The Complete Guide to Preserving Meat, Fish, and Game:
Long before refrigeration was became such an important part of modern life, people had to find ways to preserve meat for survival. Most early hunter/gatherer societies were dependent on the availability of wild animals for food, clothing, and tools. As human beings developed the technology to increase efficiency in hunting and bringing down large animals, the knowledge and technology to safely preserve meat for long periods of time was also developed. Early attempts at civilization could not have been successful until improved efficiency in food production and preservation was developed.
There are several examples of ancient societies that learned how to preserve meat and other food items enabling them to develop and expand complex forms of civilization. The first well known example of meat preservation that comes to mind is salt pork and salt beef being used on ancient sailing vessels to extend the range ships could sail out to sea. History also informs us that salt pork was very important in the American Civil War. Salt pork was the primary food of both the Federal Army the Confederate Army. Salt beef was not as popular as salt pork because of taste, and because it did not remain in a usable condition as long. There are many references to bacon being available in those days, but in reality what the old timers called bacon was sliced salt pork.
Historically, the value of salt cannot be overstated. Our bodies need a certain amount of salt everyday for us to survive. Besides deposits of salt that can be found in nature, salt can be obtained by heating and evaporating water in a pan. If a large enough deposit can be found, salt can be mined, or pumped out of wells dug or drilled into salt deposits. Early man found that by soaking his food supplies in salt the food would be preserved, and be useful for a long period of time. This discovery made salt a very valuable commodity that could be traded for other commodities that people needed. By using salt, foods like beef, pork, fish, butter, and many others could be harvested and preserved for consumption when supplies of fresh food were not available.
Long before the European entrance into the New World Native American people were preserving meat in several different ways. The availability of game animals and fish in different parts of the continent dictated what these people were able to kill and preserve. Where fish were available, smoked fish was very important. Large fish like salmon would be attached to pieces of wood and placed over a fire absorbing the smoke into the meat. Native American people made jerky out of many different game animals and fish. The meat would be cut into strips and covered with salt and set out to dry. The most interesting method for preserving meat was a food that was called pemmican. Pemmican is made by grinding up meat that has been dried, mixing it with berries that have been ground up, and adding animal fat that had been rendered. This mixture may not sound too appetizing to us today, but it was a food with great value to early American people.
Pioneers living in the northern areas of the North American continent found an ingenious way to keep foods cold throughout the year by using river and lake ice. During the long cold winter months, hard working people would go out to the nearest river, stream, or lake and cut large squares of ice and transport them to a large icehouse. Straw would be packed around the ice to minimize melting as the weather turned warmer in the spring and summer. Ice packed this way would last through most of the summer. Each day families would go to the icehouse and get a piece of ice small enough to fit into well insulated icebox that was kept in the home. This is how food was preserved before the invention of electricity and refrigerators. Even today many people still refer to the refrigerator as the icebox.
There is still an idyllic picture in our minds of an ice peddler with an old horse pulling an ice wagon traveling around town putting ice in a box by the front door of people's homes. This picture should impress upon your mind how important it was for the people in this picture to learn how to make the available food last as long as possible. The preservation of food is the most important human survival skill that people can learn.
Continuing the Art of Preserving Meat
Americans eat an almost indescribably large variety of commercially prepared meats, in very large quantities, each and every day. Every grocery store and convenience store in the country sells huge quantities of commercially packaged beef jerky, pemmican, and smoked fish. The big difference between our modern commercially preserved meats, and the preserved meats of the past, is the chemicals that are used to facilitate the preservation process. Five chemicals are commonly found in processed meats; sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, and alkaline phosphates. These chemicals keep meat from spoiling and turning to unpalatable colors, but are they good for our bodies?
Sodium erythorbate is a chemical compound that is used to keep meat from turning colors that would make the meat look spoiled, and is used to preserve freshness. Sodium nitrate retards bacteria that causes botulism, and is essential to the meat curing processes. Sodium nitrate has been proven to be safe to human beings. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is commonly used to bring out flavor in preserved foods. Although widely used, some people experience short term physical discomfort after consuming MSG. Maltodextrin is used as an artificial sweetener that is considered safe for most people, but could be a problem for people for people with gluten intolerance if the maltodextrin was derived from wheat products.
With the advent of refrigeration, use of chemical additives and mass transportation, Americans can enjoy fresh food the year around. Foods that are frozen or chemically preserved can be maintained at the same fresh taste it had at harvest because modern technology takes food directly from harvest and preparation, and locks in the flavor before any spoilage can happen. The vast majority of people living today have no direct connection to the harvesting and packaging of the food they consume. The best reason for continuing the art of meat preservation is to have control over the chemicals that enter your body.
The average American teenager will tell you food comes from the grocery store, but have no real concept of how it got there. Not too many years ago, most people living on or near a farm knew how to milk a cow, feed the chickens, or slaughter a farm animal to provide meat for the family. Families would butcher animals raised on the land or game animals brought home from far afield. The meat would be prepared and preserved to provide food for many months. These are family traditions that are worth all hard work it would take to keep them going. Our technologically advanced world is in some way de-humanizing our way of life. Learning how to preserve meat would be a wonderful way to reintroduce your family to a rich heritage of family closeness and of maintaining the rural tradition.
A major trend in the food industry over the last few years has been the natural food concept. Many food producers in cooperation with retailers are bringing to the marketplace products that are as free as possible from chemicals and artificial preservatives. These efforts do not come at a cheap price. Food producers and processors incur significant additional costs bringing food products to the marketplace without being able to use certain chemicals in the field, and in the preservation process. The additional costs of production are usually passed on to the consumer. The best way to avoid paying higher prices for naturally prepared foods is to return the preservation process back to your home. You can really say you have returned your family to nature when you are involved in bringing food in from the harvest, and preparing it for the dinner table in time honored ways.
An experience comes to mind from several years ago when my family was raising chickens on a small farmstead in Central North Dakota. Our children learned many hard lessons about life when the time came to slaughter and clean about ten chickens that were living in the barn. Many old timers can picture in their minds what happens when the chicken heads were chopped off, and the chickens were dunked in the tub of scalding water to facilitate pulling all of the feathers out. Can you remember the smell of mother holding the chickens over the gas kitchen stove to burn off the pin feathers? All of the hard work that goes into feeding and caring for the growing chickens, and through the harvest, produces food in the freezer that is wholesome and well earned.
“We were called into a parent teacher conference with one of our grade school children. The counselor was seriously concerned. She explained to us the school teacher asked the child; what are the four seasons of the year? He replied, “Deer season, bird hunting season, turkey season, fishing season.” The counselor did not appreciate our initial burst of laughter.”
Bill and Kay Tomaszewski explain their response to these kind questions this way, “Our diet is healthier because our food is lean and free of contamination due to the fact it is produced here at our home. We are proud to be able to provide for ourselves. We make it a family event when it comes time to process, for instance, the summer sausage, the brats, etc. Everyone helps out and we have a great time. It has been a healthy learning experience for the children and we enjoy the hunting and fishing to supply the meat for preservation.” (Tomaszewski, 2010)
Chapter 1: Basic Understanding of the Canning, Curing, and Smoking Process
This chapter is designed to help the beginner, and challenge the experienced meat preserver, to learn all the different ways that meat can be preserved. There is some interesting chemistry involved in the process of making meat safe to eat after a long period of storage. There are distinct advantages to each preservation method that will be discussed in the book. Hopefully the material included in this chapter will be interesting enough to keep you reading and thinking all the way to the end of the book. The goal of this book is to keep people healthy when preserved meat is consumed. Along with some basic instructions, general safety issues will be discussed, with more specific information to come later in the book.
What is meant by canning, and how is it beneficial to you?
The process for preserving food in glass jars was invented by a man named Nicolas Appert in 1809 in response to a challenge from Napoleon to find a way to feed his army. As the size and complexity of armies increased it became more and more difficult to provide food when the army was on the move. The old traditional method of an army scavenging and living off the land could not be sustained during long term campaigns. When Mr. Appert first discovered the canning process, he did not have any understanding of the science that was involved, but he did know that food could be preserved for a long period of time. The major drawback for the original canning process was keeping glass jars from breaking in transit under primitive conditions. Over time the technology was developed to preserve food in metal cans. Today only specialty food products are commercially packaged in glass jars.
To make it simple, canning is the process of sterilizing the container, preparing the food to be stored, and sealing the container so no contaminants can enter and spoil the food. Care in each of these three steps is essential. The jars used must be cleaned and sterilized to insure that no bacterial contaminant is allowed to come in contact with the food that has been so lovingly prepared for your family. Different kinds of food require specific preparation methods depending of the chemical makeup of the particular commodity. The difference primarily revolves around the temperature the food must be prepared at. Modern canning jar manufacturers have provided the home canner with a special lid that makes it easy to seal the jar, and provides a way to insure the jar stays sealed.
Many of you can remember going to your grandmother's cupboard or basement and seeing shelves full of beautiful jars full of all kinds of nutritious food. Food that was lovingly prepared to feed the family through the long winter months. Home canned food does not have the preservatives that have the potential to bring long term health problems to your family. When the electricity goes out because of a big storm, food preserved in glass jars is not affected by the lack of electricity, and it is easy to simply look through the glass to see that the food has not been spoiled. Several years ago my wife and daughters canned over 100 quarts of sweet corn fresh from the family farm. Beyond the value of the fresh food that was preserved for many months of enjoyment, a memory was made that will last a lifetime. A few years ago my eldest son brought home a 39 inch salmon caught in the middle of the night on the AuSable River in the lower peninsula of Michigan. In the excitement that ensued the whole family was woke up, and all seven of us cleaned and canned that great fish in the early hours of the morning. These are memories that cannot be manufactured by the artificial technology of modern society.
CASE STUDY: HELEN IBSEN PYELL
Member of Pioneer Family
As I was interviewing Mrs. Helen Pyell for a case study on using river ice for natural refrigeration that you will read in the next chapter, she revealed to me a wonderful account from her childhood of canning beef for the family's food needs. This account will be presented just as closely to her words as possible. The hard work that went into providing food for a rural family on a homestead is very far removed from the life we live in America today.
Since there was no electricity or refrigeration in rural Nebraska in the early 1930's, the only way the Ibsen family could preserve the beef they butchered was to can it. The canned beef would keep the meat available for many months, even up to a year or more. The jars of meat were stored in the cellar under the cabin on shelves that had been built for that purpose. Other food items that had been canned could also be found on the shelves in the cellar. The cellar was cool even in the hottest months helping to preserve the meat from spoilage.
The canning process began when the men pulled a steer out of the herd and butchered it. All of this work was done right there on the farmstead with the tools and equipment that was available on a rural farm in the 1930's. The beef was hung up and skinned out, and the butchering process started. Helen told me that they canned the entire animal, so they had to debone it and use every available cut of meat. The butchering was a long and laborious task.
