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Curing and Cooking with Ruhlman & Polcyn's "Charcuterie" (Part 6)


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I just started in on the American-style ham (I wanted to do the dry-cured, but my hams are skin-off). I don't know where Ruhlman gets his hogs, but my hams are twice the weight he quotes. So, I doubled the brine recipe. I notice when reading the recipe that he does not indicate that the ham be brined under refrigeration: is this just an overlooked step, or is there enough salt and TCM in there that a cool room temp brine would be safe? There is no way this leg is going to fit in my fridge, so refrigeration, even in January here, is going to mean constant ice additions.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I notice when reading the recipe that he does not indicate that the ham be brined under refrigeration: is this just an overlooked step, or is there enough salt and TCM in there that a cool room temp brine would be safe?

It wouldn't be considered safe. I only brine in the fridge. But I usually have a walk-in to play with when I'm doing this sort of thing.

Polcyn and Ruhlman agree. Page 60 (at least in my edition) of "Charcuterie" says, in bold: "Always brine meat in the refrigerator."

If you're adding ice, do so in sealed bags so it doesn't dilute your brine. Or... freeze some of your brine before you start.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Of course, cooler would be safer.

However, in a former but not very far-off time, brining was the means of storage. Before refrigeration was as ubiquitous as it is today, meat (and especially pork) was brined in an environment that was simply kept as cool as practically convenient.

Mrs Grigson, in her classic 'Charcuterie' describes brining as the routine simple storage of pork in rural France as little as fifty years ago. IIRC the brine itself needed replacement every month or so...

I'm certain that inspectors would insist on chilled brine for any commercial operation, but for hundreds (more likely thousands) of years, people brined pork without refrigeration and somehow (mostly) survived!

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Of course, cooler would be safer.

However, in a former but not very far-off time, brining was the means of storage. Before refrigeration was as ubiquitous as it is today, meat (and especially pork) was brined in an environment that was simply kept as cool as practically convenient.

Mrs Grigson, in her classic 'Charcuterie' describes brining as the routine simple storage of pork in rural France as little as fifty years ago. IIRC the brine itself needed replacement every month or so...

I'm certain that inspectors would insist on chilled brine for any commercial operation, but for hundreds (more likely thousands) of years, people brined pork without refrigeration and somehow (mostly) survived!

True, but in old times the pig was butchered in winter, when it was cold outside, for this exact reason. It gave the meats time to cure/dry in the cold before summer arrived.

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...

True, but in old times the pig was butchered in winter, when it was cold outside, for this exact reason. It gave the meats time to cure/dry in the cold before summer arrived.

I thought January was Winter for Chris in Oklahoma! :smile:

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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...

True, but in old times the pig was butchered in winter, when it was cold outside, for this exact reason. It gave the meats time to cure/dry in the cold before summer arrived.

I thought January was Winter for Chris in Oklahoma! :smile:

That's true, but it sounds like it's been a warm one:)

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It is at least warm enough that I can't consider the pork to be "under refrigeration." 30°F at night, 55°F during the day (and of course, it's going to be 70°F today...). Under normal circumstances I always brine in the fridge, it's just not practical with a chunk of meat this size and a normal home refrigerator. It really seems to me that there is a damn lot of salt and TCM in this brine and that for only 10 days it should be fine at a cool temperature. Is it really that much different from dry-curing at 55°F in terms of bacterial growth?

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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It really seems to me that there is a damn lot of salt and TCM in this brine and that for only 10 days it should be fine at a cool temperature. Is it really that much different from dry-curing at 55°F in terms of bacterial growth?

Well, the books say don't do it, the health inspector (if one was involved) would say don't do it, people in the thread say don't do it. Did people brine without refrigeration in the past? Sure, because they didn't have a choice. The incidence of death from botulism poisoning was higher in the past, too. Standards have changed.

Brining your ham at room temp may or may not be dangerous. I'm not qualified to say if the concentration of salt and nitrite in your particular brine is sufficient to overcome the expected pathogen load at your room temperature.

But given that you're not living in a refrigerator-free French country farmhouse 50 years ago, wouldn't you agree that it's a completely unnecessary risk when the alternative is simply to drive to the supermarket and buy a bunch of party ice?

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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As I mentioned here, I have been curing saucisson sec in my basement for a few weeks. I pulled one today to see how they were:



The definition isn't very good, but I'm very happy with the flavor. It's true that they don't have that tang from the bactoferm, but the pork flavor is outstanding. I used Coleman pork shoulder, I should add.

I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my inability to find back fat here, which is the main reason there's smearing in the sausages. I'm on a mission....

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris, i've changed (mostly) from using back fat, to using pork belly for the fat component. Many italian recipes actually call for it instead of back fat.

they call for back fat mostly when the fat is hand cut, so it's very distinct. I'm very happy with using pork belly.

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Howdy folks,

I've been doing charcuterie for a few years, learning from old timers, books, internet, etc.

