So, you’ve wanted to have a go at curing your own meat? Not sure where to start? This should hopefully answer some questions. Equilibrium curing is the most accurate way to cure meat. It involves adding a calculated amount of salt/spices, and allowing enough time for all of the salt to distribute evenly throughout the meat. The benefit is, you can never over salt using this method no matter how long you leave it in the cure (sometimes months or even longer).
The salt levels are calculated based on a percentage of the weight of what you’re curing. This ranges somewhere between 1.8%-3.5% (ie for every kg of meat, use between 18-35g of salt). When using cure #1/2 (nitrite/nitrate), this is added to your mix at 0.25%. Worth reading up about different types of cure in relation to safety etc. Note that this counts as part of your salt (ie if you’re wanting 3% total salt, you would add 2.75% salt plus 0.25% cure).
Salt and cure need to be weighed accurately (no measuring volumes such as teaspoons – doing this in the best case scenario would leave you with in inaccurately salted product, worst case scenario you may not have safe levels of salt and cure in your product). I use a jewellery scale bought for a few dollars on eBay.
Spices can also be weighed out at this point according to your recipe. They can also be added after curing depending on what it is that you’re making.
The time that the meat has to be left in the cure all depends on what it is, thickness, fat content etc. To give you an idea, pork belly requires a minimum of 7 days, pork loin requires 14 days, and something like a lamb leg would also require 14-21 days. I can’t stress this enough:
You can’t leave it in for too long, but not long enough will result in a product that hasn’t reached equilibrium and isn’t cured properly.
Now. Once you’ve weighed out the correct amount of salt, cure and spices, you’re ready to apply it to the meat. Take your curing mix and spread it evenly across the surfaces of the meat. Then, place it either in a ziplock bag or vacuum seal it. After which it can sit happily in your fridge until it’s ready for drying, smoking or cooking.
After the allotted curing time, the meat is removed from the cure and dried, smoked, cooked etc. There’s no need to rinse it, but you can if you choose to. Don’t go soaking it in water, wine etc after curing. This will only alter your salt levels which you calculated accurately at the start.