Methods Of Meat Preservation
The problem of storing meat for use all year round is an old one.
Before preservation though…
Although not a method of preservation, a period of ‘hanging’ can improve the flavor and texture of meats by giving natural enzymes time to break down tough muscle fibers. The temperature range for hanging is 33 to 40 degrees F. Fresh meat and poultry will rapidly deteriorate in temperatures above 40 degrees F, so be wary of this. Without a refrigerated room, this can obviously only be done during the cold months of the year. Game should be gutted first, and any scent glands should be removed. Hanging times range from 24 to 48 hours, to even longer for a more tender meat (It must remain under 40 degrees F!)
Since the time frame of World War II, freezing has become the most popular way to store meat. It is quick and easy and preserves the nutritional value and flavor. Obviously though, freezing depends upon a supply of electrical power. Freezing meat is best at 0 degrees F, for longest shelf life. Wrap all pieces securely in individual moisture-proof packages to prevent freezer burn. Label each package with they type of meat and the date is was frozen. All meats will begin to deteriorate in the freezer though. Ground meats will be good up to 3 months amethods-to-preserve-meatnd stakes or roasts will last well up to 6 months.
Canning meat is convenient and economical, and is not endangered by power failures. Canned foods keep for a very long time (years). Be aware that the greatest danger in canning is botulism, a severe and often fatal form of food poisoning caused by bacteria that thrive in airless conditions. This is easily and readily prevented by being sure to to follow proper canning recipes, and to heat containers for an extended time at 240 degrees F. This temperature requires a pressure canner with its control set for at least 10 pounds. Again, search out recipes for either raw-packed or hot-packed meat.
Salt is the only essential ingredient for curing. It retards spoilage by drawing water out of the meat while also killing decay-causing microorganisms. Meat cured with salt alone will store well (but will be tough and dry). An early salt cure was as simple as storing slabs of meat in a barrel of salt. ‘Kosher salt’ can be used for curing meat and is a type of coarse salt which is usually made without additives. ‘Curing salt’ is most commonly used today and is a special blend of salt and other ingredients including sodium nitrite (which has become somewhat controversial regarding potential health issues with large doses).
Curing is the first step in the smoking process, essential for good flavor. ‘Cold smoking’ is best for preservation (and for adding flavor) with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees F, and is more easily accomplished during cooler months. The cold smoking process may range from 1 to 14 days. The preservative benefit of smoking is that the smoke contains tar-like substances that are deposited on the food. To a greater or lesser extent, they seal the surface, keeping air from coming in contact with the food. Fats in the food will not turn rancid from exposure to air, so smoking is particularly useful for preserving fatty foods. The smoke also kills bacteria. Smoked meats may still spoil quickly though, depending, so refer to research of your particular meat, recipes, and shelf-life storage.