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Being that we're all dealing with pigs here the topic of cure comes up for making bacon, ham, various cured and smoked sausages, etc. I've been making uncured smoked hot dogs with our meat at a smokehouse using my own recipe for over a decade. Last year I developed recipes for corn pork and bacon. There is quite a bit of confusion about the term cure, and even bacon. The USDA has regulatory definitions that if you're using celery salt or the like to make bacon you are _required_ to say "Uncured Bacon" so this isn't a marketing thing so much as a regulatory requirement. After we have had our uncured bacon on the market for a few months I wrote up an article about the topic of "Uncuring" to try to help demystify the issue. See:

Uncured Bacon, Celery Salt & Labeling

-Walter
 

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I haven't read your article yet, I will later on, most likely 4 or 5 AM with coffee.

My concern is that the term 'uncured' is misleading and wrong. Celery is naturally high in nitrite which makes for a short term curing agent. Given a short time, nitrite oxidizes off and is gone, good job done. When enough is used, it is cured. Plain salt is corning. I believe a mix of celery and salt is still curing. I understand that the regs are the rules.

I also don't like seeing 'nitrate free' on bacon labels. Yes, it is true, or should be. Bacon isn't cured with nitrates today. Nitrates are for long term cures not short term. Even a nitrate cured ham or salami should be nitrate free by the time it is purchased, converted to nitrite then oxidized off.

I suppose the logic behind the labeling is that pointing out a fact is easier than trying to educate. I'd rather see out customers better educated to our products in agriculture but I guess that is up to we small producers.
 

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Actually a highly amusing article, silly legal loops, of course it is preserved it's preserved with salt. Here we can buy non nitrate bacon and it's still called bacon, the only real difference is that it is not pink in colour, which I do find slightly strange, as when I made my own without nitrate is was still pink as one would expect.
 

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I still haven't read the full article, been getting a bit complicated here before dawn.

I get the feeling 'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread' comes to play. No matter, I fit pretty well with the fools. We get the job done.
 

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In Michigan, they rolled back the regulations on many home produced food products. Just needs an ingredient label and their address, with a disclaimer, " Made in an uninspected kitchen".
Many food products contain misleading labels. Chicken products with "No added hormones" when all chicken has no added hormones. Wheat products with " non-GMO" when there is no GMO wheat.
I remember the fight against Turkey Bacon. At a discount food store, I saw "imitation baloney" and can't imagine how that is produced.
When USDA hashes out rules that describe bacon, I can imagine alternative methods my not apply.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Haypoint, I take it you didn't read the article. Our uncured bacon is produced in our inspected butcher shop. The USDA has already hashed out very thoroughly the rules that define bacon. Read the article.
 

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Haypoint, I take it you didn't read the article. Our uncured bacon is produced in our inspected butcher shop. The USDA has already hashed out very thoroughly the rules that define bacon. Read the article.
You are wrong. I did read your story on your blog. I sort of skipped over the self promotion parts and focused on the USDA labeling parts and the way you get around the hated nitrates and use the chemically similar celery salt to sound more natural.

Maybe you didn't read my comments. Consumers want healthy, but don't know the differences and similarities between nitrates and celery salt. They choose what sounds less chemical. Just as they choose Oatmeal labeled "non-GMO" or milk that is labeled " from cows not treated with rBGH" or antibiotic-free chicken tenders. No on is telling them that all oats are non-GMO, cattle haven't been getting rBGH for a decade and there is no traces of antibiotics in any brand of chicken.
So, careful labeling is important, half truths allowed. When bacon says "contains no nitrates" and no grocery store bacon has nitrates, I question the purpose of the statement.
Congratulation for walking that narrow path between USDA requirements and sounding better/healthier than store bought. I hope this thread draws lots of interest and gets you lots of "hits" for your blog.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Haypoint, you're spinning the article the way you want and you clearly didn't understand the article. Perhaps rather than skimming it you should actually read it as you completely missed the information. I was clearly pointing out how the synthetic nitrates and the 'natural' nitrites are the same thing, the history and the reasoning behind the regulations which in turn determine how the labels are required to be written.

