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Tips for curing and brining

Tips For Curing And Brining

Barbecue Smoker Recipe Evolution
Smoking evolved as a means to preserve food before refrigerators were invented or the canning process arrived on the scene. How old is the science of smoking? Well no one really knows for sure but it’s been around a lot longer than most evidence that documents it. I’m led to believe that there’s a smoking pit in China that’s believed to be 5000 years old so we can safely assume that it’s been around for some time.
Traditionally food preservation would have started with either curing or brining and then the smoking process would follow on. Nowadays with the advent of refrigerators, smoking and indeed brining or curing is more concerned with flavor rather than food preservation. For me and many people it’s about having fun too, getting the best ingredients and taking time over preparing food is sadly in decline now that the pace of life is so fast. Life’s too short, let’s chill out and savor all that’s to be experience with traditional food preparation.
Curing using smoke works well for both meat and fish. The most common chemicals used for curing today include ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or sodium nitrate albeit ascorbic acid also preserves the color of the meat at the same time. In days gone by the preferred choice would have been potassium nitrite but essentially it’s a salt.
Much has moved on from tradition with the quest to add flavor by curing so it’s now common to include some sweet flavoring with the salt such as sugar, treacle, molasses etc or to spice it up with chili powder or cayenne pepper. The fundamental point however is that curing is a dry process.
The curing process then can take many weeks or months and the end results are well worth it. The classic commercial curing that we see day in day out comes from curing belly pork and we end up with bacon. I get frustrated that even today there’s so much water in commercially prepared bacon and if this isn’t a reason to try home curing, I don’t know what is. It’s a fairly simple process too.
Ask your butcher for a pork belly or part of one depending on how big you want it. Rub the belly all over with a 75%:25% mixture of salt and brown sugar and add a bit of chili or cayenne to your taste. Place the pork belly in a plastic container and bung it in the fridge for 2 months. Be patient and you’ll never want to buy commercial bacon again!
Brining is the wet process where we simply immerse the meat in a salt solution or brine — and that’s it. It works well for salt beef, barbecue turkey and fish (salmon in particular) as a precursor to smoking and the basic method is outlined below.
The essential ingredient is the creation of a salt solution that is completely saturated. Stir salt into water until no more will dissolve, now heat it gently and see how much more you can get to dissolve. When finished, let it cool and immerse the meat for a few days making sure that the meat is kept fully immersed in the brine.
That’s all there is to it, just wash of the brine and the meat is ready for smoking.
I hope you try it, I’m sure you’ll like it.

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