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We've been curing bacon for a while now; add curing salts to a pork-belly or two, flip every day in the fridge, smoke at about 200-F for five or six hours, slice for the week or leave it whole, and put back in the fridge.  Good stuff!  But for the record, you need to be careful, do you own research, and make your own decisions--you don't want to get sick or die from bad meat!

That said, we now we need some more salts, other than the nice ones we received in our curing box from last Christmas.  That has prompted a quick DIY look through the internet, trying to avoid nitrates, nitrites, salt peter, etc.  There is some knowledge that the nitrates and nitrites are not as bad as we thought...See the post by Chris Kresser.

So, on to the details of the research1.  The following is not extensive, but it got me to where I needed to be.

Morton® salts has section on Meat Curing Methods which helped a little bit (and yes, I'm sure there are hundreds of others), giving some of the commercial names so I could figure out what the standard industrial-grade curing was about.  The following was posted by DeejayDebi on the smokingmeatforums.com (emphasis mine):  

Just for an idea of what the differences are:

Prague powder #1 is a mixture of 1 part sodium nitrite and 16 parts salt. You normally use 1 level teaspoon of cure for 5 lb. of meat. Used at any time meat is not immediately put into freezer or refrigerator, Such as smoking, air drying, dehumidifying, etc. This is similar to and sometimes called Curing Salt.

Prague powder #2 is a mixture of 1 part sodium nitrite,.64 parts sodium nitrate and 16 parts salt. You normally use 1 level teaspoon of cure for 5 lb. of meat. mainly used for products that will be air cured for long time like: Country Ham, salami, peperoni, and other dry sausages.

Instacure 1 is a mixture of 1oz of Sodium Nitrite (6.25 %) to 1 lb of salt. Used at any time meat is not immediately put into freezer or refrigerator, Such as smoking, air drying, dehumidifying, etc.

Instacure 2 is a mixture of 1 oz of Sodium Nitrite (6.25 %) along with .64 oz od Sodium Nitrate (4 %) to 1 lb of salt. mainly used for products that will be air cured for long time like: Country Ham, salami, peperoni, and other dry sausages.

Note: The Curing Salts above contain FDA approved red coloring agent that gives them a slight pink color thus eliminating any possible confusion with common salt

Morton's Tender Quick is a mixture of salt, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate and sugar. You normally use 1 level tablespoon of cure for 1 lb. of meat.

Saltpeter is potassium nitrate and is also used as a curing agent but I know

Somehow it led me to the letsmakesomethingawesome.com blog by Cedar McKay and his "Home Cured Bacon Without Nitrates," or rather "salty-smoked pork belly" post that has a lot of details.  See update 2.

So, the current solution (actually solid) to the lack of curing salt in our pantry:

Sugar and Nitrate/Nitrite-Free Meat Cure

First off, try at your own risk.  You are responsible for your own cleanliness and sanitary methods in the kitchen!

  • Ingredients:  Salt (mostly) and Pepper (a good portion), fresh pork belly

  • Shape up the meat and coat it completely in the mixture, rubbing over the entire surface and into the pits and crevices.
  • Put it in a new clean storage container (we use the gallon ziplocks) and remove as much air as possible.
  • Flip daily for 5 to 7 days, keeping the meat below 38-F the whole time (recommendation by Cedar McKay).
  • Pull it out at the end, wash off the excess salt, pat dry with clean towels or paper towels.
  • Smoke at 200-F unti the inside is about 165-F 

That's all!  I'll update when we have the final product.

 UPDATE 31 August 2015:  Here's the starting product:

bacon02 BaconSalt 

Salt, Pepper, Bay leaf, and Garlic Powder.

 

 bacon03 PorkBelly  

1.37# of Pork Belly from Earth Fare ($2.99/#).

 

bacon04 PorkBellyWithSalt

Pork Belly with the mixture.

 

bacon05 BaggedBelly

Zipped up tight with very little airspace.

 

 1 This note is for my students.  In your scientific research papers, the web is a start, but you will need to actually look through the primary literature, as that is where you are heading in your careers.  As an example, imagine if a doctor just used WebMD for their degree and you went to see that Dr.  

Why Cassava (flour)?

Over the last few years, we have been trying to reduce sugar and white flour (grains, really) intake, and looking for ways to actually still enjoy food.  This feat is not necessarily easy, particulary with flour and that horribly wonderful gluten!  However, this endeavor is very worthwhile in the growth of obesity and obesity-related disease in this country, as well as world-wide.  From AuthorityNutrition.com:

The studies are clear on this; when people abandon their traditional foods in favor of modern processed foods high in sugar, refined flour and vegetable oils, they get sick (123).

