MASTERING AN ANCIENT ART
Curing whole pieces of meat is an ancient art that requires skill and knowhow. Starting with the best ingredients and using dry cured ham cultures from Chr. Hansen will help ensure success through the long process.
Dry curing is the oldest process of turning fresh meat into a long-lasting stable foodstuff. Not only does dry curing preserve large cuts of meat (whole muscle pieces, on or off the bone), it also enhances flavour and transforms fat, turning the meat into some of the most highly-prized delicacies. Famous dry-cured meats include Italy’s Parma and Culattela hams, Spain’s Ibérico de Bellota and France’s Bayonne hams (all made from pork leg), Italy’s Coppa (pork neck), Lomo (pork loin) and Pancetta (pork belly), as well as Bresaola and Pastrami (from beef cuts).
WHY USE STARTER CULTURES?
Micro-organisms play a key role in almost all stages of the meat curing process, from helping to improve the colour, aroma and flavour of finished product to eliminating oxidants that can create rancidity and the unappealing green appearance of cured meats. Chr. Hansen's cured meat starter cultures are specifically developed to work at lower temperatures, giving them a clear advantage over most fermentation cultures.
Best for 'naturally' cured meats like Parma ham, Serrano ham, Coppa, Lomo, etc. or smoked meats such as Black Forest Ham, Westphalian Ham, Pastrami, Kentucky Ham, etc.
The best 'all round' cured meat culture, using Staphylococcos carnosus to give natural flavour development, good colour formation / stability and tenderness to the meat. Use for products where you want a naturally mild flavour or when you're finishing the product by smoking.
This culture is best for meats with a more pronounced or aromatised flavour, e.g:
Bresaola, Bünderfleisch, Culatella, Salt Beef, Pancetta, Bacon, etc.
Similar to C-P-77 but adds Staphylococcos xylosus to give a more pronounced flavour development, with similar colour formation / stability and tenderisation. Use for products that are to be aromatised with herbs and spices or just to boost the meat's natural character.
Use for cured whole muscle products where a 'Mediterranean' flavour is wanted e.g: Prosciutto, Lomo, Jambon, Copa, Speck, Lardo, etc.
Similar to C-P-77 but adds Debaromyces hansenii instead of Staphylococcos xylosus to produce a more yeasts flavour during ripening and gives a more 'Mediterranean' character to the finished product. Perfect for southern European style hams and meats.
While salt is the principle ingredient for curing whole muscle cuts of meat, a number of other ingredients, including starter cultures, can help you achieve the best results for specific applications.
Salt is essential for reducing water activity and stabilising microbiological activity when curing meat. Herbs and spices simply add additional character (and regionality) to your product. Always use ingredients with a low bacterial count, stored in dry conditions in sealed containers
Nitrite (NO2) isn't necessary for long-maturing cuts like whole air-dried pig’s legs (eg. Parma ham), but it can be useful for smaller, short-maturing products, particularly if they're to be smoked. Adding Nitrate (NO3) can help reduce the nitrate-to-nitrite transformation in the curing of larger, longer-maturing cuts. Nitrate helps the nitrate-nitrite cycle work more efficiently, particularly in conjunction with nitrate-reducing starter cultures.
Sodium ascorbate works in two ways: by reducing nitrite-to-nitric oxide (NO) and by reducing the trivalent iron of the metmyoglobin to the bivalent iron of the myoglobin. Sodium ascorbate also helps stabilise the cured meats' colour by preventing oxidation.
Starter cultures help achieve the best flavour and colour in your finished product. For whole muscle cuts, the best culture is coagulase negative Staphylococci, but Lactobacilli can also be used, depending on the raw ingredients and desired end result. Lactobacilli also helps achieve a slight drop in pH (i.e. increased acidity.) Furthermore, inoculation with mould cultures like Penicillium helps give products a good surface finish.
Sugars give additional energy sources when using starter cultures. Bear in mind that glucose, maltose, saccharose and starch hydrolysates each have different sized carbohydrate molecules, so you ned to match the starter culture with the appropriate sugar in order to supply it with an energy source as early as possible. Some bacteria strains use only specific sugars for their metabolism – check product details.