Knowing how to cure meat was critical back in the days before refrigeration. Meat was often obtained in batches that could not be consumed all at once. Curing prepared the meat in a manner that would prevent it from spoiling, especially in warmer climates. A secondary result of curing was that it imparted a unique and delicious flavor to the meat, a big reason why cured meat is so prized today. Although there are many methods of curing which change depending on the meat and what flavors you want to impart, here is the general method.
To cure meat you'll need:
Bowl or tray
- Prepare your meat. Choose the meat that you wish to prepare. This totally depends on your tastes, but many famous, traditional Italian cures involve ham. However, other meats such as beef, venison or fish can be used.
- Prepare a dry rub. In order to cure meat you'll need salt and other ingredients to impart flavor. Sugar is often used to impart sweetness and is often mixed with the salt and rubbed liberally over the meat. Allow the meat to cool. This will serve a dual purpose of preventing the enzymes in the meat from breaking down and will also draw out moisture from the meat. Make sure to put the meat in bowl or tray that will catch any moisture that exudes from the meat. Once the meat is cooled, discard the collected moisture.
Prepare a brine. The basic brine is just water and salt but, like the dry rub, this is a chance to infuse your meat with additional flavors. Often times, juniper berries, allspice, rosemary, thyme, garlic and red wine are used. Boil the ingredients together, allow it to cool and add the meat so that the brine completely covers it. Allow the meat to soak for several days. The amount of days depends on the recipe and the meat, but you want the mixture to infuse into the meat. A suggested rule of thumb is to use a one to three ratio. Use roughly a pound of salt to three quarts of liquid, which should be enough to supersaturate the liquid while a sprig of each spice is all that is all that is needed to infuse the mixture with flavor. Once the brining stage is complete, drain and dry the meat thoroughly.
- Allow the meat to dry. The traditional method to cure meat is to hang it with a light covering. The covering protects the meat, while the hanging method allows the meat to drain of any remaining moisture. It's important to keep the meat in dry, clean and cool place with plenty of ventilation. The meat should dry for a few months, but the duration depends on the particular recipe you are using.