Cure ingredient update

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by wade, Nov 26, 2014.

  1. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have been chasing down the components of the recommended bacon cures of one of the UKs largest cure manufacturers and there appears to be some inconsistency and confusion as to the interpretation of the EU regulations. This is not surprising when you read the current "Official Journal of the European Union (L 295/103)" which details the EU regulations that set the residual Nitrate and Nitrite limits in traditionally cured meat products. Even though buried deep in here (page 104) are very specific limits for the residual amount of both Nitrate and Nitrite associated with each traditional curing, the limits for bacon (either wet or dry cured) give two different maximum levels for Nitrite with no explanation as to why two values have been included. I can only assume that one is a typo.

    To give you something to help you sleep tonight I have reproduced the sections on bacon below. I have restructured the tables a little bit to make them a little easier to read.

    ***** - Traditional immersion cured products (Meat products cured by immersion in a curing solution containing nitrites and/or nitrates, salt and other components)

    Wiltshire bacon and similar products: Meat is injected with curing solution followed by immersion curing for 3 to 10 days. The immersion brine solution also includes microbiological starter cultures
     Max mg/kg  
    Nitrites175 Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process
    Nitrites100Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process
    Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process

    Nitrates may be present in some heat-treated meat products resulting from natural conversion of nitrites to nitrates in a low-acid environment - Traditional dry cured products. (Dry curing process involves dry application of curing mixture containing nitrites and/or nitrates, salt and other components to the surface of the meat followed by a period of stabilisation/maturation). 

    Dry cured bacon and similar products Dry curing followed by maturation for at least 4 days      

     Max mg/kg  
    Nitrites175 Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process
    Nitrites100Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process
    Maximum residual amount, residue level at the end the production process

    Nitrates may be present in some heat-treated meat products resulting from natural conversion of nitrites to nitrates in a low-acid environment


    For bacon they do not actually define any particular Nitrite/Nitrate limits in the cure itself but leave it to the person producing the 'bacon to ensure that their curing method doesn't result in residual amounts exceeding the limits. The onus is right back on us guys.

    The exact take up of cure will actually vary with each batch of meat and cure method, so the residual amounts can only really be determined by chemical assay of sample batches of the finished product. The cure manufacturer also said that he understood different techniques would also result in different levels of cure uptake - e.g. cure in vac pack is likely to have a higher cure uptake than in a zip-lock bag or in cling film. This will mean that in order to get a good indication of actual average cure update several batches would need to be analysed for each of the cure method used. 

    The main reason for starting this investigation was because I got a bit of a surprise when I was sent the data sheets for the commercial Supracure bacon curing salt. It turns out that it contains 0.6% Nitrate and 0.6% Nitrite in salt and the instructions are to use it at ratio of 5% to meat. This works out as a salt concentration of 5% and gives both Nitrate and Nitrite at a level of 300 mg/kg (Ppm). Bearing in mind that in the USA NO Nitrate is permitted at all in bacon and the Nitrite is limited to 200 Ppm in the cure this did not sound quite right to me.

    I discussed this at length with the cure manufacturer's Technical Manager and, although he said the residual Ppm throughout the meat would be less than the calculated Ppm in the straight cure, he did think on reflection that they may need to reconsider their recommended published cure to meat ratio. He thought that it should probably be closer to 3% than the current 5% and that he would need to do some more research. This would then provide a Nitrite at 180 mg/kg (Ppm) and salt at 3%.

    Unfortunately this would still also provide Nitrate at 180 Ppm as well, which I am not really happy about. I have asked if they can do a version of the cure with no Nitrate, however without a volume market out there for it I am not sure whether they will consider it.

