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Mikeb19

Why Cure Meat?

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[Note: I've just split these posts off from the food safety when curing meats topic, since they're not really about food safety. -- CA]

I know it's fun making charcuterie, but honetly, theres some things I'd rather leave to other people. Many people devote their entire life (or at least career) to curing meats, I'd rather buy from them than make it myself since they are much more knowledgeable (not to mention have the proper facilities). Same goes for cheese and wine - sure I *could* make it myself, but whats really the point when you can get a superior product from someone else?


Edited by chrisamirault (log)

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I know it's fun making charcuterie, but honetly, theres some things I'd rather leave to other people.  ... Same goes for cheese and wine - sure I *could* make it myself, but whats really the point when you can get a superior product from someone else?

Mike, to each his own!

Have you had a go at making crepes better than you can buy? Had a go at indoor smoking? Played with the Sodium Alginate?

That's just three of the threads on the top page of "Cooking"... :cool:

The strange thing is that its actually possible to make stuff like bacon and gravadlax that is more to your *own* taste than what you can buy. Without special kit or even much experience. And that tends to start you thinking... :biggrin:

There shouldn't be any issues with food safety in gravadlax and bacon either.

I say "shouldn't" because I have my suspicions that any inadequacies in butchery are more likely to show up in curing than in cooking. I'm thinking not just about obvious hygene, but also of speed of chilling and detail thoroughness of bleeding.

However, with diligence, prudence, and paranoia it should be possible to play safely.

But it would be nice to know more about just how dilligent, prudent and paranoid one has to be...


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

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Mike, to each his own!

Have you had a go at making crepes better than you can buy? Had a go at indoor smoking? Played with the Sodium Alginate?

That's just three of the threads on the top page of "Cooking"...  :cool:

The strange thing is that its actually possible to make stuff like bacon and gravadlax that is more to your *own* taste than what you can buy. Without special kit or even much experience. And that tends to start you thinking...  :biggrin:

There shouldn't be any issues with food safety in gravadlax and bacon either.

I say "shouldn't" because I have my suspicions that any inadequacies in butchery are more likely to show up in curing than in cooking. I'm thinking not just about obvious hygene, but also of speed of chilling and detail thoroughness of bleeding.

However, with diligence, prudence, and paranoia it should be possible to play safely.

But it would be nice to know more about just how dilligent, prudent and paranoid one has to be...

Yes, I can make better crèpes than you can buy, I'd better be able to being a professional in a high end restaurant. I have also done plenty of indoor smoking, as I worked in a barbeque restaurant for 6 months (we had a smoker with a 750 pound capacity working around the clock - I happened to be the cook in charge of all the meat). Sodium alginate? Not yet, don't really see the point (IMO it's a fad), however have done alot with agar and pectins, as well as sous-vide cooking... Gravlax, of course, did traditional gravlax, our own, as well as cold-smoked salmon. But what we were doing wasn't really charcuterie. Gravlax is left in the cooler, it's a quick cure, and we weren't smoking to preserve, rather for flavour... As far as making bacon, we had a go at that, but honestly I prefer the bought stuff (I'm talking buying direct from local producers, not grocery store). Proscuitto? Had a go at that too, but again, not nearly as good as the stuff from Parma. Our duck proscuitto did however turn out very nice (I wouldn't consider that a true proscuitto though - it was salt cured with spices and aromats then air dried for a few weeks in the cooler).

Quick-cures are great to do yourself (our cold smoked salmon beat anything on the market), but the *real* charcuterie is best left to those with the proper equipment (ie. temperature and humidity controlled rooms, proper measuring devices, etc....). Just my professional opinion.


Edited by Mikeb19 (log)

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I thought I'd chime in here and link the purpose of this topic that I started with the question Mike raises here.

I've had the same "Why bother?" thought in the past about other sorts of cooking and food prep. For me, it comes down to a few different things.

The first is learning. When I bought David Thompson's Thai Food, I read it cover to cover, because I was fascinated to learn about a cuisine that I had enjoyed at restaurants, that I knew very little about, and whose foundations were so utterly different from those of the Western cuisines that formed my own basic cooking knowledge. I haven't repeated that experience until getting Charcuterie, when I immersed myself in matters and methods (curing, smoking, waiting, fermentation, humidity, temperature and, yes, sanitation, bacteria, and mold) that were utterly new to me.

