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Salt Box Method

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

So I have been making bacon for years and being a prudent individual have always been very careful about the measurements and proportions of cure and other spices. Then reading Michael Ruhlman's wonderful book I was stunned to see this reference to the Salt Box Method which if I understand it correctly makes all that careful measurement a giant waste of time since it seem you can make up a nice big tub of cure and then just slap your bellies into it shake off the rest and you are good to go. If this is actually true and safe I am a happy man but I defer to others who may have used this method to advise me.

post #2 of 16
It certainly has it's place, but if you're not comfortable with it, something else would probably suit you better.



~Martin
post #3 of 16

Dedalus, morning and welcome to the forum....  I don't know for sure, just guessing....  The original recipe may have weighed the belly slabs and dredged thru the salt and the bellies reweighed to measure the pick up of the salt vs. the weight of the belly... then cure #1 added to get the right mix of salt/cure so when the belly was dredged, the correct amount of cure adhered to the belly...  this would eliminate the need to weigh each belly and add the correct amount of cure.... sure would have simplified the process and sped things up.....

 Does that make sense ??  I have noticed in some recipes, the total thought process has been shortened or explained in a different section of the book....

Dry rubbed bacon recommends a max amount of cure at 200Ppm, skin off, as the skin does not absorb cure.... Skin on, I think the cure is reduced by 10% assuming the skin is 10% of the weight of the belly... Dave

 

Copied from the FSIS Inspectors handbook....http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/7620-3.pdf

 Dry Cured Bacon (rind-off): A maximum of 200 ppm of nitrite or equivalent of

potassium nitrite (246 ppm) can be used in dry cured bacon. Note: the calculation method for
nitrite in dry cured bacon is the same as that for nitrite in other dry cured products. Refer to
pages 24-27.
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dedalus View Post

So I have been making bacon for years and being a prudent individual have always been very careful about the measurements and proportions of cure and other spices. Then reading Michael Ruhlman's wonderful book I was stunned to see this reference to the Salt Box Method which if I understand it correctly makes all that careful measurement a giant waste of time since it seem you can make up a nice big tub of cure and then just slap your bellies into it shake off the rest and you are good to go. If this is actually true and safe I am a happy man but I defer to others who may have used this method to advise me.

Keep what you have been doing according to the mfg's amount, internet rumors will kill you. 

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input. Dave I can only assume that your reasoning is behind the salt box method Ruhlman writes about but he doesn't really explain it just says dredge the meat into the basic dry cure (1 lb. salt, 8 oz sugar 2 oz pink salt) to coat all sides then shake off the excess. But I cannot seem to find many more references to this method much less comment from people who have used it which is a bit of a mystery since it is so obviously a simpler approach if it is safe and effective.
 

post #6 of 16
There's info on it in Kutas' book, the Marianki book, in Morton's book, and countless others.

BriCan, a member here, dredges bacon in his shop up in Canada.

Here's a video of the dredge/salt box technique being used at Benton's....starting at about 6:25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNudlV-PU98


~Martin
post #7 of 16

The problem with 'salt box' is the equal distribution of cure among the other ingredients.  In a small batch, 1 - 1½ lbs, you can manually and vigorously shake your mixture to produce a good mix of ingredient and evenly distribute the cure proportionately.  However, in a large container of 10 - 30 lbs. of curing mixture, the different densities of ingredients settle at different rates and upset the amalgamation of cure, causing uneven curing results - too much on one part and not enough on the other, and to effectively mix it correctly involved a shaking system akin to a paint shaker or a rotating drum of large proportions, too big for 'small time' producers.  My dad originally tried such systems and found the same problems with large scale dry-curing methods and larger items, such as hams, would not cure through correctly, causing uncured spots because of unequal cure distribution.  He went on to explore wet-curing methods with injection and it produced a much better cure cycle with much better results (at first he tried several batches without injection and had the same results with sour bone; then found the Morton's injection Needle system and tried that.  At one time I still had his injection needle, but lost it in a move (think my brother stole it, actually).  Then, standardization of processing and finding the right method and doing it over and over again produced quality and consistent results, and a motorized injection pump with a large (55 gal) container of brinemaking pumping hams a quick and efficient 7 point injection.  Of course, today it is stitch pumping with dozens of needles in seconds, lol!

