Thursday, March 29, 2012

Salt Curing Meat

Salt Curing Meat in Brine
Curing meat by using a salt brine was a widely used method of preserving meat
before the days of refrigeration. This is the way we cured pork in Southern
Alberta, however it would work for beef as well:
 Recipe by Verla Cress (born 1940)
OK - Brine barrel filled half way up with 1 cup salt per 2 gallons of hot water
(that's 32 parts water - 1 part salt), and a bit of vinegar -
BETTER - Brine Barrel filled 1/2 way with 5/8 cup salt & 3/8 cup curing salt per
2 gallons hot water, and a bit of vinegar.
Cut your animal up into ham sized pieces (about 10 - 15 lbs each).
Put the pieces in the brine barrel and let it soak for 6 days. Now that your
meat is salted, remove the meat from the brine, dry it off and put it in flour
or gunny sacks to keep the flies away. Then hang it up in a cool dry place to
dry. It will keep like this for perhaps six weeks if stored in a cool place
during the Summer. Of course, it will keep much longer in the Winter. If it goes
bad, you'll know it!
Putting it in a brine barrel, filled half way up with 4 cups brown sugar to 3
gallons water - and a bit of vinegar (note: no salt): Inject some of the sugar
brine mixture into the already salted meat with a syringe, then put the meat in
the sugar brine for 3 days.
Remove the meat from the brine and smoke it for 3 days. Now put your smoked meat
into flour or gunny sacks to keep the flies away and hang it up in a cool dry
place to store. Smoked meat preserved like this should keep in the Summer for at
least 4 months if stored in a cool dry place. It will keep much longer in the
Winter, or if refrigerated.

Extract from
            Leslie Basel's
            Salt, Sugar, Sodium
            Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate.

            Salt and sugar both cure meat by osmosis. In addition to drawing the
            water from the food, they dehydrate and kill the bacteria that make
            food spoil. In general, though, use of the word "cure" refers to
            processing the meat with either sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate.
            Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are the basis for two commercially
            used products: Prague powders #1 and #2. Prague powder #1 is a
            mixture of 1 part sodium nitrite and 16 parts salt. The chemicals
            are combined and crystallized to assure even distribution. Even
            though diluted, only 4 ounces of Prague powder #1 is required to
            cure 100 lbs of meat. A more typical measurement for home use is 1
            tsp per 5 lbs of meat. Prague powder #2 is a mixture of 1 part
            sodium nitrite, .64 parts sodium nitrate and 16 parts salt. It is
            primarily used in dry-curing.
            One other commonly available curing product is Morton's Tender
            Quick. It is a mixture of salt, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate and
            sugar. Ask your butcher or grocer to stock it for you.
            [Where can these compounds be obtained?]
            If you are chummy with a local butcher who does curing, maybe (s)he
            will sell you a small quantity. Otherwise, the Sausage Maker offers
            all items mentioned here. The Sausage Maker Inc./ 26 Military Road/
            Buffalo NY 14207. (716)-876-5521.
            © 1996, Leslie Basel

More Detailed Instructions:

This recipe was taken from a tiny home-made recipe book, "Remember Mama's
Recipes." It was put together by the women of the Stirling, Alberta, LDS
congregation back in the 1950's.
Brine Cured Pork
    100 lbs pork
    8 lbs salt             (Note: 1 part salt to 48 parts water)
    2 oz. salt peter
    2 lbs brown sugar
    5 gallons water
      Mix salt, brown sugar and salt peter, add this to the water and bring the
mixture to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar. Skim off any scum that may form while
boiling after everything is dissolved. Remove from heat and chill until quite
      Pack the pieces of meat into clean barrels or earthenware crocks, placing
them as close together as possible. Now pour the cold brine over the meat making
absolute certain the meat is completely covered. Put a board over the meat that
just fits inside the container and place weights on it to make sure that the
meat is emerged in the brine.       When curing larger and smaller pieces of
meat at the same time, place the larger pieces on the bottom and the smaller
ones on top. This is so the smaller ones can be lifted out without disturbing
the larger pieces. The small pieces do not take as long to cure as the bigger
      The meat should be cured in a temperature that is just above freezing. If
the meat is cured at a warmer temperature the brine may show signs of souring.
If this should happen, remove the meat and soak it in lukewarm water for an hour
or so. Wash the meat in fresh cold water and be sure to throw out the soured
brine. Clean out the container, repack the meat and make a fresh brine in
original proportions.

    Bacon sides and loins require 2 days per pound in this brine.
    Shoulders will take 3 days per pound.
    Hams will take 4 days per pound.
      After the meat is cured the pieces should be soaked in warm water and then
washed in cold water or even scrubbed with a brush to remove any scum that may
have accumulated during the curing process.
      Hang the meat by very heavy cords in the smoke house and allow to drain 24
hours before starting the smoking.
      Hard wood is the best to use for smoking and the temperature in the smoke
house should be 100-120 degrees F. The ventilators should be left open at first
to allow any moisture to escape. Smoke until desired flavor and color is arrived

The Way We Did It...

As told by Glenn Adamson (born 1915)
We never had electricity or an ice house on the farm. Since we had no way of
keeping meat refrigerated, we only killed animals as fast as we ate them.
...Pork was our main staple. It seemed there was always a pig just the right
size to butcher. We ate more meat out on our farm than the typical family eats
now. In the summer, what pork we didn't eat immediately was preserved. When we
butchered a pig, Dad filled a wooden 45 gallon barrel with salt brine. We cut up
the pig into maybe eight pieces and put it in the brine barrel. The pork soaked
in the barrel for several days, then the meat was taken out, and the water was
thrown away. We sacked a shoulder, a side of bacon, or the ham, which was the
rear leg, in a gunny sack or flour sack to keep the flies off. It was then hung
up in the coal house to dry. Quite often we had a ham drying, hanging on the
shady side of the house. In the hot summer days after they had dried, they were
put in the root cellar to keep them cool. The meat was good for eating two or
three months this way. We didn't have a smoke house like some people had. But
what we had worked just fine. In the winter time when we killed something we
didn't have to cure it. We'd hang it outside the house or somewhere else where
it was cold and it kept just fine. (We're talking Canada, here, where it gets
really cold.)
My Uncle George Ovard told me the following story when I was just a kid: He had
put a pig in the brine barrel and when he went to take it out several days later
he only found half of his meat. This puzzled him somewhat, but he never said
anything about it. A couple of days later, one of his neighbors happened to stop
by and mentioned, "I hear someone took some of your pork out of your brine
Uncle George said, "Yes, but I didn't tell anyone about it." The guy had trapped
himself right there.

Al Durtschi, E-mail:
Home Page:
All contents copyright (C) 1996, Al Durtschi.
This information may be used by you freely for non-commercial use with my name
and E-mail address attached.
Revised: 17 Dec 98