4 – HAM-BACON-WHOLE MUSCLES      (Preserving Entire “Cuts”)

4 – HAM-BACON-WHOLE MUSCLES (Preserving Entire “Cuts”)

What greater pleasure than a country ham and red-eye gravy breakfast? Well, personally…

But that’s okay. There are many regional specialties and traditional methods or preserving meats. Gimme a good corned-beef or pastrami on rye and a kosher or Polski Wyrobi dill pickle on the side, and I’ll be a happy camper.

…even tell you about the time I went on a job interview in Connecticut and had the best Reuben in my life? …had “duck breath” after that, so I didn’t get the job, but man! …was it worth it!

So, share your techniques, experiences, and Grandpa’s old traditional recipes here.

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278 thoughts on “4 – HAM-BACON-WHOLE MUSCLES (Preserving Entire “Cuts”)

  1. Turkey Brining Commentary:
    Captain’s Blog – Stardate 2016.1117
    These are the voyages of the starship SausagesWest.
    Its never-ending mission: seek out new forms of sausage. Eat them. Ask for more.

    We interrupt this melodramatic installment of Truck Stop Bratwursts of Interstate 35 to bring you the following special holiday edition, a review of Chuckwagon’s “Smoke-n-Choke” Turkey Brining and Cooking method. This unusual variation on the usual mixture of salt, cure #1, dextrose, and water adds popular soft drink 7-Up® to produce an extremely moist, flavorful turkey. Aficionados will admit that this may be the best use of 7-Up® since the Seagram’s Seven Crown® whiskey cocktail, the “7-and-7,“ caught on back in the ‘70’s. (Others may omit everything but the “7-&-7.” That’s their prerogative.)

    Since those days, Seagram’s beverage division has been acquired by Diageo, Pernod Ricard. and the Coca-Cola Company in 2000. The rights to the 7-Up brand are now held by Dr Pepper Snapple Group in the United States, and PepsiCo (or its licensees) in the rest of the world. Most turkeys in this end of the galaxy are now acquired from …well, a bunch of corporate and private producers. Native Americans are believed to have acquired, er, hunted wild turkey as early as 1000 A.D. …and many of them (the turkeys, that is), when cooked, taste like they were left over from about then.

    …unless you use this recipe.

    So, how do you start? Well, in order to prepare one for Thanksgiving, you need to come over to our house. You see, it takes four to five days to brine the thing, especially if it’s a monster, and Thanksgiving being a day away at this writing, you’re too late. (…unless you don’t mind calling it “leftovers.”) Smaller ones are more tender, but you can have your Mae West turkey if you want- – this method assures that it will be tender and juicy. An added benefit is that you never come out even on the 7 Up, so make sure you lay in a bottle of Seagram’s 7 during the same trip to the grocery/liquor market.

    So, let’s say that you got into the game four or five days ago. A common question is, “Awww, c’mon, do I HAFTA make that much brine?” Well, Bunky, to be honest… no. The amount you HAVE to make is enough to submerge the turkey in whatever pot or bag or whatever that you intend to drown, uh, submerge the thing in. The theory, here, is that the turk will take on about 10% of its “green” weight in fluid, so if you wanted to be cheap about it, you could weigh the turkey, multiply by a tenth, ratio the brine recipe to that amount, then inject it all into the poor, cleaned, naked beast. More realistically, most people will brine the turkey in a brining bag or in a pot or other non-reactive container. The amount of brine required is simply that volume required to submerge the turkey. …but don’t forget that you have to fill the body cavity, too.

    This suggests (as do I) that you put the turkey into the bag or container, fill it with water until submerged, then pull out the turkey and measure the volume of water. You can then ratio the recipe to that volume, or you can make up the recipe amount and discard the excess. Obviously, don’t do this in a 55 gallon drum or a bathtub. You’ll waste far too much brine ingredients. Instead, a large enameled pot or plastic container would be a good choice, as would be what I did, a freezer bag such as (in the USA) a Food Saver bag. I put my turkey into a bag which I had previously sealed at one end, set the thing upright in a plastic container like it would later be in the refrigerator, filled it with water, gathered the top like it would be when sealed, then poured out the water a measurement cup at a time, to see how much was needed. ..too big for a Food Saver bag? Use a kitchen trash bin bag instead. …whatever will hold the turkey but will fit your pot reasonably snugly.

