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Curing is any of various food preservation and flavoring processes of foods such as meat, fish and vegetables, by the addition of salt (also called sodium chloride) with the aim of drawing moisture out of the food by the process of osmosis. Because curing increases the solute concentration in the food and hence decreases its water potential, the food becomes inhospitable for the microbe growth that causes food spoilage. Curing can be traced back to antiquity, and was the primary way of preserving meat and fish until the late-19th century. Dehydration was the earliest form of food curing.Many curing processes also involve smoking, spicing, cooking, or the addition of combinations of sugar, nitrate, nitrite.
Food preservation prevents the growth of microorganisms, or other microorganisms, as well as slowing the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. Food preservation may also include processes that inhibit visual deterioration, such as the enzymatic browning reaction in apples after they are cut during food preparation.
Seasoning is the process of adding salt, herbs, or spices to food to enhance the flavour.
Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, rabbits, pigs and cattle. This eventually led to their use in meat production on an industrial scale with the aid of slaughterhouses.
Meat preservation in general (of meat from livestock, game, and poultry) comprises the set of all treatment processes for preserving the properties, taste, texture, and color of raw, partially cooked, or cooked meats while keeping them edible and safe to consume. Curing has been the dominant method of meat preservation for thousands of years, although modern developments like refrigeration and synthetic preservatives have begun to complement and supplant it.
Livestock is commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to those that are bred for consumption, while other times it refers only to farmed ruminants, such as cattle and goats. Horses are considered livestock in the United States. The USDA uses livestock similarly to some uses of the term “red meat”, in which it specifically refers to all the mammal animals kept in this setting to be used as commodities. The USDA mentions pork, veal, beef, and lamb are all classified as livestock and all livestock is considered to be red meats. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.
Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes.
Refrigeration is the process of cooling a space, substance, or system to lower and/or maintain its temperature below the ambient one. In other words, refrigeration means artificial (human-made) cooling. Heat is removed from a low-temperature reservoir and transferred to a high-temperature reservoir. The work of heat transfer is traditionally driven by mechanical means, but can also be driven by heat, magnetism, electricity, laser, or other means. Refrigeration has many applications, including, but not limited to: household refrigerators, industrial freezers, cryogenics, and air conditioning. Heat pumps may use the heat output of the refrigeration process, and also may be designed to be reversible, but are otherwise similar to air conditioning units.
While meat-preservation processes like curing were mainly developed in order to prevent disease and to increase food security, the advent of modern preservation methods mean that in most developed countries today [update] curing is instead mainly practised for its cultural value and desirable impact on the texture and taste of food. For lesser-developed countries, curing remains a key process in the production, transport and availability of meat.
A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury. Diseases are often construed as medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs. A disease may be caused by external factors such as pathogens or by internal dysfunctions. For example, internal dysfunctions of the immune system can produce a variety of different diseases, including various forms of immunodeficiency, hypersensitivity, allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals' accessibility to it, where accessibility includes affordability. There is evidence of food security being a concern over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in ancient China and ancient Egypt being known to release food from storage in times of famine. At the 1974 World Food Conference the term "food security" was defined with an emphasis on supply. Food security, they said, is the "availability at all times of adequate, nourishing, diverse, balanced and moderate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices". Later definitions added demand and access issues to the definition. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security "exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".
A developing country is a country with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no clear agreement on which countries fit this category. A nation's GDP per capita compared with other nations can also be a reference point.
Some traditional cured meat (such as authentic Parma hamand some authentic Spanish chorizo and Italian salami, ...) are cured with salt alone. Today, potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite (in conjunction with salt) are the most common agents in curing meat, because they bond to the myoglobin and act as a substitute for the oxygen, thus turning myoglobin red . More recent evidence shows that these chemicals also inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause the disease botulism. The combination of table salt with nitrates or nitrites, called curing salt, is often dyed pink to distinguish it from table salt. Neither table salt, nor any of the nitrites or nitrates commonly used in curing (e.g. sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, and potassium nitrate ) is naturally pink.
