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!!