an ancient food preparation and preservation technique, is
applicable to practically all sorts of meat, poultry, fish, and game
(which will be simply called ‘meat’ further on in this text).
Smoking lowers the moisture content of food, inhibits food spoiling
by microorganisms throughout the volume and seals the exterior
surface with a golden-brown film, while intro-ducing various food
flavors related to a diversity of wood burned, temperature and
venting conditions. Additionally, preservative qualities are
improved and unique tastes are achieved by brining or curing prior
basic ways of curing and/or smoking meat have been perfected through
hot smoking, (2) cold
smoking, and (3) curing and
smoking is performed at temperatures from
85 to 2500F (30 to 1200C). It is a fairly
rapid process that at the same time cooks and flavors the meat. The
slower the hot smoking process, the more intense the flavor. Foods
prepared this way should be consumed right away or kept refrigerated
up to a week.
smoking is performed at temperatures never
exceeding 850F (300C), preferably at 70 to 800F
(20 to 250C). It is a slow process that can last weeks or
months, contingent upon the size of meat pieces. Usually just a
trickle of smoke flows over the meat, and periods of smoking and air
venting are alternated. Some procedures advertise a brief burst of
hot smoking, up to 1400F (600C), at the end of
the cold smoking process. Cold smoked products keep for months at
ambient temperatures, particularly in freely circulated air.
and smoking: two popular methods of meat curing
before smoking are dry curing and brine curing. Both
involve salt, sometimes sugar and/or some artificial food preserver
like sodium nitrate. Unfortunately, salt became recently a
persecuted item in food domain but it is the imperative in
curing is basically a salt dehydration
process in which salt gradually draws the moisture from the meat
tissues. It involves rubbing the meat with salt only, nowadays
rather rear procedure, or rubbing the meat with a dry mixture of
salt, sugar and/or a small amount of sodium nitrate. Then the meat
is stored in cool place, allowing three days for each pound of the
largest meat piece (six days per each kilogram). Large hams and
bulky cuts may take longer than a month to cure. At the end of
curing process, the meat is soaked in fresh water for a couple of
days to draw off excess salt, then air dried, then cold smoked. Meat
preserved this way is salty but almost unspoilable.
curing involves soaking the meat in a
pickling solution of salt and spices, sometimes sugar and/or a small
amount of sodium nitrite , at a rate of two to four days per pound
(four to eight days per kilogram).
meat cuts, like fifteen-pound (7 kg) ham, must stay in brine for two
months. To shorten the process, brine may be injected along the bone
of a big ham with a hypodermic needle. . At the end of curing
process, the meat is soaked in fresh water for a couple of days
(small pieces could be thoroughly showered), then air dried, then
smoked. Although the decisive flavor is given by smoking conditions,
brine curing with spices greatly improves the flavor variety.
I do not use neither sodium nitrate nor sodium nitrite - I ward off
chemicals whenever possible. Sodium nitrite, rather than sodium
nitrate, is commonly used for curing (although in some products,
such as country ham, sodium nitrate is used because of the long
curing period) to improve the preservation of meat taste and color.
As for the use of sugar in meat curing, see my comment
in GR weekly.