Brining Vs. curing

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by richtee, Jul 24, 2008.

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  1. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Allright folks... I see a need to have this difference in terminology defined a bit... for both discussion and saftey purposes.

    A brine is NOT necessarily a cure. It CAN be, but it typically means just a salt/sugar/spice mix used to season and "jucify" meats.

    A CURE is a process whereby the meat undergoes certain chemical changes beyond a mere salt osmosis brining. Additional chemicals in a cure allow the meat to be stored for extended periods at room temperatures.

    Notice in the second article--- all you 'Salt only" jerky folks...that nitrates WERE typically in salts in ancient times..thereby making the process a valid "cure".

    Below are excerpts from the reference lit I have given links for. I suggest that anyone curing and/or brining set aside a few min. and check it out.

    The brining process: Excerpts from "Cooking for Engineers" site:

    What does brining do?
    Brining is the soaking of meat in a solution of water and salt. Additional flavorings like sugar and spices can also me added, but salt is what makes a brine a brine (just like acid makes a marinade a marinade). This soaking causes the meat to gain some saltiness and flavoring while plumping it up with water so that after cooking it still contains a lot of juices.

    Now for curing...Excerpts from an Oklahoma State's meat dep't. publication:

    The salting and smoking of meat was an ancient practice even before the birth of Christ. These early processed meat products were prepared for one purpose, their preservation for use at some future time. Salt was used at concentrations high enough to preserve the meat. Preservation by smoking is believed to have been developed inadequately by the primitive tribes. The American Indians preserved meat prior to settlement by Europeans by hanging it in the top of a teepee to maximize contact with campfire smoke.

    The origin of the use of nitrite is lost in history. Salt containing nitrates was used in Homer’s time (850 B.C.) to preserve meat. Nitrate was present originally as a natural impurity in the salts used in curing but, unknown to the users, was a key ingredient in the curing process. The Romans, who learned the art of curing meat with salt from the Greeks, were the first to note the reddening effect now attributed to nitrite. Although the role of nitrites in cured meat was not really understood until early in the 20th century, it is clear that for thousands of years nitrite has played an important role in meat curing.

    Nitrates and nitrites, either potassium or a sodium salt, are used to develop cured meat color. They impart a bright reddish, pink color, which is desirable in a cured product. In addition to the color role, nitrates and nitrites have a pronounced effect on flavor. Without them a cured ham would be simply a salty pork roast. They further affect flavor by acting as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent the development of oxidative rancidity, which would reduce the keeping quality. Sodium nitrites also prevent the growth of a food poisoning microorganism known as Clostridium botulism,
    the bacteria that causes botulism.

    Nitrates and nitrites must be used with caution during curing. They are toxic when used in large amounts. The Federal and State Meat Inspection regulations limit the amount that can be used in curing. It is important that exact amounts are used and the curing mixture is thoroughly mixed. The use level of sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate (saltpeter) is 3 1/2 oz. per 100 pounds meat for dry cure or 7 pounds nitrate per 100 gallons pickle (liquid cure) at 10percent pump level. The use of sodium or potassium nitrite is limited to 1 oz. per 100 pounds meat for dry cure, or 2 pounds per 100 gallons pickle (liquid cure) at 10percent pump level. Nitrites combined with nitrates should not be greater than 156 ppm ingoing into hams or 120 ppm ingoing into bellies.
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