Questions about brining hams and dry rubbing bacons

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Scallywag
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Questions about brining hams and dry rubbing bacons

Post by Scallywag » Thu Nov 17, 2016 04:21

Hey guys. New to the forum here looks like lots of great info here. I have a couple of Stan and Adam's books which is what led me here. I am pretty new to curing and am not going to lie pretty in over my head at a job I just took. It's a little Mom and Pop's butcher operation but it's pretty clear they don't exactly know what they are doing with hams and bacons and neither do I really. It's such a bummer to have this great pork raised by farmers who put a lot of care and effort into it and not have it come out amazing or come out bad.

They use a "nitrite/nitrate free" pre-mixed spice blend but it's meant to be injected into the hams, with celery juice powder, tumbled, equalized, and smoked. Problem is they don't want to inject because of USDA guidelines, and we don't even have a smoker. We've just been mixing up the spice blend more or less as per the directions and brining in it for 3 weeks regardless of the ham weight.

I tried a couple different brines of salt/brown sugar/ and nitrite one roughly at 75 degrees and another at roughly 60 degrees both with sugar added at 2% by weight. I was going 3 days per pound and sadly found out that was way too much so I cut it down to 2 days. A little better but not amazing.

Long story short I'm wondering if anyone has a good working formula as far as brine strength in degrees, how much sugar to add, and how long to brine. Also any advice on soaking/resting/equalizing would be much appreciated.

As far as bacon goes, is 50/50 salt to brown sugar to much do you think? I'm slowly creeping towards that as it is. Also I am getting a bit of a chlorine/chemical taste both in the cured meat itself but even when I open up the container I have my pre-mixed cure of salt, brown sugar, and sodium nitrite in I get a big whif of it. Not from the bag of pink salt itself though. Is it reacting to something? Just too much?

Sorry for the everybody but the sooner I get it figured out the better.
Thanks so much!
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Butterbean
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Nov 17, 2016 15:01

Three weeks in a 75% brine will give you a salt block for sure. Using a 65-70% brine you only need to soak bellies three days and hams 5. Be sure to rinse them well and hang to equalize.

I'm not a fan of people advertising nitrite/nitrate free meats when you know full well you are using them in your product through the use of celery powder. This is rather deceptive IMO and I think you will find the FSIS will be cracking down on this false labeling shortly. I'd suggest being up front with your customers and educating them and producing a product that is superior to what they can purchase in the grocery stores. If you have good farm raised pork this shouldn't be difficult.
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Nov 17, 2016 16:00

Here is a recipe you might find good. Its a modification of a Cairo and Erickson recipe I tried and found it very good. Its very mild and pretty tasty and has received a lot of compliments. It does require injection but you may tweak the time some and forego this as it should be pretty forgiving since the brine strength is mild. If you forego the injection I'd suggest pulling a piece of the meat and cutting a sample of it and pan frying to be sure you don't have that dreaded silver dollar area of uncured meat in the center.

Sweetheart Ham

I use loins but the original recipe calls for boneless sirloin or pork knuckles.

RECIPE
Brine
Add 3.9% salt to a gallon of water. This equates to 151.2 grams of salt and will make a 15 degree brine.
171 grams of brown sugar
171 grams of sugar
1 TBS of Red Pepper Flakes
10 Peppercorns
15 or more Bay Leaves - I get even more generous with these because I like the flavor.
2.5 grams of fennel seed
2 tsp of ground thyme
3 onions quartered
40 grams of chopped garlic - about 2.5 TBS
Pink Salt - per label - about 2.5 TBS
Bring water and salt to a boil then add sugars and other ingredients and turn down the heat and add curing salt and let simmer for 10 minutes or so.
Let brine cool. Once cooled, weigh the meat and inject 10% of each cut of meat with the brine.
Soak the loins for 10 days moving them around occasionally.
Remove and rinse well with water and hang in refrigerator for a few hours to drip dry.
If you are going to smoke them, just hang them outside to air dry and let them warm some and become suitable to take smoke.
If you are smoking them, hot smoke till they reach an internal temp of 155F.
If you are not smoking them, slice and package and freeze for later use.
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Bob K
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Post by Bob K » Thu Nov 17, 2016 16:26

Since whole loins were on sale last week for .99 per lb, this is perfect timing!

All Ingredients are per gallon of brine?

If not hot smoking cook or poach to 155f before freezing?
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Post by BlueMonkey » Thu Nov 17, 2016 16:37

Thx BB.

I recently followed one of redzed recipes and it came out real good, but i wouldnt mind giving this a try.
What is the ml /litre equivalent of your gallon?

What do you mean by pinksalt - per label?

And just to clarify, you actually boil your curing salt? I have only ever added to a cooled brine. I presume this will make the brine pink, but does it inhibit the curing qualities?
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Nov 17, 2016 16:39

Yes, sorry, it is by the gallon. Bob, I've never poached them but that would be a good thing to do especially if you slice it thin for sandwich meat. It would be great sandwich meat. I think I'll do this next time because I love the flavor of this but more importantly my wife does and she is very ticky.

