Apr 20 2013

Salting and salt packing foods for long term storage.

A lot of microbiotics don’t like salty environment so begin with but salting has an effect similar to drying and smoking. Salt induces a peritonic response in the cells of meat. The cells of meat, alive or dead, still have cellular membranes that contain their moisture among other things. Salt puts them into a state of dehydration such that the cell walls harden and moisture tends not to come out and be available for the micronasty pool party. Now some will argue that this happens because of H2O exiting the cells by osmosis, but they are correct. Osmosis is one of those acey-deucey kind of phenomena: do minerals head AWAY from concentration or does H2O move TOWARDS dehydration? They both kinda happen at the same time. There is some factor of some micronasties just not being able to tolerate that saline an environment because it makes the H2O and minerals in their cells go crazy coping too, but the main effect or salt is this dehydrating (or hypermineralizing) effect.

Foods we traditionally salt are meats and seafood. The technique is rubbing salt (sea salt is good, we don’t use iodized salt) and spices if desired thickly into the meat on all sides. The resulting product can be dried, smoked or salt-packed which is placing pieces of salted meat into a container, packing meat and more salt in layers and so the meat isn’t touching the sides of the container and sealing it. The advantage here is the meat just keep desiccating and dehydrating over time. Since salt packing meat is a pretty manual process, a wide-mouth container is used. Metal and metal lids are not recommended for salt packing because of the corrosive nature of salt. Glass containers with wax or fat seals may be your reference. There are commercial curing agents in the supermarket for curing meat but I’ve never seen them used.

Brining meats for long term storage.

Brining is another salt reservation method for meat and fish. Brined meats are immersed and sealed into a saturated saline solution. This means the level of salt is at the point where no more can be dissolved in the solution. That’s over 3 pounds of salt per gallon of water. That’s a lotta salt. Again, we use non-iodized salt. Brining is used on raw or cooked meats and can last for many years. You can use your canning equipment for this method but as with salt packing we avoid metal containers and lids because of the corrosive nature of all that salt.

Jerking meats for long term preservation and storage.

Jerking is a hybrid of smoking and drying salting meat. Salt your meat then smoke it and you have a much more durable food that can last years. It’s light, it’s ready to eat and it’s concentrated calories. It can be shredded and dropped into stew if you are sick to the point of tears of vegetable stew. Many people are only familiar with the strip-jerky found in stores today up on the counter, but some people still do jerk whole animals. Whole cows and horses and buffalo. This is traditionally done with the animal hanging in front of you. So the…ah…equipment is a bit different for a whole animal and there’s a lot more patience involved as we let nature do her work but it’s exactly the same besides that. For the most part, you want to stay more basic and make your cuts as even as you can, salting and smoking different cuts in batches. Moisture content for jerky is pretty much where you want it to be, but to be a durable long-term food you want it down below 15% in my estimation. Hanging your jerked meats in the root cellar is a find way of storing it.