That learning has changed the way I approach those foods outside of my own kitchen. I have a far more developed sense of meat quality, of the relationship between moisture and texture, and of smoke as a flavoring agent and preservative, say, than I've ever had before. That appreciation carries over to my pleasure in eating a perfectly cured and well-defined slice of crespone, and makes me appreciate the decisions a chef has made concerning fat:meat ratios, the fineness of the grind, and spicing in a delicate rabbit sausage.

Finally, while I'm sure that there are artisans out there who make better sopressata than I do (and manage to eat most of it instead of throwing it away :wink:), I have to say that I make better bacon, sausage, and barbecue pork than anyone around these parts. If I had unlimited (instead of severely limited) cash I could spend a few bucks extra per pound and get higher quality stuff via the mail, sure, but what's the point? I'm learning, I'm making great stuff which I share with family and friends, and I can tailor everything to my own tastes. And with the additional information in this topic, I believe I can make safer, better quality product with more consistent results.

Why bother? Well, to me, it's the furthest thing from a bother that I can imagine.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I thought I'd chime in here and link the purpose of this topic that I started with the question Mike raises here.

I've had the same "Why bother?" thought in the past about other sorts of cooking and food prep. For me, it comes down to a few different things.

The first is learning. When I bought David Thompson's Thai Food, I read it cover to cover, because I was fascinated to learn about a cuisine that I had enjoyed at restaurants, that I knew very little about, and whose foundations were so utterly different from those of the Western cuisines that formed my own basic cooking knowledge. I haven't repeated that experience until getting Charcuterie, when I immersed myself in matters and methods (curing, smoking, waiting, fermentation, humidity, temperature and, yes, sanitation, bacteria, and mold) that were utterly new to me.

That learning has changed the way I approach those foods outside of my own kitchen. I have a far more developed sense of meat quality, of the relationship between moisture and texture, and of smoke as a flavoring agent and preservative, say, than I've ever had before. That appreciation carries over to my pleasure in eating a perfectly cured and well-defined slice of crespone, and makes me appreciate the decisions a chef has made concerning fat:meat ratios, the fineness of the grind, and spicing in a delicate rabbit sausage.

Finally, while I'm sure that there are artisans out there who make better sopressata than I do (and manage to eat most of it instead of throwing it away :wink:), I have to say that I make better bacon, sausage, and barbecue pork than anyone around these parts. If I had unlimited (instead of severely limited) cash I could spend a few bucks extra per pound and get higher quality stuff via the mail, sure, but what's the point? I'm learning, I'm making great stuff which I share with family and friends, and I can tailor everything to my own tastes. And with the additional information in this topic, I believe I can make safer, better quality product with more consistent results.

Why bother? Well, to me, it's the furthest thing from a bother that I can imagine.

Very well stated, chris. Although I am not involved in this particular effort, your passion for what you do reflects that of many of the E-Gullet cookers. I LOVE to smoke meat. I post about it often. There are places I can go and get it without spending 20 hours tending the smoker. I still do it because I learn about it every time. And as you say, serving delicious food I have made to my friends and family gives me great joy.

That's tellin' them Chris

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I do charcuterie because it's fun. It's very satisfying. I like knowing exactly what went into the meat. I like slow food projects, and working toward mastering an ancient culinary art. I like being able to serve homemade charcuterie to my friends, and they really like having it. It makes great gifts. I like to tweak it to my own tastes, and yes, a lot of what I've made is as good as or better than what I can buy, and we're talking Seattle, not Podunk.

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I thought I'd chime in here and link the purpose of this topic that I started with the question Mike raises here.

I've had the same "Why bother?" thought in the past about other sorts of cooking and food prep. For me, it comes down to a few different things.

The first is learning. When I bought David Thompson's Thai Food, I read it cover to cover, because I was fascinated to learn about a cuisine that I had enjoyed at restaurants, that I knew very little about, and whose foundations were so utterly different from those of the Western cuisines that formed my own basic cooking knowledge. I haven't repeated that experience until getting Charcuterie, when I immersed myself in matters and methods (curing, smoking, waiting, fermentation, humidity, temperature and, yes, sanitation, bacteria, and mold) that were utterly new to me.

