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Salting meat as a method of preservation is generally only commonly used in such thing as salted pork and the like. Salt has been used as primary method of preserving meats and various of the foods as far back as history records. Do you remember Cato The Elder? He lived in mid 3rd century BC and was a famous Roman politician. Each sentence of speech he concluded “Moreover, I advise that Carthage must be destroyed”. Cato The Elder also wrote a book “De Agricultura”, where he gave a better advice than to destroy the city of his enemies. He left a recipe from his ancestors simple past:

 “After buying legs of pork, cut off the feet. One half peck ground Roman salt per ham. Spread the salt in the base of a vat or jar. Then place a ham with the skin facing downwards. Cover completely with salt. After standing in salt for 5 days, take all hams out with the salt. Put those that were above below and so rearrange and replace. After a total of 12 days take out the hams, clean off the salt and hang in the fresh air for two days. On the third day take down, rub all over with oil, hang in smoke for two days. Again take down rub all over with a mixture of oil and vinegar. Hang in a meat store, neither moths nor worms will attack it.”  

For sure, in that period people didn’t know anything about professional kits, like injector for meat. But is something really changed in a recipe for curing meat from the ancient time?  We’ve checked.



How curing meat works?

Salt has a preservative effect thanks to the osmotic pressure it creates various option. For example, you take a red blood cell and place it in water. Osmotic pressure and the cell membrane is thin and semipermeable. The cell with its relatively salty interior next to the pure water will gradually absorb more and more water until it explodes.

If you place that same red blood cell into water that is saltier than the cell’s interior liquid, the reverse will happen and the cell will gradually lose water, shrivelling up in the process. Place it in water that has the same sodium level as the cell, and nothing at all will happen. In general, you simply rinse the fresh meat in cold or lukewarm water, then pour a thin layer of salt all over the meat and rub it in. It’s nothing more complicated than in Cato The Elder advice.

In theory, if you use enough salt, you can even preserve meat for decades. But amount of the salt you should to use, probably make the meat unpalatable. If you are using salt with no other preservative method like smoking, it’s generally considered that about a 20% salt concentration in the surface of the meat. Salinity meter is useful tool to measure that percentage.


Other natural methods of curing

Salt is of course base of traditional curing process. But humanity for thousands of years knows also other methods. You can for instance add some herbs to get meat more flavored. It ensure appetisingly look and pink color. In tradition of a good recipes butcher splashes plenty of wine over the meat, which will slowly turn red.

The next stage in dry curing is a protective covering. The meat should be wrapped in the pig’s own sewn up tightly bladder and make a plenty of small holes. You can use blade meat tendirizer for example. If you left this step, none of the moisture could escape and the ham wouldn’t be dry cured.

Another way to make cured meat is to smoke it. This procedure is known on each continent, especially in places, where people have limited access to salt and water. Some for a burning piece of wood give the meat more intense flavor. Of course you can adjust a temperature of ham or bacon by thermometers for smokers. Old fashioned way it’s best method to make own pastrami for example. Try whatever you want. Each method has own advantages. It’s out of the discussion, that homemade ham tastes better than from a store. So, let’s meat great again.

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