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Home and Farm Food Preservation
Chapter XVII - Preservation of Meat


It is often desirable to preserve surplus meat in some attractive and palatable form in the household or on the farm. Occasions will often arise where there will be pork or beef to salt or smoke; fish to salt, smoke, or can; and chicken or rabbit to can. The following discussions on meat preservation and the recipes given in Part III of this book are intended to give the principles of meat preservation and specific directions for carrying out the actual processes. The preservation of eggs is also included with the discussion of meats.

103. Salting Meats. The custom of farmers salting down the winter's supply of meat, once so prevalent, is now much less popular than in former times. It is still, however, of great economical importance. The great packing houses now supply cured meats to the farmers who raise the pork and beef from which the bacon, etc., is made. Preserving meats by salting is not a difficult process and can be carried out on the farm with ordinary equipment at hand.

(a) Dry Salting. This method is used more commonly for fish than for other meats, although it is used quite frequently for pork also. The meat must be fresh but should not be salted until the animal heat has disappeared. Frozen meats do not take up the salt satisfactorily. Stoneware crocks or good clean barrels are used to hold the salted meat. Pork and beef are cut in medium size pieces; fish are cut in half and heads, fins, and backbone are removed unless the fish are very small. For each 100 pounds of meat, ten to fifteen pounds of salt is weighed out. Salt is thoroughly rubbed into each piece of meat and the salted meat is packed in alternate layers with the salt in a clean barrel or crock, the last layer of meat being thoroughly covered with salt. A heavy weight is placed on the meat. Pork and beef should be removed three or four times during the first two weeks and rubbed thoroughly with salt. Dry salting is used more often as a preliminary treatment to smoking than as a means of permanent preservation.

A small amount of saltpeter and pepper is often added to hold the color of the meat and to add flavor.

Fish are left in the salt without removing to rub with more salt. Fish improve with age up to a year. A rather coarse salt should be used.

Dry salting of meat tends to dry the meat considerably by drawing out the moisture to form a brine. Its use, except for fish, requires considerable experience and skill to attain uniformly satisfactory results. The preservation in brine requires less experience and is recommended in preference to the dry-salting method.

(b) Preserving Meats in Brine. A strong brine makes a convenient preservative solution for meats. This brine may be made of salt and water alone, but it often contains other ingredients such as spices, sugar, and saltpeter. The saltpeter is used to preserve the bright, red color to meat.

The brine used must be a practically saturated solution of salt to prevent putrefaction. This is especially true of fish. Barrels, crocks, etc., must be thoroughly cleaned and scalded before use. Brines should be heated to sterilize them and allowed to cool before they are used.

Pork and beef are rubbed with ten pounds of salt per 100 pounds of meat and the dry salt and meat are allowed to stand overnight before the brine is added. A brine is then added. A typical brine consists of ten pounds of salt and two ounces of saltpeter per four gallons of water. This is about enough brine for 100 pounds of meat. The meat is kept submerged by wooden floats until used.

The meat should be stored in a cool place. If the brine should at any time become slimy or should the odor become objectionable it should be changed and fresh brine added. Beef and pork will keep indefinitely in this way, although in time the flavor and quality deteriorate.

Fish are put down in a brine of about three and one- half pounds of salt per gallon of water and stored until used. Corn beef brine contains saltpeter, sugar, and baking soda.

104. Drying Meats. Meats may be dried with or without previous salting, provided a dry hot climate is available. Venison is often sun dried after sprinkling strips of the meat with pepper to keep away insects. The venison is cut in strips about three-quarters of an inch thick and hung on a line to dry. Salt may be used drying, but makes the product tough and unpalatable. The dried venison is known as "jerkey."

Beef may be dried in the same way as venison.

Fish is often dried. It is first stored about sixteen to twenty-four hours in a strong brine of three pounds of salt per gallon of water. It is then dried.

Meats that have been salted may be dried even in a coast climate. Fish are dried in great quantities along the seashores of all maritime countries. Without fairly heavy salting to prevent the growth of putrefactive bacteria this would not be possible.

105. Preservation of Meats by Smoking. Smoke contains certain compounds of a creosote nature that act as powerful preservatives. It also imparts an agreeable flavor to meats.

(a) Salting. Meats are usually stored in salt or brine a short time before smoking. This assists in the preservation of meat, adds to the flavor, and reduces the moisture content of the meat slightly. Smoking further reduces the content of water.

The strength of the brines used with different meats, the ingredients besides salt, and the length of storage vary. Fish are stored for only about sixteen hours in a strong brine. Pork is stored about three weeks before smoking. The brines used for various nieats are given under meat preservation recipes of Part III.

