I was born and raised in a family meat and grocery store, living above the store in a quiet country hamlet in way upstate NY - I say 'way' as many think 10 miles outside of NYC is 'upstate'; this was over 300 miles north of NYC.
After WW II, Carl E. Fassett purchased a business in the center of Adams Center, NY, the former C.C. Williams Dry Goods and Grocery, 60 miles north of Syracuse, NY. It was 10 miles to the east of Lake Ontario and consistently had major blizzards there during the winters called "lake effect" snows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake-effect_snow), plus it which would get down as low as -45° below zero. Summers were pleasant to hot in the 80's to 90's, but as we were just off the lake, with high humidity, too.
Dad's father, George H. Fassett, Jr., was a well-known businessman and farmer just outside of town, owning a large farm. He also had a local meat business, a horse-drawn meat wagon he would go town-to-town with, peddling his meats door-to-door. Dad and his two brothers were tasked with getting up before the chickens to stock the meat wagon long before school hours for George H. to peddle. This included killing and butchering his prized cattle, pigs, lambs and mutton, chickens and turkeys for others' consumptions.
And,as was customary practice back then to cure and smoke in the family smokehouse hams, bacons, and all other parts possible for sale on his wagon; delicacies now long-forgotten but, back then, able to provide delicious, simple meals, such as pickled and smoked lamb tongues or pig's ears and snouts, etc., plus the more traditional hams, bacons and shoulders.
Dad purchased the building right after getting out of the Army battling enemies in the Philippines with his G.I. loan in 1946. He'd heard of a concept once landing in California and spending a few weeks there waiting to get shipped back to upstate NY - a 'self-service' store, where customers would actually pick up their own goods vs. being waited on by clerks, and decided to give it a try there, long before the idea swept the nation. He went to the local wholesaler of goods in Watertown, 10 miles north of Adams Center to purchase goods to stock his store with and was denied the customary 30 day credit other businesses had; he had to borrow the money from his father instead. The wholesale owner figured dad would be out of business in less than 30 days with such a 'cockimamie' idea as that - "Who would ever pick up their own groceries instead of expecting the fine services of paid clerks to do it for them?!"
His store displays:
His 'front porch' - with a Coca Cola machine and this new thing called a 'charcoal grill' and bags of charcoal to take to the beach for cookouts and roasting marshmallows! Of course, we had to stock the machine and take care of the empty bottles, one of many chores around the store. Bottles! Tons and tons of bottles to be rinsed and put away every single day!
At the time, dad had installed a propane-fired smokehouse in the back of the store, purchased from Koch Supplies:
(From their old catalog) - the 'gas-fired' on the right, $335. He installed two of them, and at least one or the other, or sometimes both, were going all the time!
He originally had old crocks to cure the meat in, about 4 ft. tall and a yard wide; dozens of them. But, eventually the State Inspection ruled them out and he had to go with 55 gallon Rubbermaid drums.
Dad did a major remodel in the late 60's, doing away with the front porch in favor of more floor space and commercial shelving vs. his home made ones he hand-built originally.
His sign on the side of the building:
Back then, farmers shelled their corn and took the cobs to the local grist mill to get them crushed. Dad would buy them by the 100 lb. burlap bag fulls and store them down cellar in the 'corn crib' to use for smoking his products. You would slide out the bottom cast iron tray over the propane long tube and dump a couple coal shovel-fulls on the tray, slide it back in and close the door where they would smoulder, making corn cob smoke - a sweet, musky smell that would invade the entire building, inside and out. Just like baking cookies, it naturally drew people to the store to buy stuff!
Dad would buy huge barrels of curing salts and sugars made by Aula company, all mixed together, to cure his products in, with a 'wet' curing brine. I later tested and analyzed his curing mix to be able to re-create it with common ingredients plus one special ingredient. Way back, dad used saltpetre to do the curing action, but it was inconsistent and causing spots or uncured and over cured areas in the meats, until the State authorized the use of a sodium nitrite mixture of 93.75% plain salt plus 6.25% sodium nitrite that was added to the curing mix, known as Cure #1, for 30 days or less curing times.