    Assuming this amount is greater than 10% of the turkey’s weight (which is a really good bet), you can then ratio the recipe. This is a great assumption, as you can readily see by noting that the turkey’s rib cage holds quite a bit of fluid volume by itself, plus you then need additional volume for the rest of the container. No biggie- – by measuring the amount of water required, you now know exactly how much fluid you need.

    Which leads us to the fun of calculating the ratio. You’ll note that (against the advice of someone whom we won’t mention) a certain mustachioed old guy who shall remain nameless managed to specify the recipe in volumes, and not just ANY volumes, but the screwy “avoirdupois” measurement commonly used in the USA but abandoned by everyone else. Cups, pints, quarts, gallons indeed! What we need is WEIGHTS, Man!

    What does one do? Well, I dunno about you, whichever one you are, but as for this one, I take a measurement cup out, weigh it, fill it with whatever ingredient is called for, then weigh it again. Subtract the “tare” (empty measuring cup) weight from the total weight to get the net weight. That way (that weigh?), you get what is called a bulk density and you can calculate how much WEIGHT of each ingredient you need.

    The next trick is to make sure that it is all on a common basis. Don’t try to mix gallons and cups and such. Convert it all into weight units. Also convert the amount of water you found that you need into weight. Your conversion factor for the recipe is simply the weight of water you measured, divided by the total weight of the recipe. Don’t forget: most of the weight is contributed by the liquids, and the recipe calls for 2 gallons of water plus a gallon of 7-Up. Don’t just ratio down from the water figure- – always add in the 7-Up too.

    Got that? Right. Now, get out the Seagram’s, if you haven’t already, and pour yourself a shot for your efforts. Dilute it half-and-half with some of the 7 Up. There ya go. …all better?

    Okay. Now, multiply the original recipe’s weight of each ingredient by your conversion factor. Weigh out and mix ‘em. (In my case, I mixed ‘em in the Food Saver bag which I had prepared earlier, had tested the turkey in, had filled with water and measured out, and had made sure that I allowed enough bag to seal later. …or, for the trash bag, enough bag to gather the top portion and secure it with a clothes pin.)

    The bag or container now contains the brine. Put the turkey in. If using a bag, no problem- – squeeze out most of the air, then seal the top. (Don’t bother to vacuum it. …talk about mess!!!) It is important that the whole turkey be covered with liquid, so weight the turkey down with something (a small plate will do) if it floats. If you are using a bag, I have found that placing the bag upright in a plastic container, then gathering and folding the loose portions and clipping them in place, forces the liquid high in the bag, submerging the bird.

    Place it in a 38 degF refrigerator for the required 3 or 4 or 5 days.

    …is it Turkey Day yet? Now comes the fun part. If you get up during the night, as some of us older folks must do, no problem. The night before smoker time, fill a pot with water, cover it, and put it into the refrigerator. About 3:30 or 4 AM, go into the kitchen, remove the turkey from its flotation chamber or bag, rinse it off, then put it into that pot of cold water. Pour off any excess. Dump some ice on top, cover, put it back into the refrigerator, then go back to bed.

    Bright and early, 6:30 or so, get up, go out, and start warming the smoker to 130 degF. Go back in, have a nice breakfast (homemade “sons-of-bees” bacon and eggs and some of Ross Hill’s baked goods are recommended), then take the turkey out, pat it dry, and place it in the warmed smoker. Dry for an hour at 130 degF, vent wide open. At that point, follow the recipe as to number of hours smoked, vent closure, temperature, type of wood, et cetera.

    As smoking time nears its finish, preheat your kitchen oven to about 300 degF. (Mine always overshoots badly, so I use 280 degF.) When smoking time is finished , bring the turkey inside. (You have one of those inexpensive thermocouple temperature gauges with the alarm, right? No? Go get one, Rat Now!) Cook until the specified Internal Meat Temperature, IMT, 155 degF. Pull it immediately from the oven and allow it to rest. It will “coast” upward, to about 160 degF. This is the perfect temperature, according to “He Who Must Be”… uh… Ol’ Chuckles.

    …an’ I believe it. Happy Holidays!

  2. Bacon question – which would have a higher meat to fat belly – a hog under 200 lbs rail weight or one over 200 lbs rail weight? The average berkshire rail weight of my supplier is 200 lbs.