(b) The Smoke House. The meat is usually rinsed in warm water after removal from the brine or salt and is allowed to drain before hanging in the smoke house.

The smoke house may be merely a large box made almost air-tight; a large barrel or dry goods box will answer for small amounts of meat. This is arranged with wire netting shelves to hold the pieces of meat or with hooks from which the meat is hung. A hole about fifteen inches deep is dug in the ground and the bark or other source of smoke is burned in this. This sort of a smoke house is very satisfactory for fish because the flavor and texture of the fish is improved by the relatively high temperatures resulting from this arrangement.

Bacon, hams, and beef should, however, be kept as cool as possible. The arrangement shown in Fig. 50 is well suited to the purpose. The smoke is generated outside the house and is conducted to the floor of the house by means of several pieces of stove pipe. The house should be tall so that there will be as little heat as possible. A little ventilation is necessary to draw the smoke from the fire box to the house. If the ventilators are placed just below the level at which the meat hangs, the upper part of the house and the meat will hang continually in a dense cloud of smoke. The openings should be arranged so that they may be regulated. Dense smoke without heat is essential except in freezing weather. If the meat becomes frozen the smoke will not penetrate and where freezing is apt to occur it will be necessary to arrange for heating the house.

(c) Smoke Producing Substances. A great variety of substances are used for smoking meats. Spent tan bark from tanneries is one of the best materials for smoking purposes. It imparts an agreeable flavor and odor and also gives a dense smoke without much need of close attention. Hickory chips and other hardwood chips, or hardwood sawdust give good results. Corn cobs may be used, but do not produce such a desirable flavor as does tan bark or hardwood. The smoke- producing material should not blaze; this can be prevented by proper regulation of the ventilation or by smothering the flame with moistened tan bark or hardwood sawdust, etc. So-called "liquid smoke" preparations may be purchased. These are chemical solutions which produce a smoked taste in bacon or ham when rubbed on the meat. Their use is not so satisfactory as smoking.

(d) Length of Smoking. Fish are smoked less than twenty-four hours, because they take up the smoke very quickly. The meat is smoked until it has reached the proper color, texture, and flavor. For pork, this will ordinarily be in one to two weeks. If the meat is to be used soon after smoking, a short period of smoking will be more satisfactory than a long one. Meat, to be kept a long time, must be thoroughly cured by smoking to prevent spoiling.

Beef is smoked thoroughly and then hung in a warm dry place to become as dry as possible. It is known as dried beef rather than smoked beef.

(e) Storing Smoked Meats. Cured bacon and ham may be kept by wrapping in heavy parchment paper and then in heavy wrapping paper and storing the wrapped meat in a cool dry place.

If the smoke house is not needed for other purposes the meat may be left hanging in this. Smoke may be started occasionally to drive away insects. Pepper rubbed on the surface of the meat will also act as insect repellant.

Ham and bacon may also be kept by placing the pieces on a layer of sifted ashes and covering with a thick layer of the same. Beef should be hung in a dry place. Fish should not contain too much moisture before storing. It will usually be necessary to dry the smoked fish several days in the sun before storing.
106. Miscellaneous Meat Products. Lard, mince- meat, head cheese, sausage, pickled pigs' feet, and other meat products may be made on the farm. They are of less importance than the methods of preservation just discussed and are to be considered more as means of preparing meat for the table than as methods of preservation, the subject with which this book aims to deal.

107. Preservation of Eggs with Water Glass. Water glass is a clear sirupy liquid that may be obtained from drug stores and often from groceries for the preservation of eggs. It is used in two ways.

It may be diluted with from nine to twelve parts of water to one part of water glass and used as a liquid in which the eggs are stored. Tin, glass, stoneware, or wooden containers may be used. The container should be well covered to prevent evaporation of the water and the eggs should be well covered with the liquid.

In the second method the eggs are dipped in a solution of one pint of water glass to three pints of water. They are drained and allowed to dry on a layer of flour or corn starch or precipitated chalk. When dry they are dipped in the water glass and dried as before. They are then packed in bran or saw dust. The water glass acts as an air tight seal.

Eggs will keep a year or more by either method. Fresh clean eggs must be used. Do not wash them. Use non-fertile eggs if they can be had. The eggs should be kept in a cool place.

Eggs stored in water glass will in time develop a slight stale taste, but will still be wholesome. They are not so suitable as fresh eggs for frying because the yolks are apt to break. They should not be used for hard boiling as a "sulphur" odor may develop if the eggs have been kept several months in the solution. For other purposes they are very satisfactory.


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