Salami is a type of cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat, typically pork. Historically, salami was popular among southern, eastern, and central European peasants because it can be stored at room temperature for up to 40 days once cut, supplementing a potentially meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat. Countries and regions across Europe make their own traditional varieties of salami.
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−, and is therefore an alkali metal nitrate.
Sodium nitrite is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2. It is a white to slightly yellowish crystalline powder that is very soluble in water and is hygroscopic. It is a useful precursor to a variety of organic compounds, such as pharmaceuticals, dyes, and pesticides, but it is probably best known as a food additive used in processed meats and (in some countries) in fish products.
Untreated meat decomposes rapidly if it is not preserved, at a speed that depends on several factors, including ambient humidity, temperature, and the presence of pathogens. Most meats cannot be kept at room temperature in excess of a few days without spoiling.[ citation needed ]
Humidity is the amount of water vapour present in air. Water vapour, the gaseous state of water, is generally invisible to the human eye. Humidity indicates the likelihood for precipitation, dew, or fog to be present. The amount of water vapour needed to achieve saturation increases as the temperature increases. As the temperature of a parcel of air decreases it will eventually reach the saturation point without adding or losing water mass. The amount of water vapour contained within a parcel of air can vary significantly. For example, a parcel of air near saturation may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre of air at 30 °C, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at 8 °C.
In biology, a pathogen, in the oldest and broadest sense, is anything that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a germ.
If kept in excess of this time, meat begins to change color and exude a foul odor, indicating the decomposition of the food. Ingestion of such spoiled meat can cause serious food poisonings, like botulism. Salt-curing processes have been developed since antiquityin order to ensure food safety without relying on artificial anti-bacterial agents.
Botulism is a rare and potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, blurred vision, feeling tired, and trouble speaking. This may then be followed by weakness of the arms, chest muscles, and legs. Vomiting, swelling of the abdomen, and diarrhea may also occur. The disease does not usually affect consciousness or cause a fever.
While the short shelf life of fresh meat does not pose a significant problem when access to it is easy and supply is abundant, in times of scarcity and famine, or when the meat must be carried over long voyages, it spoils very quickly. In such circumstances the usefulness of preserving foods containing nutritional value for transport and storage is obvious.
Curing can significantly extend the life of meat before it spoils, by making it inhospitable to the growth of spoilage microbes.
A survival technique since prehistory, the preservation of meat has become, over the centuries, a topic of political, economic, and social importance worldwide.
Food curing dates back to ancient times, both in the form of smoked meat and salt-cured meat.
Several sources describe the salting of meat in the ancient Mediterranean world. Diodore of Sicily in his Bibliotheca historica wrote that the Cosséens τάριχος), which was meat and fish conserved by salt or other means. The Romans called this dish salsamentum – which term later included salted fat, the sauces and spices used for its preparation. Also evidence of ancient sausage production exists. The Roman gourmet Apicius speaks of a sausage-making technique involving œnogaros (a mixture of the fermented fish sauce garum with oil or wine). Preserved meats were furthermore a part of religious traditions: resulting meat for offerings to the gods was salted before being given to priests, after which it could be picked up again by the offerer, or even sold in the butcher's.in the mountains of Persia salted the flesh of carnivorous animals. Strabo indicates that people at Borsippa were catching bats and salting them to eat. The ancient Greeks prepared tarichos (
A trade in salt meat occurred across ancient Europe. In Polybius's time, [ citation needed ] The Ceretani of Spain drew a large export income from their hams, which were so succulent, they were in no way inferior to those of Cantabria. These tarichos of pig would become especially sought, to the point that the ancients considered this meat the most nourishing of all and the easiest to digest.the Gauls exported salt pork each year to Rome in large quantities, where it was sold in different cuts: rear cuts, middle cuts, hams, and sausages. This meat, after having been salted with the greatest care, was sometime smoked. These goods had to have been considerably important, since they fed part of the Roman people and the armies. The Belgae were celebrated above all for the care which they gave to the fattening of their pigs. Their herds of sheep and pigs were so many, they could provide skins and salt meat not only for Rome, but also for most of Italy.
In Ethiopia, according to Pliny,and in Libya according to Saint Jerome, the Acridophages (literally, the locust-eaters) salted and smoked the crickets which arrived at their settlements in the spring in great swarms and which constituted, it was said, their sole food.
