In the world of charcuterie, flavor is key. The secret to a winning charcuterie platter is the combination of perfectly cured meats with complementary cheeses and vegetables. Curing is the combination of salt, sugar and nitrate to preserve, flavor and color meat. While some sources suggest curing with salt alone and others provide detailed instructions for curing using brine, dry curing with salt and sodium nitrate provides a deep, enhanced flavor that you will love.
One of the best parts about dry curing is that you can choose the flavor profile. Sweet or spicy, the natural flavor of the meat infused with your choice of dry rub becomes concentrated as it dries.
So why is dry curing important? Health wise, cured meats have a bad reputation for their high salt and fat content. However, if you are curing your own meat, you can control the amount of fat and salt used in the curing process. A recent study shows that the dietary nitrates found in cured meats may help prevent and treat heart disease by sustaining the levels of blood and tissue in the body. Meat is also a vital source of protein and in moderation helps promote strong muscles and bones.
Curing meat also increases its shelf life, which can save you money, and creates flavor you cannot achieve any other way (for the foodies!)
For those who are considering dry curing their own meats, here is a quick rundown of the process:
Decide what type of meat you’ll use
Trim off excess fat
For large cuts of meat, stab holes in it for better salt coverage
Decide whether you want to use salt only or your own mix of dry ingredients
For every two grams of sodium nitrate, use 1000 grams of salt
Mix your spices with salt (optional)
Rub mixture all over the entire cut of meat
Refrigerate meat for seven to 10 days
Remove and rinse
Roll up the meat (optional)
Tie meat up tightly in something like a cheesecloth to get rid of excess moisture
Truss your meat using butcher’s twine to help it keep its shape (optional)
Place meat in a cool, dark place for anywhere from two weeks to two months