The work in the kitchen had begun at the same time. They did not have propane or natural gas, but had a large wood fired cook stove in the kitchen. Wood had to be cut, split, and carried into the cabin for this big day. Helen said they had a big oval tub to put the canning jars in to cook the meat and seal the jars. The big tub was placed on the wood stove and filled with water from the well. Each of the Ball Mason canning jars were filled with beef as it was brought into the cabin from the butchering out in the yard. They did not have canning lids like the ones that are available today. Helen said she remembers one piece zinc lids for the jars. My wife still has one of these antique canning lids in her collection. Helen said the lids had some kind of a rubber sealing surface. At that time the canning jar lids did not make the distinctive “pop” sound we hear when modern lids seal on the jar.
As each jar was filled to capacity, the jar was set down into the hot water with a kitchen tool designed to lift and set the jars in the hot water. Helen remembers quart jars, but there may have been larger one gallon jars. The water in the steel tub was deep enough to completely cover each jar. The jars had to cook long enough for the meat to completely cook, and long enough for the canning lids to get hot enough to completely seal. Since they were not using a pressure cooker canner like we have today, the temperature could not get above the boiling point, so the cooking process took a long time to insure a safe food product. Beef canning day was a long hot day in the kitchen with a level of work that most people today could not even imagine accomplishing.
The jars full of good home cooked beef were then taken out of the oval tub and carried down to the cellar for storage. As I was talking to Helen, I tried to imagine how many jars of meat could be filled with beef from a single steer. This is a good picture of a traditional Midwestern diet of meat and potatoes. This account of preserving meat is a wonderful example of the rich tradition of hard work pioneer families accomplished to keep food on the table. (Pyell, 2010)
A good historical resource for the Southern Nebraska region is the book, “History of the Stamford Nebraska Community 1887 to 1978.” (Tams, 1978)
Mrs. Helen M. Pyell
How can curing and smoking of fish and meat be beneficial to you?
Curing and smoking meat represents a two part process, so both are usually considered together. Curing meat in the home involves using salt and nitrates to preserve or save the meat for use at a distant date. Commercial curing of meat involves applying the chemicals that were discussed in the introduction to the book. The goal of the book is to teach the reader how to preserve meat in the home without the use of the chemicals the meat industry uses. Prior to the actual smoking process the meat needs to be prepared in either a brine solution or packed in salt to begin the preservation process. Although the preservation process is not so important when refrigeration is readily available, if the meat will be used in areas where refrigeration is not readily available it will be very important to follow through with the complete salting process. A point to remember is that the preservation process does not cook meat, so it will have to be cooked prior to human consumption.
The Benefits of Curing Meat
An important benefit to curing meat for use in the home is to maintain a readily available source of meat when the electricity goes out and there is no refrigeration. Home cured meat might also be very important to your family in a natural disaster when normal sources of commercially available food supplies are not available. For some people, the greatest benefit might be to know that their family will not be exposed to some of the various chemicals that are found in commercially prepared meats.
An objective analysis of the subject must also involve a discussion of the extra time and expense that will be expended in getting started preserving meat and keeping the process going year after year. When refrigeration became available to the majority of American households, people hailed it as a great day. To preserve the amount of meat that a family of four would consume in a year will take considerable effort and resources. On the other hand, involvement in the art of curing and smoking meat as a hobby or family activity will bring rewards and wonderful memories to your family that will draw you closer together.
The Benefits of Smoking Meat
After meat has been prepared in salt brine or packed in dry salt, the smoking process can begin. Smoking is a process that uses the heat of burning wood to cook the meat at the same time flavor is added to the meat by the variety of wood that is being used. In America the wood varieties that are used are hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, alder, maple, apple, cherry, and plum.
Depending on how much heat the meat is exposed to during the smoking process, further cooking may be necessary before the meat is consumed. If you plan to use the meat exclusively in your home where you have continual access to refrigeration and cooking equipment, there are will be a much wider range of smoking options available to you than if you plan to use the meat when you are out camping or working a long way from home. Meat being carried in a back pack for a long hiking and camping trip should be fully cooked before you leave home. If prepared and packaged properly, it will be a wonderful addition to your outdoor activity.
The primary benefit of smoking meat is the flavor that is imparted to the meat by the wood that was used in the smoking process. Each type of wood gives the meat a distinctive flavor. Flavor is a matter of opinion, so the person just beginning to learn how to smoke meat may want to do some experimentation, or find someone who is an experienced meat smoker and taste some samples of his or her work. The best type of wood to use is purely matter of opinion, and depends also on the size and capability of the smoker.
Woods such as hickory, mesquite, and oak give meats a stronger flavor than woods such as pecan and alder. Other woods such as maple, apple, cherry, and plum will give meat a sweet flavor. The decision as to which type of wood to use will probably be determined by what is available in your area for a reasonable cost. Purchasing wood at the lumber yard or major home improvement store probably will be cost prohibitive. You will need to look for places that create scrap pieces like carpenter shops or wood mills that may be in your area. The fun of exploration and discovery may be an enjoyable activity for the whole family.
What is cold smoking?
Cold smoking is the process of using smoke to flavor meat without bringing the meat to a cooking heat. Cold smoking of fish such as salmon has been very important to many cultures for centuries. Today cold smoked salmon when properly prepared is considered a delicacy in many localities. Food labeling laws in most countries are very strict to protect the value of the product. If the label says the salmon for example was cold smoked in a certain locality with a particular process, then you can know the product really is what it claims to be. If you learn to be a good cold smoker, you can create your own delicacy in your own backyard.
A good example of cold smoking today that people today might recognize is cold smoked ham. A good quality commercially cold smoked ham can be somewhat expensive, but is a price that many people are willing to pay to get the flavor that the cold smoking has imparted to the meat. Smoking is the real reason that all pork products have the distinctive taste that people enjoy so much. Pork that is slaughtered and sent straight to the cooking pot, and then to the table would not have the wonderful taste that you have come to look forward to. The entire preservation and preparation process that pork normally goes through is what imparts the taste to the meat. This is why we have names like “cold smoked ham,” or “sugar cured ham.” These are the processes that make the meat so good to eat.
Cold smoking itself does not preserve meat. The initial preservation process in salt brine or dry salt packing will still need to be accomplished before smoking the meat. The cold smoking process can take several days or even weeks, depending on how deeply you desire the smoke to penetrate the meat. The ideal temperature for cold smoking is meat or fish will depend on the particular product being smoked, but certainly is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The important thing to remember is that fish and meat that is cold smoked will need to be cooked to the proper safe temperature when the time comes for consumption.
Think about food safety as a family safety issue
Food borne illnesses are a serious issue for consideration for the person preserving meat and fish in the home environment. Commercially prepared foods must meet strict safety regulations that have been established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fish and meat that reaches our dinner table has been monitored for safety from the farm or hatchery, through the slaughter house, through the packing facility, and all the way through the retail distribution system. Even after all of the inspections have been accomplish, tainted food still makes it through the system occasionally and onto our dinner tables. This is why it is so vitally important for the person preserving food for consumption in the home to know exactly what the safety rules are. The first place to begin is to look at the chemistry that goes on behind the scenes.
The chemistry behind meat preservation
Many interesting and curious chemical interactions take place when the meat preservation process is started. Conversely, if meat and fish is not preserved, chemical processes quickly lead to spoilage and disintegration of the product. This may not be a very pleasant process for all of us to consider, but it is important to understand so that you can keep your family safe consuming the foods that are preserved in your home. Bacteria are very small organisms that you must us a micro-scope to see. Bacterium begins working on meat and fish just as soon as the animal dies or is slaughtered. Since many destructive bacteria are found on the skin or in the intestines, incomplete or sloppy slaughtering and cleaning procedures can accelerate the spoilage of the meat or fish.
Enzymes are another important element in this biological process. Enzymes can be described as proteins that facilitate chemical and biological processes in a body. After an animal dies, the enzymes in the body continue to work reducing biological components down to smaller elements. The actions of the bacteria and enzymes will bring about a change of color in the meat, and the smell of spoilage. A third chemical process in the decaying of meat and fish is oxidation of fat as it comes into contact with the air. When fatty pieces of meat are left in contact with oxygen over a long period of time the meat will develop a very bad smell. This is why meat left out to dry should be leaner cuts of meat.
Meat and fish preservation techniques are designed to inhibit the decaying process for as long a period of time as possible. Some preservation techniques even enhance fresh taste and appearance. To the extent of the material covered by this book, techniques that inhibit decay in meat and fish are heat, drying and curing, refrigeration and freezing, the use of sugars, and salt and nitrates. Commercial meat processing companies use several other chemical preservatives that were discussed earlier. Commercially applied food preservation chemicals have no application in home processes, so they will not be recommended in this book.
Heating food prior to consumption destroys the biological and chemical processes that lead to spoilage. Heating food to the proper temperature kills dangerous bacteria that lead to food poisoning. Of all the preservation methods available, heating food to preserve it for later use is the easiest and most cost effective way to prepare meat and fish. Try and imagine what life would be like without the aid of fire in your everyday life.
Although not totally effective exclusive of other techniques, drying and curing meat and fish removes moisture that micro-organisms need to live and develop. Dried and cured meat can be kept safe for a long time with the aid of refrigeration. Refrigeration below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and bringing meat down to freezing temperatures, stops bacteria from growing.
The sugar curing processes increases the temperature of the food to temperatures higher than micro-biological organisms can survive. Sugar curing has the benefit of adding wonderful flavor to meat such as pork. The other side of curing is the use of salt and nitrates. Bacteria cannot live in meats that have been soaked in salt brine or dry packed in salt in a curing box.
General understanding of the importance of sanitation rules
The elimination of pathogens that cause food borne illnesses is the reason for adhering to strict sanitation rules when preserving meat and fish. It takes very little contamination to cause spoilage of the meat you have worked so very hard to put up for your family's enjoyment and nutrition. Sanitation begins with the meat product itself. If you have gone into the field and harvested and animal or went fishing and caught a great fish, field dressing and cleaning should be done with the greatest of care using clean water. As a matter of law, most states no longer allow fish to be cleaned in the body of water they were caught in because people in the past have left a dirty mess that someone else had to be paid to clean-up.
Tables and kitchen counters used as working surfaces should be sanitized with cleaners that have been certified safe around food preparation processes. The most effective sanitizing agent is still a chlorine bleach solution. Meat and fish can be contaminated by bacterial organisms such as e-coli and salmonella from the intestinal tract if proper meat handling procedures had not been followed when the animal was slaughtered and cleaned. These disease causing organisms can be transferred to non-contaminated products if working surfaces are not properly cleaned between pieces of meat.
CASE STUDY: BLEACH SANITIZING
All QA Products
The following chart by All QA Products provides excellent information on sanitation procedures to keep a kitchen sanitary and safe from contaminates that could harm your family.
How to Mix and use Bleach Solutions
Normally, one tablespoon (=15 milliliters = 0.5 liquid ounce) of concentrated bleach per gallon of water at room temperature is considered to be the equivalent of 200 PPM. This is the standard for cleaning food preparation surfaces. Cleaning equipment requires a higher concentration than utensil rinse or treatment of food preparation equipment.
