PDA

View Full Version : curing ham and bacon without nitrates


Wandrin1
01-02-2012, 10:00 PM
I've got 4 pigs...well, actually they're a community project sort of, but two are my own and we plan on processing them Friday and Saturday. We'll slaughter, scald and scape Friday eve. ,then hang them overnight in my shop (temps down to 34 overnight, so it's all good. Anyway, we plan on curing our own hams and bacon, and would prefer to do it without nitrates. Been reading a lot on the topic, but would like some first hand accounts...I have 4 oz. of Sodium Nitrate ordered for a sugar cure mix, but my bride is hinky about the nitrates. I know that they inhibit bacteria and give the cured meat that pink color, but I would like to know how dangerous is it to use just salt and sugar and pepper? Any folks able to answer?

sbemt456
01-03-2012, 02:39 AM
Here on the farm we always cure meat without nitrates added. We did the same this year. We butchered 2 hogs (475 lb average each) the first weekend in December and I make my own cure to put on the meat. I only use salt, brown sugar, lots of black pepper, cayenne pepper and rub the mixture on the meat as soon after it is butchered as we can. My dad passed away when he was 90 years old and this is the method he used all his life. He insisted on getting the cure rubbed into the meat while it still had some animal heat if at all possible. He said the meat just cured better as the animals body heat seemed to help the salt cure penetrate better. I never knew of him to lose any meat he cured with this method and I still do the same thing. Even with the weather being in the 30's and 40's and sometimes warmer this year ours cured fine. Matter of fact our oldest son cut some of the bacon this past weekend and it was awesome. But this is just the method to my madness as I was taught. Kinda carrying on the family tradition.

Have a great day!

stella

Wandrin1
01-03-2012, 08:45 AM
Can you share a recipe for the mix? With the nitrate it was 8 lb salt, 3 lb sugar and 3 oz nitrate. Would the relative portions be similar w/o nitrates?

BurntToast
01-03-2012, 12:25 PM
Nitrite and nitrate are perfectly safe when used in the proper quantities.

What most folks don't realize is that nitrite and nitrate are used to prevent botulism when cold smoking meats, because a smoker or smokehouse full of smoke provides the perfect environment for the formation of botulinum toxin due to the low level of oxygen, moisture and relative warmth.

It's better to be safe rather than sorry if you intend to smoke your bacon.

digdirt
01-03-2012, 12:53 PM
Agree with Burnt Toast. Not using nitrite is a bit like playing roulette - you risk botulism, other types of bacteria, spoilage, and rancidity. Here is an article about its importance you might want to read before making up your mind.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/cure_smoke/nitrates_nitrites.html

And check out this great problem solver from Virginia Extension Service on doing pork. Lots of great information on all stages of the process.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/cure_smoke/curing_pork.pdf

NCLee
01-03-2012, 05:13 PM
When I was growing up (and some folks still do it around here) salt was the only thing used to cure meat this time of year. Hams, shoulders, and side meat packed in a bed of salt for 6 weeks. Then, the meat was made ready for hanging, where the dehydration process could continue during the rest of the winter.

I've written up the process here. Search on my ID and salt cure to locate the details.

Lee

BurntToast
01-03-2012, 08:27 PM
There is nothing wrong with curing with just salt IF you don't intend to cold smoke.

;)

Ellendra
01-04-2012, 01:49 AM
If you've ever seen "nitrate-free bacon" at the store, they almost always have some kind of vegetable juice concentrate or powder, usually celery but sometimes other greens. That's because nitrates occur naturally in green leaves. If you wanted a home-grown nitrate substtitute you could try dehydrating celery leaves and powdering them, then mix with the salt, but that would definitely fall into the realm of "experimental curing"

Leanne
01-04-2012, 02:53 AM
Following on what Ellendra said, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn indicates that nitrites occur naturally in green leafy veggies and root veggies, and in small quantities, they are perfectly safe to consume. Pink salt used for curing meat contains nitrites.

