There are a couple of different ways to preserve meat with salt. Namely, they include brining and dry rubbing. Each of them involve different methods and different mixtures of salt. Here, we’ll talk about the dry rub method.
Why Preserve with Salt
Salt has long been used as a preserving agent, because of its ability to dehydrate meat. The salt draws out the moisture in the cells, so that most bacteria can no longer thrive. The result is a dried meat that can last for months without any sort of refrigeration. However, nitrates also play an important role in that they prevent some bacteria from thriving, when salt alone won’t do it. But, high nitrate levels can also be toxic to humans, so it’s best to get your salt from a butcher or other source that has salt prepared just for the dry rub method. Note that the dry rub method and brining method use different ratios of salt to nitrates.
Even when you’re salting meat, environment plays an issue. Namely, the temperature is important. You don’t want the meat to freeze, because you’re trying to get the water out of it, not change the form of the water in it. You also don’t want it to cook. One way to get around the issue of temperature is to salt your meat in an underground setting, below the frost line. The temperatures below the frost line range from 45-70 degrees Fahrenheit. In the northern hemisphere, expect temperatures to be between 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, while the southern hemisphere will be 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll need a clean area, a tub or barrel to store the meat, clean towel, sharp knife, and your curing salt.
Salting the Meat
Cut the meat into strips about two inches wide and two inches thick. Keep in mind that the wider and thicker the strips of meat, the longer they need to stay in the salt before they are fully preserved. Use the towel to dry the meat. Completely cover the meat in the salt mixture, making sure all exposed areas are coated. (Tip: One reason regular table salt doesn’t work is because it isn’t fine enough to stick to the meat). Place the meat in a container. Repeat the process, layering the meat as it is salted. Allow the meat to set for at least a month.
Check the salted meat periodically. If the salt is damp, redo the process. There is nothing wrong with the meat or the salt, but it has pulled out all the moisture it can and may turn to brine if it isn’t replaced. Once properly salted, this method of preserving your meat can keep it preserved for at least six months. Just remember that the longer it is preserved, the harder it will be to get the salty flavor out of it.
Cooking Salted Meat
Since your meat has been packed in salt, it’s naturally going to have a salted flavor. It may also seem hard, because there is no moisture to keep it pliable. Soak the meat in water, rinsing off the salt. Repeat this process several times and as a final step, you can soak it in a marinate of your choice in order to rehydrate it before cooking. You can also add sugar and spices to your salt mixture before preserving the meat in order to reduce the salty flavor.