Help me understand - why is dry cured meat safe

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Hockeydudde

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I've done Internet searching, no luck. I've read Marininski's fermented sausage book and he offered a nuanced discussion (don't have it with me ATM, I'll try to find pages later). But it seemed to be there was plenty of overlap between the hospitable range of the good and the bad buggies. He made it seem like you are trying to find the sweet spot to give yourself the best chance of being safe. But then watching 2 Guys and a Cooler vids (which I love by the way) and Eric presents a much simpler view, typically saying something like as long as the pH is below x.xx you are safe.

I really want to try dry curing some small pork and beef muscles, but I'm having trouble getting my self over this concern.

Thanks!

Edited to add: I'm not particularly squeamish when it comes to food safety. We drink and make cheeses from raw milk. I've been know to estimate "safe" canning recipes when I can't find what I want to can. I think I take a practical approach to food safety . But in this case I can't practically fathom why it's safe.
 

JC in GB

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As far as I understand micro-biology, there must be pathogens in sufficient number to cause an infection. The reason cured meats are safe is that the pH, H2O environment does not allow harmful pathogens to reproduce in numbers sufficient to cause illness or infection. The pathogens are still present but in quantities that are very unlikely to cause illness in a healthy person.

My $0.02

JC :emoji_cat:
 

daveomak

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Just like temperature, pH kills the offenders...
Drying meats can put the offenders in a sort of suspended animation until they reach your gut... Warm, moist environment which can "reactivate" the offenders...
Your best avenue is believe Marianski and Eric... They are the most knowledgeable caricaturists I have found on the web...
 

indaswamp

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Also, there is competitive exclusion; meaning the good bacteria consume get way out in front population wise because the environment is more favorable for their growth. Also, the culture bacteria are chosen for their bioprotective properties against some of the more resilient bad bacteria like listeria and Staph. Aureus. They produce bactocerins and other chemicals that will kill/inhibit bad bacteria from growing.

The 4 safety hurdles work in a synergistic way. any one hurdle is not enough, you need all 4. This is why though pH during fermentation is important, the lower the better, but you can still dry a piece safely even if the pH has not dropped below 5.2. This is how it is done in Italy. The reason for this is Super fresh meats are used exclusively....processed within 48-72 hours of the time of slaughter. Super Fresh meats give you super low initial bacteria counts to work with. Italian Salami does not depend on pH drop for a strong safety hurdle. They depend on final drying...and the drying systems used depend on a constant change of Temp. and Humidity to dry the salami the fastest way possible with no case hardening.

Also- always start with whole muscle cuts. This ensures as low bacteria count as possible.
 

indaswamp

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The 4 safety Hurdles:
1. sanitation of equipment and fresh whole muscles for very low bacteria counts. Keep all meat and equipment very cold.
2. sufficient salt. 2.75-3% for dry salami; 2.5% for semi dry.
2.b Use of nitrates/nitrite salt to prevent Botulism and salmonella growth.
3. Fermentation with a culture for acid production.
4. Sufficient drying: below 0.90Aw (around 30% weight loss) for dry salami and for semi-dry below 15-20% weight loss with a pH at or below 4.5.

The first three act in conjunction to keep the meat safe until the 4th is achieved. As more and more water is lost, salt concentration increases. Without sufficient water available, bacteria can't grow.
 

Hockeydudde

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Thanks for all the info.
The NCFHP article is exactly one that scared me.
5.2.3. Listeria monocytogenes
Grows down to 5.0 pH and it's listed as being salt and drying tolerant. Grows at fridge temps.

5.2.6. Staphylococcus aureus​

Grows down to pH 4.0, extremely salt tolerant. Produces toxin that is durable so even if you kill of bacteria, of there was growth, it produced toxin that is heat resistant.

Also, there is competitive exclusion; meaning the good bacteria consume get way out in front population wise because the environment is more favorable for their growth. Also, the culture bacteria are chosen for their bioprotective properties against some of the more resilient bad bacteria like listeria and Staph. Aureus. They produce bactocerins and other chemicals that will kill/inhibit bad bacteria from growing.

The 4 safety hurdles work in a synergistic way. any one hurdle is not enough, you need all 4. This is why though pH during fermentation is important, the lower the better, but you can still dry a piece safely even if the pH has not dropped below 5.2. This is how it is done in Italy. The reason for this is Super fresh meats are used exclusively....processed within 48-72 hours of the time of slaughter. Super Fresh meats give you super low initial bacteria counts to work with. Italian Salami does not depend on pH drop for a strong safety hurdle. They depend on final drying...and the drying systems used depend on a constant change of Temp. and Humidity to dry the salami the fastest way possible with no case hardening.

Also- always start with whole muscle cuts. This ensures as low bacteria count as possible.
Hadn't thought about the bactocerins aspect. That does make me feel a little better.
I'd always assumed people always ground thier own to control particle size mainly. Hadn't thought about contamination.
Does anyone ever sanitize the surface if whole muscle with starsan or something like that?
The 4 safety Hurdles:
1. sanitation of equipment and fresh whole muscles for very low bacteria counts. Keep all meat and equipment very cold.
2. sufficient salt. 2.75-3% for dry salami; 2.5% for semi dry.
2.b Use of nitrates/nitrite salt to prevent Botulism and salmonella growth.
3. Fermentation with a culture for acid production.
4. Sufficient drying: below 0.90Aw (around 30% weight loss) for dry salami and for semi-dry below 15-20% weight loss with a pH at or below 4.5.

The first three act in conjunction to keep the meat safe until the 4th is achieved. As more and more water is lost, salt concentration increases. Without sufficient water available, bacteria can't grow.
That's for the distinct summary. Seems like Eric always says 4.8 to 5.2, which is allot higher than 4.5. but I've not seen him measure a dried sausage. Is the difference because pH continues to drop during drying?

Thanks all! Very helpful.
 
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indaswamp

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You can't just focus on one hurdle. WITH salt @3%, AND a pH @5.2, AND nitrates/nitrites......the combo strengthens each hurdle so that less of it has the same affect BECAUSE the bacteria are weakened.......It's the combo that is important.
 
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indaswamp

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For Commercially processed whole cuts like boston butts, you can clean the surface of the meat / rinse with 50/50 vinegar and water to knock the bacteria load on the surface down prior to deboning and cutting.
 
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indaswamp

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Is the difference because pH continues to drop during drying?
The low pH is only necessary during the early phase of drying a salami when there is still enough free water to support bacterial growth. As the salami dries, the pH will actually rise slightly...0.2-0.3 points roughly. This is because some of the by products of the breakdown of proteins and fats are basic in nature and will raise the pH of the salami. One of those molecules created is ammonia. Proteins have quite a bit of nitrogen in them so it is natural that ammonia would be one of the products created during this breakdown.
 
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Hockeydudde

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Thanks indaswamp!
I'm sold. I'm going to give it a shot. I know it's not really fermented, but I'm probably going to start with bitlong to try out controlled drying. It's very dry here, so maintaining humidity is going to be the trick.
 

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