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Modernising & scaling down old recipes?

Molach95

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Joined Apr 15, 2018
Hi everyone, complete novice to curing meat here. I'm quite interested in historical recipes and reenactment and lately I've been wanting to try some old, traditional cures. The only issue I have is with quantities, particularly with regard to saltpetre. Most of the recipes come from a time when it wouldn't be uncommon to lay a whole half of a pig in a trough, covered in salt and sugar and muslin cloth to keep the flies away. Obviously I might struggle with that right now...

These are some of the dry cures I've collected (spices etc not included):

Cure 1:
For a "small side of pork" (half a pig?)
6oz salt
8oz brown sugar
1oz saltpetre

Cure 2:
For a "15 score pig" (300lb)
2lb salt
8oz brown sugar to each piece (of pig)
0.5 or 1oz saltpetre

Cure 3:
20lb piece of meat
2lb salt
1/4lb of coarse raw sugar
1/4lb of saltpetre

Cure 4:
1 hind quarter, cut to shape
1lb coarse salt
4oz brown sugar
1oz saltpetre

Cure 5:
A 3-4lb joint
3/4lb sea salt
3/4lb brown sugar
2oz saltpetre

Cure 6:
For a "large ham"
1lb salt
8oz coarse sugar
2oz or more of saltpetre

Cure 7:
For a hindquarter
1/4lb salt
8oz coarse sugar
2oz or more of saltpetre

Cure 8:
25lb of meat
1lb salt
6oz sugar
2oz saltpetre

Cure 9:
For a 25lb or so piece of meat
8oz salt
Enough brown sugar to rub down meat
2oz saltpetre

Those are the cures I'd like to understand better. Can anyone help me modernise them a bit (so I don't accidentally poison myself) and scale them down to more manageable ratios, so I could apply them to joint-sized cuts e.g. of pork belly? I'm inclined towards 1 tsp of saltpetre for a joint, and enough salt to cover. I'm not afraid of using the saltpetre or large quantities of salt, I just want to make sure there's no mistakes in the recipes. Many thanks
 
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SmokinAl

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Forget the salt peter & get some cure #1, it is sold under various names, but essentially it's 6.25% sodium nitrite.
One teaspoon will cure 5 lbs. of meat.
Most of us use this calculator to figure out the salt, sugar, & cure amounts.
http://diggingdogfarm.com/page2.html
Hope this helps!
Al
 

Molach95

Newbie
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Joined Apr 15, 2018
Forget the salt peter & get some cure #1, it is sold under various names, but essentially it's 6.25% sodium nitrite.
One teaspoon will cure 5 lbs. of meat.
Most of us use this calculator to figure out the salt, sugar, & cure amounts.
http://diggingdogfarm.com/page2.html
Hope this helps!
Al
That helps a lot Al, thank you very much. That calculator will make a big difference. Is it fair to say that Cure #1 is pretty much interchangeable with saltpetre, considering people often used about a heaped teaspoon of saltpetre for 5lb or so of meat?

Also, does anything in these cures jump out as a bit odd to anyone? I noticed some had a huge amount of nitrates, like 2oz for just a small joint, but those are actually the most modern recipes (from the 1950s). The older cures from the 19th century used far less, more like 2oz for a whole hindquarter, or even half a pig.
 

SmokinAl

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That helps a lot Al, thank you very much. That calculator will make a big difference. Is it fair to say that Cure #1 is pretty much interchangeable with saltpetre, considering people often used about a heaped teaspoon of saltpetre for 5lb or so of meat?

Also, does anything in these cures jump out as a bit odd to anyone? I noticed some had a huge amount of nitrates, like 2oz for just a small joint, but those are actually the most modern recipes (from the 1950s). The older cures from the 19th century used far less, more like 2oz for a whole hindquarter, or even half a pig.
No you cannot interchange the amounts of cure #1 with saltpeter. I'm not sure on this but I think salt peter is 100% sodium nitrite. If you want a definite answer, PM @daveomak, he will be able to give you a better answer. He's up on all the food safety info.
Al
 

dward51

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Joined Nov 24, 2011
Saltpeter is 100% potassium nitrate (KNO3). It's been used as a curing agent for centuries, in fertilizer, and is the base component in black powder and some solid rocket fuels.

Those saltpeter (potassium nitrate) amounts are all over the map and not consistent to any meat weight in the old recipes above. Also as a FYI, the FDA no longer allows saltpeter as the cure in commercial products.

I would go with proven modern nitrate products like cure #1, tenderquick, etc.... Use the calculator ratios based on the amount of product being cured (and the method - dry, brine, etc....). Ignore the saltpeter amounts listed in the original recipes when using cure #1.

You "could" use saltpeter as it is available as "food grade potassium nitrate" from several vendors, but I would use modern products with known ratios based on the meat weight instead of that random jumble of ratios (for safety). The sugar is also present in the old recipes to offset the harshness of the salt content and add a flavor component, so some adjustments may be needed. If you did decide to stick with saltpeter make sure you do the ppm calculations based on the weight of meat using modern tables (but I would not go this route)
 
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