As you can see in these simplified instructions, there are some constant procedures.
* First, the temperature has to be right (hotter temperatures decrease the effectiveness of bleach solutions)
* Second, the time of exposure has to be at least one minute for a bacterial kill.
* Third, and perhaps most important, the concentration of chlorine MUST BE ADEQUATE.
Here is a guideline for mixing bleach solutions:
Should Test to Minimum PPM
If Low / If High
Pots, Pans, Dishes and Utensils
2 ounces/ 5 gallons (~0.3%)
Add Bleach/Add Water
Food Contact Surfaces
1.5 ounces/ 3 gallons (~0.4%)
Add Bleach/Add Water
Food Processing Equipment
3.5 ounces/ 3 gallons
Add Bleach/Add Water
(Sanitizing with Bleach)
Sanitation concerns also apply to all the kitchen utensils being used to prepare you meat or fish. Cross contamination of meat products from unsanitary use of food processing equipment is a valid concern. All of this discussion of sanitation and cleaning may seem extreme, but the next time you hear a report on the news about someone getting sick from the food they have eaten, remember what you have read in this book. The local food inspector spends many hours each day enforcing these same sanitation rules throughout your community to keep you and everyone else safe.
The final part of this discussion on sanitation is canning jars and lids. Please do not assume that those brand new canning jars and lids you just purchased are clean and ready for use right out of the box. Those jars may still contain some residue from the manufacturing process, and any contaminates that were picked up in shipping. Just think how terrible it would be if all of your hard work putting up some healthy food for your family was spoiled and ruined for use because you sealed up some jars that were not as cleaned as they should have been.
Please follow all the cleaning instructions that came with that box of new jars you purchased at the hardware store. If you are using used jars, and do not have cleaning instructions, just remember that the jars, lids, and metal band should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water and soap. If you have a dish washer, that would be the best place to clean your canning equipment. Canning jars being used for meat do not need to be sterilized separately because they will be sterilized along with the meat in the canning process that will be discussed later.
Chapter 2: Preserving Meat and Fish: Equipment, Methods, and General Instructions
This chapter is not designed to provide an exhaustive description and list of every imaginable brand and type of equipment used in the preservation of different kinds of meat and fish. There should be sufficient information presented on different kinds of equipment that the reader will be able to understand what equipment they will need to acquire to preserve the specific type of meat or fish they are interested in. As different recipes are presented throughout the book, the reader will need to refer back to this chapter occasionally, so try and remember what you are reading, and how to find the information you need.
Freezing, Appliances, Equipment and Supplies
Since most people have access to a refrigerator, kitchen stove, and a freezer, the simplest method for preserving meat and fish is to cook it and put it in the freezer. Simple freezing projects do not require a long list of complicated instructions or equipment. That is real good for those of us who like to enjoy good food with a minimum of work. There are food safety concerns if the meat or fish is not prepared properly from the start, or if the products are prepared for long term storage improperly.
There is some controversy about the ability to preserve, or enhance the freshness of meat or fish products by “fast freezing” them. Fast freezing food means to bring food down to extremely cold temperatures immediately after the food is cooked and packaged. One commercial process uses liquid nitrogen at about -320 degrees Fahrenheit to immediately freeze processed food, and to immediately stop bacterial growth. Other commercial processes exist that accomplish the same ends, but these results are obviously not possible with the freezer in your home. The only way for the home preserver to accomplish anything close to this process would be to make arrangements with a local locker plant to bring your cooked and packaged meats immediately to the locker plant, and have the locker plant freeze your product as fast as the locker plant's freezing equipment is capable of accomplishing.
The discussion of quick freezing or fast freezing at the same speed as the commercial meat processing companies are able to accomplish is not realistic for home meat preservers. A little research will show that the deepest temperature that most home freezers are capable of reaching is a little below -15 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a freezer thermometer to determine just exactly how cold of a temperature your freezer will reach. If you are going to purchase a new freezer, pay close attention to the specifications provided by the manufacturer. If you get your meat or fish into your personal freezer quickly after preparation, it will be fast frozen for all practical purposes.
A reality check would be good at this point. Commercial food processors are preparing their product to be shipped all across the country, and cannot absolutely control all of the conditions the product may encounter, so the product must be frozen to standards that exceed home freezing expectations. Although food frozen for commercial sale is packaged with expiration dates, manufactures cannot be sure the food will be consumed by the expected expiration date. Commercial packaging, freezing, and distribution standards must meet the highest possible food safety expectations.
Your home freezer will do just fine as long as it is in good working order, and as long as you have prepared your meat and fish according to proper food handling standards. Another factor to consider is how long you plan to store your meat or fish in the freezer. Larger cuts of meat like roasts, steaks or a turkey can be safely stored in the freezer for up to twelve months. Items like ground beef and some fish products are only safe in the freezer for around three months. Pork sausage should not be stored for more that two months. In any case, we are not talking about years and years of storage in your freezer. The following list provides a quick list of safe meat storage limits.
General Safe Meat and Fish Storage Limits
* Large items such as beef and lamb roasts…………………………………12 months
* Fatty fish and ground meats……………………………………………………….3 months
* Lean fish, duck and goose…………………………………………………………..6 months
* Pork chops………………………………………………………………………………….4 months
* Light items such as bacon…………………………………………………………..1 month
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has a web page titled “Preserving Food: Freezing Animal Products,” that provides a detailed chart of proper time limits for leaving meat and fish in the freezer. The internet address for this web page is listed in the Appendix.
After the freezer, the rest of the equipment you will need is much smaller by comparison. The one piece of equipment that most home kitchens are very inadequate on is sharp knives. The need for sharp knives cannot be understated. Dull knives only tear meat products, and can be very dangerous to the user because of the force that in needed to saw through meat products. The best kitchen investment any family can make is to purchase the best quality knives the budget will allow. Using good quality cooking pots and skillets insure that meat is thoroughly cooked without burning or scorching. Buying brand new equipment does not mean you will have the best quality possible. If you look in your grandmother's kitchen cupboards you will probably find some well used equipment that will do a better job than a lot of the new stuff that is on the market today. If you are going to grind meat to make hamburger of deer sausage you will need as good of a grinder as your budget will allow.
Supplies that are needed to prepare your product for freezing are freezer or butcher paper to wrap the meat or fish in. Some items like pork chops and ground beef patties store better and separate easier when they are separated by freezer paper. There are a wide variety of plastic freezer containers you can use. Freezer bags are different than sandwich bags. Sandwich bags will not provide the protection that frozen meats will need for long term storage. Freezer storage bags come in many sizes. Food being prepared to be consumed in small quantities should only be put in smaller bags, as it will be easier to close up the bag with the least amount of air left in the bag. Some people use machines that pull the air out of the freezer bag and heat seals the bag securely. You will need freezer labels to keep track of what is in each container, and the date it should be consumed by. A number of good resources for storing food have been listed in the Appendix.
This additional idea provides a little food for thought. “The ideal place to process meat is in a walk-in cooler to keep the meat cool to prevent deterioration and spoilage. We don't have that, but in the past we have processed in an outside room in the cold of winter. We process inside now (arthritis and age played a part in that!), so we make sure everything is kept cool. The meat is maintained between 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The room is kept less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.” (Tomaszewski, 2010)
CASE STUDY: HELEN IBSEN PYELL
Member of Pioneer Family
Mrs. Pyell remembers when she was a twelve year old girl in rural Nebraska, and how hard she and her family had to work to make a living on the family homestead. In the 1930's electricity had not yet reached rural Nebraska. In the cold winter months the men from each of the families in the area would take their wagons down to the Republican River and cut ice to provide natural refrigeration for their homes. Properly stored ice would provide natural refrigeration for many months. Helen remembers that her father would lay straw on the bed of the wagon before he went down to the river. The men would use axes and hand tools to cut out ice blocks about 18 inches by 18 inches, and use ice tongs to manually lift the ice blocks up into the wagon beds. This was a very difficult job to accomplish out in the freezing cold.
Helen's family had a lean-to for an icehouse built against the Northwest corner of the house so the sun would not shine directly on it during the daytime hours. The ice blocks would be stacked in the shed and packed with straw to insulate them against melting. Once the ice blocks were packed into the ice house, they would last for several months. Helen remembers a neighbor that had an icehouse built into the ground that kept ice all the way through the summer. The log cabin that Helen and her family lived in had a little door in the wall that opened into the ice shed. Every day they would reach into the ice storage and chip off enough ice to meet the needs of the day. While the ice lasted, they had cooling for dairy products and fresh meat.
Helen remembers making homemade ice cream using the ice from the ice shed. When it came time to make ice cream on a hot summer day, they would reach into the shed through the little door, which Helen fondly remembers as the “cubby hole,” and pulled out a chunk of ice. Helen or another member of the family would put the chunk of ice in a burlap sack and use a hammer to break the ice into small chips that would be packed around the sides of the hand cranked ice cream machine. The ice from the cold winter months provided a wonderful treat for a little girl and her family on a farm far from the big city. Mrs. Pyell remembers those years of hard work fondly, but she was very happy when electricity and refrigeration finally reach the homestead near Orleans Nebraska. (Pyell, 2010)
A good historical resource for the Republican River valley is the book, “Orleans Centennial 1872 to 1972.” (Dunlay & Kuhl, 1972)
Mrs. Helen M. Pyell
Temperature Requirements to Properly Preserve Meats
The finished cooking temperature of meat in restaurants has been much in the news the last few years. Many people like a good steak just a little on the “rare” side. The problem is that if the internal temperature is not high enough to kill dangerous bacteria, people can get very sick. The best way to insure that the meat and fish you are preparing has been cooked enough is to use a meat thermometer. Satisfactory meat thermometers are not very expensive, and can be easily obtained in the nearest hardware store or department store.
General Safe Meat Internal Cooking Temperatures
* Ground beef as in patties and meat loaf……………………………………….160°F
* Ground poultry………………………………………………………………………………165°F
* Well done beef roast……………………………………………………………………..170°F
* Well done pork………………………………………………………………………….….170°F
A complete meat temperature chart from the University of Illinois is provided in the Appendix. The important point to remember is that meat must be cooked sufficiently to destroy bacterium that would cause a food borne disease.
Canning Equipment and Supplies
The basic formula for having a great day canning good quality meat or fish is the canning jars that you will use. People have tried unsuccessfully to use pickle and jelly jars from the grocery store after they had been emptied. These types of jars are not made to withstand the temperatures and pressures of the canning pressure cooker. These types of jars expose you and your family to the danger of a jar bursting and causing a serious injury. Even genuine canning jars that have been in the family for a number of years may pose a risk of breakage or leakage. It is incumbent upon the person doing the canning to thoroughly inspect old jars for cracks in the body, or chips around the top edge, or some weakness in the spiral grooves that will secure the lid.