Some curing salts also include nitrates -- those are for dry-cured meats like salami. Regular pink salt does not include nitrates. In Europe, they used to use saltpeter as part of the cure (potassium nitrate), but the premade salt cures are more consistent than saltpeter. Nitrates basically act like a time-release capsule of nitrites; they slowly convert to nitrites over a length of time, helping to preserve your air-cured meats.

Both nitrites and nitrates are used to protect you from botulism poisoning. You cannot remove botulism toxin by cooking, and it is odorless and tasteless. The bacteria that produce the toxin thrive in anaerobic environments (like the inside of your sausage) and excrete the toxin. While botulism poisoning is actually pretty rare in the States (according to Charcuterie, there are about 25 cases a year), it most frequently comes from improperly preserved goods, including home-canned goods and even garlic stored in olive oil. It doesn't happen often, but it is very, very dangerous and potentially fatal. I use pink salt; if I accidentally poisoned someone with my food, I'd never be able to forgive myself.

The other two things that nitrites do for you are that they add a particular cured flavor to the meat, and they help it maintain an appealing pink color. Meat that is not cured with nitrites has a tendency to turn an unappetizing gray color.

I absolutely recommend the book if you're thinking about curing your own meat. Borrow it from the library and see if you like it. We have put it to use for some of the basics and I have been very happy with it so far.

BurntToast
01-05-2012, 12:29 AM
Regular pink salt does not include nitrates.

That is incorrect, one of the glaringly dangerous errors in the Charcuterie book.

Apparently Ruhlman and Polcyn are only familiar with the cures from Butcher & Packer where the Cure #1 is pink (nitrite) and the Cure #2 (nitrite and nitrate) is white.

Cure #1 and #2 from The Sausagemaker and other suppliers are both pink.

;)

NCLee
01-05-2012, 12:55 AM
Both nitrites and nitrates are used to protect you from botulism poisoning. You cannot remove botulism toxin by cooking, and it is odorless and tasteless. The bacteria that produce the toxin thrive in anaerobic environments (like the inside of your sausage) and excrete the toxin. While botulism poisoning is actually pretty rare in the States (according to Charcuterie, there are about 25 cases a year), it most frequently comes from improperly preserved goods, including home-canned goods and even garlic stored in olive oil. It doesn't happen often, but it is very, very dangerous and potentially fatal. I use pink salt; if I accidentally poisoned someone with my food, I'd never be able to forgive myself.

The other two things that nitrites do for you are that they add a particular cured flavor to the meat, and they help it maintain an appealing pink color. Meat that is not cured with nitrites has a tendency to turn an unappetizing gray color.



1. If there's any question about the safety of canned foods, the recommended procedure is to hold the food at a rolling boil for 10 minutes to neutralize the toxin. Every canning manual that I've seen carry's that boil for 10 minutes recommendation. It's only been in the last 10-15 years that the guideline was dropped that recommended that ALL home canned foods should be boiled. Now, it's only if there's a question.

2. Properly done, plain salt cured pork has a beautiful red color. To get an idea of the color, take a look at "real" prosciutto at the grocery store. The only thing I can think of that might relate to the grey color is the outside of a real salt cured ham. The portion that isn't covered by skin doesn't have the look of fresh meat. It is a dark greyish brown color. It's like a very thin coating on the outside. Inside there's a deep dark rosy beautiful color.

Lee

Leanne
01-05-2012, 04:20 PM
Lee, you're correct; I went and looked up the toxin to be sure. You can denature the toxin by bringing the item to the boil. You probably wouldn't do this with a salami, though.

I agree with you that solid cuts of meat do stay a nice red color, but anything ground or sliced does turn grey (I've certainly seen grey bacon with no nitrites). If we're only talking about curing hams, I think it is less of an issue, but if you're talking about making air-dried sausages, I'd go with the nitrates to be safe.

NCLee
01-05-2012, 11:00 PM
Agree about boiling the salami. :)

Bacon - side meat - streak of lean - I've never seen any slabs turn that color with plain salt curing. Can see where slicing before curing could have that effect. Would be equivalent to what happens to the fleshy part of a whole ham.