Made plenty of sausage, mostly Italian. Dry cure maybe 20% of all I make.

Also pepperoni, breakfast, boudin blanc, merguez, and coteccino.

Made cured, smoked hams and bacon as well as Montreal style smoked meat.

I was fascinated with lardo ever since reading about it in Bill Buford's "Heat". In part, I made a pilgrimage to Babbo to try Batali's charcuterie plate which had two slices of this very lardo.

I followed Ruhlman's method for lardo; made the dry cure, added above and below the pork slab, weighted down for 12 days, turning a few times. Rinsed, air dried for 21 days.

I tried it on Xmas day and it was pretty much tasteless, lacking any depth whatsoever.

Anyone have hints on getting a more successful lardo?

Thanks.

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For lardo, you want to make a brine with about 25-35% concentration of salt. Heat it up, and drop herbs and spices into it. (traditionally sage, rosemary, bay), making a sort of tea. I also add a touch of cure #2 for safety.

Let this "tea" cool down, and soak your block of backfat in it for 2-3 months. Try to keep the fat submerged with a plate or something similar.

That's it. That's how it's made in Arnad.

If it comes out too salty (mine did, i used a 25% brine), soak it in cold tap water for about 24 hours for every KG of fat. Then take it out, dry, and let it rest in the fridge for a few days for the salt to resdistribute.

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Just had my first Charcuterie failure, while making Canadian bacon.  The problem was that the recommended 48 hours of brining wasn't enough: the finished pork had a bacony, cured exterior, but a roast (well, smoked) pork center.  It's very good roast pork-- juicy and tender-- but the contrast in flavor between the inside and outside is a little off-putting. 

What I have wouldn't be very good for eating straight (though my wife likes it), but will be fine chopped up and put into pasta sauce.  And next time I'll brine the pork loin for at least 60-72 hours.

A followup: the cured pork gave a great flavor to the red-gravy style pasta sauce I made last night. But the lean meat dried out something terrible; for leftovers, I may just strain it out.

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I'm in the process of brining a pork loin for the Canadian Bacon recipe. Following your comments, I plan to brine it 72 hours. Will report back in a few days.

What are the risks of over-brining here?

Edited by Magictofu (log)
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I'm in the process of brining a pork loin for the Canadian Bacon recipe. Following your comments, I plan to brine it 72 hours. Will report back in a few days.

What are the risks of over-brining here?

Depends on how thick the pork is, I suppose. Mine was a little on the thick size, which didn't help. It's a shame you can't test for brining doneness... at least I don't know how.

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Depends on how thick the pork is, I suppose.  Mine was a little on the thick size, which didn't help.  It's a shame you can't test for brining doneness... at least I don't know how.

Maybe by weight? I would love a foolproof method for brining, as it can me hit-or-miss.

Hmm...

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Brine to equlibrium. determine the residual salt% you want in the product, and using the total amount of meat ,water, and salt by weight leave it in the brine untill the brine and meat reach equalibrium... by doing this, its imposssible to over/under brine..

I have an excell worksheet that calculates it , but you can easily do it by hand.

put the meat in the brining vessel ,and cover it with the proper amount of water you want to use. Weigh the meat, weigh the water, and then decide the salt level %you want.Then calculate the amount of salt to get it

Bud

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Weigh the meat, weigh the water, and then decide the salt level %you want.Then calculate the amount of salt to get it

Bud

What is the salt level % you usually shoot for? Does your target % change with the type of meat or size of the cut?

Thanks for the great idea and help!

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Something that greatly reduces brining times (important if you are under pressure to relinquish refrigerator space!) is a brine injector, aka brine pump. A basic one will only set you back about $30 http://www.butcher-packer.com/index.php?ma...&products_id=25 F. Dick, as usual, has a much nicer unit for about $170. Use one of these and you won't have to wonder if brine has penetrated to the thick parts. Injecting brine is a very common practice in commercial charcuterie.

A good source of info about brining times, concentrations etc is the Marianski's book http://www.amazon.com/Smoking-Smokehouse-D...i/dp/159800302X

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Weigh the meat, weigh the water, and then decide the salt level %you want.Then calculate the amount of salt to get it

Bud

What is the salt level % you usually shoot for? Does your target % change with the type of meat or size of the cut?

Thanks for the great idea and help!

Country dry cured ham is around 4% (real salty) When I do bacon and pancetta I shoot for 3.5%,, as 4 is to much and 3 is to little. I would guess 3.5 will work for what you are doingas well.

Since you are brining to equlibrium, the size of cut does not matter , just the time to reach eq.

The type of meat levels depend on your taste, and what you are making

Bud..

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Country dry cured ham is around 4% (real salty) When I do bacon and pancetta I shoot for 3.5%,, as 4 is to much and 3 is to little. I would guess 3.5 will work for what you are doingas well.

Thanks for the info! I will have to give this a shot sometime.

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