My curing brine:
Pops6927's Curing Brines - Regular and Lo-Salt
These are my Curing brines for pork, beef (corned and dried), poultry, and so on.
Regular Curing Brine:
1 gallon of clean water
1 cup plain, regular non-iodized table salt
1 cup sugar or sucrolose
1 cup brown sugar or sucrolose equiv.
1 tablespoon of Cure#1
Lo-Salt Curing Brine:
1 gallon of clean water
½ cup plain, regular non-iodized rable salt
½ cup sugar or sucrolose
½ cup brown sugar or sucrolose equiv.
1 tablespoon of Cure #1
mix in food-safe container, stir until clear.
Add meat. Do not add different species of meats, but you can add pieces of the same species.
Refrigerate 1 to 21 days, depending on thickness of meat.
Up to 2 inches, 1-10 days.
2 - 4 inches, 5 - 15 days, may require injecting to cure from the inside-out as well as from the outside-in.
4 inches and larger. 15 - 21 days, requires injecting.
Injecting - use a Morton's injection 4 oz. manual injection pump with the Broadcast needle.
Brine can become frothy (ropy). It has both salt and sugar in it. It also is inputting curing ingredients into the meat and oozing out blood and plasma. Just dump the brine and make up fresh and continue curing should that happen. Make sure you keep it at 38° - 40°.
Weigh down meat into curing brine with half-filled ziploc bags of water on top.
No further mixing or stirring required, let it cure until done. Meats will come out of the brine wish a distinct grayish look. This is normal.
I use this as reference:
Computing equivalency, for 100 gallons of curing brine, you add 24 lbs. of curing salt to 100 gallons of water and mix.
That is .24 lbs, or 3.84 oz. of curing salt to 1 gallon of water maximum.
My recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of curing salt to 1 gallon of water. A level tablespoon is .88 of an ounce. Heaping is approx. 1 ounce. Either is fine. Neither comes close to the maximum amount allowed, but just enough to do the job. Curing at Maximum, plus with injection, requires 48 hours of cure time maximum. This process uses less than one third the curing salt and a longer curing time to tenderize and flavor the meat.
You must cover the product until it floats off the bottom of the container, then weight it down to stay submersed in the brine, leaving no area to be exposed to air. You must keep at 38° to 40° until curing time is over. Remove from brine, put or hang in smokehouse or smoker. I personally go from refrigeration to heat with no wait time myself. There is different thoughts, whether to allow a pellicle to form or not.
A pellicle is mainly, to my knowledge, allowed to form on fish prior to smoking. We were only 30 miles from Salmon River in Pulaski, NY, a very well known salmon run. We had many bring us their salmon to process and usually allowed a pellicle to form But, pork and beef are not tender like fish.
Dad behind the meat counter: Carl E. Fassett:
You can see the barrel of curing salt on the floor stand to the left, the Hobart automatic slicer, the cooler door way in back to the brine cooler, the weigh scale and the full service meat display cases, the stuffed Canada goose on the counter (dad was a hunter).
Dad at the block, the Hobart grinder to the left, the Hobart meat saw behind him, and a very old antique Globe Automatic slicer to the right.
Hams and Bacons hanging in the old wood cooler.
I have made many of dad's products, a list of many of them;
I just recently made corned beef and pastrami:
And am doing another ham for Easter:
Dad passed at age 63, leaving the store to my mom, who ran it with my twin brother until she sold it to White's:
They were in business for 10= years when it was sold to Lynn Lockwood, who owned a Great American in Watertown and Boonville, who attempted to make it a Great American, but they closed shortly after;
....and now sits vacant, closed for several years.
Unfortunately, a sad testament to today's times. But, in it's heyday, Dad shipped hams and bacons to all over the US, even to other parts of the world.
Now, through www.smokingmeatforums.com, I have been able to recreate many of the wonderful products to bring to others, at no charge, to keep his legacy living on with my Pop's Brine, an adaptation of his with modern and common ingredients, and others write me from all 4 corners of the world letting me know how easy and simple it is to do!
Last but not least, a Christmas Ad by dad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxvUhBPkoLM Butcher's knot YouTube Video