Curing is a process where food ingredients like meat and fish are preserved and flavoured with salt, sugar nitrites, and nitrates with the aim of drawing moisture out of the food by the process of osmosis. Curing was in practice for ages and was the primary method of preserving meat and fish. Many curing processes also involve smoking, spicing, and cooking.

Most types of meats cannot be kept at room temperature for a long time as meats can decompose rapidly. To do so, curing is necessary. Curing is also crucial because it ensures food safety without relying on artificial preservatives. The aim of curing is to preserve the color, texture, taste, and other properties of raw meats and fishes while they are not spoiled and safe to consume.

METHODS

There are many methods of curing. One of the most popular ways is curing by rubbing salt on the meat and fish. However, all the other methods are as effective as this one.

DRY CURING

Dry curing is the process of applying the cure mix directly to the meat and fish. Then done with the application, place the meat/fish in a food-safe plastic pouch and store it in the refrigerator for the curing process to take place. Rinse off the excess meat when the curing is done.

SALT CURING

Salt is a great agent to draw out moisture from meat or fish through the process of osmosis. Foods can be cured using only salt, and this process is also known as corning. Salt curing reduces microorganisms to a great extent and makes the food safer.

BRINE CURING

Brine curing is also one popular method of curing fish and meat. It is also known as a sweet pickle cure. In this process, curing salt and water is combined to make a sweet pickle solution. To prepare the brine, a non-corrosive bowl is needed like a glass or a plastic bowl and inject the brine solution into the meat or fish using a meat pump, or you can also soak the meat in the brine solution over a particular time. If you soak in the brine solution, then make sure the meat is completely merged in the solution. The process takes place in the refrigerator, like dry curing. The cured meat needs to be cooked when done curing.

SUGAR CURING

Sugar curing is also known as honey curing, and in the process, the food acquires a slightly sweet taste. The dextrose and sucrose present in sugar help in fermenting the food, resulting in curing.

COMBINATION CURING

This process is a combination of dry rub cure and brine solution injection. This process is mainly used to cure ham. This process is, too, carried out in the refrigerator.

SMOKE CURING

Smoke curing is another popular way of curing, and it adds a smoky flavour to the meat or fish. However, the intensity of the smoke needs to be controlled as it leads to the burning of the food.

FOODS THAT CAN BE CURED

Along with meats and fishes vegetables can also be cured. Most cuisines include curing of foods. Some food ingredients that are popularly cured are:

BEEF: Corned beef is a popular cured food. Salt is rubbed on certain portions of the beef to cure it. Cured beef is mainly used in sandwiches. Some other cured beef products are Lomo, Biltong, Tapa, and Bresaola.

PORK: One of the most cured products is country ham. The meat is cured with salt for a span of 2-3 months and then smoked and allowed to age for around two years. This kind of meat is usually very salty, so they are generally cooked with other ingredients. Some cured pork products are Bacon, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Capicola, and many more.

SAUSAGE: Pepperoni is one of the most cured products among sausages. Sausages are commonly made with pork and beef. Before the meat is cured, bell peppers are added, in some cases. Some famous cured sausages are Salami, Chinese sausages, Chorizo, Linguica, and many more.

FISH: Among other fish products, anchovy is the most popular cured product. Anchovy is a small silvery-blue colored fish that is firstly brined and then cured with salt and oil. This can be eaten with sandwiches and salads. Some popular cured fish products are Salt Cod, Pickled Herring, Salmo, and many more.

VEGETABLES: One most popularly cured vegetable item is cucumber. Cucumber is primarily merged in a brine solution and then canned. This is how pickled cucumbers are made, which is an excellent combination for salads. Some cured vegetable products are Tofu, Kimchi, Sauekraut, Olives, Pickled beets, and many more.

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHILE CURING

* The time is taken to cure depends on the thickness and the amount of bone and fat present in the meat. The thicker the meat, the more time it takes to cure.
* You can experiment with curing methods with various spices but be careful to not exceed the curing level.
* Set a reminder to not forget to remove the curing meats from the refrigerator.
* A colder temperature will prevent the meat from curling. Warmer temperature will spoil the curing method. So be careful with the temperature. The curing temperature should be between 36 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
* You can remove the excess salt by boiling or soaking the meat in water in case it became too salty.
* Do not eat the cured food products as they are still raw. Cook it after the curing is done.
* When the cured meats are cook, they turn pink or reddish. A meat thermometer can be used to determine when the curing is done, especially for poultry.