M & B,
I got confused trying to figure out how long it took you to go from 40˚ to 140˚, because you had a bunch of things going on at different times, but that recipe isn't what I would actually call cured. It must be the higher temps that make it safe.
The normal amount of TQ for 5 pounds of whole meat would be 5 Tablespoons.
That would be almost 8 times as much in that recipe.
I think if someone used this recipe, and smoked it "low & slow", they could have problems.
I completely agree with you, and I was nervous about this at first. I know that when I normally cure meat, I go by the package directions and use 1oz of TQ per # of meat. Here is what I am banking on.
With the addition of 3T of kosher salt as well as all the pepper added, it will make the enviorment not very hospitable to bacterial growth. Then there is the minimal amout of TQ added. Peppers are not very acidic, but they have a lot more going on than acidity. Capsaicin itself has antimicrobial properties. Just think about what eating hot peppers does to a digestive tract. While
I agree that anything above 40* is a "danger zone", the optimal temperature for the majority of bacteria is right around 98* and they double about once every hour. Since the enviroment is already hostile with the salt, cure, and capsaiscin, bugs are not going to thrive very well. So at my 60* temp growth would be next to none.
Next, since we are talking about what once was a whole piece of meat, that has its own benefits. Our worst fears come true with ground meat. This is because what was on the outside, has now become incorporated withe the inside. Nothing is safe anymore (however, I still do enjoy my burgers medium). Since all that was done withe the meat was slicing, the interior remains as a "pure, sterile" enviroment. i.e.nothing that was not already there has not been introduced, and unless this meat came from a pig that was already sick, I am confident in its cleanliness.
So, the only introduction of bacteria would have come from my knife and the cutting board, which were both clean/sanitized before use, and any bacteria would only be on the surface of the meat, which would be in direct contact with the salt/cure/capsaicin/smoke(which has its own preservatve properties).
Then after I cold smoked it for such a long time, I hit it with a higher heat than is usually used for smoking. This higher heat would have a negative affect on any bacteria that may have been present at the start of the process, or may have some how found a way to multiply.