I started two last month; I’ll smoke one and leave one unsmoked as my wife, Pauline, is not too keen on smoked food.
We’ll use it sliced in place of ham and it may even find its way into the odd bacon butty as it’s a loin version of US bacon! I’ll not be stopping making real British bacon any time soon though – have no fears about that!
Whilst I am a great believer in using locally produced meat from independent suppliers I’m also aware that many people don’t have the income to do this.
I hope to show with this project that you can still make some great products despite this. Many are cheaper than buying them from the supermarket. Yes, the quality may be better with meat produced to higher standards but good products can be made using meat produced on an industrial scale.
This is the piece of meat I bought from a local supermarket that sells pork produced in Britain. It’s around a kilogram of pork loin and cost £4.26 as it was discounted to £4 per kg.
That still may seem like a lot of money to some but the meat it makes can be used instead of cured ham, fried as bacon or be cut into thick slices to use as pork steaks/bacon chops – all of which would be more expensive to buy.
In Germany, it’s called Kasseler and is usually cured with the bones still in; it’s served as bacon chops. Some online references talk of it being smoked, cooked and then stored in brine which seems an odd way of going about things! However the few recipes I can find all make it in the normal way.
I decided to follow my friend Paul’s instructions for cooking the corned beef. He said to braise it slowly in chicken stock; I hadn’t any defrosted and so used water with the meat sat on a sliced onion.
The dry-cured beef that was put to cure on 29th August has now been curing for 20 days. How did I calculate the cure time? Well, it depends somewhat on the type of cure. Older cures tended to use lots of salt and then cure for a number of days per inch of meat. You still see people advising this online. However, that doesn’t apply in this case as the cure was formulated so that however long it’s left there can only be 2.5% salt in the meat. That’s about the same level as in mild bacon. I’ll braise the meat in liquid which will reduce this level further.
More important is that I chose to cure it for 20 days to give plenty of time for the saltpetre to work. Unlike the sodium nitrite in Cure #1, saltpetre (potassium nitrate) has to react with bacteria in the meat to lose an oxygen molecule and become potassium nitrite. It’s that nitrite that gives the meat protection and its colour.
My good friend Paul from North Carolina revised an injection cure to use as a dry-cure for beef brisket. He cooked it to eat on St. Patrick’s day in 2020. I thought of it the other day when we were shopping at a local trade wholesaler as they had brisket on offer. It seemed an ideal time to try something like Paul made without risking expensive meat.
I decided to stick close to Paul’s recipe – I trust him in these things. However, I’ve reduced the allspice and increased the juniper to take account of our preferences.
I trimmed the meat.
Then prepared the cure.
It looks and smells good.
I put the meat into a bag for curing before I rubbed the cure onto it. It’s less messy that way.
The meat will now cure for 20 days or so in the fridge. I’ll leave it for that long because saltpetre needs time to react with bacteria in the meat to do its job.
The results and cooking instructions are in this post.
In this country, we are used to corned beef out of a tin. The corned beef I am making is more like an unsmoked version of Pastrami. It gets its name from the ‘corn’, grains of coarse salts that are used to cure it. Traditionally made with brisket it can also be made with other cuts – in this case, a piece of topside weighing about 3lb.
The cure used is:
Ingredients Water 1500gm Salt 180gm Light Brown or Demerara Sugar 180gm Cure 1 (Prague Powder 1) 48gm Juniper Berries 10 Cloves 2 Black Peppercorns 6 Parsley Stalks 2 Thyme Sprigs 2 Bay Leaves 1 Coriander Seeds 6
Method Crush spices roughly and boil in water with sugar and salt. Cool and add cure. Pump with 10% of the meat’s weight of cure and immerse in the remaining cure for 5-6 days.
I put this in to cure on New Year’s Day. The meat weighed 1480gm, so was injected with 148gm of cure. Today, I have washed the meat in cold water and put it in a casserole with a chopped onion, carrot and a celery stick, along with about ½ pint of boiling water. I cooked it in the oven for 2½ hours at 160°C.
Added 2021: This recipe produces a very mildly spiced corned beef which I like for sandwiches. I like to slice it thinly and use 4 or 5 slices rather than one thick slice. It makes a nice, if somewhat untraditional, Reuben sandwich. I’ve recently posted a recipe for a dry-cured salt beef that has more spice and should be better for eating as a hot meal.
What springs to mind if I mention Emmet? Is it a Cornish tourist, or maybe the neighbour of Hyacinth Bouquet in the famous sitcom? Well, to any foodie or meat curer it won’t be either; it’ll be the makers of the famous Suffolk Black Ham that used to hold Royal Warrant, Emmett’s of Peasenhall. They’ve been making ham for over 150 years. Whilst there are other black hams, including the famous Bradenham from Wiltshire, Shropshire Black Ham, and a less well-known one from Derbyshire, Emmett’s seems to have become the one people talk about. It’s featured in the press and used to be rolled out on Delia Smith’s TV programmes at Christmas.
About a year ago I replied to a comment on Pauline’s Ham and said: “…I have done this cure with a lot less liquid by using a vacuum bag and just putting 100 – 200 ml of brine cure in with the meat (after injecting, of course).” It was my intention, at that time, to write further about this with an explanation and more detail.
Contrary to popular belief, the reason’s not that I’m tight-fisted! There are also some technical reasons why it’s a good idea. They’re not related to injection-curing; it’s the immersion part of the cure that’s the potential cause for concern.