Curing meat at home is a great way to preserve wild game or save money on your grocery bill. But it’s only a worthwhile endeavor if you have palatable results. Here are a few common issues that can occur when curing meat and what to look for when these issues occur.
All Cured Meats
Odor, Flavor problems, Rancidity
Rancidity may be accompanied by acidity or a fishy flavour. Some common causes for this relate to oxidation which can occur if:
- salt used contained heavy metal impurities
- there was an air leak in your packaging
- light exposure and/or extended shelf life which leads to bacterial enzymes
The use of phosphates where permitted will tie up pro-oxidant metal impurities. Proper packaging and storage will inhibit growth of bacterial enzymes.
Musty, Weedy, Parsnips, Cheesy off-odor / Sour flavour
This type of odor is generally a sign of bacterial growth due to:
- insufficient salt
- poor sanitation
- abusive storage temperature
Lack of cured flavor, chicken feather flavor
This can usually be traced back to an incomplete cure or a poor distribution of cure.
Flat aroma and acid taste
If you are lacking an aroma or your product has an acidic flavour, you might have a problem with PSE pork.
Pale, soft, exudative meat, or PSE meat, describes a carcass quality condition known to occur in pork, beef, and poultry. It is characterized by an abnormal color, consistency, and water holding capacity, making the meat dry and unattractive to consumers. Wikipedia
If the surface color fades rapidly while the interior may range from faced pink to gray or light green you might have an issue with:
- insufficient nitrite in cure
- interior is under cured
- PSE pork
- cured pigment has been oxidized by light and/or accelerated by temperature
- packaging leaks
- bacterial oxidizing pigments
Curing procedures should be improved to guarantee at least 70% of the meat pigment being cured. The amount of PSE pork should be minimized. Reducing agents such as ascorbic acid should be added. The quality of the packaging is crucial. The use of opaque packages and reduced exposure to light will reduce the potential for pigment to fade.
If your problem intensifies in an acid medium, then you likely have:
- Nitrate burn due to excessive use of nitrate.
- Nitrate burn due to improper distribution of nitrate.
Otherwise, your meat is likely under-cured, which can be avoided by ensuring:
- Better distribution of ingredients
- longer curing time
- temperature of curing room 35º-28º ‘F (2º-3ºC)
- use of cure accelerators such as ascorbate
Want more pro tips for your home processing endeavors?
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