Last week I finished curing bacon and corning beef. It's a simple process that takes very little work. I used the recipes in this New York Times article by Michael Ruhlman (author of Ratio... which I recommend).
This is the second time I've cured bacon and mark my words... when a recipe calls for a volumetric measure of kosher salt do not use table salt. Because the crystals are smaller there is much more table salt in a given volume than kosher salt. Be forewarned and avoid making your bacon inedibley salty as I did the first time.
I started with 2 pounds of pastured bacon and 5 pounds of pastured brisket from Yonder Way Farm.
I followed the recipes when it came to quantities of salt and sugar but not spices. I didn't use sodium nitrite, bay leaves, or thyme in the bacon cure because it was cold and I didn't feel like going outside to pick the leaves and I didn't have sodium nitrite.
|Bacon cure: salt, rapadura, garlic, and black pepper.|
I tasted the bacon at 4, 5, and 7 days. Days 4 and 5 cooked up like uncured bacon. Day 7 had more of the crisp, melty quality we find in cured bacon but not enough. Since 7 days was the entire time it was supposed to take to cure I went ahead and froze it.
I think perhaps since I used sliced pork belly (that's how it comes from my farmer) rather than a whole slab there wasn't enough salt. Sliced belly has much more surface area than a slab. I'll try adding more salt next time and maybe curing it for a longer period. I also forgot to heat the bacon in the oven as the recipe recommends.
Still, it tastes good even if it's not my perfect country and western bacon.
For the brisket I used the amount of salt and sugar called for but did not include carrot, onion, celery, allspice berries, bay or hot pepper. I didn't feel like grinding mace so I added a few whole blades. I also added only one small cinnamon stick and didn't break it up because I don't enjoy cinnamon as much as most people.
Corned beef brine.
Into the brine went the brisket. I filled a glass jar with brine (brine rather than water so that if it leaks it won't dilute the brine) and used that to weigh down the meat (so it remained covered). After 5 days I drained and rinsed the beef. It was then simmered for three hours or so.
The corned beef was very good but much better the next day cold. Next time I'll probably add vegetables to the brine and the cooking water. Also I think I'll brine the brisket in chunks so that more of it comes into contact with the brine. I love the briny edges of the meat best!
Do you have any experience with curing your own meats?