Bacon/Ham Prepared Cures Salt Levels

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    A couple of questions primarily directed to those with experience using prepared cure formulas, and tagging Jonathon as well to get his comments.

    From what I have observed, many prepared cures include salt, sugar, nitrite and other additives. The instructions for use of these prepared cures usually call for adding enough of the product to over-salt the meat during the curing process, then remove the excess salt after curing by soaking the meat in water.

    My first question is why add more salt and other ingredients on the front end of the process only to remove them later?

    Second, removing the excess cure ingredients by soaking in fresh water is the accepted method. Soaking is effective and works, but how consistent and predictable is the amount of residual salt and nitrite levels in the cured meat? It would seem there could be a lot of variability depending on amount of water used , length of time in the water, and number of water turn-overs.

    The above method contrasts with the equalization method of curing where salt levels are carefully calculated to add only enough salt, sugar, and nitrite to the meat to hit the target levels of saltiness, sweetness and nitrite in the finished product.

    Hoping to get some enlightenment on use of these cures and how to get repeatable and consistent results.

  • Team Blue Power User Regular Contributors Alabama

    processhead Those are excellent questions Paul. I am thinking all the extra is in the initial mix to make beyond sure there is enough preservation materials to guarantee success & then the water bath reduces the saltiness to taste. However, if it is possible to meet the effective & safe preservation requirements, with just enough salts, that would be ideal. Even though I have done a bunch of brining (did two home corned beefs just the other day), my experience has not been so much scientific, but more of just a little tweaking of the flavor experience & experimentation from the base ingredients. This question hopefully can be answered by Jonathon or Austin or someone with a lot of basic science experience, because it is an excellent question or group of questions.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User Kansas

    processhead Great questions, I believe I know the answer BUT this is one I am double checking on before I answer. Hopefully, I will get a quick and understandable answer here. Sometimes some of these answers are so technical that they go right out of my head! I will be back.


  • processhead
    Great question! I look forward to hearing what Jonathan says.

  • Regular Contributors

    I feel that the industry standard of 1 0z of cure salt for 25 lb product has been used for years and is proven safe. As for adding more salt or spices then required for the right flavor of the finished product and then soaking to remove the extra salt or spice flavor just leads to problems and lots of ruined product and inconsistent results. Making Pickled fish is the best example I have witnessed in which some people brine cure the fish first then have to soak the fish in fresh water to get rid of the extra salt taste and I have tasted lots of less than desirable pickled fish.

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    akdave Meat curing with a prepared cure is the only meat processing procedure I am aware of where you add more than you want in the finished product, and then remove the overage and pour it down the drain. You would not do this with any other flavoring or additive used in meat processing.

    Now, I am not proposing that this is some profit driven scheme driven by the marketing department to increase sales, cuz there just can’t be that much profit selling prepared cure to begin with.

    Rather, I suspect it is a food safety measure to ensure that packers and processors, particularly home processors, will not under-use the product and achieve inadequate curing.

    You could liken it to the advice we read to cook processed meats to an IT of 160 degrees, when we all have read the time and temp charts in Appendix A and know that lethality is assured at lower temperatures than 160 degrees.

    But that is just me rambling. I would like to hear from someone else what the reason is.

  • Yearling

    I was jsut preparing to start a new topic along this line of thought. My question(s) would be if someone had a recipe for the equilibrium method using either the Blue
    ribbon Maple bacon cure or the Country Brown Sugar cure for making/curing bacon? I am at the moment soaking some bacons I had pickling in the Country Brown sugar cure and after reading a few posts on the equilibrium method it made me wonder if there were a way to use the equilibrium method with prepared cures.

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    BobK said in Bacon/Ham Prepared Cures Salt Levels:

    I was jsut preparing to start a new topic along this line of thought. My question(s) would be if someone had a recipe for the equilibrium method using either the Blue
    ribbon Maple bacon cure or the Country Brown Sugar cure for making/curing bacon? I am at the moment soaking some bacons I had pickling in the Country Brown sugar cure and after reading a few posts on the equilibrium method it made me wonder if there were a way to use the equilibrium method with prepared cures.

    Using the equilibrium method means adding a known amount of curing ingredients to the meat, mainly salt, sodium nitrite and a sweetener.
    The problem as I see it is that these prepared curing mixtures are proprietary (aka secret) formulas and the maker does not provide the exact quantities of the ingredients and sometimes not even all the ingredient that they contain.
    So short of some type of lab analysis to find out how much salt, sweetener, and sodium nitrite they contain, I don’t know of a way to use them with the EQ method.

  • Yearling

    processhead I totally agree with what you stated. For any recipe some assumptions would have to be made about, principally, the ratio of sugar to salt as well. The sodium nitrite content is provided on the label and you could calculate that to make sure you have enough ingoing nitrite in the recipe. If you assumed a 1:1 ratio of sugar and salt you might be able to start formulating a recipe based on how it tastes. With sufficient nitrite (calculable) in the developed recipe any cure should be relatively safe and the outcome would be more based on personal tastes. That type of recipe is what I was referring too. I might have to go rummage around in the freezer and see if I can find a couple of chunks of pork belly to give this a try. In the meantime if anyone has gone down this path, please, provide your feedback!