    In the meantime I have made myself up another batch of Cure #1 so that I can continue to cure the bacon Nitrate free. In order to ensure mixing consistency I make the Cure #1 in Kilo batches. As each batch of bacon only needs a small quantity of Cure #1 itself, I have quite a lot on my shelf. If anyone on the forum here in the UK needs some Cure #1 to try their hand at bacon curing then please let me know and I will pop a pouch of it in the post.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2014
  2. UH HUH!!!  Can you translate that into English please????  [​IMG]

    Something is dodgy here!  The E.U. is always "IN YOUR FACE" about everything!  They have regs for bananas for heavens sake!  If I read your post correctly the E.U. is allowing over the top limits of nitrite and nitrate.  Makes you wonder what is in the bacon, ham and gammon you are eating.

  3. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not quite Danny - but I tried to make sense of the current regulations and what I posted was the semi-clarified version. What I found was that the regulations here are not clear and the commercial cure manufacturers are actually selling product that has a high likelihood of exceeding the maximum EU permitted cure levels when used as directed.

    OK - so here come the salient bullet points...

    1 - Whether it is dry cured or brine cured the maximum permitted Nitrite level in bacon is 175 mg/kg (Ppm)

    So far so good - broadly in line with the US maximum too

    2 - Whether it is dry cured or brine cured the maximum permitted Nitrite level in bacon is 100 mg/kg (Ppm)

    What was that? I thought it just said the maximum level was 175 mg/kg. How can it also bee 100 mg/kg?

    Whichever value you decide to take as the maximum, this is the maximum value of the residual cure in the meat after the curing process is complete - not the value calculated in the initial cure.

    3 - How do you know how much cure your meat has actually taken up? This is tough as it is generally thought that the way the cure is applied actually affects the uptake efficiency (vac pac, zip loc bag, immersion etc.have different take up rates). There do not appear to be any official EU cure uptake charts or guidelines and so the only way to know how effective the update of your cure has been is to have samples lab tested.

    4 - One of the most popular commercially produced curing salts for bacon in the UK is manufactured by a company called Moguntia (product XV9010B) and is sold by different resellers under a variety of trade names. When sold through Weschenfelder it is called Supracure.

    When used at the manufacturers recommended rate it results in a Nitrite concentration of 300 mg/kg (Ppm) - which is over 70% above the EU maximum residual Nitrite levels (assuming that the 170 mg/kg level is correct).

    5 - The cure also contains 300 mg/kg Nitrate which is 20% above the maximum EU levels. For our American friends this would be really odd as NO Nitrate is permitted in the production of bacon there at all.

    6 - When these questions were raised with the Technology Manager at the cure manufacturer, and the EU limits checked, after some head scratching he agreed that they may have to review their recommended usage rate to ensure that EU maximums are not exceeded. It seems strange that the simple calculations needed to reach this conclusion has not been done before.

    7 - From now on I think I will stick to making my own cure !

    8 - If anyone in the UK wants to give curing a bit of bacon a try then if you send me a PM I will send you a sachet of Cure#1 from my newly created cure mountain!

    I hope that helps Danny and you didn't nod off again half way through [​IMG]
  4. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    That's an interesting post Wade, and a little worrying, I have never cured my own bacon, but after reading this post I might have to start.  

    One scenario that there is a difference in the numbers could be because there are now so many countries in the EU it takes forever, if ever to decide on the relevant issue, therefore the EU allows different amounts to be used to please all the member states! A bit of a cop out really
  5. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    We do need to be realistic about this though. Even at the higher concentrations that are likely to result from the commercial cure there is unlikely to be any more risk when eaten in moderation. The maximum levels stated in the EU regulations will themselves be a compromise and erring on the conservative site. Traditional bacon has been made for centuries and the amount of Nitrate and Nitrate in it will have varied greatly between producers and even between batches. The very fact that there is now a limit published just means that we are more likely to become paranoid if we no not precisely conform to them. 

    It is not the elevated Nitrite level in the commercial cure itself that concern me as much as the fact that published recommended usage rates would almost certainly result in the published EU limits being breached and that this should have been identified sooner.