Try getting off your high horse and actually reading what someone else wrote rather than reinterpreting it to your mantra. You might actually learn something.

-Walter
 

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So there is salt in the celery powder, and you apply additional salt?
Is the celery salt substituted 1:1 for pink cure salt, or do you have to use more?
How long do you leave the rub on the belly ?
Is your maple flavor a dry/powder ingredient, and where do you source that? I've contemplated incorporating dried molasses into my rub.
I went to the FLA food product website. I can't quite find my way around. Your article stated the cherry is mixed in the celery powder, correct? Is the cherry from the dried fruit or wood? I'm curious what the purpose of the cherry powder is, for a chemical purpose or flavor?
****Please note, I do not sell bacon except as fresh belly sides. I would need a manufacturer's license here to open and process any of my USDA pork cuts. I am not trying to rip off your recipe for profit. I just don't do your volume of course and would rather not experiment on my precious bellies unnecessarily.
 

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Walt, I just read your article. You are going to love learning real smoking. Go with cold smoking if you can. I say that because if your process is technically not cured, you need to hot smoke, basically BBQ. Nothing wrong with that except you lose fat. If you go that route fine, it will work. I'd like to suggest you use cure and dry rub then cold smoke for a comparison. I believe you will find that dry rub cure with cold smoke is second to no other method.

Smoke flavor is next. I like pecan and mesquite, hickory and apple, maple and apple. Apple works anywhere, not so with maple. Both maple and mesquite are smooth and sweet. Hickory is strong, pecan less so but fuller flavor, it is also a hickory yet not called that much.
 

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Thanks for posting this article & information. I've never "cured" meat but I would like to do so in the future. so I found your article very helpful in explaining what the difference is, and how you addressed the issue. Congrats on your success in developing your recipe. It can be hard to do that, as pig in a poke pointed out that wasting precious pork bellies on experimenting is not what most of us want to do.
 

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I learned the basics from Rytek long ago. In those days you could just call him up and ask questions. That was 30 years back. Doing the math, I was 8 years old then.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
So there is salt in the celery powder, and you apply additional salt?
Salt in celery salt and in pink salt is used as a carrier for the celery powder or synthetic nitrates/nitrites respectively because the amount is so small. This aids in mixing it and not getting too much. Using pure celery powder or ni/na powder would be very difficult to do, especially in small batches.

The other salt is the salt used in the recipe - this is where one controls the amount of salt as the amount of salt in the celery salt or pink salt is small.

Is the celery salt substituted 1:1 for pink cure salt, or do you have to use more?
How much you use depends on the type of product. The company, Florida Food Products, has spec sheets for this. This part is regulated and not something that one plays with in the formulations.

How long do you leave the rub on the belly ?
Three days is the bare minimum.
Seven days is good.
I like it longer.
BUT it depends greatly on the thickness of the meat. For thin pieces like belly it can be fast, as per above. For whole muscle things like hams without any pumping it could take much longer. This is why they do injecting for a lot of cures. I've experimented with injecting years ago but don't do it for this as the belly is thin enough to transmit the cure and spices quickly.

Is your maple flavor a dry/powder ingredient, and where do you source that?
I'm using real Vermont maple syrup rather than a maple flavoring. I get it from my next door neighbor at the moment, sometimes from another fellow also close buy.

I tried using maple sugar instead of maple syrup but I like the maple syrup better. Interestingly it is still technically a dry rub even though it is syrup. That is what the labeling division said to use for terminology. I had not expected that. It was another one of the learning points in the process.

I've contemplated incorporating dried molasses into my rub.
Worth trying. For us maple syrup is the local sugar. In other parts of the country it would be molasses, etc.


I went to the FLA food product website. I can't quite find my way around. Your article stated the cherry is mixed in the celery powder, correct? Is the cherry from the dried fruit or wood?
Fruit.

I'm curious what the purpose of the cherry powder is, for a chemical purpose or flavor?
It reacts with the ni/na like sodium ethorbate in the pink salt recipes.