The smoking of meat was a traditional practice in North America, where Plains Indians hung their meat at the top of their tipis to increase the amount of smoke coming into contact with the food.
In Europe, medieval cuisine made great use of meat and vegetables, and the guild of butchers was amongst the most powerful. During the 12th century,salt beef was consumed by all social classes. Smoked meat was called carbouclée in Romance tongues and bacon if it was pork.
The Middle Ages made pâté a masterpiece: that which is, in the 21st century, merely spiced minced meat (or fish), baked in a terrine and eaten cold, was at that time composed of a dough envelope stuffed with varied meats and superbly decorated for ceremonial feasts. The first French recipe, written in verse by Gace de La Bigne, mentions in the same pâté three great partridges, six fat quail, and a dozen larks. Le Ménagier de Paris mentions pâtés of fish, game, young rabbit, fresh venison, beef, pigeons, mutton, veal, and pork, and even pâtés of lark, turtledove, cow, baby bird, goose, and hen. Bartolomeo Sacchi, called Platine, prefect of the Vatican Library, gives the recipe for a pâté of wild beasts: the flesh, after being boiled with salt and vinegar, was larded and placed inside an envelope of spiced fat, with a mélange of pepper, cinnamon and pounded lard; one studded the fat with cloves until it was entirely covered, then placed it inside a pâte.
In the 16th century, the most fashionable pâtés were of woodcock, au bec doré, chapon, beef tongue, cow feet, sheep feet, chicken, veal, and venison.In the same era, Pierre Belon notes that the inhabitants of Crete and Chios lightly salted then oven-dried entire hares, sheep, and roe deer cut into pieces, and that in Turkey, cattle and sheep, cut and minced rouelles, salted then dried, were eaten on voyages with onions and no other preparation.
During the Age of Discovery, salt meat was one of the main foods for sailors on long voyages, for instance in the merchant marine or the navy. In the 18th century, salted Irish beef, transported in barrels, was considered finest.
Scientific research on meat by chemists and pharmacists led to the creation of a new, extremely practical product: meat extract, which could appear in different forms. The need to properly feed soldiers during long campaigns outside the country, such as the Napoleonic Wars, and to nourish a constantly growing population often living in appalling conditions drove scientific research, but a confectioner, Nicolas Appert, in 1795 developed through experimentation a method which would become universal and in one language bears his name: airtight storage, called appertisation in French.
With the spread of appertisation, the 19th-century world entered the era of the "food industry", which developed new products such as canned salt meat (for example corned beef), but also led to lowered standards of food quality and hygiene[ dubious ] – such as those Upton Sinclair described in The Jungle . These bad practices led to the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, followed by the national agencies for health security and the establishment of food traceability over the course of the 20th century.[ citation needed ] It also led to continuing technological innovation.
In France, the summer of 1857 was so hot that most butchers refused to slaughter animals and charcutiers lost considerable amounts of meat, due to inadequate conservation methods. A member of the Academy of Medicine and his son issued a 34-page summary of works printed between 1663 and 1857, which proposed some solutions: not less than 91 texts exist, of which 64 edited for only the years between 1851 and 1857.
Salt (sodium chloride) is the primary ingredient used in meat curing.Removal of water and addition of salt to meat creates a solute-rich environment where osmotic pressure draws water out of microorganisms, slowing down their growth. Doing this requires a concentration of salt of nearly 20%. In addition, salt causes the soluble proteins to come to the surface of the meat that was used to make the sausages. These proteins coagulate when the sausage is heated, helping to hold the sausage together.
The sugar added to meat for the purpose of curing it comes in many forms, including honey, corn syrup solids, and maple syrup.However, with the exception of bacon, it does not contribute much to the flavor, but it does alleviate the harsh flavor of the salt. Sugar also contributes to the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus by feeding them.
Nitrates and nitrites not only help kill bacteria, but also produce a characteristic flavor and give meat a pink or red color. NO−
2) is generally supplied by sodium nitrite or (indirectly) by potassium nitrate. Nitrite salts are most often used in curing. Nitrate is specifically used only in a few curing conditions and products where nitrite (which may be generated from nitrate) must be generated in the product over long periods of time.