There are four brand names of canning jars available in North America. The four canning jar brand names are Ball, Kerr, Bernardin, and Golden Harvest. Ball and Kerr canning jars can be found in most hardware and department stores around the country, although selection will be much better during the traditional fall canning season. The home canner will have to look a little harder to find the name Golden Harvest. Bernardin canning jars are sold in Canada. Although all of these jars are made by the same company, all four brands are of good quality. When selecting jars to can meat and fish make sure you select jars that are large enough for the product that will be preserved. When the meat product is put in the jar enough room must be left between the lid and the product for the canning sealing action to be successful. Most meat and fish canning will be done with one quart jars. Internet web page addresses for canning jar resources are listed in the Appendix.
The other essential piece of equipment for meat and fish canning is the canning pressure cooker. A canning pressure cooker must be used to insure food safety. A canning pressure cooker heats both the meat and the jars to sufficient temperature to insure safe and sanitary preparation of the product. Meat being canned must be heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit to insure the canning jars seal, and the product remains safe for consumption for as long as possible. Simply boiling the product and the jars on the stove top will only bring the heat to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 28 degrees below the safe temperature level.
A pressure cooker works on the same principle as the radiator in a car does. In order to raise the temperature of water above the boiling point without the water turning to steam, water must be heated in a sealed container under pressure. The pressure cap on a radiator depending on the application holds between 13 to 15 pounds of pressure before it vents off pressure. Pressure must be vented off to keep the radiator or some other cooling system component from exploding. The pressure on the radiator allows the cooling system to handle temperatures much higher than the boiling point keeping your car engine from boiling over on hot days.
A pressure cooker designed for canning will have a lid that seals tightly with a pressure gauge and a vent. It is very important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for your elevation. Water boils at different temperatures according to elevation, so there will be different pressure requirements between costal Florida and mile high Colorado. Always inspect the seal and sealing mechanism for the lid whether the cooker is new or used. A lid that looses its seal after the pressure has built up is a formula for disaster. Make sure the vent cap is working properly, and watch the gauge as the heat and pressure builds. If there is a doubt that any part is working correctly remove the heat and fix the problem immediately.
The key to insuring that all jars are thoroughly heated is to be sure that no jars touch the sides of the pressure cooker, and that no jars are touching each other. The hot water must be able to circulate completely around the canning jars to insure that the meat and jars are completely brought up to the correct heat all the way through the contents of the jar. A jar that is touching the side of the pressure cooker or another jar may develop a “cold” spot. These jars will be easy to see after you set the jars on the counter and wait for the distinctive “pop” that indicates the jar has sealed properly. Jars of meat that do not seal up properly must be refrigerated and consumed soon, or put back in the cooker to restart the process all over again. All temptation to say “it was good enough,” when in fact the process was not, must be resisted for the sake of your family's safety.
Always purchase the best canning pressure cooker you can afford. When considering purchasing a used cooker at a garage sale, do a thorough inspection before the purchase is finalized. This may irritate the person holding the garage sale, but that is too bad. The safety of every person who eats the meat processed in the pressure cooker you buy is at stake. There should never be any temptation to take shortcuts when canning meat or fish at any time for any reason.
Proper Care and Sanitation of Canning Jars
By the very nature of being glass, canning jars can be easily broken. Children may be allowed to play with the pots and pans in the kitchen, or may be allowed to rearrange the canned goods in the cupboard, but canning jars make dangerous toys. Most people keep empty canning jars stored in the box they came in. With careful handling, canning jars can be used for many years. However, even the slightest crack or chip around the lid is sufficient reason to throw a jar out and get a new one. Some people may consider using the lids over, but that is not a recommended practice. The lids are generally bent or the sealing surface damaged when the jar was last opened. The metal ring that holds down the lid until it is vacuum sealed by the heat can be cleaned and used over again until they become distorted in some way.
Jars do not need to be sanitized separately when working with meat or fish because the sanitation process will take place in the pressure cooker. This is why the admonition in the last section was so strong concerning insuring the cooker gets to the correct heat and pressure for the elevation the canning is taking place at. The success of a meat canning project depends completely on getting enough heat around the jars to fully cook the meat, sanitize the jar and the contents, and get the vacuum seal to “pop.”
After the jars of beautiful food is on the shelf please do not get complacent. The jars can get jostled around and get cracked. Even the slightest crack will break the vacuum seal and allow air to get into the jar and start the spoilage process. Occasionally inspect stored jars of food for lids with seals that have broken loose. Lids can come unsealed for any number of reasons. If the seal is broken, the safe rule is to dispose of the jar's contents immediately as spoilage can take place rather quickly. During your inspection, if the food in a jar is significantly different in color than other jars with like product, that is a good indicator that spoilage has taken place.
Overview of Curing and Drying Equipment, Supplies, and Procedures
After the discussion of the last few pages, this section is a complete shift of focus. The differences between curing and drying get people confused. Smoking of meat also gets involved in this confusing mix of ideas. There are two primary reasons for curing meat and fish. The first reason for curing meat or fish is to preserve it for future use. The prerequisite for drying or smoking meat is the curing process. Salt is the primary agent for meat curing in the home environment, although in some cases nitrates will be used. The second reason for curing meat is to impart to the meat a certain flavoring that is desired. Examples are sugar cured ham, or honey cured ham like the ones that can be found in the grocery store. Meat or fish is not usually cooked prior to the curing process being accomplished, but the product may end up being cooked as a result of the smoking process.
The types and amount of equipment and supplies needed to cure meat depends completely on how large of a scale operation you desire to have. People just beginning to learn how to cure meat can unnecessarily spend hundreds of dollars initially instead of slowly building up the equipment and supplies that will be needed. Many households already have plenty of kitchen utensils and supplies that can be adapted to use as curing equipment. To cure with salt brine, a large plastic tub will suffice for mixing salt brine for curing the meat product. If there is ready availability, the next step up is a large crock or hardwood barrel of sufficient size for the curing project you have in mind.
If the curing project will be a dry cure, then a box large enough to hold the meat or fish and the salt pack will be needed. The box will need to be set upon a rack that will allow for drainage and at the same time keep your product off the ground. Holes need to be drilled in the bottom of the box to facilitate drainage while the meat is curing. A good question at this point would be what type of wood should the box be made of? Dry curing boxes should be made of hardwood. Please remember that the box will be filled with a salt mixture, and not only will the salt work on the meat, it will also have an affect on the box. Hardwoods have a better chance of standing up to the effects of the salt over the long term. The exact design of the box is up to the builder as long as the box has a lid, holes in the bottom, is large enough for the meat and salt pack, and is supported off the ground. People have used old refrigerators, Styrofoam or plastic boxes, or simply used a burlap bag and hung the dry pack of meat from the rafters in a shed. If you use an old refrigerator please insure there is a way to lock the door so a child does not climb in and suffocate.
Two other important tools for the curing process are a brine pump and a kitchen scale. The brine pump is used to inject the salt brine mixture into larger pieces of meat that may be too large for the salt brine to penetrate into. The kitchen scale is useful to know the weight of the meat product when mixing the salt curing brine or dry salt pack. Too much or too little salt will have significant impact on the success of the curing project. Several good resources on curing can be found listed in the Appendix.
Drying meat and fish is the process of removing moisture which aids in inhibiting the growth of bacteria. The main product that comes to mind when we think about drying is jerky. Making jerky is not a complicated process, but it provides a good example for learning the basics of drying meat. Only lean meats such as beef, deer, elk, or turkey are suitable for making jerky. Pork is usually too fatty to do well as a meat to dry. The fatty portions will turn rancid and stink making the jerky inedible.
Simple Steps to Make Jerky
* Depending on preference, the meat may be cooked before or after it is thinly sliced with the grain.
* The meat may be cooked by simmering it in a small amount of water or even marinade to flavor the meat to personal preference.
* Remove the strips from the cooking liquid and drain. The strips may be placed in a preheated oven or dehydrator at around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the oven door slightly ajar. This process will take several hours. Any type of flavoring preferred can be spread on the jerky as the drying process is begun.
* The meat will shrivel up and turn a darker color as the moisture in the meat is removed.
* Remove the meat from the heat before it becomes too dry and hard to eat.
* Wipe off any remaining fat that has come to the surface.
* Jerky can be stored up to two months if dried properly, but will stay usable much longer if placed in a freezer bag and frozen.
Imagination is a good approach to making dried meat and jerky. Any flavor combination can be added to the meat or fish. A fun way to experiment would be to try a variety of meat and fish. Simply look at all the different types of lean meat and fish that are covered in this book, and try something new and different. Using the kitchen oven the way it was described in the chart may be a bit too expensive of a way to make jerky. If you plan to get real serious about making jerky, purchasing a good dehydrator would be a good investment. There is a good commercial resource for dehydrators listed in the Appendix.
Overview of Smokers and Smoking Supplies
Smoked meat and fish may be the most popular type of preserved meat product. Smoked meat products come in a wide variety of styles and flavors. Many of the meat preparation procedures discussed already may also be considered preliminary steps to getting meat ready for the smoker. This section will concentrate on smokers and accessories that will be needed to make the smoking process work. Smokers come in as many forms as there are people who use them. With a little creativity, most people can find most of the necessary parts for a great smoker in the garage or lying around in the backyard. Here are a few ideas to start your creative juices flowing. Maybe you will have most of the necessary ingredients right in your backyard to build a wonderful smoker.
* The box could be made from an old shed
* The box could be made from an old refrigerator
* The box could be made from a cleaned out 55 gallon drum
* The box could be made from????
* An important thing to think about will be temperature control. The Case Study by Bill Tomaszewski in chapter nine has an excellent discussion on smokehouse temperature control
If an old refrigerator is used, the door needs to be secured so children are not able to climb in and get locked in. Other ideas include cutting a 55 gallon drum in half and using it to build a horizontal smoker, or you could go out a purchase a new commercially made smoker system. There are some commercial smoker resources listed in the Appendix. A wonderful example of a homemade smoker is pictured later in the book in the section on pork sausage. A book that shows several smokehouse designs is Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design by Stanley, Adam, and Robert Marianski. (Marianski, Marianski, & Marianski, 2009)
The other major concern is the type and availability of wood. Depending on locality, good quality wood can become an expensive proposition. Places to look for scrap wood is carpenter shops, sawmills, lumber yards, and maybe a firewood business that is cutting hardwoods. Some practice will be required to find the correct balance between a hot burning fire, and being able to hold down the flame to make smoke. Good hot coals from hardwood may be made to smolder and smoke for a long time with a little practice. A good example is modern wood burning stoves people use to heat their homes. By controlling the air that enters the firebox, a well built up bank of wood and coals can be made to produce heat all night long. The quality of the smoke produced has a direct relationship to the quality of smoked meat that comes out of the smoker at the end of the day.
The rest of the tools and equipment needed will be normal cooking utensils, pots and pans, and refrigeration once the meat is through being smoked. The length of time meat or fish should be left in the smoker will depend on the recipe, size of meat cuts, and how deep the desired smoke flavoring is expected to be.