That learning has changed the way I approach those foods outside of my own kitchen. I have a far more developed sense of meat quality, of the relationship between moisture and texture, and of smoke as a flavoring agent and preservative, say, than I've ever had before. That appreciation carries over to my pleasure in eating a perfectly cured and well-defined slice of crespone, and makes me appreciate the decisions a chef has made concerning fat:meat ratios, the fineness of the grind, and spicing in a delicate rabbit sausage.

Finally, while I'm sure that there are artisans out there who make better sopressata than I do (and manage to eat most of it instead of throwing it away :wink:), I have to say that I make better bacon, sausage, and barbecue pork than anyone around these parts. If I had unlimited (instead of severely limited) cash I could spend a few bucks extra per pound and get higher quality stuff via the mail, sure, but what's the point? I'm learning, I'm making great stuff which I share with family and friends, and I can tailor everything to my own tastes. And with the additional information in this topic, I believe I can make safer, better quality product with more consistent results.

Why bother? Well, to me, it's the furthest thing from a bother that I can imagine.

Well stated. Sausage and Barbeque food though, I wouldn't really call 'cured' (well, some sausages). These foods are very easy and viable to do at home, and I have made them both. Smoked bacon can easily be done at home as well. In fact, I personally think Barbeque food should be done at home rather than in a restaurant, I mean, what's better than having a big barbeque in your backyard with plenty of cold beer in July?

I'm thinking more along the lines of proscuitto, pancetta, bundnerfleisch, etc... Products which are aged for a much longer period of time (and are not 'cooked'). These types of products I definitely would shy away from making at home.

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Mike, for me it really boild down to this in what Chris said:

Why bother? Well, to me, it's the furthest thing from a bother that I can imagine.

It is not a bother, more like fun learning experience whose results you can eat. In many instances (bacon, pancetta, cured fish,...) the result is much better and much cheaper than what you can buy at your average market. Sure I can order top quality bacon online for $10/lb, but why bother.... :biggrin:

I apply the same logic to those who ask me, "you can buy your son's birthday cake for $10 at the Megalomart, why bother making it??".


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Same goes for cheese and wine - sure I *could* make it myself, but whats really the point when you can get a superior product from someone else?

Mike, you ask a compelling question, but you neglect to give a nod to the realities of people who practice charcuterie. There are reasons of intellectual curiosity: it's neat to try these things and succeed. It's like performing magic! Also, there are other reasons.

For people like me, the reason is one of economics. Sure, I can buy the superior products, but not locally. So, I end up spending a premium on the product, and then a second premium on the transportation--if it's possible at all.

So, you're completely ignoring issues of access and economics when you state the question like you do.

So, why do I do it? Because my bacon, jerky, and sausages are simply better and cheaper when I make them myself.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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I don't know... if you like the stuff you can buy, it's more convenient and better than what you could produce with the time/money/resources available... well, then, buy them.

However, I like traditional preservation methods. I like the idea of making my own jam, and pickling all kinds of stuff. I also like duck confit and drying fruit. Then, there's the curing of meats. Do I need to cure my own meat? Possibly not, as I don't need to do any of the other processes I mentioned above. However, there's always the satisfaction of of eating today a piece of briskett you brined several months ago (corned beef) or making the perfect BLT's with the bacon you cured and smoked yourself.

So, is it why bother? Others said it before me: satisfaction. And isn't that what good cooking is all about? If you don't get satisfaction from homemade pastrami, then it's not worth it.


Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

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There is a necessity for those of us that hunt and fish to preserve our bounty :biggrin: .

Someone with knowledge of curing and preserving becomes sought after in my rural area.

Of course the fact that this and cooking in general becomes a hobby is no less a reason to do this at home.

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Because the space of possibilites is much greater than what is commercially available. A charcuituie provider can only realistically offer a dozen or so different products of one kind before economies of scale and brand confusion set in. Of those, at best 4 are what everyone else is doing which leaves 8 unique possibilities.

If you have 5 charcutuie providers near you, thats barely 40 choices, if your very lucky. What if you want to make a sausage thats venison, sour cherries and bourbon? Can you buy that? What about bacon smoked with pear wood and spiked with cloves? Salami with oregano and crushed juniper berries?

I'm just pulling stuff outta my ass and I'm sure at least one of those tastes horrible but the point is you get to experiment and customise it to your own tastes.


PS: I am a guy.

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