Detailed Directions for Dry Curing

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Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Dec 23, 2006
Dry cure and spices:

A standard dry cure recipe is 1/2 sea salt, 1/2 brown sugar, spices to taste. Meat buried in dry cure and pressed under a weight will exude liquid, which will eventually turn the dry cure to a very intense brine. You can stretch this brine a bit by adding flavorful liquids like cider, brandy, wine or maple syrup.

Hard dry cure recipe, for 100 lbs of meat: 6 lbs salt, 3 lbs sugar, 2 oz saltpeter (optional)

The classic French spicing combination for pork is quatre-epices, literally "four spices". Ground or cracked black pepper is generally the dominant element, and other components are traditionally nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in a 7:1:1:1 ratio. Larousse Gastronomique gives another recipe - 4 1/2 oz white pepper, 2 tsp cloves, 1 oz ginger, 1 1/2 oz nutmeg. Grinding spices freshly in your spice grinder is always a good idea for freshness.

The two other spices you will almost certainly want to have handy are juniper berries and sage. Juniper berries impart a beautifully aromatic tang to brine and to cooked foods, though you should be careful to strain them out of the finished product as they can be very hard and gritty. Sage is a classic addition to pork sausage, as are the small seeds of cumin.

Additional spicy possibilities: tarragon, mustard seed, thyme, coriander, bay leaves, chervil, shallots, fennel, allspice, paprika and marjoram.

About dry curing:

Don't be afraid to use too much dry cure. Rub it on thickly and generously, and bury the meat in it under weights. Be sure to mix all of the ingredients very thoroughly before adding it to the meat.

A dry cure under pressure (weights) will turn into a strong brine. You can allow for drainage if you wish, either by setting the curing box up with drain holes or manually draining and discarding the liquid once or twice a day. This tends to produce a strong, salty cure.

A brine cure will usually produce a milder result than a dry cure, though you can improve a dry cure by allowing drainage of the strong brine formed by the escaping meat juices and replacing it with savory liquids such as cider, wine, brandy or maple syrup. The middle of the road alternative is to do no drainage and to add additional fluids or not, depending on your taste.

Experimentation will help you discover the recipes that are to your taste. Be careful about keeping the curing meat cold (between 36F and 40F; lower will retard the process and higher will promote spoilage) and keeping the salinity high enough to preserve the meat. Check the internal temperature of the larger pieces of meat with a meat thermometer.

Timetable for dry curing: This is very much a matter of taste as well as how long you wish preservation to last. I find that even a lighter dry cure can last many months if helped along by storing the finished product with a generous splash of apple brandy.

General timetable for dry curing:

Bacon - 1 1/2 days per pound of bacon
Hams and shoulders - 2 days per pound

Some sources call for a 25-day cure, but I have greatly enjoyed bacon and hams that have cured for less than a week and finished in brandy or maple brine. The longer cures would be appropriate with more primitive methods of storage.

Dry Curing
Nice Post, This is how I made my bacon....<see my post for bacon> I left out the salt peter .. Great advice..

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