CURING- DRY CURE

Hi Everybody.  As promised here’s the second installment of Chefbear’s series on curing and smoking food.  Enjoy.

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Here we are again folks, talking about ways to bolster your post-SHTF food options. In this post we will cover the DRY CURE briefly mentioned in the previous curing post (which focused on liquid cure/brine). I am going to try and make this post short and sweet, but still give you good information that you can use. So here we go…

A dry cure, also known as a rub to some, is a salt, sugar and spice mixture that is applied to the surface of a cut of meat. The purpose is to draw out the water that is in the meat, while flavoring it and creating a coating on the surface of the meat to prevent oxidation of the fats and protein in the meat.

I promised in the last post that I would share my secret recipe for cure, which is an adaptation of the recipe my ancestors used in Sweden. I DID give PART of it out in that post, and I will give the rest of it out in this one… I guess…. If I have to….. So before I change my mind!

CURE- SALMON-RUB

4 parts salt (kosher flaked salt like David’s brand is best)

2 parts brown sugar –OR- maple sugar

*Pink curing salt*

**½ part seasoning blend**

*Use the amount of curing salt that is appropriate for the amount of meat you are going to cure, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

**The possibilities for seasoning a meat cure are literally endless. Since we are saying this cure/rub is for salmon I will give you the spice blend I use to make “Grav-lox” (traditional Scandinavian cured salmon). First, for grav-lox you need to soak it in a liquid cure/brine that is about 50% vodka for about an hour, remove the salmon from the brine and dry it off as best as you can, the less moisture the better, paper towels seem to work best. Lay the filets skin-side down and run your hand gently, and slowly from where the head was down to the tail, and then from tail to the head. This technique will help you find any “pin-bones” that you may have missed while processing, and will slightly “rough up” the surface of the meat, allowing the cure to stick more easily. OK- first layer of the “flavor profile” completed- vodka primed salmon- fish “feelin’ happy” (take a couple shots of that extra vodka for the cook)- cook’s feelin’ happy! – fish dry- no more little bones to make you mad later- time to build on the flavor profile!

OK, you already have the 2 parts brown sugar mixed with the 4 parts flaked kosher salt…. Good job, you’re awesome…. AND you even measured and added the right amount of curing salt to the mix…. Now you’re wondering “What the hell am I gonna flavor this with??? Well, since we are talking MY recipe for Grav-lox I guess it would be a good idea if I told you the rest of what you need… so here goes! (all spices are fresh ground medium) Equal parts white/green cardamom seeds, grains of paradise, juniper berries, black peppercorns, and the one spice no-one can EVER pinpoint… Wasabi Powder. This is the part of the recipe where everyone will have a little bit different idea of how much/what spice to use, try to add the spices slowly to your cure base at a time and taste as you go to be sure it’s what you want. Depending on what measurement you are using as a part in the recipe above you may need to do a bit of math here, but don’t freak out, it is not EXACT and it is forgiving, a little too little/much of the spices won’t make a monstrous change in flavor/texture.

Now once you have all of those lovely spices mixed into your “cure base”, you are almost ready to start slatherin’ some deliciousness all over those fish! First you need to make some shallow (<¼” deep), clean slits in the skin about 2-3” apart don’t cut the slits closer than ~1.5” from the edges of the skin (the idea is to relieve stress while the water is being removed, so it maintains the fillet’s shape). Make sure you have a spot to put these guy’s when they are ready for their curing time before you need it. I like to use a sheet tray with a grate/cooling rack that is placed on a bakers/speed rack.  To get them ready for the Uber-curer I will explain below, rub them all over to coat every surface of the fish, then lay them skin-side-down on the racks and place about ¼” of the cure evenly across the surface of the fish fillet. Or you could do the same and place the salmon into a smoker, in the smoker the cure will form a thick “candy-like” glaze, that will further protect the meat as long as you keep it away from humidity.

UBER-CURER!!!!