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    BobK said in Bacon/Ham Prepared Cures Salt Levels:

    processhead I totally agree with what you stated. For any recipe some assumptions would have to be made about, principally, the ratio of sugar to salt as well. The sodium nitrite content is provided on the label and you could calculate that to make sure you have enough ingoing nitrite in the recipe. If you assumed a 1:1 ratio of sugar and salt you might be able to start formulating a recipe based on how it tastes. With sufficient nitrite (calculable) in the developed recipe any cure should be relatively safe and the outcome would be more based on personal tastes. That type of recipe is what I was referring too. I might have to go rummage around in the freezer and see if I can find a couple of chunks of pork belly to give this a try. In the meantime if anyone has gone down this path, please, provide your feedback!

    Several of us here use a spreadsheet originally developed by diggingdog farms to formulate EQ cure recipes. It calculates the amount of salt-sugar-sodium nitrite as a percentage of the green weight of the uncured meat being used.

    It is the only method I use now because it is very predictable and does not rely on any soaking on the back end to get the correct level of saltiness.

  • Yearling

    BobK I want to point out that I realize that for the equilibrium method it is easy to weigh out the targetted amount of salt and sugar to formulate a recipe. My goal is to find something so I can use what I have on hand at times. For example I have no maple syrup sugar as a stand alone ingredient but I do have the blue Ribbon cure and the sweeter than sweet cure formulated cures (both contain maple syrup sugar) on hand that would be nice to use outside of the ‘canned’ recipes for those cures.

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    BobK I know what you are saying. Experimentation and trial/error are the only suggestions I can offer for what you are wanting to do.

  • Yearling

    processhead Thanks, Paul! I was fishing for some starting point where someone else began to maybe shorten the learning curve!

  • Yearling

    I did some calcs with the Country Brown sugar cure (0.74% nitrite) and the Blue Ribbon cure (0.6% nitrite) and found that if you assumed a 1:1 ratio salt and sugar in the formulated cures and wanted 2% salt and 2% sugar in your finished product along with a 1000gram meat block. So using 40 grams of each cure (1:1 ratio salt:sugar) you end up (if my math is correct) 0.300 and 0.24 grams of nitrite in your finished cure. If your target is 150 ppm (0.150 g nitrite/1000 gram meat block) you would be well over the desired nitrite concentrations using the prepared cures. In otherwords, you would have to dilute the prepared cures by using plain salt and sugar to bring the nitrite levels in line with your target So unless I really have a hankering for some maple sugar, in some unknown concentration, in my finished product it doesn’t pencil out to use the aforementioned prepared cures to make a EQ recipe.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User Kansas

    processhead Got some basic information on it but I will need to talk to head of Sales more before I can fully answer. The salt is being washed off the exterior, it shouldn’t be drawing any nitrite out during the rinse is the easy way of explaining it but there was more to your question and more to the answer that I should be able to answer after next week.

  • Team Blue Cast Iron Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Military Veterans Power User Regular Contributors

    processhead said in Bacon/Ham Prepared Cures Salt Levels:

    Rather, I suspect it is a food safety measure to ensure that packers and processors, particularly home processors, will not under-use the product and achieve inadequate curing.

    I agree, it is insurance that the product is fully saturated.

  • Team Blue Cast Iron Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Veteran Sous Vide Power User Regular Contributors

    Great question. Following along

  • Regular Contributors Cast Iron Sous Vide Canning Team Blue Power User Military Veterans Ohio

    processhead great topic and thread Paul. I’m definitely watching this post. I’ve always been curious about the over salting on whole muscle products since watching my Uncle make country hams in his smokehouse when I was a kid. The salty taste of a Country Ham aka Virginia Ham, is part of the whole process. A disclaimer here; I love that saltiness in country ham and bacon. Im sure the over salting/curing was done out if necessity to ensure safety back in the day and our palate became accustomed to the process. I wish my own home preserving of meat would have started when my Uncle was still alive. “Homesteading” for him was not a “YouTube fad”, it was a way of life and daily survival. The hams he made were from his own hogs and the produce they ate he planted and cultivated. Unfortunately many of those home trade secrets may or may not have been written down and were passed down from generation to generation. If the following generation decided on a different lifestyle, those secrets went to the grave with many great people. Of course we now have Universities offering courses in the science involved in these processes, which is making it safer and arguably healthier for all of us. It’s also nice to have the written resources from people like Kutas and the Marianski’s. However, the best information to me is having this community asking the right questions, fiiling in the gaps, and passing on those family traditions and recipes for everyone to benefit from. Thanks everyone!

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Regular Contributors Power User Arizona

    GWG8541 well said!

  • Regular Contributors Power User Bowl Choppers

    GWG8541
    I think about the excessive amounts of salt that were used to cure country style hams and it makes me think it was to ward off spoilage/souring at the center of the ham as the salt slowly migrated from the surface to the center.
    It had to take a long time for full penetration and curing.

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