CASE STUDY: MATTHEW WRIGHT
Meat curing at home - the setup
When I first started making moldy meat in my garage over a year ago I figured that it must take very specialist equipment, and a team of well read meat science scientists to make anything resembling a decent cured product. I quite frankly am not a meat scientist, or have very specialist equipment. Nor do the thousands of other people around the globe that cure meat at home, and make a darn fine product too I should add.
It turns out it is actually exceptionally easy to make a basic reliable setup at home to cure meat in, and one that doesn't cost a pretty penny either. In fact, with a little wheeling and dealing, I reckon the whole thing can be put together for around $100 - even less if you have an old fridge already, or a room/garage/basement that has some of the right environmental properties (more on that later).
My first ever setup was a just simply hanging the meat (inside a cage incase any animals got in...) in my garage. This proved somewhat unreliable because temperature and humidity fluctuated so much - often outside the limits of what should really be considered safe. From here on in I started looking into making a more controllable setup at home that wouldn't require a walk in fridge area, and lots of special equipment.
So - meat curing is just really the slow controlled release of water from meat. Once the water activity level (aW) of meat gets low enough it is considered safe to eat, since living organisms (bacteria included) need moisture to survive.
A setup for curing meat is really just making a small area with the right environmental conditions.
These conditions are temperature, humidity, and air flow.
In order to make a decent (and safe) product you need some way of controlling all three - or at least keeping them within a certain range. Let's look at each element separately, and see what we can do to control it.
Temperature: a safe temperature range for curing meat is below 60F. Above that and bacteria grows a lot faster. Ideally you want the temperature between 50F and 60F. Below 50F and the curing process slows down a great deal, making the process take much, much longer (which also means it takes much much longer for your charcuterie to reach a safe water content level, but that is getting a bit geeky). Most likely you are going to find that you will have to cool and area to get it to 60F rather than heat it.
Humidity: for most of the curing you want the humidity between 70% and 75%. Below 70% and you run the risk of the outside of your salami/meat drying out too fast, which means moisture is trapped on the inside, leading to spoilage. If the humidity is really high for too long then the sausage won't dry correctly, and you run the risk of getting a lot of bad mold on the charcuterie.
Ideally when you first put something in to dry cure, you want the humidity at around 85%, and then over the course of the next week you want to drop the humidity down to 75%. The reasoning here is that you want your humidity just a bit less than the water content of the meat you are curing - this stops the meat drying out too fast and developing case hardening. At the start of curing the meat has a lot of moisture in it (especially leaner cuts), so you want your curing humidity to almost match that. As the meat looses water you drop the humidity down accordingly (or roughly anyhow).
Typically we find that most areas in a house aren't this humid, unless you have a cold, dank basement. Often enough we find ourselves having to add extra humidity to a space to make it perfect.
Air flow: some air flow is critical in not only helping to dry the meat (pulling moisture away from the surface of the sausage), but it also really helps keep bad mold (green, black and fury mold) off the meat too - since there isn't stagnant damp air constantly around the sausage. In practical terms this can just mean fanning the meat a couple of times a day, or setting up a low powered fan to blow a little air around.
SETTING ALL THIS UP IN PRACTICAL TERMS:
So, we know that we have a bunch of conditions that we need to control. How on earth does one go about making a space that has the right temperature, humidity and air flow?
1) Buy a temperature and humidity sensor and find an area in your house with good temp/humidity.
The first thing to do is get your hands on a temperature and humidity sensor. Over the course of a week, put it in different locations around your house for 24 hours, and see what readings you get.
If you have a basement that is somewhat unfinished (and not heated) then you might have somewhere with decent temperature, and possibly even humidity. Here in Seattle especially in the winter, most peoples basements can get pretty humid, thanks to all that fine rain we have.
I recommend against curing meat in a garage that you will have to open the garage door a few times a day with. Been there, done that, thrown away the meat because of it. Opening the door is going to lower the humidity quite a bit and it will stay low for a while. Unless you get a humidifier to bump it back up as needed. Obviously don't cure meat in a garage that you are going to drive a car in to either! Salami flavored with car fumes ain't gonna taste too pretty.
The temperature and humidity sensor I recommend is this one: HygroSet II Adjustable Digital Hygrometer
It is relatively cheap, accurate, and most importantly adjustable. Often enough hygrometers (humidity sensors) aren't incredibly accurate out of the box, and you need to calibrate them. Most digital sensors don't allow this, but this one does. How to calibrate you ask? Spend less than your daily latte on this: Boveda One Step Calibration - a simple calibration kit that is so incredibly simple to use.
2) OK, my house is rubbish for meat curing... now what?
Worry not, that is how it goes for most of us. The next thing to do is to construct yourself a curing chamber. Rent some old MacGyver episodes, read up on Heath Robinson, and make some friends at Home Depot - you are you going to need to!
Here is what you do… Go to craigslist. Search your local area for people selling old frost-free fridges. You shouldn't spend over $25 on it to be honest. Quite a few are being given away free, if you can get your mitts on a truck to take it away with. An old fridge makes an almost perfect curing chamber, albeit with some modifications!
Oh, and don't worry about these old fridges draining the power grid, and your salami causing massive widespread deforestation and global warming due to the high power consumption. The fridge won't be on that much - we are going to setup a controller that will turn it on and off to maintain a temperature of 57F - which is much higher than the regular fridge temperature of 36F.
3) Fridge, check. What's next?
Time to talk about controlling those environmental factors above that we talked about.
If you leave a fridge turned on, it will self regulate itself to hold a temperature around 37F. You can make go to about 45F, but that is still too low for meat curing - which should be between 50 and 60F (preferably 55-60F).
Thankfully there is a great little (and simple) product that will auto magically turn a fridge on and off to maintain whatever temperature you set it to. It has a temperature probe that you put in the fridge that monitors the fridge temperature. You plug the fridge into the controller, and the controller into an outlet. Set the temp at 57F, and you are done. The controller simply turns the fridge on and off to maintain the set temperature.
The controller that you see on the left is just under $50, and is meant for home brewing - but works exceedingly well for meat curing applications.
Humidity is a different ball game to temperature. Humidity can vary a lot depending on where you curing chamber is. In most situations you are going to need to add humidity, and not remove it.
Since humidity in your chamber (er, old fridge..) varies depending on atmospheric conditions, how long your fridge is on for (the cold air pumped into fridges has very low humidity), how much meat you have in there, and at what stage the meat is at - we need some kind of humidity controller, and humidifier.
Some options for controlling humidity:
1) Bowl of salty water. Yes it can be that simple. In the bottom of your fridge put a big bowl of very salty water. The salt prevents bacteria growth in the water. This might be enough to raise your humidity to a decent level.
The problem here is that as those conditions above change, this salty water doesn't give out any more or any less humidity, it is constant. This leaves you forever checking it to make sure it isn't getting too humid in there.
2) A humidity controller (hygrostat) and humidifier
This is by far the best solution, but it is more expensive. The humidity controller works in pretty much the same way as the temperature controller. You set a dial saying what humidity you want, and the controller will turn a humidifier on and off to maintain that rough level. All you have to do is make sure you keep your humidifier stocked full of distilled water.
http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/meat_curing/humidity%20controller.jpgOn the left is the Dayton Humidifier Controller. This does exactly what is mentioned above. Set the humidity you want on the dial, plug a humidifier into the front of it, and put the thing in your curing chamber; Easier than breathing. This will turn your humidifier on and off to maintain the humidity you set it to.
One thing that I have done is actually to add a fan into this equation too. I have a power strip plugged into the humidity controller, and into that strip I have BOTH a humidifier and a fan plugged in.
So, when the humidifier turns on, so too does a fan. This pushes the humid air around the chamber, and makes sure the chamber has even humidity across it. This also provides some much needed airflow every now and again.
Now let's talk about humidifiers for a second... You want to make sure that you get an “ultrasonic” humidifier. This gives out a much finer mist than regular humidifiers, which is absorbed into the air much easier, and won't leave you with large water globules sitting on your meat. You also want one that will just start going when you plug it into the wall - and doesn't require 10 button presses to start - since the humidity controller cannot press buttons for you...
I use this one:
A simple cheap ultrasonic humidifier.
This one has a dial on it to determine how much moisture it kicks out. I have it cranked all the way up, and it raises humidity rather quickly. The unit is pretty small, which is great because you don't want it taking up valuable meat space. For me, I have to fill it every couple of weeks. Oh, and on a note on filling humidifiers - always use distilled water, otherwise you get mineral deposits in your humidifier, which causes it to conk out much faster.
So you put the humidifier in the bottom of the fridge, along with the fan if you are using one (you don't have to). Hook it up to the humidity controller, which needs to sit somewhere in the fridge too. Set the controller to the desired humidity, walk away and have a cool drink (the cool drink part is instrumental to the success of the whole setup).
You can get over-complicated here. Certain airflows are best at certain times during the curing process. You could buy a small 120V computer fan, drill a hole through the side of you fridge, and mount it in the fridge, to give some air flow. Heck, even just drilling some holes in the top right side and bottom left side of your fridge would most likely give enough airflow, without the fan.
You could do that if you want.
Personally for me, I just leave the door of my chamber open a little bit. It isn't like I don't check on my meat twice a day, swing open the door, take the meat out, give them a squeeze, and so on. Plenty of airflow going on there.
If you have your fridge in a place where you cannot leave the door open, then seriously consider drilling some holes through the side of it (don't worry, there shouldn't be anything bad to drill through in the SIDES of the fridge) for some airflow. If you have rodent problems, then I suggest putting some fine mesh over these holes too. Rats can squeeze through a hole smaller than a quarter you know...
So there you have it - your basic fridge curing chamber setup. With the temperature and humidity controllers in place, this really is a pretty hands free setup.
3) Make some cured meat!
This is the fun bit. Get some recipes, get some meat, and all the stuff you need for it and get cracking making some lovely moldy bits of pig. There are some particular products you are going to need - curing salts, dextrose, casings if you are doing salami. I highly recommend Butcher & Packer for these. There is a reference for Butcher and Packer Supply in the Appendix.
You are also going to want to break down a buy a decent kitchen scale. Using cups and tablespoons isn't accurate enough for most meat curing antics. Quite frankly, I have no idea how people bake/cook using volume measurements for dry ingredients anyhow. Scales rock. They aren't expensive either.
Oh wait... I nearly forgot recipes. Well, there are a couple of great books to get you started:
Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn (Ruhlman & Polcyn, 2005) - a great book covering cured meats, salami, pate, sausages
The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Stanley and Adam Marianski (Marianski & Marianski, 2008) - fabulous book on making salami. A lot of information here, including a lot of science - however it is extremely accessible and not at all dry. Marianski has managed to write a technical book with great recipes that is easy for you and me to read.