BTW, I love (shouldn't say that, but I do) aged pork sausage. Just regular bulk pork sausage packed tightly in muslin bags and hung when the temps are right to allow it to dehydrate without freezing or spoiling either. This is always fried, never eaten like summer sausage.

Lee

Grendal
01-09-2012, 05:19 PM
Celery juice is your best option. Depending on who is doing the eating....I'll always use celery juice for stuff I plan on eating myself. It's not that I find nitrite dangerous, I just prefere the natural way of doing things.

Arik
01-31-2012, 12:44 AM
That is incorrect, one of the glaringly dangerous errors in the Charcuterie book.

Apparently Ruhlman and Polcyn are only familiar with the cures from Butcher & Packer where the Cure #1 is pink (nitrite) and the Cure #2 (nitrite and nitrate) is white.

Cure #1 and #2 from The Sausagemaker and other suppliers are both pink.

;)
First of all, this is my first post to this forum. I read with interest about the glaringly dangerous errors in the book "CHARCUTERIE" by Ruhlman and Polcyn. I have this book and have read it a few times. I couldn't find anywhere the book says Pink Salt doesn't contain nitrate. In fact, on page 38 it says Pink Salt does contain nitrate. They recommend buying Pink Salt because it contains nitrate in a known percentage and so is easier and safer to use than mixing it yourself. However, this doesn't mean that there are not any other dangerous errors in the book. I have been preserving meat using various methods since 1971 or 1972 and have read a lot about it. I did not notice any dangerous or unsafe information in the book. Could you please post the dangerous errors in the book? If there is in Charcuterie bad information it would help not only me to know so I don't make a mistake that could affect the health of my family and the people who eat the meats I dry, can, jerk, etc.
Thank You,
Eric

BurntToast
01-31-2012, 04:18 AM
First of all, this is my first post to this forum. I read with interest about the glaringly dangerous errors in the book "CHARCUTERIE" by Ruhlman and Polcyn. I have this book and have read it a few times. I couldn't find anywhere the book says Pink Salt doesn't contain nitrate. In fact, on page 38 it says Pink Salt does contain nitrate. They recommend buying Pink Salt because it contains nitrate in a known percentage and so is easier and safer to use than mixing it yourself. However, this doesn't mean that there are not any other dangerous errors in the book. I have been preserving meat using various methods since 1971 or 1972 and have read a lot about it. I did not notice any dangerous or unsafe information in the book. Could you please post the dangerous errors in the book? If there is in Charcuterie bad information it would help not only me to know so I don't make a mistake that could affect the health of my family and the people who eat the meats I dry, can, jerk, etc.
Thank You,
Eric

Hi Arik,

Please re-read page 38.

It's extremely important to understand the difference between nitrite, with an "I" and nitrate, with an "A".

What Ruhlman and Polcyn call pink salt is Cure #1 which is 93.75% salt, and 6.25% sodium nitrite. (No nitrate)

Cure #2 is 89.75% salt, and 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 4% sodium nitrate, which, as I said above, can also be pink.

Each cure has a specific use, they're not to be interchanged.

What printing of the book do you have? Many of the problems were corrected in later printings.

There's extensive discussion of some of the problems with earlier printings on eGullet, but if you have a later printing...well...then there's not so much to worry about....maybe! :D

Regardless there's no discussion in the book regarding protection from Listeria in cured sausages with cultures or a discussion on the dangers of E. coli O157:H7 in cured sausages.

;)

Grendal
01-31-2012, 09:13 PM
ok....I just have to chime in here...I never recommend using nitrates or nitrites in meat curing. It all depends on who's going to eat what I cure. I tell people I don't recommend the nitrates or nitrites and they tell me to use it anyway it's in bacon and everything else they get from the store. Their choice. For myself I use celery juice.

http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/nitrate-ite.pdf

However, when swallowed, they are converted to nitrites that can react with hemoglobin in the blood, oxidizing its divalent iron to the trivalent form and creating methemoglobin. This methemoglobin cannot bind oxygen, which decreases the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen so less oxygen is transported from the lungs to the body tissues, thus causing a condition known as methemoglobinemia.

