ham. It was how her father taught her when she was a little girl. I treasure that - it's the only thing I have in her handwriting. It was for a salt rub and you wrapped the meat in brown paper and hung up to cure. She said it would drip - but that was to be expected. Mamaw and Papaw had a smoke house to cure their meat in.

    Edited to add: also had brown sugar, black pepper and red pepper flakes in the rub. The wrapped meat was put into cloth bags to hang up. She said it would be ready to eat in 2-3 weeks and has kept from November to June still wrapped up. She also made little bags for sausage to be cured.
  5. Mar 2, 2010
    big brown horse

    big brown horse Hoof In Mouth

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    That is really neat kcsunshine! I was thinking you should frame it, but then you would have to keep it away from the light of a window I think.

    Just think, about a year ago if I saw large chunks of dripping meat hanging in burlap from a leafless tree I would run as fast as I could the other way. Now I think, "wow, that is an awesome idea!"

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