Many of you more advanced smoking pals around here have inspired me to venture into the realm of cured meats. I thought BBB was probably the easiest thing to attempt on the first go-around, and it sounds dang tasty as well! At the suggestion of several well-respected SMF members, I chose a dry cure method for my BBB.
Had a heck of a time finding Morton's Tender Quick -- I finally found it at an old school butcher shop about a dozen miles from home. Regular grocers don't seem to have a clue, and the local butcher shop didn't carry it!
Then there is the method & recipe questions. Holy Moly! Finding a straight-forward, precise method & recipe was a challenge. Maybe I overcomplicated things, but I really want to get this right rather than make anyone sick. It seems to me curing meats is a big a step beyond simply not cooking a piece of meat properly.
Finding lists of ingredients was no problem; how it is assembled and played out was another matter. Information was either contradictory or just plain thin on details. For example:
- Do you mix everything with the TQ and then apply the rub, or do you rub the TQ on the meat first and add everything over the top of that? Does it really matter? (I saw both methods advocated.)
- At what stage do you add the maple syrup/molasses/honey? (some sources say put it right in with the cure process, others say brush it on right before smoking.)
- Do you loosely vacuum seal or apply a full vacuum? (Again, I saw both advocated.)
- How long to cure? (Surprisingly, there is a wide discrepancy of thought on this subject, but I'm going with the precise instructions on the TQ package.)
- Don't a lot of your seasonings & flavorings wash off during the after-cure rinses? Do you apply then? Re-apply then?
- Do you leave it to air dry before smoking, or does pat-drying with a paper towel suffice? How long to air dry? In the fridge or in a cooler or on the counter (assuming no heat wave)?
Every post I perused started by saying how great and easy making BBB is; however, after reading a mess of posts and web sites, I failed to discover the simplicity -- and, based on the landslide of questions and requests for clarification all over the web -- I'm not the only one.
I started kind of small scale: 5.5 lbs. of boneless pork butt from our local Asian market ($1.99/lb).
I decided on a 3 ingredient cure: Morton's Tender Quick, pepper, and brown sugar.
I decided the safest thing on the first go-around was to apply each ingredient separately, starting with the TQ (reasoning that was the important player & should have the first contact with the meat surface. I massaged the TQ into every nook and cranny of the butts as is universally advocated. Then I rubbed on the brown sugar and sprinkled with pepper. I chose to cut off the vacuum process and apply the seal as soon as a) the air was out and, b) the juices just started moving toward the unit. Here they are, all vacuum sealed up for their nap:
I decided to add the maple syrup with a brush after the rinse, before the smoke. Some recommend a drying period after the rinse, so I will probably put it on then.
Stay tuned; results in about 10 days!