Hey everyone ! I finally made my own cured meat and it is quite delicious. I suggest you try it !
It is nothing like the possum jerky I once saw here...
Here are some ideas and tips about how to make your own cured meat. The good thing about curing your meat yourself is that you can customize everything to your liking, be it the meat or the spices you use in the marinade, the saltness, the dryness... The bad thing is that you can get botulism. We'll go back to that later.
WARNING : EATING RAW OR UNDERCOOKED MEAT IS AMAZING but don't be dumb, it can also be dangerous. Exert common sense.
If you like it, please consider voting for me in the "snacks" and "some like it hot" contests! :)
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
... I mean ingredients :
A beautiful piece of meat of your choice
Sodium or potassium nitrate
Spices and stuff for marinating : I used whisky, sage, chili rub, salt, pepper, a carrot and pine honey
And last but not least, a dry, cool, ventilated place to let the meat dry for a couple of weeks.
Step 2: Choosing and Preparing the Meat
You can use beef, pork, duck... As long as it is a chunky and delicious piece of meat of know origin and age.
You can also hunt your meat. I live in a city and I don't eat humans, dogs, rats or pigeons. Sad. I therefore had to go to a professional meat seller.
The best course of action if you're not sure for the first time is to ask your butcher advice, he will be able to help you if you tell him what you want to do.I chose, with the help of mine, a piece of beef with as little nerves and fat as possible : it is important to remove as much as you can of what isn't muscle for they can make the meat go bad faster. (With the exception of dried ham, duck breast, or any cut near with the skin in which case the fat is a uniform layer that you cant to keep.)
Step 3: Salting / Desalting
This step is optional. To reduce the curing time of the meat, you can do a quick salting / desalting process, which consists of first rubbing the meat in salt and leaving it there for a couple of days so as to get some water out of the meat and then letting it soak in a big volume of fresh water to remove the excess salt, without rehydrating the meat, thanks to osmosis.
I mixed in the salt an amount (0.1% in regard to the mass of salt) of potassium nitrate, which I bought in a professional food supplies store for very cheap (La Bovida, in France). The potassium nitrate slowly releases potassium nitrite which helps prevent bacteria (especially Clostridium botulinum) from growing.
I put a large amount of that salt mixture in the bottom of a terrine and rubbed the meat in some more of it. I used coarse sea salt, some people prefer mine salt to prevent the iodide taste. I don't think it matters that much and iodide happens to be an antiseptic, which can only be good in preventing bacteria to settle in your meat.
This will sit in the fridge for 12 to 72 hours depending on the size of the piece of meat. I did 24 hours for an 800 g (about 2 pounds) piece of beef.
I then covered the meat with more salt and sealed the whole shabang in a plastic bag to prevent the moisture from the fridge to make everything taste like fridge. Once in a while, check for an excess of water and remove it from the terrine.
After 24 hours in the salt, I rinsed it with a LOT of running water and let it soak in a sealed tupperware in fresh water, changed regularly, for 12 more hours.
Step 4: Marinating
This is where you get creative! Choose the tastes you like.
I made a marinade from Glengoyne 10 years single malt scotch whisky, a non peated highland malt, a shaved carrot, pine honey, sage, thyme, different chilli rubs (some of the delicious Slap Ya Mama rub), salt (not too much!) and pepper.
I mixed everything thouroughly and put the meat and marinade for 72 hours in an air-free ziploc bag in the fridge, massaging it once in a while by hand to homogenize the mixture and maximize meat exposure to the marinade.
You can replace the whisky by wine, tequila, vodka if you're curing bison, probably beer...
Step 5: Drying
After 72 hours of marinating, I got the meat out and let it drip then dry in air. I covered it in a mixture of pepper, some chilli salt and ground dried sage leaves. I put it in the garage (Dry, cool, ventilated. You need all three for efficient drying). I went to check on it and massage it once every two days the first week and then once a week, so as to make sure it would dry evenly. Once it's lost between 30 and 45% of its original weight, it's done! It took about three weeks for mine. I like it quite pink in the middle and "fresh" so you can probably dry it more, once again, to your liking.
Cut it very thin because it's better, don't forget to share it and don't "taste" the whole thing at once, it's so easy to eat half of it in one go...
To preserve it, I keep the uncut chunk tightly wrapped in a towel. You can also cut slices and vacuum seal them if you've got a vacuum sealer, which I don't. But it's definitely the best way to preserve it.
NB : Some mold may develop on the surface. From what I've read and discussed, as long as it's not black or hairy white stringy weird shit, it should be fine. You can see white and green mold on all home or small batch made dried meat, it's not something to be afraid of. I refer you to the excellent wrightfood blog that has a page about meat curing safety for more insight. His blog is generally full of great knowledge and is really helpful.