Finally, if anyone gets started curing meat, let me know! I want to hear about it. The ideas and plans described in this Case Study do not guarantee to bring the same results for everyone who tries them. Try these methods at your own responsibility.
Matthew Wright (Wright, 2009)
Chapter 3: Let's Put Some Beef on the Table
An important part of this chapter will be a discussion on the differences in beef and veal, and how each type of meat is handled. There are many people who have very little experience with the properties of veal, and must gain some basic knowledge before launching into the preservation of this quality meat product. In this chapter and in each of the following chapters recipes will be presented, and sources for more recipes than this book has space to present. Safety issues particular to beef and veal will be presented, along with equipment and preserving supplies that will be needed.
Differences in Beef and Veal
The consumption of veal is surrounded by controversy. Animal rights activists feel that raising animals strictly for the production of veal is animal cruelty. To understand this issue, an accurate description of veal is important. There are several categories of veal available on the retail market. One type of veal comes from calves that are only a few days old. Another type comes from calves that have only been fed milk based supplements. Some calves raised for veal are allowed to eat some grain and hay in addition to milk supplements. Finally there are some calves that stay with their mothers and feed on the available grasses in the field or pasture until they are slaughtered. Each type of veal has a little different color and texture. If you need more information on the subject there is a resource in the Appendix which may be useful.
Good beef can come from a very wide range of sources. People, who are going to get serious about this idea of preserving meat for the family in the home, may want to take the time to consider the best source for good quality meat in the local community. Home grown beef without steroids or other chemical supplements is at a premium in the retail market. A good place to check for quality meat is at the local butcher and locker plant. Please get the best cut of meat for your project that your personal budget will allow. Taking shortcuts will only lead to disappointment.
Preparation of Beef and Veal for Freezing
Preparing meat for the freezer is not a very difficult task. There are several practical things to think about to insure your beef does well in storage in the freezer.
Simple Steps to Store Meat in the Freezer
* Cut the meat into portion sizes that will exactly feed your family when the package comes out of the freezer to reduce the chances for waste.
* Use packaging that is designed for use in the freezer.
* Do your best to remove all the air from freezer bags.
* Make sure the package is sealed completely to reduce chances for freezer burn.
* Removing unnecessary moisture reduces the chance for ice crystals to form over long term storage. Do not keep meat in the freezer beyond its safe storage life.
* Labeling packages as a locker plant does eliminates the chances of loosing track of what you have in the freezer.
If the electricity goes out do not despair. Resist opening the freezer door unless it is absolutely necessary. If the freezer remains closed, the contents will stay frozen for several hours. A good practice may be to keep a big block of ice on the bottom shelf of the freezer for just such emergencies as this. Just like the old days, large blocks of ice remain frozen in an insulated and closed container for a long time. Americans have become entirely too dependent on the modern conveniences that surround us.
C. Hints for Canning Beef and Veal
D. Benefits of Curing Beef and Veal
E. Adding Flavor to Beef and Veal through Smoking
Is sausage preparation considered preservation?
There is some controversy over the words preparation and preservation as the words relate to sausage as a preserved meat product. Beef is an important element in the production of various styles of sausage. Either ground beef or beef tallow is mixed with various other meats such as venison or pork, even goat, to produce a wide variety of wonderful sausages. That is why this discussion is essential to the chapter on beef. There is no doubt that sausage is a prepared food. Sausage is a mixture of meats, spices, and curing agents stuffed into casings made from natural from man made substances.
To determine if sausage is a preserved meat product you must understand what the preservation process is. From all that has already been written in this book you understand that preservation processes inhibit the growth of micro-organisms that would normally lead to food borne illnesses in humans. Some techniques used in sausage making are the same as those used in the meat preservation process. Freezing, smoking, and curing are meat preservation processes, so the making of sausage falls under the category of meat preservation.
1. Great sausage recipe
Additional safety issues when preserving beef and veal
Chapter 4: Preserving Poultry
A major focus in this chapter is making sure people know how to safely handle poultry products. Many people have become very sick from diseases that come from improper preparation of poultry. Since it is very easy to raise chickens and other small birds in the back yard, there are additional concerns about butchering that need to be addressed. The chapter will present recipes and discuss the supplies that will be needed.
A. Varieties of Poultry
B. Special Food Handling Precautions for Poultry
CASE STUDY: FREEZING POULTRY AND EGGS
Facts about Food Freezing
Electric Energy Association
Prepare poultry and game birds, ready for cooking.
Whole Birds: Lock wings and fold neck skin over wing tips. Tie legs, pad ends with paper to prevent puncturing the wrapping. Wrap in moisture-vapor-proof paper or use plastic bag, pressing out as much air as possible.
Pieces of Poultry: Flatten pieces and place double thickness of wrapping material between pieces for easy separation. Pad sharp ends of bones. Wrap in freezer paper or place in plastic bags or containers.
Giblets (except livers): Package separately and use within 3 months. Package livers together and use within 1 month.
Game Birds: Although wild game is prepared for freezing as domestic poultry, there are a few extra precautions that are necessary for optimum results. Newly shot birds should not be placed in waterproof pockets of hunting jackets-this does not give them a chance to cool. If the trip home is long, the birds should at least have their craws and intestines remove. A recommended flavor-saver is to soak them over night in a two gallon vessel of water to which has been added ½ cup vinegar. After birds have been drawn, plucked, and washed carefully inside and out, chill thoroughly-then treat as domestic poultry.
Whole Eggs: Freeze whole eggs, some with salt added for scrambling, omelets, or meat mixtures; some with sugar for cakes or custards.
1. Gently mix whites and yolks.
2. Add 1 teaspoon salt or 1 tablespoon sugar or corn syrup for each 2 cups of eggs.
Egg Yolks: Separate egg yolks fro whites. Break yolks; mix thoroughly with 2 teaspoons sugar or corn syrup for each 2 cups of yolks. Do not whip in air.
Egg Whites: Nothing needs to be added.
To Package Eggs for Freezing
1. Fill containers, leaving head space and seal.
2. Label each package indicating the amount, the addition of salt or sweetening, and date.
3. To thaw, place container in cold water. Use within 12 hours after thawing.
1. Two tablespoons thawed white is equal to 1 egg white.
2. One and one third tablespoons thawed yolk is equal to 1 egg yolk.
3. Three tablespoons thawed whole egg is equal to 1 whole egg. (Facts About Food Freezing)
D. Putting the Chicken in a Jar
E. Preparing Poultry for Curing
F. Smoking the Turkeys and Other Poultry
G. Safety issues when preserving poultry
Chapter 5: Preserving Pork
An important part of this chapter will be to discuss how people can be sure they have cooked pork completely enough to kill trichinosis parasite. As with the other chapters, this chapter will present some recipes and other directions for preserving pork. People have had a longstanding relationship with salt pork. This chapter on preserving pork in many different ways will be an attempt to encourage people to keep the tradition alive.
A. Differences in Handling Domestic Pork and Wild Pork
Preserving Pork in the Freezer
“Freezing the product slows spoilage, but you can actually spoil a product if it is kept in the home freezer too long. Home freezers are usually kept a zero degrees Fahrenheit. Commercial freezers are kept around minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit which can stop spoilage. Many people think that because a meat or sausage is smoked it lasts longer, but it should be treated like any other meat.” (Tomaszewski, 2010)
C. Canned and Pickled Pork
D. Preparing Pork to Last Awhile Through Curing
E. Smoked Bacon and Other Cuts
F. Making pork sausage
Bill's Summer Sausage
70 percent venison
30 percent pork but
Wienaman's summer sausage seasoning
Allied Kinco pink curing salt
Allied Kinco 2-1/4” by 20” fibrous casing
2 quart pitcher
Dakota water stuffer
Thunderbird meat grinder
“Tin Man” smokehouse (See following Case Study)
Smoked with hickory, wild cherry, apple and pecan
All the meat has been chilled
I double grind all the meat though a 3/16 inch grinder plate
Meat is placed into a container. Seasoning and cure is mixed in pitcher with water.
(Water amounts vary with the amount of meat used)
The meat is then stuffed into the casings and hung in the smokehouse for 24 hours to let the cure and seasoning blend throughout the meat.
The next day the meat is heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate sweating then smoke is applied.
The smokehouse temperature is maintained at 163 degrees Fahrenheit until the meat hits a completion temperature of 152 degrees Fahrenheit-usually 14 to 16 hours.
The finished summer sausages are then placed in a cooler of cold water to release the heat and prevent shrinkage. This is called “showering.”
Afterwards the sausage is hung on sticks in a cool place for 7 to 10 days to reach the desired texture and color. This is called “blooming.”
I either wrap with freezer paper or vacuum seal or place in freezer. The sausage wrapped in freezer paper is the sausage we use first. Vacuum seal sausage is for storing long term. It becomes very expensive to vacuum seal all the sausage when we know that most of the product will be used in the immediate future.
2-1/4” x 20” casings are used compared to a 3” because I have found it does not take as long to smoke. (Tomaszewski, 2010)
There are references for the equipment and supplies mentioned in the recipe in the Appendix.
CASE STUDY: BILL AND KAY TOMASZEWSKI
Saint Peters, MO
Tin Man Meats
I have built a smokehouse which we use to preserve a variety of meats such as summer sausage, flavored meat sticks, fish, pork and poultry. Cure is added to prevent spoilage because low heat is used. Smoke emits a number of acids which cling to meat and form an outside layer of skin. The acid performs a role in preserving meat by preventing the growth of surface mold and bacteria.
When I (Kay) first saw the shiny beginnings of the smoker in the back of the truck, I was reminded of the movie “Twister” because of the tornado tracking device. I initially named this stainless steel frame Dorothy, like in the “Wizard of Oz.” The more the smokehouse took shape, and as soon as the flue was placed on the top and the support legs underneath, it was obvious to me that this was now the Tin Man. I label all our packages with this name. Seems fitting since I was born in Kansas!
Here is a picture of the “Tin Man” smokehouse.
Bill and Kay Tomaszewski (Tomaszewski, 2010)
G. Safety issues when preserving pork
Chapter 6: Preserving Mutton
Mutton is not used as much in the United States as in other parts of the world. With the rapidly changing demographics in America, the consumption of mutton may become much more main stream than it is today. The longstanding feud between beef and mutton should not keep people from trying new recipes and kinds of meat. As with the other chapters there will be recipes presented, and ideas to encourage people to make mutton a greater part of a family's weekly diet.
A. Mutton, Something Different for Supper
B. Best Way to Freeze Mutton
C. Canning, Curing, and Smoking Mutton
D. Safety issues when preserving mutton
Chapter 7: Preserving Chevon (Goat), the Meat the World Live On
The production of goats in America is growing very rapidly, making chevon much more readily available. Researching the many different ways this meat can be preserved should be very interesting. The chapter should dispel many negative stereotypes that revolve around the preparation and consumption of chevon. The most consumed meat on the planet comes from goats. Many people do not recognize the traditional name for goat's meat, chevon. Goats are important in many parts of the world because they efficiently convert very diverse feed into products that support human life.
