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Curing Meat By Dry Salting Or With A Salt Brine

curing-meat-dry-salting

Using salt for preserving (curing) meat has been a big part of food preservation seemingly forever and the technique is still used today. Dry salting or using a salt brine would be one way to preserve meat while living in an environment without electricity.


 
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% are required to 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, and often had to last for months spent out of sight of land.

Salt beef is sometimes 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, 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.

 
If you’re wondering how to salt 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 larger grain salt) all over the meat and rub it in. Next, hang or set the meat out in a cool environment (under 60 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.

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

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

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6 Comments

  1. I took long muscle cuts from fresh raw venison and soaked them 24 hours in salt/cumin brine. I took wire and hung them up to dry. In a week or two they were ready to eat. When I went out in the woods or camping the jerky was easy to carry and a pocket knife would cut slices off to enjoy. I actually got very addicted to it.

    You can add other flavors to the brine like garlic, but you can also roll the meat in other seasoning, Cajon seasoning, etc., before it is hung to dry after the brine soak. Just remember to leave out the salt when it is rolled after a salt brine or it may be too salty.

  2. Ken, off topic, but in spirit of the Season

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

    Have enjoyed your blog, learned a little, gotten ,much new info.

    Best to you and your family (including pup)in coming year.

    Thank you for your work informing/educating (sometimes entertaining) on this blog.

    Take care.

  3. My comment is really a question. If things got really bad, i.e. permanent loss of power, could one take the meat contents in the freezer and start the salt preserving process assuming you had enough salt and knowledge?

    1. You can salt cure lean meats as beef, buffalo, deer, and antelope once it is thawed. Salt pork, bacon and pork thigh (ham) can all salt cured and smoked afterwards. You can find recipes on search engines and a special “curing salt” is recommended.

      I don’t know about salt curing chicken and turkey, I heard nasty things (salmonella, bad smelling) about it getting rancid unless refrigerated.

      1. @ Stardust
        I noticed your comment on the Blog from Dec 2, 2014 on “Curing Meat By Dry Salting Or With A Salt Brine”, Am thinking on getting into salt curing meats “just because”. Have a question, what Salt do you use? I ran across Anthony’s Premium Pink Curing Salt #1 (2lb), Certified Gluten-Free and am wondering????
        Any side advice would be well appreciated, thanks
        Also what about the book “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing” that Ken suggested?
        NRP

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