USING HERBS, SPICES, AND FLAVORED LIQUIDS WILL TRANSFORM NOT ONLY THE FLAVOR OF MEAT, BUT SOMETIMES ITS TEXTURE AS WELL. DIFFERENT FLAVOR PAIRINGS COMPLEMENT DIFFERENT MEATS—SEE PP32–33 FOR SUGGESTIONS.
SPICE AND HERB RUBS Rubbing spices and herbs onto the surface of meat, or under the skin of poultry, introduces new ﬂavors. Adding salt or oil helps to draw the ﬂavors into the meat. Leave the rub for several hours before cooking to intensify the ﬂavors.
UNDER-THE-SKIN RUBS FOR POULTRY • Try making a pocket in a small ﬁllet of meat or poultry, then stuff with herbs and spices mixed with butter or oil into the pocket. Secure with string or a toothpick. • Lift the skin off the breast meat of a bird and slash the meat underneath. Mix herbs and spices with butter and smear this mixture into the meat. Replace the skin.
HERB CRUSTS These can be as simple as pressing herbs onto the oiled surface of meat, or using a thicker crust made of herbs and grains bound with egg to add ﬂavor and a crunchy texture. Once you have prepared the crust mixture, press it on ﬁrmly so it does not crumble off the meat during cooking. If the crust is thick, allow a little extra cooking time. Note that covering meat with a herb crust will prevent it from browning.
MARINATING MEAT Marinades ﬂavor meat without preserving it. Acid liquids (such as vinegar, wine, and citrus juice) dry out meat. Oily marinades absorb spice, vegetable, and herb ﬂavors and transmit them to the meat. Depending on its size (a roast or small pieces), marinate the meat for 1–5 hours before cooking. 1 Mix together the marinade ingredients and heat if instructed. If heated, allow to cool before proceeding. 2 Immerse the meat in the marinade. For awkward-shaped pieces of meat, use a strong plastic bag to hold the meat and draw up liquid around it.
SALTING AND CURING MEAT Using salt to cure meat is an ancient technique. It is simple, because just salt, ﬂavored with spices, is used to draw out some of the meat’s moisture, but it is also complicated because only trial and error will produce the effect you want to achieve. Experiment, and keep notes of all your weights and timings.
TYPES OF SALT Curing salt prevents bacteria forming and maintains the meat’s red color. • Pickling or kosher salt A ﬁne salt that dissolves quickly, but does not contain iodine or anti-caking agents that can turn brine cloudy. Good for brine-curing. • Coarse salt Free of iodine or anti-caking agents, it is cheaper but takes a little longer to dissolve. Good for dry-salting. • Curing salt or Prague powder no. 1 Often colored pink, this contains sodium nitrite that helps to preserve meat and keeps it red. • Dry-curing salt or Prague powder no. 2 Similar to Prague powder no. 1, but contains sodium nitrate as well. Highly recommended for home dry-salting in place of saltpeter.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Meat that is to be fully preserved will need longer to cure than meat that will be cooked afterward. The thinner the meat, the more quickly it will cure. • Pork belly Dry-salt or brine for one week to make bacon. • Whole pork leg Dry-salt for 4–6 weeks to make ham ready to cook. After salting it can take 6–12 months to fully dry. • Rolled beef brisket Brine for approximately one week to make salt beef ready to cook (see p150). If salted for longer, soak the meat for 12–24 hours before cooking.
DOS AND DON’TS
• Never use old-fashioned saltpeter, which contains potassium. Use modern curing salt.
• Never use metal dishes for salt cures; they will corrode. • Boneless meat preserves better than meat on the bone. • Lightly cured meat has an enhanced ﬂavor but will not be preserved; it must be cooked. • Due to the risk of food poisoning, do not attempt to preserve poultry. It should always be cooked after being cured.
DRY-SALTING MEAT Use salt for small pieces, or two parts salt to one part sugar for larger roasts. Add spices if wished. Allow approximately 3lb 3oz (1.5kg) salt mix plus 1oz (30g) dry-curing salt for every 61⁄2lb (3kg) meat. Work in a cool place. Dry-cured meat is ready when it has lost about 30 percent of its weight, but test it for taste and give it longer if needed. Adding sugar or honey to the salt prevents the meat from becoming hard. If the meat is very hard after curing, soak it before cooking.
BRINE-CURING MEAT A more gentle way of curing than salting, the brine can be made of water, wine, hard cider, or other liquids, plus spices and herbs to add ﬂavor. The strength of brines varies, but start with 83⁄4 pints (5 liters) of liquid for every 21⁄4lb (1kg) of salt. Add 1oz (30g) of curing salt for a full cure. Brine meat for 8–12 hours if it is to be cooked or smoked, or for at least one week if being fully cured.