In addition to meat, goats provide milk for people to drink, and hides for use as clothing. Goats are willing to eat weeds that other animals ignore, and are useful for clearing fields of unwanted plant growth. For this reason, people using goats for milk production must be careful about what the goats in a dairy herd consume.
Interest in the United States for goat production is on the increase because of the influx of immigrants from countries where goats are the primary meat food source. Goat production is also important to people seeking to develop a more independent lifestyle. Goats are important in the attempt to increase the ability of small farmers to enhance the usability of small plots of land that will not sustain large bodied animals.
Chevon is a healthy alternative meat that has a distinctive flavor that will seem very different to people who primarily consume beef. It will not seem too different to people who consume wild game meat such as venison. On another note, some infants and some small children who cannot tolerate cow's milk can be changed to goat's milk with good results. Please do not pass this chapter by only because this meat is so unfamiliar to you, but read the recipes and preparation techniques and see if there may be goat meat in your future.
How to Prepare Chevon for the Freezer
After any type of meat is frozen, it is best to keep the meat at a constant temperature of around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing does not necessarily destroy all of the micro-organisms that can cause disease, but inhibits the growth of these dangerous microbes. Meat still has to be properly cooked after it is thawed out in a safe manner to insure that no one will get sick eating what has been prepared for the family's enjoyment.
Preparation for the freezer should be the same methods as you use for beef, venison, mutton, or any other red meat. The main reason that meat storage life is reduced in the freezer on top of the refrigerator is that the door is constantly being opened and closed. Meat that is intended for long term storage of up to a year needs to be in a freezer compartment that is not subject to constant temperature swings. The local locker plant can provide long term storage of meat products in a very controlled environment as far colder temperatures than your home freezer can reach.
C. Canning, Curing and Smoking Chevon
D. Safety issues when preserving chevon
Chapter 8: Preserving Buffalo Meat
The consumption of buffalo has been very important in North America for centuries. Many Native American cultures placed great dependence on the millions of buffalo that formerly roamed the continent. In recent years buffalo consumption has had resurgence, with many ranches raising and selling buffalo as a lean alternative to beef. The recipes presented in this chapter should provide the encouragement people need to return to this traditional food source.
A. Much Like Beef, Only Leaner
B. Freezing Buffalo
C. Hints for Canning Buffalo
D. Curing, Smoking, and Making Jerky
E. Safety issues when preserving buffalo
Chapter 9: Preserving Game Birds and Big Game Animals
The subject of game birds encompasses a very wide range of meat options. This chapter will address the preparation and preservation of water foul and all kinds of upland game. Part of the enjoyment of hunting game birds is being able to put up and eat the rewards of the hunt. When properly preserved game birds can be enjoyed for many months after the hunt. Game bird hunting is a valued tradition in our country that must be sustained for decades to come.
Hunting is one of the greatest family traditions in America. Many big game animals share characteristics with beef, domestic goats, and mutton. Native American people and early American pioneers depended on the meat of wild animals that had been butchered and preserved. This chapter will endeavor to celebrate the traditions of the past, and at the same
CASE STUDEY: BILL AND KAY TOMASZEWSKI
Saint Peters, MO
Tin Man Meats
I have been in the field of meat preservation since 1979. My wife Kay joined me in 1998. I am able to properly preserve meat starting at the time it is harvested through the processing and storage phases. From the field to the table, venison (deer) is my specialty.
We harvest the venison, fish, quail, pheasant, and turkey with gun, archery and fishing techniques. Port butt or hamburger we use is from the market to add with the venison for some of the sausage recipes we use. We enjoy the variety that is available to us year around. Our meals are very diverse. We are able to enjoy fish one night and turkey the next and so on. Prices fluctuate on meats in the grocery stores so we have the benefit of having different meats available no matter what our budget may be. For example, if we want steak fajitas, we are able to use the deer meat that has been frozen and not make a decision based on the price of steak at the store.
The preservation of venison begins in the field immediately after the animal is harvested because fresh meat is vulnerable to bacteria. Spoilage organisms need moisture and warmth for development so the body cavity needs to be opened up to release body heat and cleaned. The animal is transferred to an area where the meat can be quartered and stored at a temperature between 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I will hang a deer in the outdoors until it can be quartered only if the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We are very particular to ensure the meat is washed and free of hide and hair because organisms can be transferred from the hide of the animal, and even from our hands or the tools we use to butcher. The meat is kept cool until the time it is processed or used for cooking to prevent spoilage. We made a variety of fresh sausage including Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Boudin, Italian, Chorizo, and more. To preserve the meat it is ground then seasoned and stuffed into casings, vacuum sealed, and frozen for later use. Fresh sausage is never cured, because the rapid high temperature with cooking eliminates the chance of food poisoning.
We also grind and package venison for burger. Other meats harvested from the animal are sealed and frozen (deer steaks, loins, roasts, etc.). We have a dehydrator we use to make deer jerky. We use the same rules with the fish we catch. Preservation starts by putting the fish on ice or in a live well until cleaned and refrigerated or frozen until use. We also soak fish in a brine solution before smoking to preserve it. Most important rule of meat preservation is to keep the meat cold.
We know that food preservation is the prevention of spoilage and bacteria, so we follow proper sanitation habits. Our work surfaces and equipment are clean. We do not process meat in a hot environment. It is recommended that room temperature should not be over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The room is free of flies and pests and our pets. Thousands of dollars of meat can be ruined by a fly spreading bacterium. Gloves are always used. Hand washing is important especially after using the restroom. Hair nets are recommended but we keep our hair tied up under a cap depending on the person. Hair contains a large amount of bacteria. We use plastic cutting boards now because hardwood boards have been shown to breed bacteria.
Meat is kept cool, between 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit to slow the process of deterioration. Fresh meat is most vulnerable at the time of processing so we make sure that all the supplies are ready and available before actually taking the meat out to use. Depending on what we are processing, the finished product may be vacuum sealed or wrapped and put back in the refrigerator, freezer or prepared for smoking. Bacteria can destroy cured meat.
Our equipment is washed thoroughly after use with hot water and soap and left to cool and dry before storage knowing that heat and moisture breeds bacteria. Our spices, cures and etc. are kept in tightly sealed containers. Microorganisms can not be destroyed completely, but over the years we have practiced good sanitation habits and our meat does not spoil.
When using cure as a preservative it is very important to maintain a specific meat temperature. When the temperature falls below 34 degrees Fahrenheit the curing process stops, and above 40 degrees Fahrenheit will cause the meat to begin spoiling. It is also important to monitor temperatures when smoking meat to prevent spoilage. The temperature required for sausages and other meats is 152 degrees Fahrenheit. I use a dual thermostat to monitor the inside temperature of the meat and the inside temperature of the smokehouse.
We use cures in all of our smoked products. We use different types of cures depending on the meat that is being processed. There is a saying, if it can't be cured, don't smoke it. For hundreds of years nitrate has been used as a cure because it has the ability to give the meat special flavors and protect against botulism. These bacteria spores are found in every type of meat and are harmless, but under favorable conditions can produce a deadly toxin.
The presence of oxygen, low acidity, moisture, proper nutrients and temperatures in the range of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is when the conditions are perfect for food poisoning unless you use a cure. Smoking meat is a slow process. We monitor the meat temperature in the smokehouse closely with the dual thermostat which also features an alarm. The meat temperature has to reach 152 degrees Fahrenheit, but the smokehouse temperature should not go over 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the smokehouse temperature exceeds 165 degrees Fahrenheit then the fat, used as a binder, turns to oil and seeps to the outside of the casing which causes the meat to crumble. A temperature sway in either direction may set up the right conditions for food poisoning and failure of the finished product.
We produce products that can not be found in a store or restaurant, plus they are distinct and delicious. We know our ingredients are fresh and preserved properly to prevent spoilage. It is less expensive to preserve and process the meat ourselves versus buying at the market. We provide a supply of food that will last a long time. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, especially when we get complimented on our products. In our family, meat preservation and processing has been passed down through generations. Pops would say, “Don't kill it unless you're going to eat it.” The love of hunting and fishing also comes with the responsibility of using the meat that is harvested and not wasting. We encourage meat preservation for the self satisfaction of knowing the food is prepared right and a variety of food is available for long term use. If someone we know shows interest in learning, then we offer our assistance getting started, or let them observe our meat processing. (Tomaszewski, 2010)
Bill and Kay Tomaszewski
B. Freezing Game Birds
C. Putting Game Birds in Jars
D. Curing and Smoking Game Birds
E. Preparing Big Game Meat for the Freezer
F. How to Can Big Game
G. Curing, Drying, and Smoking Big Game Animals
A Good Venison Recipe for Supper
The following recipe for deer burger came courtesy of Bill and Kay Tomaszewski from Saint Peters Missouri.
2….10 ounce package of Mostaccioli noodles
1….15 ounce block chili
2 pounds ground deer burger (ground beef may be used)
2….1 pound can stewed tomatoes (drained)
2….8 ounce can tomato sauce
2….10 ounce can tomato soup
1 teaspoon oregano
1 ½ teaspoon anise
Salt and pepper as needed
Brown chopped onion and burger together in skillet, then add oregano, anise, garlic, salt and
pepper. Cook until moisture disappears.
Put chili, tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce and 1 ½ cups water together in pot.
Cover and simmer slowly.
Make Mostaccioli noodles, drain and blanch with cold water.
Mix all together when done and serve.
Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired. (This recipe is used for catering weddings, etc.
Amounts can be halved for smaller group/family)
The commercial prepared canned items may be substituted with home/canned
preserved items. (Tomaszewski, 2010)
I. Safety precautions when preserving wild game
Chapter 10: Preserving Fish and Seafood
An important issue when considering the consumption of fish caught in some areas of the country is pollutants that can accumulate in the fatty areas of some fish. Even though some fish may have accumulated some pollutants, with proper preparation such fish can be safely consumed. People throughout the world consume large amounts of well preserved fish, and have developed many wonderful recipes. The goal of this chapter will be to bring to life many of these wonderful recipes.
Due to the similarities in seafood and fresh water fish preparation techniques, the two products have been combined into one chapter. Yet there are a good number of seafood varieties that are greatly different than freshwater fish. This chapter will open many very interesting doors of discovery in the preparation and preservation of seafood. I am sure many wonderful recipes will be discovered by all who will eventually read this book.
CASE STUDY: HOW TO FREEZE SEAFOOD
Facts about Food Freezing
Electric Energy Association
If you have access to freshly caught fish from ocean, lake or stream, your food freezer can make it possible to have this delicious and nutritious food throughout most months of the year.
Freeze Only Fresh Fish
Fresh fish has firm elastic flesh that resists indentation when pressed. The eyes are clear; gills are bright red; the skin is shiny. The scales adhere closely to the skin.
How to freeze scale fish
1. Scrape off scales, using a fish scaler of the back of a heavy knife. Make a slit down body cavity, remove entrails and scrape the backbone clean.
