salting meat for preservation

Salting Meat For Preservation – Curing – Dry Salting – Salt Brine

Salting meat for preservation. It is the way it was done. Salt for preserving (curing) meat. It has been a big part of food preservation seemingly forever. The technique is still used today. Dry salting, or using a salt brine, would be a method to preserve meat during a time without electricity (the ‘old days, or SHTF).

Salt inhibits the growth of microorganisms (including those on meat). It does this by drawing out water from the microbial cell (by osmosis) due to the high concentration of salt outside the cell. The cell loses water until it reaches a state where it cannot grow and then cannot survive any longer.

Concentrations of Salt up to 20%

This will kill most species of unwanted bacteria.

Salted meat and fish are a staple of the diet in many parts of the world. Salted meat was also a staple of the mariner’s diet. Salt was stored in barrels. It had to last for months spent out of sight of land.

By the way, salt stores forever. Generally speaking, I really like Redmond salt from Utah. I’ve found it in 10 pound pails too… Great for general preparedness.

Redmond – 10 pounds – fine grind
(Redmond storefront on amzn)

There’s also ‘special’ salt for curing meat. Although any salt will apparently work. Kosher (a coarse grind) is generally recommended. Here’s an example of curing salt:

Anthonys Pink Curing Salt
(storefront on amzn)

Salt beef. Also known as corned beef. The use of the term ‘corned’ comes from the fact that the Middle English word corn could refer to grains of salt as well as cereal grains.

Salting meat can be accomplished by adding salt (dry), or, in brine.

Dry salting, also called corning. It is a process where meat is dry-cured with coarse ‘corns’ or pellets of salt. Corned beef of Irish fame is made from a beef brisket, although any cut of meat can be corned.

Salt brine curing simply involves making a brine containing salt. Age-old tradition was to add salt to the brine until it floated an egg. Today it is preferred to use a hydrometer. Or to carefully mix measured ingredients from a reliable recipe. Once mixed and placed into a suitable container, the food is submerged in the salt brine. Brine curing usually produces an end product that is less salty compared to dry curing. Injection of brine into the meat can also speed the curing process.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
(amzn)

Salting Meat For Preservation

If you’re wondering about salting meat for preservation, the process is fairly simple and straightforward.

In general, you simply rinse the fresh meat in cool water. Then pour a thin layer of salt (generally kosher salt – which is simply coarser salt) all over the meat and rub it in. Next, hang or set the meat out in a cool environment (under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but not below freezing) for a couple weeks to dry it out some. Before cooking the meat, rinse off the salt with water.

In theory, if you use enough salt when doing this, you can even preserve meat for decades, though of course the amount you’d have to use would probably make it unpalatable.

At the minimum, if you’re only using salt with no other preservative method, it’s generally considered that about a 20% salt concentration on the surface of the meat is needed to kill off most types of microbes and fungi that can spoil the food.

Sources: National Center For Home Food Preservation; University of Georgia

To avoid food-borne illness, do your due-diligence and use reliable recipes if you are to try this.

For those who have experience with salting meat for preservation, let us know your experiences or do’s and dont’s…

[ Read: Uses For Salt That You May Not Have Known About ]

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14 Comments

  1. I use a product called UMAI Bags ( Amazon has them). Makes salami, pepperoni, capicola – cured pork butt, lonzino – cured pork loin, etc. ) real easy. The bags manage moisture and oxygen exchange. You just provide the refrigerator.

  2. Question:
    Say part (maybe 15%) of your “preps” are 50 lbs of freezered meat. If the power goes out (long-term), how practical would it be to salt this (mostly) beef? Some I assume would be difficult, like ground meat and sausage. But steaks and roasts?

    Or would defrosting and pressure-canning it all be a better option?

    1. Ken in Konnecticut:
      Personally I would plan on canning that meat. Especially the sausage and burger.
      The roast and steaks and such would need to be cut up and salted or canned.
      I would suggest trying some now, before TSHTF, learning on the fly usually don’t work so well.
      So, grab some of the freezer meat and try it.

