Monday, December 17, 2012

Dave's kitchen - Sugar-cured beef

Sugar curing beef is similar to salting/brining except that the
preservative is sugar instead of salt-based. If you have ever
eaten a Country Ham or Beef Jerky you know that it can be
too salty to eat a large enough quantity to satisfy your dietary
needs without planned preparation.

With sugar cured meats the salt content is largely replaced
by sugar, and can be sliced and eaten directly off the slab
without overloading your system with salt and risking nausea,
dehydration, or worse.

Select a mostly fat-free roast about 2 inches
thick and of a size that easily fit into your container without
bending or rolling it. Some fat is OK, light marbling is good but
trim off any excess or pieces not firmly attached to the roast.
I prefer Rump Roast or Round Roasts, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
in weight.  They have about the right amount of marbling and
easily fit into my containers. The "Recipe"below is for a
cut that is 2 - 3 pounds.
Raw, washed 2 1/2 pound Rump Roast

How to Sugar Cure Beef

In a 3 gallon or larger pot, measure in about 1 1/2 gallons of
water and add 4-5 cups sugar and 1/2 to 1 cup salt. I use
regular table sugar and coarse rock salt. The rock salt is
cheaper than table salt and I have quantities of it stored
for food preservation. A general rule for the curing solution is
that it should be strong enough to "Float an egg".

Bring the liquid to a boil and ensure that all the salt and sugar
dissolves, then let cool to a temperature that will allow you to
put your hand into it without scalding or discomfort.

Place the roast into the solution.  It will try to "float" and will
need to be weighed down. Canning jars full of water work well
to keep the meat down below the water level.
Canning jar holding down roast
If the "Roast
Floats" or any part rises above the liquid,it could spoil or
attract insects. Cover the pot and keep in a cool to cold
place until the cure "Strikes Through" the cut of meat.
Roast after having been "Struck Through". Notice
the deep red to almost brown color. Important!

The cure usually takes at least 2 full days to " Strike", you
can recognize that it is done when you can remove the cut
and it will hold its shape and appears darker in color. Its
better to stay too long in the cure than to be taken out before
its done.

When the roast is removed, rinse it in clean water and allow
it air dry to the point that water does not drip from it when it
is held in the air, it should still be damp and tacky enough
to hold a coat of salt.
Roast coated in and sitting on a bed of table
Place it in a container on a bed of
table salt and make sure salt completely coats it, then leave
it to air dry. Turn the cut several times a day so it will dry

To speed the drying, I put a small fan blowing over the
container to help evaporate the liquid drawn out by the
salt. As the meat dries you may notice the bed of salt
it is laying on becoming damp.  No worries, the liquid that
doesn't evaporate into the air will be drawn into the bed
and evaporate from there.

Drying will take about 7 - 10 days in a good cool dry area
and when the meat can be pinched between your fingers
and no moisture surfaces, it is done. The roast should
hold its shape when held horizontally by one end.
Finished Roast with slices cut from the end

With a sharp knife, slice a thin piece off one end to check
the color and texture. The inside should be a dark red to
brown color and be very dense, and any fat marbling should
be solid and the color of shortening. Any loose or ragged pieces
of meat or fat should be trimmed off and any salt/cure should
be brushed off with a vegetable brush.

Some old recipes say to dip the cured meat into a pan of
boiling water for about a minute to remove any crusted
salt and/or cure and to kill any germs that may be present
then left in the open air to dry before storage.

Some old procedures for storage call for the piece to be
wrapped in fresh clean paper and placed in a muslin bag
and kept in a cool dry location until needed. It is said that
meats preserved in this manner can remain good for up
to 5 years or more.
Cotton pillow case holding the cured roast
wrapped in Butcher Paper(notice no grease of fat
stains on the pillow case)

Personally, I'd shoot for 1 year to safe.  I have pieces
wrapped in paper, covered with a cotton pillow case and
hung from a hooks on a shelf to promote air flow and to
help keep pests away. I also have pieces vacuum sealed
and they seem to be doing well after about 3 - 4 months,
so far. I'm not sure if the cured cuts need to breathe yet
or if vacuum sealing is a better option, but the experiment
is still ongoing here.
Vacuum sealed Sugar-cured roast

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  1. Hi Susan! Have you tasted the roast yet? Just wondering how it tastes. Thanks for sharing! Blessings from Bama!

  2. No, I haven't tasted it yet, but along with some of his dried cranberries he said he'd send some slices of the sugar-cured beef for us to try. He also sent this email:

    "I decided to try making soup out of some of the sugar cured beef yesterday and it came out pretty good.

    I diced up about a cup of the beef and put it on to boil with some dehydrated potatoes and carrots and cooked it until it was all tender. I added some leftover spaghetti sauce that Hannah had made a few days before and put in a few leftover pinto beans and let it simmer a little longer and we ate it with cornbread.

    Came out pretty good, if you didn't know the ingredients had been dried, you wouldn't have been able to tell, well a chef likely could have but I wouldn't have known the difference.

    My next experiment with the beef is going to be "Meat Pies". We all like beef pot pies so we will see how it goes."

    I'll let you know when the sample arrives!


  3. Wont it go bad while preparing? In the solution for 2 days or in the salt drying for 10? This is something Id love to try but I dont want to make anyone sick. I also dont have the money to waste on a roast that would spoil. Thanks.

    1. I'll forward your question to Dave and find out what he says. It's a good question; one that I've wondered about as well. I ran some searches on sugaring or salting meat to preseve it, and it seems to be a safe, time-tested method. I've never done it myself.

      I received a package in the mail today from Dave, and in it was some of his sugar-cured beef, as well as other goodies like dried cranberries, dried pound cake, and dried homemade hominy. I look forward to sharing with all of you as I sample these and post pictures and comments. Look for it a day or two after Christmas.