2. Remove gills, fins, head and tail; wash fish thoroughly inside and out.
3. Freeze whole, steaks or filets.
Brine dip for lean fish: Immerse lean fish in cold water solution (made by dissolving ½ cup salt in 1 quart water) for 20 to 30 seconds. Do not brine-dip the high fat content fish such as bonito, butterfish, halibut, herring, mackerel, lake trout, pompano and salmon.
Methods of packaging fish:
In ice block-Several small fish, steaks, or filets may be placed in loaf pan, wax carton or coffee tin and covered with water and frozen. When blocks are solidly frozen, remove from pan and wrap in freezer packaging material and store.
Ice glaze-For whole fish just freeze fish (unwrapped). Dip frozen fish in chilled water, just above the freezing point. Repeat the dipping until a glaze of 1/8 to ¼ inch thick has formed. Wrap in moisture-vapor proof material or seal in plastic bag. Fish may be packaged (in meal size portions) with any moisture-vapor-proof material.
How to freeze crabs: boil live crabs for about 20 minutes in salted water. Cool slightly before picking out the meat. Pack crabmeat tightly in plastic or waxed containers.
Flavor of fish is better if defrosted before cooking, although it can be cooked from the frozen state.
Fresh fish should be frozen same day they are caught. Prepare as for cooking; scale, clean and wash thoroughly. Behead and cut off fins. Freeze small fish whole, cut large fish into steaks or fillets or leave whole for stuffing. Wrap in moisture-vapor-proof paper. Label kind of fish, weight and date.
Lobsters (cooked) should be frozen only fresh-caught. Cook as for table but omit salt, cool. Pick meat from shells. Pack in freezer cartons or bags. Label weight and date.
Shrimp may be frozen cooked or uncooked, shell and clean cooked shrimp before freezing. Pack in freezer cartons or bags. Label weight and date.
Oysters, clams, and scallops should be frozen only if very fresh. Discard shells, and do not wash clams or oysters. Scallops may be rinsed in fresh water. Pack in freezer cartons or bags. Label weight and date. (Facts About Food Freezing)
Canning Fish and Seafood
C. Curing and Drying Fish and Seafood
D. Enjoying Smoked Fish and Seafood
E. Safety precautions when preserving fish and Seafood
To be determined by the development of the book. The index may include a listing of professional agencies that can provide specialized assistance to people just beginning to learn how to preserve meat.
1. Resources for freezing equipment and supplies
Preserving Food: Freezing Animal Products, Andress, Elizabeth L.; Harrison, Judy A., July 2007, http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/FreezingAnimalProducts.pdf; accessed April 1, 2010
Tupperware: Freezer Containers and Cold Food Storage; http://order.tupperware.com/coe-html/webdex/freezer.html; date accessed April 1, 2010
U.S. Plastic Corp: Stor-Keeper Containers with Lids; http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/item.aspx?itemid=24843&clickid=redirect; accessed April 1, 2010
2. General resources for meat and fish preserving University of Illinois Extension: Meat Safety for the Consumer; http://web.extension.illinois.edu/meatsafety/preparation/tempchart.html; accessed April 1, 2010
3. Resources for canning equipment and supplies
Ball: Preserving America for 125 Years; http://www.freshpreserving.com/;
Bernardin: Canada's best source for home canning products & recipes; http://www.homecanning.ca/;
4. Resources for curing, drying and smoking meat
University of Illinois: Curing Methods; http://labs.ansci.illinois.edu/meatscience/Library/curing.htm;
Curing Meat: Using the Old Ways;
http://labs.ansci.illinois.edu/meatscience/Library/curing.htm; University of Minnesota Extension: Processing Meat in the Home;
Cabela's: Commercial & Heavy Duty Food Dehydrators; http://www.cabelas.com/dehydrators.shtml;
USDA: Smoking Meat and Poultry; http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Smoking_Meat_and_Poultry/index.asp;
BBQ Trader; http://www.bbqtrader.com/;
5. Resources for meat products and processing equipment USDA: Veal from Farm to Table; http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/veal_from_farm_to_table/index.asp
Allied Kenco Sales: We cater to the Home Butcher; http://www.alliedkenco.com/catalog/index.php
Butcher and Packer Supply Company; http://www.butcher-packer.com/ Wenneman Meat Company; http://www.wenneman.com/
The Sausage Maker Inc.; http://www.sausagemaker.com/
Thunderbird Meat Grinders; http://www.yourdelight.com/thunderbird_meat_grinders.htm
The TNT Dakotah Sausage Stuffer; http://www.dakotahsausagestuffer.com/
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System; http://www.foodsaver.com/Index.aspx
Glossary of meat preservation and cooking terms
Bacteria -Not visible to the human eye unaided, they are the primary agents in the biological process on the planet that breaks down and recycles nutrients.
Biological process-This is the natural process of all the biological elements in a meat product breaking the meat down to smaller elements. This process is facilitated by improper storage and preservation methods.
Blooming-Sausage is hung on sticks in a cool place for 7 to 10 days to reach the desired texture and color. (Tomaszewski, 2010)
Bratwurst-Pork based German sausage that is seasoned for a specific taste.
Boudin-There are a number of sausages that come under this title. These products are made of pork, and may or may not use the blood of the animal.
Butcher-This is a person who cuts meat from a slaughtered animal carcass and prepares the cuts for retail sale.
Chorizo-A sausage of Spanish origin that may or may not be cooked, some people use it to replace ground beef or pork.
Decay-As applied to the meat preservation process, decay is evident when the meat product is decomposing, or rotting away.
Dry Cure Box-A container large enough to pack a salt cure around meat products.
Canning Jars-Glass jars designed to secure, seal, and safely keep foods lovingly preserved for a family's use many months after the meat or produce was harvested.
Canning Pressure Cooker-A large pressure cooker that allows the home preserver to fill canning jars with various meats to raise the product to high enough temperature to sanitize the canning jars, and at the same time cook the meat fully.
Chemical process-In meat preservation, this is the changes that take place in the molecular structure that are produced by the application of preservation techniques and processes.
Chevon-This word is from Spain, and simply signifies the meat from a goat.
Cold Smoking -Adding flavor and preserving meat with wood smoke without sufficient heat to cook the meat.
Contamination-This describes the condition when the meat being preserved has been in contact with dirt or some disease causing organism or chemical.
Curing-This is the process of preserving meat and fish by the application of salt, nitrates, sugar, or other commercially applied chemical additives.
Degrees Fahrenheit-A temperature scale based on the work of German scientist Daniel G. Fahrenheit who lived from 1686 to 1726. On this temperature scale water freezes at 32 degrees, and boils at 212 degrees.
Drying-In meat preservation, this is the process of removing moisture from meats and fish by exposing the product to dry air or heat, in a controlled environment.
Enzymes -The catalysts in the biological process that are used in the transformation of molecules.
Erythorbate -A derivative of erythorbic acid used commonly by commercial meat processors to maintain the red or pink color in meat.
Fat Oxidation-When meat fats come in contact with the oxygen in the air we breathe, the color of the meat product will change to an undesirable color. This is a part of the spoilage process that will lead to the meat product having a rancid smell.
Fast Freezing -The process of bringing food down to extremely cold temperatures to preserve freshness, and enhance flavor.
Field Dressing-The art of properly cleaning wild game harvested in the wild. This involves removing the internal organs, cleaning out the cavity, and may involve quartering the carcass for transportation in the case of a large animal like an elk.
Ice Tongs-Used to life ice in and out of the icehouse, or in the home delivery of ice blocks. Home owners used smaller versions around the kitchen.
Knackwurst -A small sausage that has its roots in Germany that may contain veal or pork.
Maltodextrin-A sugar starch used as a food additive to enhance the food and is easy to digest.
Monosodium Glutamate-Usually known as MSG, used to enhance the flavor of processed meats.
Mostaccioli noodles-Pasta tubes with ridges all the way around. The ends are cut at an angle.
Meat Preservation-This is the process of using salt and chemicals or heat to inhibit the growth of bacteria and pathogens in meat.
Meat Thermometer-An instrument with a probe that allows you to measure the internal temperature of foods being cooked to insure that food is heated to sufficient temperatures to kill disease causing organisms.
Mutton-This word signifies the meat from a sheep.
Pathogens-This is simply organisms that are the cause of disease in humans.
Pemmican -A mixture of meat protein and fruit or berries used by early Native American peoples, which contains many nutrients essential to life.
Rancid-This is a word that is best described as a smell of something that is rotting, such as meat fat.
Refrigeration -The use of mechanical systems and chemical such as Freon to reduce the temperature of food sufficiently to inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria.
Salt Beef-Beef that has been cured using either a brine solution or dry packing process to preserve the meat. Salt beef usually does not remain in usable condition as long as salt pork.
Salt Horse-Really salt pork or salt beef that came to be known as salt horse because of the way it came packed for use on sailing ships.
Salt Pork- Pork that has been cured using either a brine solution or dry packing process to preserve the meat.
Sanitize-To use heat or chemical action to sterilize a table or cooking utensil. Sterilization removes all hazardous pathogens.
Sausage Casings-Tubes made from proteins that hold sausage in a shape that is acceptable to the retail market.
Showering-Finished summer sausages are placed in a cooler of cold water to release the heat and prevent shrinkage. (Tomaszewski, 2010)
Smoking Meat -The process of adding flavor to meat by exposing the product to wood smoke in an enclosed area at a controlled temperature. Smoking aids in the preservation process.
Sodium Nitrate-This is a salt compound normally called Saltpeter.
Sugar Curing-During the curing process sweeteners, such as sugar or honey are added to the curing solution to add additional flavoring to the meat. There are specific temperature requirements to make this process successful.
Veal-Meat from calves butchered at a very young age.
Dunlay, W. J., & Kuhl, E. E. (1972). Orleans Centennial 1872 to 1972. Orleans Nebraska.
Facts About Food Freezing. Electric Energy Association.
Marianski, S., & Marianski, A. (2008). The Art of Making Fermented Sausages. Denver: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Marianski, S., Marianski, A., & Marianski, R. (2009). Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design. Seminole Florida: Bookmagic, LLC.
Pyell, H. M. (2010, April 3). Member of Pioneer Family. (K. V. Oster, Interviewer)
Ruhlman, M., & Polcyn, B. (2005). Charcuterie. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.
Sanitizing with Bleach. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2010, from All QA Products: http://www.allqa.com/ChlorineSanitizing.htm
Tams, L. (1978). History of the Stamford Nebraska Community 1887 to 1978. Stamford Nebraska.
Tomaszewski, B. a. (2010, April 4). Owners of Tin Man Meats. (K. V. Oster, Interviewer)
Wright, M. (2009). Meat Curing at Home-the Setup. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from Wrightfood: recipes & Culinary Adventures From a Brit in Seattle: http://mattikaarts.com/blog/charcuterie/meat-curing-at-home-the-setup/#comments