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There is no smoking without brine-curing

Even the best smoke alone will not bring the desired effect. Wherever salt could not be extracted from sea water or excavated, it was called “white gold”. This is confirmed by known mediaeval trade routes. In autumn, columns of horses carrying sacks of salt travelled to countries, such as Bohemia, where cattle and pigs waited to be slaughtered. No provisions for the winter could be made without salt. The addition of salt makes meat, which otherwise goes bad easily, taste better, but, above all, it makes it more durable. This is because the harmful activity of bacteria is inhibited. Brine-curing also helps to preserve the typical, red colour of meat. If the process was incomplete, only superficial, the inner parts of meat become unappetisingly grey. Meat can be brine-cured in table salt (sodium chloride), sodium or potassium nitrate or in nitrite curing salt, which is a mixture of table salt, sodium nitrite and, sometimes, sodium nitrate. The following three techniques are: dry curing, wet curing and injection curing. Curing salt.


Dry curing

Dry curing is recommended when you want to prevent a piece of ham or another large piece of meat from going bad and then to air-dry it. In this technique, mixture of salt with curing additives is rubbed into the meat surface. The curing mixture contains salt and additives in the ratio of 99:1. It also contains appropriate spices, mainly pepper. Thus protected with preservatives, the ham lies for about 2 months on a rack or hangs in a cool, well-ventilated place. Therefore, it is mainly air-dried, although it is sometimes kept in cold smoke for some time. However, the principle of dry curing lies in removing moisture from meat by drying. Typical products obtained by this technique include prosciutto di Parma, ham of Holstein and ham with bone of Westphalia. However, not only salt is used as a curing agent, but also sugar – both sucrose and glucose. The meat flavour can be enhanced by adding coriander, thyme and ground juniper fruit to the curing mixture.

Preparing the product in the dry curing technique does not have to involve only hanging meat or putting it on racks in well-ventilated places. You can also do it in stoneware vessels or in wooden barrels. Place some salt with spices on the bottom and sprinkle each layer of meat with salt. This is how provisions are prepared in Schwarzwald and in Tyrol. It is important in this method to put meat pieces from the bottom to the top and turn them every other day to achieve even distribution of salt and spices and gradual “drawing” moisture out of the meat. Curing in containers lasts about 4 weeks, although smaller pieces of about 1 kg can be cured for 2-3 weeks. The liquid exuding in the process should be discarded and the meat should be left in the vessel for another 2-4 days.

Another important thing is to wash the meat with warm water after the curing process is completed and then to soak it in water changed several times. Only then can drying or smoking start. Whatever the procedure, the meat surface must be dried before smoking as wet meat must not be hung in smoke.



Wet curing

Like in dry curing, wet curing also involves rubbing a mixture of curing salt and spices into meat. Meat is then placed in stoneware vessels or in wooden barrels (use of barrels is forbidden for sanitary reasons if the meat is intended for sale). The difference lies in the addition of the curing brine. But before that, layers of meat are separated – depending on taste preferences – with layers of garlic or onion with juniper fruit, pepper, sugar, etc. Before the vessel is covered, add a sufficient amount of liquid so it covers the meat completely. With time, the liquid can flow out from under the cover; if this happens, it must be removed and discarded because it may rot at some places.
Curing liquid is usually prepared in the 100:1 ratio. It means that 100 g of curing salt and 10 g of sugar is dissolved in 1 l of water. After a curing period of 2-3 weeks, depending on the weight of meat pieces, what is to become smoked meat is taken out of the liquid and washed thoroughly with warm water. It is then hung in a well-ventilated, dry place; obviously, it must be protected against any insects. Only after it is dried properly can you put it into a smoking chamber or a chimney.
The percentage content of salt in the liquid can be determined precisely by using an aerometer (salt-meter). An aerometer is usually a glass floating device with a scale protruding upwards, which sinks to a specific depth depending on the salt content in the solution. This content will be indicated by the liquid level on the scale. The purchase of an electronic salt level meter with a special probe is cost-effective only for the purpose of commodity production.


A method of rapid curing: injection

In home-making of smoked meat, a method of injection of curing salt directly into meat. You can use special injectors, offered by firms which supply industrial meat processing plants, to inject salt solution at 5 cm intervals directly into meat, in the direction crosswise to the fibres. Such intramuscular injection of the solution make up to 10-20% of the volume of the meat prepared for smoking. Needles for such special curing injectors have holes not only at the tip but also on the sides; they are used to introduce a solution of salt with sugar, similar to the wet curing liquid, between the muscle fibres. The method of quick curing is used mainly in preparing smoked meat for immediate consumption. But even after the curing liquid is properly injected, the meat should be kept for 2-3 days under the liquid used for wet curing.


Nitrates help to keep the meat and sausages red

Sodium or potassium nitrates (or their mixture) are used as additives which help to maintain the red colour of meat. Nitrates are used mainly for curing large pieces of raw ham and – to a limited extent – to make sausages of the types that require further, long-term processing. Nitrates are commercially available as colourless crystals or white powder. Its addition brings about the process of preserving the original, red colour of meat and meat products. At the first step, nitrate ions are reduced to nitrite ions by enzymes in meat. At the second step, nitrite ions react with myoglobin, which is a protein responsible for the red – yet unstable – colour of meat. This reaction produces nitrosomyoglobin – a protein of a reddish colour, which is stable even at higher temperatures. This makes meat cured with nitrates remain red or pink even after long-term thermal processing.

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Monday 20th January 2020

Thank You for information, very useful.

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