Curing Part 2: Much problems encountered

Post my sojourn at Vineria IT, I spent a good three days reading up on curing meats. I was convinced that I would be able to recreate my own prosciutto. The foodblog world is littered with experiments by people doing mad things like curing their own pork and beef – surely I could make my own, here in the Malaysia. I mean granted, in colder countries – they easily cured their meats in a mild climate of 15 degrees Celsius, whilst I live in a country that easily top 35 degrees, fantastic for bacteria breeding – but I am determined to find a way.

The more I read, the greater my dreams became. I did not just want the beef prosciutto. I wanted duck bacon, better access to the sometime-questionable-quality-sometime-questionable-availability beef bacon, and I wanted to cure all meats the way they cure pork.

Why? Because I could.

But the more I read, the more I realized that this project of mine was tricky. Firstly, the reason why this was not done as often in Malaysia, was mostly because our weather is far too warm and humid to dry out meats outside safely. So, there was now this huge possibility of buying a fridge, a de-humidifier and a thermostat to recreate the perfect environment. I’ve already looked online, you could get a fridge for cheap – but the dehumidifier and thermostate requires a little bit more research. So hmm. I like meats. But not that much to invest in over an RM1000 for a curing cabinet. Not right now anyway.

Secondly, which was the biggest problem of the lot…I had no idea where to buy pink salts. I was hoping that I would be able to avoid using pink salts altogether but pink salts are almost an essential in a meat curing process. Whilst I was scared of getting such a risky product in Malaysia (too much pink salt can be toxic), the bigger problem being I don’t think I am able to purchase pink salts that easily in Malaysia. Short of actually importing them here – it seems my dreams of having papery thin prosciutto is resigned to Vineria IT.

Never one to give up, I thought fine. I’ll give up on the bresaola for now. But I’m not going to give up on the experiment, I should be able to cure something without pink salts and the curing cabinet right?

Right. I found two recipes and after much thought and tweaking, I duly informed the husband of said experiments. I explained to him all the various possible problems that we may encounter e.g. food poisoning, botulism, poisoning from nitrates and that I will take every precaution possible before I cure some meats. Husband listened and said, ‘Your approach to food is akin to me stabbing myself with a spear to test whether my chi is strong enough.’

But he did agree to help me out.

The two recipes I decided to follow were from Saveur and Chef John’s Foodwishes. I decided to try two things: one curing a salmon to make gravlax or gravad lax, depending who you’re talking to. I reckon that if it’s that simple, it would be no problem to do so and at least I can claim success on one experiment. The second one I opted to cure a hunk of beef, but a cure without pink salt. To solve the problem with botulism or any bacteria that might be breeding, I decided that I will smoke it – now how I was going to smoke it without any proper barbeque equipment, well, that remains an experiment designed in my head and will be tested on the day itself.

So stay tuned to see if the experiment is a success or if I will have to blog from the hospital.

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