The reason ontop of this, I'm a suspect for hemochromotosis, my father has it, my brother has it, I most then likely have it. Hemochromotosis is excess iron in the blood. So there is a great potential for issues of the blood for me.

Ontop of it it's a salt and I've been trying to remove all salts out of my diet.

There is some debate amongst scientific studies whether or not it causes stomach cancer in test animals. Some sources say yes others say no. What some studies have shown, "Studies have shown that diets lacking dietary fiber and including foods with high levels of nitrate and nitrite such as smoked meats, may promote stomach cancers."

I believe a large portion of americans are lacking dietary fiber, so thats something many should consider. I run at high risk for cancer thanks to family and biological reasons. So again, dodge the bullet go natural.

Using natural nitrates and nitrites is far better in my opinion then manufactured...twinkies are manufactured....look how well manufactured. When the zombie apocolpyse or what ever it is that undoes our spinning out of control world, there will be cockroaches and twinkies 1000 years after the world we know ended. If the survivors if any didn't eat them. There won't be any companies manufacturing cures #1 or #2... :D Gotta prepare and learn how to do it naturally without the factories doing most of the work.

BurntToast
02-01-2012, 12:08 AM
With all the nitrates in vegetables you better be VERY careful!!! :D

Active nitrite once bacon is fully cured is often in the neighborhood of 10 parts per million.

Celery, lettuce, beets, etc. can contain concentrations as high as 1500–2800 parts per million of nitrate.

Salt is manufactured, yet salt can be natural too...same with nitrite/nitrate...they can exist in mineral form...so that's not the strongest argument against them... nitrite/nitrate is no less safe than salt when used in the proper amounts.

Too each his own, you should use what you're most comfortable with.

Grendal
02-03-2012, 10:02 PM
With all the nitrates in vegetables you better be VERY careful!!! :D

Active nitrite once bacon is fully cured is often in the neighborhood of 10 parts per million.

Celery, lettuce, beets, etc. can contain concentrations as high as 15002800 parts per million of nitrate.

Salt is manufactured, yet salt can be natural too...same with nitrite/nitrate...they can exist in mineral form...so that's not the strongest argument against them... nitrite/nitrate is no less safe than salt when used in the proper amounts.

Too each his own, you should use what you're most comfortable with.

That is true. Manufactured though has tested positive for heavy metals, including arsenic, granted they are residual traces but your still ingesting those heavy metals. The stuff most people get is synthetic sodium nitrite to cure their products. According to the Food Chemical Codex (3rd addition, National Academy of Sciences), industrial sodium nitrite is allowed to contain residual heavy metals, arsenic and lead.

Do you really wanna inguest heavy metals, arsenic, or lead in your meat reguardless of levels and quantities? A little over many years probably does some damage to the body.

Many natural cures use celery powder or celery juice, and lactic acid starter cultures to convert nitrates into nitrites. The effect is a rosey pink color in the meat. Natural doesn't contain all that.

BurntToast
02-03-2012, 10:54 PM
Seafood, rice, kelp, mushrooms, and poultry all contain arsenic.

Celery contains the toxin psoralen, aka furocoumarin.

Every food has issues.

oldtimer
02-04-2012, 12:39 PM
Seafood, rice, kelp, mushrooms, and poultry all contain arsenic.

Celery contains the toxin psoralen, aka furocoumarin.

Every food has issues.

Since so many foods have these things in them that will kill ya, do you suppose we'd do better if we just gave up eating all together? :confused:

Grendal
02-06-2012, 11:56 PM
Since so many foods have these things in them that will kill ya, do you suppose we'd do better if we just gave up eating all together? :confused:

Poultry can be raised without arsenic....kelp can be farmed...seafood...mushrooms...everything can be farmed in a manner that it doesn't contain added toxins.

psoralen resides naturally in the seeds of celery.

The levels are relatively safe. They do not linger in the body. While heavy metals like arsenic, can be stored in the fat deposits and over time concentrated.

Can you make your own canning salt at home? Can you make it so it doesn't contain arsenic and lead? I don't know how. I do know lactic acid from milk from the farm, and celery juice does a wonderful job with curing meat. Without the added arsenic or lead or toxins that build up in the body.