      1. NRP & Blue,
        canning food has always been my go to for long term storage,
        smoked meats are just short term snacks. they don’t last long at my house.

  3. long term grid down. id prob pressure can or dehydrate our freezer meats. i got high BP so salting a lesser option

    1. Keto and Intermittent fasting will take care of that high BP. Has the added benefit of helping your prep life. I had high BP, started keto and intermittent fasting and within a month I had it under control no drugs. Doc kept asking what I was doing and wouldn’t believe it was just diet. I told doc he is not a dietician lol.

  4. if you’re going to just let it hang, cover it with something to keep the bugs off, i would use cheesecloth. better yet put it in a “salt” box for two weeks and then smoke it. it’s the way we do it and i’m still alive after doing it for all these years. ain’t killed me yet.
    really, different areas take different methods depending on humidity and climate.
    the area that i grew up in, southern Nevada, i bet that you could hang it in on a cloths line in the morning and it would be jerky by nightfall in the summer, no joke.
    seek out the Amish or Mennonites in your area and ask them how they do it. they will gladly tell you how they do it. they are a wealth of information if you talk to them right.
    always remember, they don’t care how you do it. if they wan’t to know they will ask.

    1. scout:
      Cover it??? LOLOL,in the middle of the desert with 10 degree weather… and 5% humidity
      What bugs HAHAHA

  5. I have two pork loins downstairs that were dry salted (in a sense). I’ve done chicken, pork, and beef. All were pretty good dry cured. I also did corned beef, which was OK but since it’s wet cured it had to be frozen. Cured ground meat is called sausage, or pepperoni, or whatever, so if it’s done right I can’t see that there are problems with just using that as is rather than doing another curing process.

    Remember that using iodized salt isn’t necessarily the best option, as it can result in getting too much iodine. Not to mention all the other gunk they use as fillers in the salt.

  6. I have had good success salting meat, well, beef to preserve it. I rinse the meat and salt it heavily. By that I mean rub coarse salt into it once a day. As much as it will take. After about a week of that ( you will know when enough is enough} I hang it with a towel over it but allow air to get to it just not insects. Have had beef last this way for years in a somewhat warm climate without refrigeration. Now results may vary and understand that those that know me realize I can tolerate salt and am willing to compromise toughness and taste in order to be able to have meat no matter what.
    Bil tong is another thing to consider which preserves beef but I prefer the flavor of salted beef.
    Don’t discount pemmican although I have been unable to get mine to become firm. Otherwise it is worth consideration. Maybe in cooler climates? Be safe.

  7. Find a southern old timer and ask him how to cure hams as in country hams. My granddaddy used salt, sugar and pepper wrapped in cheesecloth and hung in the smoke house. my daddy said it was the best he ever tasted.

  8. We had tried an authentic famous Virginia country ham during holidays
    (Even after soaking before cooking, and a can of Dr Pepper as basting) it was the SALTIEST thing ever-practically could not eat it as one expects to eat ham
    That was a universal agreement of 9 family members at the dinner table-I would not let them throw out leftovers-used them in small quantities in bean soup and veggie stew (with collard greens or kale)

    Now if you just needed chunks at a time to flavor your soups or stews /that was a way better use and will make it last longer

    We have had salted eggs and salted fish to eat with the congee (rice porridge) for breakfast or lazy meal- so we are used to salted foods but that country ham was more than my norm

    So try salted/brined stuff now when there’s room for error/experimentation
    And make sure you have enough potable water or some sort of liquid to help 😊

    1. Good article. Salting meet has been done for hundreds of years. Like smoking the salt actually cures the meat for later use. My granddaddy use to say ” put that salt on at least an inch thick. Back then hunting was a way of life and you got what you could when you could.
      He had a smoke house, salting room and canning shed. He was the standard for living off the land. He did have electric power, for the flushing water but always used beeswax candles and kerosene.
      If done properly, meat wrapped in salt should last as long as a year or more. That depends on if you know what you are doing. I do admit that salted meat is tender, easy to cook and has a great flavor.

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