 

For example, from "How It's Made" TV show:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tvx_CKB7uI

 

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/_tvx_CKB7uI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pops6927 View Post

The problem with 'salt box' is the equal distribution of cure among the other ingredients.  In a small batch, 1 - 1½ lbs, you can manually and vigorously shake your mixture to produce a good mix of ingredient and evenly distribute the cure proportionately.  However, in a large container of 10 - 30 lbs. of curing mixture, the different densities of ingredients settle at different rates and upset the amalgamation of cure, causing uneven curing results - too much on one part and not enough on the other, and to effectively mix it correctly involved a shaking system akin to a paint shaker or a rotating drum of large proportions, too big for 'small time' producers.  My dad originally tried such systems and found the same problems with large scale dry-curing methods and larger items, such as hams, would not cure through correctly, causing uncured spots because of unequal cure distribution.  He went on to explore wet-curing methods with injection and it produced a much better cure cycle with much better results (at first he tried several batches without injection and had the same results with sour bone; then found the Morton's injection Needle system and tried that.  At one time I still had his injection needle, but lost it in a move (think my brother stole it, actually).  Then, standardization of processing and finding the right method and doing it over and over again produced quality and consistent results.


I've never ever had such a problem, especially when the cure mix is made with brown sugar.
The mix is hygroscopic and will stay well mixed when using sugar, salt and cure that are all about the same particle size.

This is my cure mix......

17.5 oz pickling salt

5.5 oz sugar (white or brown)

2 oz cure #1

Homogeneous cure minxes can be purchased at butcher supply houses, for those who're not comfortable with a homemade mix.


~Martin
Edited by DiggingDogFarm - 6/11/12 at 12:53pm
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Martin I checked out the video and was salivating by the end but was also a bit surprised that they did not use any nitrites at all in their cure just salt and sugar which obviously gets around the issue of how evenly the cure is dispersed with the salt and sugar that Pops raised. I don't have the books you mentioned but will order them immediately.
 

post #10 of 16
FWIW, here are the instructions from the Kutas book......

459x700px-LL-8f19a6df_Dryboxbacon2.jpeg

~Martin
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by DiggingDogFarm View Post


I've never ever had such a problem, especially when the cure mix is made with brown sugar.
The mix is hygroscopic and will stay well mixed when using sugar, salt and cure that are all about the same particle size.
This is my cure mix......
17.5 oz pickling salt
5.5 oz sugar (white or brown)
2 oz cure #1
Homogeneous cure minxes can be purchased at butcher supply houses, for those who're not comfortable with a homemade mix.
~Martin

 

Yes, that is entirely true!  As I said, in small batches it is relatively easy to keep a consistent and thoroughly mixed dry cure consistent.

 

But, when curing 200 or 300 bellies at a time, it isn't as easy.  And, Kutas reverts to wet-brining anyways like a combination curing, using the moisture drawn from the meat plus adding " ...1¼ lbs of mix per 1 gallon of water", so it ends up the same anyways.  We processed 4-600 lbs of bellies a week on a normal week, as much as 2,000 - 3,000 lbs a week during holidays, so wet-brining was the most efficient.  You could stack 30-35 bellies in a 55 gal drum, and we'd average 2 - 4 drums a week.  Curing was one thing, that was simple.  It was taking them out, 1 by 1 with a long meat hook, yanking them as fast as you can, tossing into a truck, rolling into the processing room, driving a bacon hook on each and loading into the smokehouse for 1 or 2 smokehouses full for the next day smoking, shutting them off at closing, going down after supper when the store was closed, unloading into the drip room, and pulling and loading up another 1 or 2 smokehouses for the next day, lol.

 

SuperHook.jpg

 

This is a modern hook; the one we used was the same length (17") but had a knob end, much harder to hang on to, and if you didn't have hold of the belly enough, it would rip out of the meat and you'd bang the knob end into your skull, lol!  Had that happen more than once, lol!

post #12 of 16
There's more than one way to skin a cat. biggrin.gif
My family dry cured for generations in the shop.

~Martin
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice ...I found myself salivating at the image of 55 gallon drums stuffed with curing belly! I think I will put together a good medium size container of cure enough for a few months of bacon at a time. That way all I will have to do is coat the belly and shake it off and with my reliable Amazing smoker making bacon just got so easy I might just give up other meats.

post #14 of 16

Got so  many good ideas here, surely looking forward to strategies in my current ones.

post #15 of 16
I can't imagine smoking that many bellies! I think I'd get tired of it after a while.
post #16 of 16

I have measured out the cure for each belly.  It does take more time that is for sure.  I have a batch curing now, about 15 lbs.  I am trying the salt box method.  I have the bellies in 2.5 lb. ziblock bags.  I have been rubbing my meat (LOL) every night and it seems to be curing correctly.

 

Just my 2 cents.

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