The problem of storing meat for use all year round is an old one. While examining your food storage preparedness with regards to meat, consider the following ways to preserve meat:
Note: although not a method of preservation, a period of ‘hanging’ can improve the flavor and texture of meat by giving natural enzymes time to break down tough muscle fibers. The temperature range for hanging is 33 to 40-degrees-F. Fresh meat and poultry will rapidly deteriorate in temperatures above 40-degrees-F, so be wary of this. Without a refrigerated room, hanging meat can only be done during the cold months of the year. Hanging times range from 24 to 48 hours, to even longer for a more tender meat (It must remain under 40-degrees-F)
Since the time frame of World War II, freezing has become the most popular way to store meat. It is quick and easy and preserves the nutritional value and flavor. Obviously though, a freezer depends upon a supply of electrical power and may not be suitable for preparedness unless you have a source of alternative energy to power the freezer.
Freezing meat is best at 0-degrees-F, for longest shelf life. Wrap all pieces securely in individual moisture-proof packages to prevent freezer burn (or vacuum seal). Label each package with the type of meat and the date is was frozen. All meats will begin to slowly deteriorate in the freezer though. Ground meats will generally be good up to 4 months while steaks and roasts will last up to 12 months in the freezer.
Canning meat is convenient and economical, and is not dependent upon electricity for storage. Canned foods keep for a very long time (years). The key to safe canning is to follow proper canning recipes.
Salt is the only essential ingredient for curing. It slows spoilage by drawing water out of the meat while also killing decay-causing microorganisms.
Meat cured with salt alone will store well (but will be tough and dry). An early salt cure was as simple as storing slabs of meat in a barrel of salt. ‘Kosher salt’ can be used for curing meat and is a type of coarse salt which is usually made without additives. ‘Curing salt’ is most commonly used today and is a special blend of salt and other ingredients including sodium nitrite (which has become somewhat controversial regarding potential health issues with large doses).
Curing is the first step in the smoking process, essential for good flavor. ‘Cold smoking’ is best for preservation (and for adding flavor) with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees F, and is more easily accomplished during cooler months.
The cold smoking process may range from 1 to 14 days. The preservative benefit of smoking is that the smoke contains tar-like substances that are deposited on the food. To a greater or lesser extent, they seal the surface, keeping air from coming in contact with the food. Fats in the food will not turn rancid from exposure to air, so smoking is particularly useful for preserving fatty foods. The smoke also kills bacteria.
Smoked meats may still spoil fairly quickly though, depending, so refer to research of your particular meat, recipes, and shelf-life storage.
Ideally the meat is marinated in a vinegar solution (grape vinegar is traditional but balsamic and cider also works very well) for a few hours, this being finally poured off before the meat is flavored.
The spice mix traditionally consists equal amounts of: rock salt, barbecue spice, whole coriander slightly roasted and roughly ground, black pepper and brown sugar. This mix is then ground roughly together, sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. The meat should then be left for a further few hours (or refrigerated overnight) and any excess liquid poured off before the meat is hung in the dryer.
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