METHODS OF CURING
Curing methods vary to some extent in different areas of the country. The
interest of the veterinary food inspection specialist is not in specific curing methods and
formulas but in how these methods control bacterial activity and spoilage.
A pickle, as applied to meat curing, is a liquid solution of curing agents, such as
salt, sugar, and nitrates. Plain pickle is simply a solution of salt and water. Compound
pickle contains salt, plus any other ingredients desired, such as sugar and nitrate.
Pickle that contains sugar is commonly known as sweet pickle.
a. Strength of Salt Solution. Saturation of water with salt does not interfere
with the dissolution of the other curing agents.
(1) Measurement. The strength of salt solution is measured by a salimeter
that is calibrated from 0 (the point at which it sinks in water) to 100 (the point at which
it floats in a saturated salt solution). The intervening space is graduated in degrees. A
100 plain pickle solution will dissolve sugar and sodium nitrate almost as readily as
pure water. The amount of sugar and sodium nitrate used in the average compound
pickle gives an additional buoyancy of about 3 to the salimeter; therefore, a compound
pickle with a salimeter reading of 78 may be considered to be a 75 salt pickle. The
salimeter reading may be taken in any receptacle that has sufficient depth of pickle
solution to allow free setting of the instrument.
(2) Types of pickle. The strength of pickle varies depending on its use. For
curing purposes, pickle is designated as curing, cover, and pumping pickle.
(a) Pumping pickle is invariably stronger than cover pickle since
pumping is used to introduce the curing agents into the meat rapidly without excessive
amount of water.
(b) Cover pickle strength varies with the establishment and with the
kinds and grades of meat cured. In general, the milder the pickle, the milder will be the
b. Application of Pickle by Pumping. Salt penetrates meat slowly; therefore,
considerable time must elapse before large pieces of meat are cured. Largely
tendinous or fibrous cuts of meat, such as the shank of a ham, and cuts surrounded by
skin also cure very slowly. Therefore, to facilitate curing, such cuts are pumped. This is
simply the introduction of pickle into the meat by injection. The three common methods
of pumping are injection, stitch, and artery pumping.