File:Manihot esculenta 001.jpgBy Amada44 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I just borrowed the picture, and the author had nothing to do with the article

 

For me, the largest problem has been what consitutes a basic addiction to sugar and flour.  Can you say Toll House cookies, pound cake, and Ice Cream? At the same time?!  With chocolate sauce?!!   I hope Laura isn't reading...  So a few years ago before we started dating, I asked Laura, what could help me lose weight that I've had on me since moving to Myrtle Beach area--yes, that was a whole other problem.  Simply put, she said "Reduce your processed sugar and flour intake until you don't need it anymore" (or in another iteration of the conversation, "Stop eating sugar and flour").  Get a Vitamix, and drink smoothies for breakfast instead of pancakes/waffles/muffins/Starbucks/etc.  When I got to Costco and called, asking "Does a Vitamix really cost $325?!" she replied "That cheap? Buy it!"  
 
What did I get myself into?  The nice thing is that I went from 235# down to 185# (yes, that is a pound sign...and a hashtag, too I guess.  #rewritehistory #notamillenialandproud) in about a year.  I'm back up to a steady 200#, but so is my intake of sugar and flour.  Working on that issue now!

Cassava flour helps us to sovle some of the gluten and grain problems in the house, providing a very good subsitute for wheat and other grain-derived flours.

So, what is Cassava Flour?

It is not tapioca, but it is related very closely.  The tropical cassava bush (Manihot esculenta) of South America has a wonderful gluten-free root full of starch that feeds millions, and can be made into what we are finding to be an excellent subsitute for white flour.  Wikipedia has a very good description and history of Cassava in general, if you want more detail.  Unlike coconut flour, cassava flour is not grainy and can be used to make some good stuff!  Here I provide some information for you (and me) that has helped understand the process involved in extracting the flour from the root.  Native populations make it look relatively simple, and mass-production in an industrialized nation can be done without chemicals, but rather just water.
 
 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has a very good, thorough examination of the procesing of cassava root for the starch and resulting flour (see Processing of Cassava (FAO, 1971)).  The flour comes from the starch locked in the cells.  The root is turned to pulp, centrifuged, and dried.  Here are the basics:
1.  Grow the plant :)
2.  Harvest the root at the right time (root should snap, not bend)
3.  Clean the outer cork-like bark off the root and wash off the dirt
4.  Rasp the root until it just a runny, milky pulp
5.  Separate the starch from the pulp by washing with a lot of water
6.  Screen the pulp away from the milky-looking starch
7.  Separate the starch from the impurities in the "fruit water" by settling
Note:  "The diameter of cassava starch granules ranges between 4 adn 24 microns"  Human hair is generally about 100 microns thick
8.  The starch settles in large tanks lined with wood to avoid direct contact with the cement
9.  After draining off the fruit water, the surface layer is scraped and discarded, leaving the wet flour to be stirred with water again and let settle.
10. The starch is purified through several 'concentrators'
11.  Dried in ovens, the resulting lumps of starch are pulverized, dry-screened (bolting), and sifted before packaging.
 

Why do some call Tapioca and Cassava the same item?

In the same FAO report, the describe the production of "Baked tapioca products."  Tapioca results from the heating or baking of moist cassava starch from about 60°C until it undergoes a chemical change up to 80°C into the tasty goo that is tapioca.  
 

Why do I care?

Grain-free pastries of course.  Check the next blog and a brief update here to see what becomes of our Cassava Flour.  We'll be using Moon Rabbit Foods brand.

 CassavaFlour
 
 
 
 
Ribs and pork belly ready for the smoker

While Laura starts her second day of teaching the teachers at Mission Yoga, I have the responsibility of cooking ribs for dinner if I would like to give it a whirl.  Of course!  Oh, and definitely pork ribs (Charlie will be sending hate mail as soon as he sees this note!).  Laura usually grinds the rub, and I usually cook them, but just me today.  Well, with Maggie and Sir Kitty Kitty if he should decide to show up!

Recipe

After a bit of googling, some of the recipes I'm spicing together come from Bobby Flay and the Food network (here) and the Food.com, and in general a lot of looking around at the various spices and such that Laura actually has in the kitchen (which is quite a lot!).  Here's what I've decided on using (and it may not work--you may want to see below to see if I've updated this list):

Ingredients:

2 2/3 pounds pork baby back ribs
     rinsed and dried

1/8 tsp cloves
5 cardamon pods
1 tsp dried whole sage


3/4 tsp cuminspiceGrinderFix1/2 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
3/4 tsp mustard seed
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp regular paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tsp salt

and since there will be room in the smoker, take 3/4 pound of pork belly (dried between paper towels), grind a tablespoon salt and tablespoon black pepper, rub it down, and throw it in there (yes, this is an experiment for me!  uncured bacon?).

How to:

  1. Grind all the ingredients above (except the pork products) in a spice mill (after you take it apart and fix it as needed), pat down on the ribs, and let stand from twelve hours to just a few minutes;
  2. Setup your smoker, get it going, and wait 4-6 hours.  If this step is a bit shy, look at Smoking-Meat.com and SpicesInc for some methods.
  3. ...I'll be back in a few hours to tell how they turned out.
  4. ...more to come... 
  5. Well then... 8 hours later and things look done.  About 200 cooking temp with 160 internal temperature on the ribs and pork belly and ready to eat!

Tasted great!!!  Here are some photos of the process and final product with Laura's "Vegetables roasted with Love!"

 RibsAndBelly

FinalRibsAndBelly

 

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