-one of these racks-   http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/channel-mfg/403akd/p349121.aspx

The rack is loaded with several pans

-like these-    http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/thunder-group/alsp1826/p364805.aspx

The pans have cooling racks/grates on them

-the fish goes right on the rack to cure-   http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/thunder-group/slrack1725/p366859.aspx

With this set up, it’s easy to rotate the fish without much effort. It also makes for easy curing, because with the plastic cover that goes over the speed-rack you can place a dehydrator on the bottom pan, and tape a plastic bag round the base of the dehydrator. What this essentially does is give you a GIANT dehydrator that I have used to cure/preserve about 80 lbs of salmon at one time over the course of about 3.5 days.

Most of the ideas used for curing fish, like salmon, transfer to curing things like deer, beef, pork, ect. One thing you should do before trying to cure meat, in this case deer, the liquid cure/brine discussed in the last post will help to get curing salt (sodium nitrate & nitrite) deeper into the muscle fibers. This will help to extend the shelf life of the meat. Especially when talking curing of meats, smoking, particularly “hot smoking” will almost double the shelf life of a deer hind-quarter that has been brined and cured (with pink curing salt). You can also simply cure the meat, and dry it as much as possible either in the oven, dehydrator or even just hanging in the sun… just remember smaller pieces dry faster, and are easier to divide up after they are dried and almost rock hard!

Well folks, what do you think? Good ideas? Take anything away from this? Is there anything you think I missed? As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I will answer them to the best of my knowledge. Thanks Jarhead & RangerMan, Thanks to anybody reading this!!

12 comments… add one
  • Prepared N.D. January 24, 2011, 8:37 am

    Thanks for these posts, lots of good information in them.

    I guess my only question would be how well will this dry cured meat hold up against high heat and humidity after it has been cured? The summers here are around 80-105 depending on the month and real high humidity.

    In an off grid situation (until I get my IcyBall working), all I have to fall back on is dry curing and vacuum packing canning jars with a food saver attachment. I can also pressure can, but that uses quite a bit of propane, I still haven’t been successful at pressure canning on wood coals.

    Reply
    • ChefBear58 January 25, 2011, 12:36 am

      I an environment like you described, if left unprotected (sealed, wrapped, kept cool ect) the shelf life would be drastically reduced as it would with almost any preservation method. However the next post is about how to salt-dry fish and meat. This preservation method would probably suit your needs much better. Have you considered a “root cellar”, “spring house” or “cold house”? You could also consider combining the salt-drying and curing-smoking meats to make a product similar to a “country ham”, they can take a lot of temperature abuse for long periods of time.

      Reply
  • Spook45 January 24, 2011, 9:34 am

    Ahhhh, the ole farm! Reminecent of breakfast at grannys! As a child, I fondly remember on many occassions going out ot he smokehouse, buping out the smoke and choosing a side of bacon from the lot hanging from string on the ceiling and cutting it down. We would take it in the house, fire up a slicer and slice into bacon slices and cook it right then. The rest would get wrapped in wax paper and thrown into the fridge for later. IT amazes me to NO END that there are people stupid enough to belive that food is MADE at the grocery store and that it is wrong to kill animals for meat. What? Do they think the meat they buy at Krogers etc.. is man made? ARe people so dumb as to think that the meats they buy are not from animals? Do people REALLY BEIEVE that? IDK, but I do know there is nothing in this WORLD better than fresh country bacon cut right fro mthe ceiling of the smoke house and sliced on the kitchen table!

    Reply
    • Spook45 January 24, 2011, 9:36 am

      HEh, Please escuse the monday morning typing/spelling snafus. Not fully awake yet..

      Reply
      • ChefBear58 January 25, 2011, 12:46 am

        Have to agree with you, there is NOTHING like fresh home-made bacon! Especially if you have some good bread and nice ripe tomatoes…. now I’m hungry!

