Put me down as one of those who simply doesn't understand the Ruhlman-hate so much in evidence in this thread.
I think its a VERY good book indeed.
I certainly don't know of a better book to introduce the techniques to a home (non-pro) kitchen enthusiast.
And I certainly do know of many that are worse. First nomination HFW's River Cottage Meat book - there you'll find brine recipes where the quantity of salt physically will not dissolve, and the universal experience that the recipes turn out inedibly salty. Oh, and lets not forget his *dried* 'Chorizo' that does not use either starter culture OR any curing salt (nitrate/nitrite) whatsoever -- which I consider to be a downright irresponsiblly dangerous suggestion.
The strength of 'Charcuterie' is the descriptive, tutorial writing.
Its weaknesses (such as they are) are generally down to the recipes - and, actually, as with The French Laundry Cookbook, the formula part of the recipes cannot be blamed on Ruhlman!
I simply do not understand the vilification of Ruhlman because Polcyn's recipe uses a non-authentic cut of pork for Coppa.
The provenance of the recipes is clearly stated in the last paragraph of page 26 (you all did read Chapter One, didn't you?) - "The recipes in this book, with a handful of exceptions, reflect Brian's work .. While some are wholly his own, most are standard preparations that he has molded over the years to satisfy his own tastes and spirit. ... "
, shame on you - have you forgotten that Ruhlman personally replied in 2006 to your specific quibble regarding 'authentic' Coppa - and explained that this was "Brian's" recipe? See http://egullet.org/p1132680 Why hate the Wordsmith because you disagree with the Cook's recipe?
"Authenticity" does not seem to bother Polcyn much, if at all. Real Merguez wouldn't be made with pork!
And I could generally do without the flavouring additive "Fermento", and much less starter culture ...
The book is frankly weak on 'authenticity' - but viewed as a technique tutorial with illustrative examples, that hardly matters.
If anyone was expecting more authenticity than than they got, blame Polcyn for his recipes, not Ruhlman for explaining them.
For authenticity on French recipes, look to Jane Grigson, but marvel at the way Nitrate (saltpetre) used to be used!
And specifically regarding Nitrite (and Nitrate) levels, I have done the maths for the corned beef recipe that concerned dls
, and its not far (if at all) over the US limit, while his own variation produces only about half the minimum required level for a US commercial product.
The description on the packet isn't always the best recipe - just as with yeast!
Before working through the Maths, I'd like to make a few things clear -
- firstly the US regulations are arbitrary and inconsistent
--- they don't concern themselves with the amount actually in the product, just whether or not it complies with the codified process
--- if 201 ppm Nitrite (plus no Nitrate) is not allowed, and 751 ppm of Nitrate (with no Nitrite) is not allowed, then why is it permissible to have both 200 ppm Nitrite AND 750 ppm Nitrate together in the same product? That simply doesn't make sense, because Nitrate turns into Nitrite, over time.
--- since there is actually a different amount of actual Nitrite in 200 ppm Sodium Nitrite and 200 ppm Potassium Nitrite, (because of the different weights of Sodium and Potassium), wtf do the regulations set the same limit for both Sodium and Potassium Nitrites? Yes - they really are controlling the input of the whole curing salt, rather than the amount of active Nitrite! Except of course for bacon curing, (did I say it was inconsistent?) where the limits do take account of this, and are 23% higher for the potassium salt!
--- if 201 ppm nitrite is excessive in a brine-cured product, why is it permitted to sell a dry-cured product with 625 ppm nitrite?
- and the regulations are based on flawed science
--- for equilibrium brine curing, they assume that the nitrite (or nitrate) will all remain present, and will divide itself so that its concentration (by weight) is equal between meat and brine. Actually, the nitrite (or nitrate) gets used up in the meat (as Ruhlman's response to dls indicates) ...
--- for shorter (non-equilibrium) cures, they assume that the nitrite (or nitrate) is absorbed by the meat in the same proportion as it has picked up water. I have no idea where they got that idea, but it does produce a process code that can be checked without sophisticated equipment.
So, unless you are a US commercial producer, you should take these regulation limits as guidelines rather than life-or-death critical thresholds. They indicate the right ballpark, not extensively-researched medical threshold criteria.
Download link for the PDF of official US limits and calculation methodology http://www.fsis.usda...ives/7620-3.pdf
OK, those regs say for long (equilibrium, no further weight gain) curing, the limit is 200 ppm with at least 120 ppm being required, even for products that require refrigeration.
5 days is actually a bit short for equilibrium, but without knowing the weight gain, equilibrium is the only calc we can do - but if we calculate the equilibrium result, we could suppose that the 5-day result would be slightly lower than what we calculate, if it hasn't yet reached equilibrium.
Lets do the maths. (Metric for simplicity)
Polcyn says to use
4 litres water, 2.25 kg meat and 25 g of 'pink salt'
So 2.25/(2.25+4) or 0.36 of the pink salt end up in the meat.
Which is 9 g of pink salt into the meat.
Pink salt is 6.25% nitrite, so the "ingoing nitrite" is 0.5265 g
As a proportion of the starting meat weight, that is 0.5265/2250 or 0.000250 which would be 250 ppm.
As noted, if this were an equilibrium cure that would be over the US limit - but only by 25% too much.
I wouldn't worry about that - its not equilibrium and I don't believe its anything like dangerous. (Compared to a possible 'legal' addition of an extra 625 ppm of nitrate!)
However, using 1/5 the quantity of pink salt (as dls did) would mean 1/5 of the ingoing Nitrite, ie just 50 ppm. Sadly this is less than 42% of the mimimum level (of 120 ppm) that the US code requires.
Nutshell upsum : If Polcyn went down from 25 to 20 g of Pink Salt, it would meet the US commercial code, with no dispute. As it is, the question is 'how close to equilibrium did it get?'
I'm not sure why Jason (jmolinari) should be concerned that the moderate salting that Polcyn proposes would be "downright dangerous" and "really critical, potentially harmful".
Wouldn't it be the case that too little salt (and I'm not sure Polcyn is exceptionally light on salt) would increase the risk of obvious product spoilage, rather than sneaky C. bot poisoning.
Charcuterie is a very good (but not perfect) book.
Its the best tutorial intro that I know of.
Ruhlman has done much better than most authors to make himself available (not least on these forums) to continue to enthusiastically offer "product support" for this book.
I am astonished at the level of personal vitriol expressed against this author - and doubly surprised to see such a 'hate' thread on the august eGullet.
Edited by dougal, 16 May 2011 - 10:40 AM.
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