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rgruby

"Charcuterie" – Moving away from pink salt?

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Well, I finally cracked open my copy of Charcuterie. I've had a quick look at the thread(s) and index of the big thread here and I'n not sure if this has been discussed there (probably) but perhaps it warrants its own thread.

In any event, I've started thinking about what I need to start having a go at the recipes and began looking at what I need and have started - as have many readers of the book, apparently - the futile search to find things like pink salt here. A quick google search provided a few leads which all proved fruitless. There seems to be a belief that pink salt is illegal to sell here (Ontario). I did a search of the statutes - it's not. But I've been told that at a couple places.

It can be readily ordered online.

But, I'm digressing a little bit. I had a chat with the butcher at the sausage place in St. Lawrence Market. His take on it was that it was probably hard to find because people/ restaurants want more"natural" products and so are moving away from the use of nitrites.

So, do you think this is actually the case? And if so, what are the alternatives. I asked if I could just use salt, and his take on it was yes, but it's not going to give the pink coloration. I believe Ruhlman and Polcyn attribute same antibacterial properties to the nitrites as well though, and particularly to guard against botulism. So, is just using salt bad, and potentially dangerous, advice?

And, just to be clear, I'm not talking about dry cured stuff that requires nitrates and nitrites.

Cheers,

Geoff

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I've used pink salt here in Toronto, it's definately available, though I'm not sure where we got it from. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of recipes in Ruhlman's Charcuterie that don't use it, I can't remember off hand.

If I were you, I'd just order some online.


James.

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I know I've seen sodium nitrite in Williams Sonoma, though I can't remember if that was in Toronto or somewhere else. I just order mine online. I wouldn't substitute plain salt for anything calling for nitrite, but James is right: there's lots to do in Charcuterie that doesn't involve it.

I recently picked up some "peameal bacon" that didn't have nitrite in the cure. It was still delicious, because it was brined heritage pork. But to me, it didn't taste like peameal bacon, and it turned grey when it cooked, of course. I have no concerns about the safety of it, but it wasn't the same product.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I'm in Ottawa and I bought a bag of it at a butcher in a small town on the outskirts of the city. Try visiting another butcher who makes his/her own sausages and ask them to sell you some.

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Well, picked some up at the Williams Sonoma in the Eaton Center. I figure the cost would be a wash if I'd ended up ordering online with shipping.

A google search indicates that Highland Farms on Dufferin near Steeles has it as well.

Now that I have some, I'll use it in the recipes that call for it.

But that still doesn't answer my larger question of: do I really need to use it? And is there an actual move away from it's use and if so - to what?

Thanks again,

Geoff

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The risk of spoilage remains even if some move away from nitrates. I wouldn't risk it unless the meat will be eaten quickly. Botulism can suck.

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There are two commonly used curing salts, Prague Powder #1 and #2. Why the name, I don't know.

#1 is sodium nitrite only. #2 is nitrate + nitrite. Sounds like MC is discussing #2.

The supposed purpose of #2 is for long cures where the nitrite will lose activity over time. The nitrate is said to be converted by bacterial activity into nitrite and is thus kind of a time-release nitrite. Is this true? I don't know.

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The sel rose mentioned in Modernist Cuisine (which involves naturally occurring potassium nitrate, or saltpeter) is not the same thing as the "pink salt" found referenced in modern charcuterie books (which is 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% sodium chloride).


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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My understanding is that the term "pink salt" is used because modern nitrite- and nitrate-containing salts are sometimes dyed pink to prevent confusion with table salt, but I'm not sure where the "sel rose" nomenclature mentioned in Modernist Cuisine comes from. Further confusion arises from the pink salts that are marketed as finishing salts, such as "Himalayan pink salt." The nitrite salt I use is not dyed pink; personally, I think the term "pink salt" should be avoided, because it can lead to confusion.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Honestly, my take on this is that whenever pink salt is discussed at the retail level (i.e. butcher/grocer to consumer) most pretend like pink salt is some kind of contraband...I don't exactly know why, but I think there must be some perception that nitrites are "for professional use only" and that an "ordinary consumer" would poison themselves with it. Additionally, there is a popular stigma to nitrites as mentioned earlier in this thread....

Never mind the fact that it's a completely common ingredient for any sausage maker/bacon curer. Even producers avoiding nitrites use nitrite-rich ingredients like celery seed to cure "without nitrites." I'm pretty sure that perception is really the most obscuring factor here.

All that aside, I don't consider pink/curing salts interchangeable with "normal" salt. More than just the pink coloration, the curing salt gives the meat its cured flavor. Corned beef/pastrami just doesn't taste like itself without it.

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Even producers avoiding nitrites use nitrite-rich ingredients like celery seed to cure "without nitrites." I'm pretty sure that perception is really the most obscuring factor here.

Am I the only one who thinks this trend is super annoying? "Nitrite free" except it's just full of celery juice and therefor just as many nitrites as proper cured meats. I think stores like Whole Foods do their customers a disservice by selling expensive inferior cured meats under the guise of them being healthier instead of explaining that "nitrite free" doesn't mean anything.

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There is such a lot of BS surrounding food and nutrition.

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Even producers avoiding nitrites use nitrite-rich ingredients like celery seed to cure "without nitrites." I'm pretty sure that perception is really the most obscuring factor here.

Am I the only one who thinks this trend is super annoying?

You're far from alone. The worst offender I've seen is a package that boldly proclaimed "nitrate free!" but listed sodium nitrite among its ingredients.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I think even some producers of "uncured" products are fed up with the FDA's standards that allow nitrates to be in "nitrate free" products if they are derived from natural sources. I work with a woman who thought pepperoni pizza was exuding some kind of nitrate gas that was causing her to flush, but will eat "uncured" bacon. Naturalistic fallacy much?

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