        I was watching a new show while I was writing this post called “Kill it, cook it, eat it”, they did lamb and you should have seen these fools freakin’ out because they were killing a lamb to make a meal. I agree Spook- some folks are just ignorant of how the world really works! Had some guy try and tell me the other day that KFC doesn’t raise chickens to slaughter for their fried chicken anymore. This guy is completely convinced that they just grow the parts they need in some lab and ship them to all their locations! All I could do is laugh and walk away!

        Reply
  • Jamie January 24, 2011, 3:04 pm

    That sounds like a great recipe for Salmon. I have been looking for some new ways for dry curing. Thanks

    Reply
    • ChefBear58 January 25, 2011, 12:49 am

      Your welcome! It also works pretty good on catfish, stripped bass, red drum and cobia if you do a low-temp “hot smoke” to set the cure. Those are just a few that I have tried, because they are native species around here. Should work with just about any fish you want to use though… one of my buddies uses bream, but I’ll wait till I HAVE to eat brim before I try it!

      Reply
      • ChefBear58 January 25, 2011, 12:51 am

        Forgot…. I have used rainbow, brook, and gray trout to

        Reply
  • Jamie January 25, 2011, 4:42 pm

    Thanks again Chef. Idaho has lots of trout and steelhead plus Catfish, Bass and Perch.
    I think I’m getting better at smoking so next skill to try salting and drying meats. This article hit at just the right time.

    Reply
    • ChefBear58 January 26, 2011, 12:58 am

      Thank you, the next one in the series covers salting. I went into detail about salting fish, because it is a bit easier to explain than other types of meat but the basics are the same for all of them.

      I haven’t tried curing perch, a friend of mine made cured & smoked white perch one time… it was OK, not great, not horrible. I am not a big fan of perch because in my opinion it has a pretty strong flavor as apposed to other fish, and I tend to experience a “funky” after-taste whenever I eat it. However it should do fine if you like it, and if things get bad folks will probably be eating shiners (minnows) and chubs! Bass might pose a slight problem with the curing if you don’t smoke it, because of the texture or “flake” of the meat and how delicate it is. Be careful when placing the fillets on your rack (or whatever you use to cure on) so that you don’t open the grain of the meat, if you do be sure to put some of the cure into the split. The reason for this is that you are creating a protective coating to block pathogens, oxygen, ect. from entering the meat, if there is an open place for these contaminants to enter it could potentially ruin the meat.

      Just remember, like everything practice is the key to perfection. My first couple batches of smoked BBQ pork shoulder was WAY to smoky and the seasoning in the rub was slightly off, the fourth or fifth time it got better, now a few hundred attempts later I have folks begging me to make my BBQ. Try experimenting with different seasonings, or taste modifiers too. I will tell you I used to make a pretty mean “Memphis style rub” a couple years ago. After doing a little experimentation and a lot of eating I found a few key ingredients that you don’t usually find in smoked foods. I’ll give you an example… Wassabi powder! Probably the last thing folks would expect in BBQ, but it brings out all the other flavors and adds a little kick.
      Blending different woods can also help to develop a great “flavor profile”.

      Reply
  • Lisa May 12, 2011, 2:54 pm

    what would the “shelf” life be in a dry climate for gravlox type fish?

    Reply
    • ChefBear58 May 12, 2011, 9:33 pm

      Gravlox method is only meant to extend the shelf life by about a week max, if unrefrigerated, and in that type of climate depending on temperature of course a week would be pretty typical. In colder climates like Scandinavia, where the recipe/method originated, a longer shelf life of up to a couple months would not be out of the question.

      If you are in a hot, dry climate, then a method like hot-smoking on top of the cure would give you the best results. You could also make “salmon candy”, which requires a heavily sugared/salted/spiced cure, combined with hot smoking and a fairly long drying process. The result is similar to beef-jerky, except tthat it should have a nice crisp coating of cure and of course it’s made of fish instead of beef. A “candied” fish product like this would have the potential for lasting months, if not a year or more when stored properly.

      Reply

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