by Cat, May 2012 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
There are two types of cures: wet and dry. This article is about using the wet cure. See also Dried or ‘Chipped Beef (Dry Cure).
This method can be used for curing beef, yak, lamb, goat, buffalo or pork, and is especially wonderful for curing venison and other wild game. You can use a dry cure, wet cure (brine) or a combination cure, and there are many variations on each of these. My instructions here are rather a synthesis for each of the following (I’ve not yet tested these, so will update after testing).
- See also 1. Curing Beef and Other Meats; 2. Dried Beef (Dry Cure); 3. Dried Beef: Drying and Smoking Cured Beef; 4. S.O.S. – Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast;; Other sites: 1. Cured Meats – Salami is Just the Beginning (16); 2. All About Brining (17)
- Brine cure (this post)
- Dry cure: see Dried or ‘Chipped Beef (Dry Cure)
- Drying, smoking: see Dried Beef: Drying and Smoking Brine- or Dry-Cure Beef
- Storage: see Dried Beef: Drying and Smoking Brine- or Dry-Cure Beef
See Meat Curing Methods (1), Processing Meat in the Home, from Univ. Minnesota Extension (12), and Meat Curing, Oklahoma State Extension (13) for lots of good information and explanations. See also a discussion thread about curing meat on the CastBoolits (14) website.
See also my article: Curing Beef and Other Meats.
This method is just like that used for corned beef, although the added flavors will be different. it involves a liquid brine or ‘pickle’ consisting of salt, sugar and flavorings. Note that ‘salt’ in this case may include the addition of saltpeter.
This involves rubbing the meat with the salt & sugar cure (which may include the addition of saltpeter), then letting it rest in the refrigerator, turning every so often and draining off accumulated liquids.
Drying and Optional Smoking
Drying involves rubbing the cured meat with spices like pepper, if desired, then tying string around the cured meat so it can be hung to dry. Other options: dry it in your oven on lowest possible setting, or use a dehydrator.
Smoking is optional to add flavor to your meat and to add another layer of preservation. If you don’t have a smoker, you can smoke on top of the stove (with the right equipment).
I was surprised to see white and green mold growing on my first project at the end of its drying period. After some research, I am relieved to learn that this is a normal phenomenon, at least with sausages (and I suspect also with whole muscle). The white mold (and its green bloom) is in the Penicillium family and helps to protect the meat from toxic molds and other microbes. It is also essential to the development of flavor in curing sausages, by preventing rancidity. (19,20) Some sausage-makers intentionally spray the sausage casings with the Penicillium mold for these reasons.
NOTE: If you find a mold that is not chalky-white with green or blue-green bloom, you should regard it with suspicion.
All molds produce mycotoxins, but not all are toxic to humans, and may indeed be beneficial. For example, the antibiotic penicillin is a mycotoxin that is lethal to microbes (including our probiotics), but is not harmful to humans – at least not at the dosages we use.
To remove the mold, wash off with a vinegar-soaked cloth and/or rub with salt. Another sources suggests rubbing with olive oil, but I think vinegar is a better option. I did a 2-step process:
- Washed off as much as I could with the vinegar, then let it dry off in the fridge overnight;
- Next day I rubbed it all over with a light sprinkling of salt, followed by another overnight rest in the fridge, before slicing thinly for storage in jars.
You can spray on a desirable mold whenyou first hang it to dry, to prevent bad molds from taking over (purchase at butcher-packer.com (6) per Michael Ruhlman (6). Lower Valley refers me to Don’s Country Smokehouse in Evergreen, 752-4802 (224 Edgewood Dr, No of Ev. Dr, E of Hwy 2)
Method for Curing the meat in Brine
These directions can be used for any red meat: beef, yak, goat, lamb, bison, venison, etc. Fatty cuts work best (the leaner the cut, the drier the end product). The thicker the cut the longer it takes to cure (see above). 4 days is good for a thin cut; 7 – 8 days for a thick roast. I’ve based my test recipes on:
- Brine cure: My corned beef brine recipe (for method, using a smaller cut of meat) and Bresaola: Dried Italian Beef (1) (for flavorings);
- Dry cure: an excellent photo-essay on the topic: Smoking Meat Forums: Making Dried Beef (not Jerky) from Venison (2); Stuffers.com: Dried beef (page 38 of pdf file) (3); and a saltpeter-free recipe: eHow: How to Cure Meat without Sodium Nitrite (4).
