Bod Griffiths, from Vale House Cookery School, knows a thing or two about making your own charcuterie at home…
Curing meat and fish is one of the oldest forms of preserving food. Before the advent of refrigeration our ancient ancestors discovered that the application of salt would preserve meat and significantly lengthen its shelf life, so that there was food during times of scarcity. The origins of these practices can be traced back as far as 3000BC where dried, preserved meats were part of the Sumerian diet.
Food, if left at room temperature, will spoil. This is because ‘bad’ bacteria will use the moisture present to multiply rapidly, breaking down the protein and fats present and eventually reaching levels that are unsafe for human consumption. By dry curing it is possible to create an environment that is inhospitable to these bacteria. The application of salt withdraws moisture from the flesh due to osmosis and therefore inhibits the ability of the bacteria to reproduce.
Dry curing is very easy to do at home, you just need the correct salt and a food safe plastic container. The best salt to use is pure dried vacuum salt (PDV). Created by boiling a pure brine in a vacuum, the resulting salt crystals are perfect cubes which means they cure evenly across the surface of the meat. A rock salt by contrast would cure unevenly and would leave the potential for the meat to go off. PDV salt is easy to come by and is relatively cheap, a 25kg bag being around £8.
It is possible to cure all meats and fish, although some do cure better than others. If I had to pick one however it would have to be pork. By curing it you result in a huge array of delicious things to eat. Bacon, ham, salamis… the list goes on. Traditional bacon cures often have sugar and spices added to enhance the flavour of the final product. Try our streaky bacon recipe to see just how good the result can be for yourself!
Dry cured meats are ready to eat after they’ve had their allotted time in the salt/dry cure mix. If you are going to hang them up to continue the curing process the flavours will improve but make sure you do so somewhere dry and airy. Damp is the arch enemy of producing cured products as it enables bad moulds to encroach on all your hard work. Any coloured moulds that grow on the outside of your bacon, especially blue and green ones, are generally bad. It’s not the end of the world though, just wash them off with some proper vinegar (we always use traditional Somerset cider vinegar) and find somewhere else that is dry to rehang.
Enjoy that streaky bacon sandwich and please feel free to tag us in any posts so we can see how your dry curing journey is going…..
Steve Lamb teaches Smoking and Curing courses at Vale House Cookery School. Check out their website www.valehousekitchen.co.uk if you would like to learn more.