    I am also concerned that it has such high levels of Nitrate in it - which I did not know until I asked for the product data sheet. I realise that this is probably traditional but is has made me wary of using the commercially available curing products that do not publish precise ingredients.

    This exercise has been useful though as it has confirmed to me that by following the US based curing recipes we find on here will result in a product that falls well within the EU limits. Especially when we have the likes of Dave Omak (and others) who so carefully monitor all of the cure compositions that get posted.  
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2014
  6. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I hope you don't mind me crossing the pond but I'm interested in you research Wade.

    Even if you reduced the amount to 3% wouldn't that still be to salty to eat? I guess you could added a fair amount of sugar to mask it
  7. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi  Dan

    The UK group is open to all who want to contribute so please contribute as much as you feel you can.

    Yes I agree with you about the saltiness. I am currently doing a series of cure concentration trials to find the optimum levels of salt for me to put into small scale production. It was while I was doing the background checks on the commercially available curing products over here that questions and doubts started to appear. In the past I have simply used them as directed (blind faith!) thinking that the manufacturers must know what they are selling. When I recently realised the resulting levels of salt were so high I started to look at reducing it. In order to do this safely I obviously had to know the starting Nitrite/Nitrate levels. We are now where we are - LOL

    Starting at the commercial cure (5%) I am currently also comparing 4% and 3% in a standardised trial. The lower levels though are using home made cure #1.

    With regards to lowering the levels of commercial cure, by reducing it to 3% you would end up with a starting Nitrite level of 180 Ppm, which I would feel comfortable with, however reduce it to say 2,5% or 2% you end up with only 150 and 120 starting Ppm respectively.

    As I am currently seeing it I think that the only way that I am going to feel comfortable trying to get the lower salt levels is to abandon the commercial stuff and just go back to making the cures myself in future.

    I may publish the results of the bacon trial here when it is complete however I think I may need to do another slightly more comprehensive trial that uses only the home made cures. This will go down below 3% and I am open to suggestions about what others on here use. 


  8. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    For me I'd go with the 2% and the 120ppm as I don't like it to salty. this is about where I'm at with my stuff.
    I use per kg; 18.5 g salt, 2.2 cure #1 (6.25%) and 10 grams of sugar. I got this ratio from Phil Young who's also in the UK. He uses a Cure #1 that's a little less the 6%, and Just looking at Franco's site, they sell a 6.25% cure #1 if this is any help.

    The 2.5 would put you at the maximum limit by the UK standards correct? Although it would be to salty for me, I know many people that would love it.

    Keep up the good work, I'd be interested what you come up with.
  9. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  10. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Dan - Thanks for sharing. Yes I have got it but is is always good reference for others on here.

    Also if anyone is interested here are the EU regulations from 2011 - Commision Regulations (EU) No 1129/2011
  11. Hello Wade.  Thanks for the info.  As you know I have just recently started to "experiment" with curing meat.  I bought and use Prague Powder#1 in my smoked sausage.  What I bought is 6.25% nitrite and the U.K. company advised that most cures using this calls for 2.5g. per kilo of meat.  When I start doing something new I do my homework as I am sure we all do.  This VERY first thing I want to learn is the food safety thing.  Of all cures I read about that sounds like the ballpark so as my recipe calls for 3kg. meat I figure 7-8g. cure is good to go ( well no one who was at the meet has died YET.  I did safety test my first batch;  I let the Missus eat it and since she was still alive in the morning I thought it must be pretty safe.  I think it best if you don't mention that life insurance policy to her. ).  I usually read all I can and then cobble together a recipe as a base to start experimenting with, which is probably just what you are doing now.  I haven't been too interested in those one pack cures the retailers are marketing.  One size just doesn't fit all!  This just reinforces my thought of reading what the rest of the folks are using and then start from there.