I’m not opposed to saltpeter (see Intro, above), especially if the meat is to be stored without refrigeration for more than a few weeks, but when I plan to freeze it until used, there is no need to use saltpeter (or natural vegetable alternatives; see intro, above). See Michael Ruhlman’s article: Charcutepaloozians: Food Safety and Common Sense (6) for good info.
You can vary the flavorings used with the meat. I choose rosemary and juniper berries as the major flavors for both the brine- and dry-cure, as these are excellent for any gamey meat and I love the combination.
I’ve based this recipe on my corned beef recipe (for method) and Bresaola: Dried Italian Beef (1) (for flavorings). The latter is a dry-cure recipe and doesn’t give the weight of the beef nor amounts of herbs, so I’ve made a guess as to how much herb to use. It calls for 100 g (3.5 oz) each salt and sugar; 5 grams (0.15 oz) each black pepper and Prague Powder #2 (a type of pink salt), plus rosemary and juniper (no amounts given). I also add raisins, celery seeds, carrot and yogurt whey (for lactic acid), not only for flavor but also in-lieu-of the saltpeter or pink salt (as suggested by Alternatives to Sodium Nitrite in Food (5)).
The question is, how much of these alternatives are needed to protect from botulism? Nourished Kitchen (8) uses 2 cups each celery juice and whey for 2 – 3 pounds beef, when making corned beef. You’ll know you’ve used enough, when your final product turns red; but how do you know if you’ve used too much (as in toxic)?
See also All About Brining (7) on The Virtual Weber Bullet and Nitrates: Facts about Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite (9) on the Culinary Arts website. And for a different brine including salt, lime and vinegar, see Livestrong (15).
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 2 – 3 pounds of meat (such as rump roast or round steak)
- 2 Tbsp unrefined sea salt
- about 2 – 3 quarts filtered water (to cover meat)
- 1 – 1 ½ cups kosher salt or other curing salt (note that some curing salts contain saltpeter or sodium nitrate/nitrite)
- ¾ – 1 cup Rapadura sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup (use less if your curing salt contains sugar)
- ¼ – 1/2 cup raisins
- ¼ cup fresh whey (from yogurt), or juice from fermented vegetables
- ⅛ tsp saltpeter (optional; see NOTE *)
*NOTE on saltpeter: If using a curing salt like Tender-Quick, ‘pink salt’ Prague #2, etc. that contain saltpeter, don’t add your own saltpeter. I’ve used celery seeds, plus pureed carrot and celery that naturally contain sodium nitrate, instead of saltpeter, and raisins that are antimicrobial, in the brine. See Intro, above, for more.
Herbs & spices (amounts are a guess; if meat doesn’t turn red, didn’t use enough carrots/celery)
- 1 tsp chopped rosemary **
- 1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries **
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns **
- 1 tsp mixed peppercorns **
- 1 tsp ground celery seeds
- ½ small onion (or ¼ large), chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced finely
- 1 – 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 – 3 stalks celery, chopped
- large saucepan
- large glass or ceramic bowl into which you can fit a weighted plate (weight with canned goods)
** NOTE: You can add these to the brine, or rub them on the meat after brining and rinsing, when you prepare the meat for drying.
Method of Brine cure:
- Trim meat.
- Wash and pat dry.
- Rub with 2 Tbsp salt and let rest while you prepare the brine.
- In large saucepan, heat water, salt, and sugar (and saltpeter, if using); stir to dissolve. Test for amount of salt (see ‘egg test‘ below). Remove from heat, stir in raisins so they can plump up, and let cool to skin temperature.
- Meanwhile, chop carrots & celery, puree in blender. Scrape into brine along with whey & remaining herbs & spices, and give it a stir.
- Place brisket in a large bowl; pour brine over.
- Place weighted plate over, to keep meat completely immersed.
- Refrigerate 2 – 4 days, turning meat over every 2 days (thicker chunks of meat need longer time).