  3. I’d think the higher the hanging weight a hog had would tend to making it more fatty. I know with wild hogs the only ones I ever got with good belly fat were huge sows that had a thick white layer of fat covering their entire carcasses after being field dressed. Boars not so much, all they’re good for is the hams and then everything else going into sausage grind. The boars hams are much leaner than that of a sow, and the sausage always need to be cut with about 35% domestic pork butt, maybe even some backfat. Sorry Phil, not much of a answer is it?
    I’m smoking 13lbs of Canadian bacon this coming Saturday, and have a mind to smoke up some maple-honey bacon next week. After waiting for winter to arrive so I could be smoking in lower temps it seems like it’s been raining forever. My time to get smoking is now! RAY

  4. I’m hot smoking Canadian bacon today for sandwhich meat. The loin was brine cured for week. Made my first NCPaul Detroit pizza the other night – delicious but I left the dough in the fridge a day too long so it didn’t rise as much as I wanted.

  5. I’m smoking a batch of Canadian bacon tomorrow Phil. I usually brine the loins for five days but I let this batch brine for seven due to having the cooler temp right around 36º instead of the required 38º. I’m hoping the added time will allow for proper penetration after cutting the loins into three pound chunks before brining. Guess I’ll find out Monday if this was a good move, or not.
    I use Ross’ scalded flour recipe for my pizza dough, tho I’ve never refrigerated it. I let the dough rise for a couple of hours, then shape in on my pizza stone. After it’s shaped I cover the dough with a plastic bag for a second rise, about an hour. I like a thick crust, seems to work pretty well. I bake my pizzas at 420º for 18 minutes after having the stone pre-heated in the oven for a half hour. RAY


  6. I took about 14 months to fire up the Pro 100 and pound out another batch of Canadian bacon, but I got it all wrapped up starting at about three this morning. After a one week brine I started smoking Sunday afternoon around 3pm, the 12lbs. of pork loins were turned into beautiful Canadian bacon by ten the next morning. I didn’t roll this batch in black pepper, and I used hickory instead of apple wood to smoke. The CB came out with a rich color and great flavor.

    I shrink-wrapped a couple of 3lb hunks whole, made a few thick-sliced breakfast pack, and sliced some paper thin for sandwiches.

    Now I’m thinking Eggs Benedict, then going back to bed. RAY

  7. New user “John” asked for some details on wet and dry meat curing. In the interest of sharing…

    Let me recommend some reading. For a good start, look over our own Flounder and CEO (Chief Effluent Officer), Chuckwagon’s, writings at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Brining-And-Brine-Curing-A-Whole-Muscle-Meat.pdf which gives some reasons for brining and salt curing plus a few recipes. A bit more detail on calculating proper amounts of sodium nitrite can be found at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Calculating-Sodium-Nitrite.pdf . For the “mother load” of calculations, have a look at the FDA folks’ calculation manual, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/7d364131-137e-4da3-905b-fa240974a5a9/7620-3.pdf?MOD=AJPERES which tells how to calculate all sorts of meat-curing-related items.

    Whew! That’s a boat load of information. If you dig through it carefully, you can pick up some useful tidbits. Here’s one- – you are aiming to have either 156 ppm or 200 ppm nitrite in your product, so look on or about page 19 and the following pages of the calculation manual. You’ll notice that there are some fairly precise calculations for dry cure and injected techniques, but the percent up-take must be estimated for immersion cured meats. Ever notice that purchased meats have a notation on the label stating that “up to ‘X’% liquid added…”? Now you know why. The composition of what you add can be based on traditional methods, particularly the amount of salt and flavorings, but the amount of cure needs to be accurate. So, what do you do?

    Well, if you’re good at spreadsheets, you can calculate how much of what needs to be added, guess an up-take amount (usually 10% to 20%) or assume how much dry rub (100% uptake) is needed, and you’re “good to go.” I can provide a spreadsheet for you if you are interested. You’ll be amazed to find that the amount of liquid doesn’t matter a whole lot as long as what’s taken up by the meat gives the proper amount of nitrite and what-not. You can make up a little bit or a whole tank car full of brine and it doesn’t matter, other than that the excess will be thrown away so we’d like to minimize the waste. The spreadsheet should take into account the 15% or so liquid injected by the meat packer, then figure up the overall liquid composition, then put 15%-or-so of the result back into the meat. …piece of cake for a spreadsheet, once you wrap your mind around what you’re doing. (This is the so-called “equilibrium curing” method.)