I just don't do your volume of course and would rather not experiment on my precious bellies unnecessarily.
When I started experimenting I used the trim pieces off my bellies for a while to keep down my cost of experimenting. Those were the first couple dozen tests or so. Then once I felt I had it working I moved on to small (1lb) bellies for more testing.

Walt, I just read your article. You are going to love learning real smoking.
My son and I are looking forward to learning how to smoke. In our butcher shop we have a space set aside for a small initial smokehouse which we'll use for a few years and then eventually we plan to build a much larger smoke house in another space that is set aside. The latter will be big enough to smoke whole hogs.

Go with cold smoking if you can.
The plan is to have the ability to do all three types. Being able to bring our smoked hot dogs in house is one of our long term goals. They are RTE non-shelf-stable which is a whole other level of HACCP.

Smoke flavor is next. I like pecan and mesquite, hickory and apple, maple and apple. Apple works anywhere, not so with maple. Both maple and mesquite are smooth and sweet. Hickory is strong, pecan less so but fuller flavor, it is also a hickory yet not called that much.
Interesting. Thanks!

Thanks for posting this article & information. I've never "cured" meat but I would like to do so in the future. so I found your article very helpful in explaining what the difference is, and how you addressed the issue. Congrats on your success in developing your recipe. It can be hard to do that, as pig in a poke pointed out that wasting precious pork bellies on experimenting is not what most of us want to do.
Aye, that's why I started out experimenting with trim pieces. Don't want to waste good belly...!

-Walter
 

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I think there is a good market for custom smoking as well as your own product. One of my customers takes his hams from processing to Fox Country Smokehouse in Canterbury, NH, has for years. The curing process makes the difference, I guess we all know know that.

I've only been there once but you may want to check them out sometime. You are far enough away so there wouldn't be any local competition. I tried their kielbasa and it is excellent. I haven't tried anything else, I just went along for the ride to drop off hams one Sunday in March this winter.

I have no affiliation with them and didn't even tell them I raise hogs.

http://foxcountrysmokehouse.com/index.php
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The reason I'm doing the uncured non-smoked bacon now is simply that we don't do smoking, yet. Currently we sell a lot of belly fresh in stores to people who make their own at home. Some people had asked about having the cure/spicing pre-done so that is what the uncured bacon is.

The article grew out of the confusion that is wrapped around this topic. I learned a lot about the regulations, in addition to doing my own formulation, over the past year. As I explain in the article, the term 'uncured' is the USDA requirement for labeling although it has been 'cured' with nitrates/nitrites in the celery salt. That was what the article was about, trying to untangle and unconfuse the whole issue around the labeling and terminology.

Next year I hope we'll have our initial smokehouse up and running and then we'll start smoking lots of different things including bacon. Our final smokehouse will be a few more years down the road and big enough to smoke whole large pigs. Step-by-step.

Currently we also sell a sliced smoked cured bacon but that is done at the USDA processor (smokehouse) rather than here so it doesn't get our 'on-farm butcher shop' part of the label.

Cheers,

Walter
 

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One other question for you. When you start experimenting with smoking are you planning on doing a hot smoke or a cold smoke. For bacon I'd assume it would be a cold smoke so that you don't cook it. Will you do both or just start with one type and experiment until you perfect it?
 

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You can cold smoke and gradually bring up the temperature without getting fat melt and hit fully cooked temps. 145* is USDA recommendation now.

My smokers have always run smoke off the heat element so as internal and ambient temps rise I have to increase the thermostat temperature to keep good smoke going in the first few hours. I generally finish at 150 to 165 without smoke to get internal temps.

One of these days I'll go with a separate smoke generator. Been saying that since I first started. I guess there is just something about hands on and checking every 20 minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
One other question for you. When you start experimenting with smoking are you planning on doing a hot smoke or a cold smoke.
I'll do it every which way. I like to test the various parameters so I'll do it from cold al the way to BBQ hot (which renders). This way I learn as much as possible.
 

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Walter, thanks for your reply to all my questions. I've had trouble logging in to respond.
I do not inject belly cuts either and have used Pink salt or none in my rubs. I do smoke them, however.
So, just to clarify, the lack of pink salt is the reason you may not use the term "cured"?
 
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