- To determine if it has been in the brine long enough, do a ‘fry’ test, used to determine if meat has been long enough in the brine. Slice off a bit of the roast, fry it, then sample to see what the salt content is like, to determine if it needs to soak longer or not.
- Remove meat and rinse thoroughly. If meat is too rubbery, you may want to de-salt by soaking in several changes of cold water, up to 24 hours.
- It is now ready for drying or smoking (see below)
5/28/12: Used 3/4 lb chuck roast, 1 3/4 cup water (to cover in a pyrex bread pan), 6 Tbsp kosher salt, 5 Tbsp rapadura, 1 1/2 Tbsp ea raisins & beet kvass (didn’t have whey, 1/2 tsp crushed rosemary, 2 tsp ea juniper berries and black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp mixed peppercorns, 1/2 tsp celery salt (salt & seeds), 3 Tbsp chop onion, 1/2 each whole carrot and celery stalk, and 1 small garlic clove. The meat wants to raise up in the water so I used an oblong Corningware au-gratin dish filled with water to weight it (it just fits into the pan). I forgot to do the egg test…Into fridge to brine at 5 PM.
5/30 check at 3 PM: Did fry test with a thin slice off one end. Flavor is amazing; the bit was just barely salty enough, so deeper into the cut would be even less so. Will test again tomorrow morning. 5/31 check at 3:30 PM: Again did fry test. Flavor is now quite salty, so I think it’s ready. Rinsed and patted dry, put it in the cotton mesh sock that Melanie gave me, wrapped in muslin and hung to dry in root cellar.
5/31: Hung to dry at waist height with two buckets of water nearby to increase humidity. Will check it Saturday 6/2. Oops, forgot to weigh it on 5/31. 6/2: Weighed at 9 AM; just a hair over 12 ounces (before brining, it was 0.78 lb or 12.5 oz). Muslin is damp at the top and it smells good. My root cellar is at 80% humidity (up from 70% since I added the buckets of water). 6/14: I’ve checked my meat every 2 – 3 days and weighed it twice since 6/2 and it hadn’t lost much weight, only about 1 oz, but smelled OK. Today it smelled of mold – there is white & green mold all over the surface. Is it still good? Can I just wash it with vinegar or brine? It weighs 8 oz so has lost 35% of its weight (a bit more than the recommended 30%). eGForums.com (10) (scroll down to response by ‘slkinsey’) indicates that the white powdery mold (and its green or blue-green bloom) is a penicillium that helps protect the meat from bad molds, and is essential to the development of flavor in curing sausages, as it prevents rancidity. Simply rinse it off with vinegar when the meat is cured, then coat with olive oil or melted lard. The bresaola article (1) says “If there’s a great deal of mould on the surface I wash it off with a clean piece of muslin soaked in vinegar.” I rubbed it with a vinegar-rag, but the sock had left depressions that were hard to clean. I cut off a bit at one end to inspect; looks and smells OK. Into fridge overnight then rubbed with salt, working into the depressions, then rest overnight. Next day, I rubbed it with olive oil then placed it in a waxed-paper sandwich bag to store in my fridge until I can get it sliced.
6/18: Took it to local grocery to be sliced thinly – only sliced half the chunk. Kept remaining chunk in sandwich bag in fridge; put slices in half-pint canning jar with lid, and stored in fridge, but tasted a slice: quite good. 7/2: Made creamed chipped beef on toast for dinner.
- wwf5.com/stuffers.com/content/recipes/sausrecp.pdf page 38 of pdf file
- ruhlman.com/2011/02/meat-curing-safety-issues/ and butcher-packer.com/
- Meat Curing Methods (wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-making/curing/methods)
- Processing Meat in the Home, Univ. Minnesota Extension (extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/dj0972.html)
- Meat Curing, Oklahoma State Extension (pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2055/ANSI-3994web.pdf)
- CastBoolits (castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=44638)
- Livestrong: Curing Beef with Lime, Salt & Vinegar (livestrong.com/article/483558-how-to-cure-beef-with-lime-salt-vinegar)
- Cured Meats – Salami is Just the Beginning (italianfood.about.com/od/curedmeats/Cured_Meats_Salamis_just_the_beginning.htm)
- All About Brining (virtualweberbullet.com/brining.html)