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Salt-curing is a very old method to preserve food. Originally it was used only for fish, later also for meat. Curing was supposedly invented by the flemish fisher Willhelm Brökel during the 14th century. In the beginning it was called brökeln, in German the term pökeln is still used.

Meat or fish preserved with salt is known as salt-cured or simply salted fish or meat. For the preservation of fish sea salt or table salt is used.

Nowadays salt-curing is done with special curing salts. Curing salt is a mixture of cooking salt and nitrite or sometimes sodium nitrate. The salt withdraws water from the meat and therefore prolongs its shelf life.

During curing the haemoglobin reacts with the nitrite and gets desensitized against heat and oxygen – which makes the meat keep its red colour. Besides the preservation curing has one negative side effect: Some proteins and minerals are unfortunately lost during the curing process.

There are basically two methods of salt-curing:

  • Dry-curing: During dry-curing the meat is rubbed with salt pellets called corns. This process is also called corning. The salt withdraws water from the meat. After 4 to 8 weeks the meat is relatively dry and can be stored for a long time.
  • Wet-curing: During wet-curing the meat is stored in brine. After 3 or 4 weeks a juicy piece of salted meat is ready for consumption. It is still perishable and cannot be stored very long.
  • Fast-curing: Fast-curing is a second method of wet-curing. Brine is injected directly into the muscle and veins of the meat with special syringes. After 2 to 3 weeks the fast-cured meat is ready for consumption.

Beef brisket and pork rump are meat cuts that are well liked for salt-curing.


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