    So far, so good for nitrite cure calculations. What about salt concentration? For this, rely on tradition. Various meats have their own traditional amounts, so refer to any traditional recipe. Likewise, such things as sugar… Bear in mind that hams are usually injected so as to speed penetration of the cure and avoid rotting near the bone. This gives you a chance to inject the precise amount of what you want into the meat, rather than worry with liquid uptake. This gives a much more controllable, consistent product. For slabs of pork belly for bacon, you can make 10% of the green weight as a dry rub, and assume 100% uptake. True, the cure will preferentially go into the lean portion and not the fat, but our buddies at FSIS specify the whole thing as green weight, so don’t quibble. …and be sure to use cure #1, nitrIte, not cure #2 which contains nitrAte. Nitrates are prohibited in bacon or other high temperature (frying) operations, due to a possibility of forming suspected carcinogens.

    Want the spreadsheet? Drop me a note at Sausages.by.Chuck.n.Duck@gmail.com This is a recipe manager application, runs in Excel, and is guaranteed to make your eyes glaze over. There are some fancy-schmansky look-up functions, but you can build all sorts of sausage and brined meat recipes with it. I wish I could put it on-line, but I’m not very good at database management. (If you know SQL, maybe you could help???)

    Best regards,
    Russ “el Ducko” Lambert

    1. el Ducko thanks for the welcome and links.

      I have lots of questions on brining/curing and I hope this is the place to set me straight. My main concern is safety of the product for me, friends and family. So far I’ve stuck to thinner pieces of meat, 2 inches or less for dry curing. I use a calculator from the Uk that allows adjustments to a cure. Not sure you can use it for wet cure. I like the dry cure as it’s less messy and less frig. space. I would like to do larger cuts of meat but don’t know how large I can go with just a dry cure.
      I’m in for any projects you have planed simple or advanced. Spent lots of money on stuff I’m anxious to use.
      I have on hand two Boston Butts, one pork belly slab and on pork loin. I was going to do and experiment with the two Butts, one dry cure and one wet but not sure if it’s safe.
      Thanks John

  8. Ok first dumb question. I went to the HAM-BACON-WHOLE MUSCLES (Preserving Entire “Cuts”) but it appears only to be forum comments and questions. Where would I go to learn about this subject on the site? John

  9. I think I found what I want in the recipe section. Second stupid question. I really really can’t stand country ham way to salty and rubbery. Is there a dry rub method, which uses 2 to 2/1/2%, salt, that I can use to cure a Boston Butt? Something like used in bacon for salt content. Then maybe it’s not ham. ????????????? John

    1. John there is no end to learning about ham and bacon. Just the other day I came across a phrase I’d not heard before: “collar bacon”. Turns out it is widely made in the UK from the coppa (collar) of the Boston Butt. I like the idea of doing this as I find making back bacon from loin is too dry. The fat marbelling in the coppa ought to deal with the dryness.
      Takes a bit of searching to find recipes. I have a 5lb coppa set aside to make it but it will be awhile as I am in the midst of making 10 lbs of belly bacon as per my recipe in the recipe section.
      Have fun and eat well!

  10. My experience is limited, I confess. Let me recommend two great books, both of them considered “Bibles” around here. One is by Chuckwagon’s old acquaintance, the late Rytek Kutas, titled “Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing,” available through SausageMaker, Inc. in Buffalo, NY, or on Amazon. The chapter on “Specialty Meat” has a recipe and section on p.310, “Dry Cure Method Artery Pumping,” which may help you. In fact, the whole chapter is good material. (It covers bacon, too.)

    The other great book is “Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages” by Stan and Adam Marianski. Chapter 23, “Bacon, Butts, Loins, and Lard” is quite good and has detailed recipes. Use the “stitch pumping” method to allay your fears. It sounds intimidating, but it’s not that hard to do! I’ve done several recipes out of this chapter, and all were good.

    I agree with you about country ham. We moved to North Carolina for a while, and people just raved about the stuff, but I never could quite acquire a taste for it. (…couldn’t stand their style of barbecue either, but in the interest of saving space and avoiding war, we won’t go there now.)

    I hope this helps. There are many good traditional recipes for ham, bacon, and what-have-you out there. Give some of ’em a shot, and keep us posted.

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