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

  1. Heya, remember me?
    Been away for a bit (well, maybe a bit longer….).
    Looking at getting back into making bacon and sausages, if I can find the time.
    Thing is, I got some pork belly ready to go into the cure. This is skin-on bacon. It’s thin, so won’t be able to take the skin off. Looking at a dry cure with 2-2.5% salt.
    Been reading some old notes and more recent articles and it looks that 120 ppm nitrite should be enough to cure bacon? (from Canadian food inspection agency, while Denmark states 100 ppm).
    I remember using somewhere around 120-150 and I know that Marianski’s book mentions 180.
    So 120 seems a safe bet? Or am I making a dangerous mistake here?

    1. Great to hear from you again. Hope it’s going well.

      I looked up what our FDA folks have to say. They’ve rearranged their website, breaking most of our links into it. AARRGGHH! At any rate, I had a look at their post, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/bacon-and-food-safety/ct_index

      and found the following
      How much nitrite can be used in curing bacon?
      The USDA is responsible for monitoring the proper use of nitrite by meat processors. While sodium nitrite cannot exceed 200 ppm going into dry-cured bacon, sodium nitrite cannot exceed 120 ppm for both pumped and immersion-cured bacon.

      …hope that helps. The other item: don’t use Cure #2, because it contains sodium nitrate, which is suspected of forming carcinogens if heated too high.


  2. Thanks mr Duck 🙂
    Good to be back….
    I’d been browsing, checking etc etc and eventually found the Canadian website, stating more or less the same.
    Since my bacon was quite thin and had the skin on, I went for 110 ppm (also on the advice of some other knowledgable people).
    They are in the cure now. And definitely not in cure #2, but in #1 (at 8% active).
    One is in a szechuan cure, the other in a standard but with juniper and bayleaf added.
    Should be ready to cold smoke in a couple of days.
    Any good suggestions about the type of wood?
    I’ll be using a proQ cold smoke generator and I have access to apple, alder, beech and oak and would like to smoke both at the same time.

    1. Good move. The cure is water soluble, so it tends to concentrate in the lean portions and not the fat. As to woods, I’ve used apple and alder for smoke, and liked both. I used mesquite once, but it was too strong. Oak is probably that way. No experience with beech, but I’d love to try.

      I’ve done a pork loin in juniper and garlic, and really like that juniper flavor. (…gin martini, anyone? It’s well past 5 o’clock where you are!) …no experience with the Szechuan. Please let us know how it turns out. How do you do it? …Szechuan peppercorns?

  3. Thanks!
    For the szechuan bacon, I roughly used this recipe: https://honest-food.net/sichuan-bacon/
    I didn’t really use his amounts. Just went by my own calculations, 2% salt, 110 ppm sodium nitrite, about 0.7% sugar and the rest more or less in the amounts as suggested.
    I have made it before and it tastes good. Different but good (even before smoking).
    I’ve also made the bacon with juniper before. It’s great with sauerkraut! But also good with eggs etc

  4. Glad you like the site.
    Plenty of Duck recipes on there as well 😉
    Anyway, I decided to go for beech. Mainly because the juniper flavoured bacon falls more or less in the Northern European flavour profile and popular woods for smoking there are beech and oak.
    The description of the szechuan bacon says it likes lot of smoke and it doesn;t matter what type, so it will get beech as well.
    The bellies are cured. I am just waitng and checking the weather before taking them out of the cure. I want it to be dry, because then the night temperatures are lower..
    Once I take them out, I may scrape off the spices, or rinse, or just leave them on. Haven’t decided yet I figure a lot of them will fall off during the smoking process anyway.
    Then leave uncovered in the fridge for a couple of hours to dry out somewhat (and form a pillicule).
    Then move to my smoking contraption. They can hang there for half an hour to an hour while I go and prepare the proQ.
    Smoke overnight, then wrap in tea towel and keep in the fridge.
    Taste in the evening and decide if more smoke is needed. If so, then smoke at night again, fridge during daytime etc
    Anything wrong with my description above? Any additions?

  5. You are always welcome!
    I cold-smoked both slabs for 2 nights. I think it’s enough (and the weather wasn’t helping, been pouring down at night).
    The fridge does smell wonderful :)….
    I am keeping them there for a dat or 2 more, then divide in pieces and freeze some. One piece of each will stay in the fridge in a tea towel (or big handkerchief)

    ChuckWagon, you’ll be sorely missed. Most of what I am doing now, I learned from you. Rest in peace

  6. Strange turn of events with our bacon. I was making the maple bacon recipe and had a small piece from when I squared up the belly. Decided to slow cook in the oven to 135F without cold smoking it. We liked the taste test so much we passed on cold smoking the belly.

  7. Just finished up smoking 11 pounds of pork belly into CW’s world famous maple-honey bacon! I let the belly’s cure in the fridge for six days in Ziploc bags, giving a massage and turning daily. Smoked in my Pro 100 for about 20 hours using Applewood, nothing can compare! RAY

  8. Just wondering:
    Could you make ham by just injecting cure #1 all over the piece of pork?
    Or do you really need to do about 10% via injecting and remainder via immersion?
    Inquiring minds want to know…

    1. Excellent question (he said, non-judgmentally). The idea is to achieve a target level of cure in the meat. You can do this several ways.
      —One way is to use a dry rub, and figure that everything you rub on goes in. That way, the weight of the cure divided by the weight of the meat+cure tells you how many ppm of cure is in the meat. This is the easiest way to calculate how much to use to get the proper amount of cure. Be aware, though, that this method should only be used for smaller cuts of meat, without bone.
      —Next way to try is mixing up cure in brine and injecting it at 10% to 12% of the weight of meat+liquid. Most meats, when immersed in liquid, will take up 10% to 15% of their weight. The liquid you inject should contain all of the cure you want in the meat. This way, you guarantee you get the correct amount of cure into the meat, because it all gets injected. One problem, though: if the meat has been commercially processed, it has already been injected with liquid of some sort.
      —Third way is the immersion way. Mix up your cure solution so that, when brine/cure in the amount of 10% to 12% of the weight of the meat gets absorbed by the meat, you’ll have the proper amount of cure in the meat. These calculations can be a bit tricky, because you have an excess of brine/cure solution and its cure concentration is different from what is absorbed by the meat. Calculating this is messy enough that you maybe ought to use a spreadsheet to calculate the equilibrium between how much cure is in the excess and how much is in the meat. See good ol’ Chuckwagon’s writeup at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Calculating-Sodium-Nitrite.pdf for how to calculate it, or root around in our website index for the official FSIS calculations.

      I can send you a spreadsheet if you want. Warning: you gotta be enough of a geek to dig around in it. I prefer either dry rub or injecting, although injecting followed by immersion cure is probably the best, especially for large chunks of meat (bone-in hams, for example).

      1. Thanks!
        Much appreciated.
        Our meat is still meat 🙂
        Not injected, brined, pumped up or anything.

        Looking at most of the answers, it seems that the best way for home production is still a brine (with cure #1) with a certain amount injected into the meat, and a piece of meat that is not too big.
        I just wanted to understand why.

        1. I inject hams and pork loins before brining. Pork belly that’s going to be bacon just gets rubbed and sits in the fridge for six days, thin hunk of meat. RAY

          1. Thanks Ray,
            Yep, about 10% injection and rest as brine (and indeed, not for bacon). Projects are all on hold as 1) my syringe broke and 2) I need to figure out how to get my fridge working properly as curing and fermenting chamber (see post in that section) 🙁

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