Specific Goods Discussed
With the shared methodology, I will be covering the detailed information on both prosciutto, and its simpler cousin, salt pork/bacon.
This information will be covered in the context of my preparations for Gulf Wars 2019, and will updated as the process goes forward.
The techniques described here can be applied to any whole cuts of meat, and adjusted to your personal preferences.
For making salted whole cuts, the ingredients list is fairly straightforward.
Cut of meat to be preserved; For pork, I like to use pork loin, as it is readily available and a workable size for one who doesn't have much storage space. Belly, if you can get it is a favored cut for making bacon.
Salt; Kosher salt is my go-to for most charcuterie, as it has a good grain size. A smaller grain, like pickling & canning salt, can lead to a product that is too salty. Sea salt can also be used, but again, be mindful of the grain size.
Curing Salt (Prague Powder); This is a combination of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. This is used to keep pathogens such as C. Botulinum in check. There are two varieties, #1 and #2, #1 is used for shorter curing times (often measures in days), while #2 is used for longer curing times (weeks/months).
ALWAYS read the measuring directions for this when using it. In sufficient quantities, it is toxic.
Spices; Depending on the specific item you are trying to make, you may need different herbs/spices.
Misc. Ingredients; Things, like prosciutto, require ingredients such as wine in their production.
The first step in many medieval whole-cut preservation instructions is to thoroughly salt the meat.
This increases the salt levels in the meat, and pulls out moisture. These two actions alone drive the water activity levels down, making the meat less hospitable to pathogens. It is also during this initial salting when the Curing Salt/Prague Powder is added.
Depending on whether you are aiming for a wet or dry brining will dictate how you will be handling the salted meat during this phase.
Wet Brining: This is often accomplished by stacking alternating layers of salt and meat. The salt will draw out the moisture in the meat, causing a brine to form. For the simplest of goods, it can be left in this state until needed, or removed after a time (ranging for several days to a few weeks) for additional processing.
Dry Brining: Dry brining is accomplished by heavily salting the meat to be preserved, and draining the resultant brine every few days. On the day when the brine is drained off, the salt is to be replaced with new salt. This method is usually done over the course of 2 to 3 weeks.
After brining, the meat can be processed in the following ways:
Left Alone: As mentioned in the wet brining description, meats preserved that way can be left in that brine indefinitely, barring contamination.
Dried/Smoked: Smoking or air drying is by far the most common supplemental technique to salting meats. Smoking can help drive insects away from meats, while imparting a pleasant flavor. Unless being kept in some manner of liquid, this serves as a terminal step for the preservation of whole cuts of meat. It is also during this drying step when a beneficial mold culture would be applied, but not during smoking, as it tends to be too hot for the culture to survive.
Miscellaneous: Bartolomeo Scappi provides us with instructions to keep salted chicken in rendered fat, or spiced vinegar. These two methods add an extra layer of preservation to an already preserved good. This helps account for pathogens that may be resistant to one method, but not another.
Messisbugo describes parboiling salted pork in wine as the second step to preparing prosciutto. This is followed by a coating of spices, and lastly, by smoking or air drying.
Relevant Foods for Gulf 2019
As part of my stockpile of food for Gulf Wars 2019, I am preparing 2 different salted pork (bacon) recipes, and a prosciutto.
For the first few weeks, the production methods are the same.
1. (If needed) Divide meat (8 pound total, shown below) into workable pieces.
2. Measure appropriate amounts of Prague Powder (#2 in this case).
3. Put meat into a storage container. I tend towards zip-top bags, and double them up to prevent leaking.
4. Add salt to cover meat.
5. Store in a cool space. A refrigerator is a good place initially. If you are looking to add any culture, bacterial or mold, check the temperature requirements.
For the next few weeks, the brine that forms from the salt drawing out liquid will be drained, and the salt will be replaced. After a change or two, the bacteria culture will be introduced to bag containing two pieces of salted pork. This will be used for my experiment regarding the use of mold cultures on bacon.
Once the 2 weeks of brining are done. The bacon will be left to dry, one with mold and one without. The piece to be prosciutto will be processed further. Documentation of process will continue with the process as a whole.
As this project is far from completed, I will be updating this page as the process continues.
While those who have subscribed to receive email updates may not get a notification for those future updates, I will be sure to provide links back here, and brief updates, on my future posts.
Information on other preservation techniques can be found here.