    I really do have to agree with you.  From what little I know it doesn't worry me that Supracure is gonna kill me; it worries me more that the research had not been done to find out if their cure and recommended usage complied with the regs.  Makes you curious how many other prepared cures here in the U.K. push nitrite levels.  As I asked earlier about what is being used in British bacon, ham and gammon this may also explain the high salt content in British gammon.  If using a larger amount of prepared cure than "required" you will naturally be adding additional salt.  Keep Smokin!

  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Danny - The sausage tasted great and I have not died yet [​IMG]

    The 2.5% will effectively give you a start of 156 Ppm Nitrite - not all of which will penetrate when making bacon - but which obviously will when making sausage. This will certainly keep you well within both the US and EU limits however you also need to make sure there is sufficient that has penetrated to effectively cure the meat as well. For bacon I would probably start at 3% which will give you a starting level of 187 Ppm Nitrite.

    There are safety margins built into all of these recommendations and limits, but it is still important to be quite precise with the amount of cure you use - especially when curing relatively small amounts of meat. You really should weigh the meat to the nearest gram and the cure to the 1/10th of a gram before doing the calculations in order to minimise the effect of any rounding. Measuring out the cure only to the nearest gram (rather than to the 1/10th of a gram) can mean you could be inaccurate by up to 15%. It will not kill you but it would not be the concentration that you are expecting.

    British gammon in an enigma to me. It is often so ridiculously salty. I always soak mine overnight in water before cooking to help remove as much of it as I can.
  13. Great stuff Wade.  As I tried to develop a recipe for sausage I did finally find out that the taste the cure added was the missing piece but as you said "curing" the meat so it is safe to eat is the main purpose.  I will start weighing more diligently when using the #1.  Bacon and even ham are on my list.  Don't worry' you'll know when i try.  Your phone will start ringing!  [​IMG]   I have never even brined a chicken.  When it comes to this curing thing you are the Sensei and I am the grasshopper.  Not far from 60 now so about time I learned this stuff.  The funny thing is that I would have never considered this stuff until I moved here.  Took me almost 13 years living here before I started researching sausage making out of pure desperation which led me to SMF.

    By the way, that salt pork I want to make.  I was looking around for an overly fatty pork belly joiint to salt.  Just dawned on me why not pork belly slices????  I planned to cut up the belly joint after curing and freeze so why not cut out 1 step??  Why not pork belly slices??  Will get that started this weekend.  Keep Smokin!

  14. osprey2

    osprey2 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    wade likes this.
  15. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That's great Osprey - Thanks. Points [​IMG]
  16. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That's Phil Young's site and he's a wealth of knowledge wen it comes to curing, in fact I use his mild bacon cure all the time (among others) for my bellies.
    And he's a darn nice guy too!!
  17. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Right - Back to the task in hand. Commercial cure firmly pushed to the back of the cupboard. This weekend I an putting the last batch of bacon into the smoker and have bought another 6.5 Kg (14.3 Pounds) of bacon to start the next cure, This batch consists of 3 Kg belly pork (streaky bacon) and 3.5 Kg pork loin (back bacon). I am going to split each batch into 3 and vary the salt content of each cure. Two of each batch will be 2.5% salt and the other will be 2%. This time though all 3 batches of each will be flavoured. I have also borrowed a video camera and am looking to video the curing process and potentially start a YouTube channel. Any suggestions welcome [​IMG]. Especially regarding which type of star trailer I should buy and the name of a good agent [​IMG]  
  18. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Whilst the new bacon batch is curing the previous batch is in the smoker.

  19. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hey Wade you want to put a live video feed up so people can log on and see how things are progressing, mind you it might be a bit too smokey for a good picture!
  20. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The smoker in operation. The sound could be better though. The deep voice makes me sound even more rugged and sexy than I already am [​IMG]

    These cool evenings/nights are resulting in condensation forming on the bottom of the smoker and so I will be fitting a couple of removable 300w catering food warmers inside the firebox controlled by a PID controller. This will be a Christmas holiday project and I hope to post up some info in the new year.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2014

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