I freeze raw after slicing and just gently pan fry the slices or I dice them up and toss in sauteed green beans. Sliced about 1/2 inch they don't take but a few minutes to cook through.

I don't know why, but it seems when I pan fry them raw they seem more moist and juicy.
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Post by Bob K » Thu Nov 17, 2016 17:00

Thanks Joe. What I have been doing lately with my dry rubbed boneless Turkey roll is smoking at 130f for 5 or 6 hours and then Sous Vide at the finish temp for 3-5 hrs. Perfectly cooked and moist. Perfect amount of smoke flavor. That method should work great for pork loins also.
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Nov 17, 2016 22:54

Bluemonkey, I figure there are 3.79 litres in a gallon.

Per label is just my way of dodging the arrows from folks who get anal about nitrites. Seems everyone's Cure 1 is a little different. Mine calls for 3 ounces per gallon and I add that on top of the salt. I guess if you wanted to split hairs you could say the brine strength is stronger than 15 degrees but I don't worry about that. I just worked up the total degrees with the cure added and assuming my math is correct it bumps it up to a 22-23 degree brine.

On this I don't actually boil it but boil everything then add the curing salt when I turn the heat down to a simmer. I have boiled it before on other things and think I've done it on this as well. There is so little cure used and so little dye in the cure you won't see any pink color in the brine. It should look like tea and the aroma will fill your kitchen with pure loveliness. BTW - I also grow my own bay leaves so what's in the recipe versus what I actually do is conservative. Typically, I'll just grab a handful of them.

Bob, how do you like the sous vide? A friend and I have been talking about trying this and he told me today he had ordered a machine. It sounds pretty interesting.
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Post by Butterbean » Thu Nov 17, 2016 23:06

Here is a picture of a finished loin I've sliced raw to package and freeze.

Image

Here is one that's been gently pan fried. Its very juicy and has a very nice flavor, none to salty, a slight sweetness to it but you still can enjoy the ham. Pretty nice balance I think.

Image
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Post by Scallywag » Fri Nov 18, 2016 06:31

Nice looking cured loin. Honestly at this point I'm not to concerned with uneven color distribution, just having a tasty hunk of pork leg. Ha yeah that first ham was pretty bad, couldn't even finish the pieces I sliced off to sample. I'm hoping towards the center they weren't as bad but either way I'm sure they weren't so tasty.

I guess I'll just keep playing with it. I'll probably drop my brine down to the 40ish percent range and jump my sugar up to around 5 percent or so by weight and adjust brine times. I suppose shorter and under cured is better than eating salt with some ham flavor.

I'm not the biggest fan of the whole "nitrate free" scheme either but they see it as a marketing tool. I'll keep working on them.

Another quick question as I was thinking about it earlier today at work, if I don't plan on smoking my bacon since I don't have a smoker at work do I really even need to use nitrite? Seems I get a decent color and of course a fine taste out of the bellies I rub down with just kosher and brown sugar.
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Post by BlueMonkey » Fri Nov 18, 2016 07:36

Hi Scallywag.

I would suggest that as you have a responsibility toward your consumers you may be better off over curing than under, though I do note that ( as yet) you are not smoking your products.

Some may ague that a greyish centre is not desirable for more reasons than just aesthetically pleasing, bearing in mind that this is the result of little or no cure ( or curing salts / celery powder) reaching the discloured area, which. completely apart from being non-cured, will also result in a lack of the bacon/ham flavour in this area.

As Butterbean has pointed out, with a less salty brine, meat is more time tolerant.

What you may consider whilst still in the experimental stage is to cut a slice off and fry it for taste. Too salty then soak the joint in fresh water, perhaps exchanging the water several times. Grey in the midddle, put back in the pickle for more time This may aid in less wastage until you become familiar with the timings of a particular brine strength.
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Post by BlueMonkey » Fri Nov 18, 2016 07:41

Sorry,

Forgot to add.

I believe Nitrate is essential for flavouring of the bacon / ham, otherwise all your result will be is raw salted / sugared grey cooked pork.
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Post by Butterbean » Fri Nov 18, 2016 13:53

I agree.
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Post by Scallywag » Sat Nov 19, 2016 08:16

I was thinking it would be better to error on the side of under curing but I'm glad you guys think over would be better because I certainly went over on the first few lol. I did take a couple pieces to try but they were off the outside so hopefully it wasn't so salty in the middle.

Would smoking take some of the harsh saltiness off or cover it up at least do you think?
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Post by Butterbean » Sat Nov 19, 2016 17:15

If you left it in there for three weeks at 70 degree brine its going to be a salt lick whether you smoke it or not. Good thing is you could hang it in your attic and it will never spoil. Some people actually like their hams salty like this.

I think you are overlooking the concept of allowing the salt to equalize. The salt penetrates in degrees and if you test a piece of meat and see the inside hasn't cured yet but you've had it in the brine long enough just hang it and let the cure just work its way on into the meat. Given enough time it will. This was a problem I once had because I'd get in a hurry and I'd end up with little silver dollar uncured sections in the center of the meat. This is a pet peeve of mine. I've learned to be more patient.

Just try what I suggested earlier and give it a few days hanging time and I think you'll be on the right track.
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