CURING AND TEMPERATURE
The temperature of the curing cellars should be between 36 and 38F.
Temperatures lower than 36F retard the curing process, and temperatures above 38F
are detrimental to the keeping qualities of the meat and pickle. The length of time
necessary to cure a piece of meat varies with its size, weight, grade, temperature of the
cellar, amount of pumping, and strength of the pickle. Pieces of meat containing bone
require more time for curing than boneless cuts. Thick pieces (hams) require longer
curing time than thin cuts (bellies and fat backs). Meats cured with nitrite cure more
rapidly than those cured with nitrate. Meats frozen, defrosted, and then cured require
less time in pickle or cure than meats not previously frozen. Modern curing trends favor
the continuous method of curing; that is, processing carcasses into primal cuts, adding
pickle, smoking, chilling, and packaging in a minimum number of hours.
6-10. CURING GAINS AND LOSSES
During curing, there is a gain or loss of moisture from the green (uncured) weight
of the meat. Change in weight varies with the type of meat, the ratio of fat to lean, the
size of the pieces, type of cure, amount of pumping, and the length of time in cure.
Lean meat, because of its higher moisture content, shrinks more than fat meat.
a. Less Nutritive Value. In addition to losing weight, there is a decrease in the
nutritive value of the meat during the curing process. These losses are largely
nitrogenous (albuminous) substance, phosphoric acid, potassium salts, and meat
bases. They are more pronounced in meat cured exclusively with salt than in meat
cured with sugar. Cured meat, as a result, has less nutritive value than the green meat
from which it is made.
b. Weight. When pickle-cured meats are pumped, the water of the pickle
solution adds to the original green weight of the product. Some or all of this added
water may be taken out of the product during smoking or drying. Large pieces of meat
shrink less than smaller pieces. The salt does not come in actual contact with a
proportionately large quantity of the piece, and for this reason, less moisture is
extracted from the depths of the piece than from the surface. Box-cured meats shrink
less than dry-salt meats cured on racks. None of the extracted moisture is allowed to
drain off, and the exclusion of air prevents evaporation. Chopped meat for sausage,
largely lean trimmings, is cured in tubs and usually reabsorbs the extracted moisture
together with the curing agents. Box-cured pork bellies lose a small amount of
moisture, but the curing ingredients absorbed into the meat largely offset this loss of
water. The bellies come from cure at slightly less than the green weight.
Meats, especially hams and bacon, cannot be allowed to remain in cure beyond
a specified amount of time because they become salty and off-color. From their
experience meat packers estimate accurately the quantity of meats that will be