Nitrite further breaks down in the meat into nitric oxide (NO), which then binds to the iron atom in the center of myoglobin's heme group, reducing oxidation and causing a reddish-brown color (nitrosomyoglobin) when raw and the characteristic cooked-ham pink color (nitrosohemochrome or nitrosyl-heme) when cooked. The addition of ascorbate to cured meat reduces formation of nitrosamines (see below), but increases the nitrosylation of iron.
The use of nitrite and nitrate salts for meat in the US has been formally used since 1925.[ citation needed ] Because of the relatively high toxicity of nitrite (the lethal dose in humans is about 22 mg/kg of body weight), the maximum allowed nitrite concentration in meat products is 200 ppm. Plasma nitrite is reduced in persons with endothelial dysfunction.
The use of nitrites in food preservation is controversial due to the potential for the formation of nitrosamines when nitrites are present in high concentrations and the product is cooked at high temperatures.The effect is seen for red or processed meat, but not for white meat or fish. Nitrates and nitrites may cause cancer and the production of carcinogenic nitrosamines can be potently inhibited by the use of the antioxidants Vitamin C and the alpha-tocopherol form of Vitamin E during curing. Under simulated gastric conditions, nitrosothiols rather than nitrosamines are the main nitroso species being formed. The use of either compound is therefore regulated; for example, in the United States, the concentration of nitrates and nitrites is generally limited to 200 ppm or lower. While the meat industry considers them irreplaceable because of their low cost and efficacy at maintaining color, botulism is an extremely rare disease (less than 1000 cases reported worldwide per year), and almost always associated with home preparations of food storing. Furthermore, while the FDA has set a limit of 200 ppm of nitrates for cured meat, they are not allowed and not recognized as safe in most other foods, even foods that are not cooked at high temperatures, such as cheese.
Processed meats without "added nitrites" may be misleading as they may be using naturally occurring nitrites from celery instead.
Meat can also be preserved by "smoking". If the smoke is hot enough to slow-cook the meat, this will also keep it tender.One method of smoking calls for a smokehouse with damp wood chips or sawdust. In North America, hardwoods such as hickory, mesquite, and maple are commonly used for smoking, as are the wood from fruit trees such as apple, cherry, and plum, and even corncobs.
Smoking helps seal the outer layer of the food being cured, making it more difficult for bacteria to enter. It can be done in combination with other curing methods such as salting. Common smoking styles include hot smoking, smoke roasting (pit barbecuing) and cold smoking. Smoke roasting and hot smoking cook the meat while cold smoking does not. If the meat is cold smoked, it should be dried quickly to limit bacterial growth during the critical period where the meat is not yet dry. This can be achieved, as with jerky, by slicing the meat thinly.
The smoking of food directly with wood smoke is known to contaminate the food with carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Since the 20th century, with respect to the relationship between diet and human disease (e.g. cardiovascular, etc.), scientists have conducted studies on the effects of lipolysis on vacuum-packed or frozen meat. In particular, by analyzing entrecôtes of frozen beef during 270 days at −20 °C (−4 °F), scientists found an important phospholipase that accompanies the loss of some unsaturated fat n-3 and n-6, which are already low in the flesh of ruminants.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization classified processed meat, that is, meat that has undergone salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking, as "carcinogenic to humans".
The improvement of methods of meat preservation, and of the means of transport of preserved products, has notably permitted the separation of areas of production and areas of consumption, which can now be distant without it posing a problem, permitting the exportation of meats.
For example, the appearance in the 1980s of preservation techniques under controlled atmosphere sparked a small revolution in the world's market for sheep meat: the lamb of New Zealand, one of the world's largest exporters of lamb, could henceforth be sold as fresh meat, since it could be preserved from 12 to 16 weeks, which would be a sufficient duration for it to reach Europe by boat. Before, meat from New Zealand was frozen, thus had a much lower value on European shelves. With the arrival of the new "chilled" meats, New Zealand could compete even more strongly with local producers of fresh meat.The use of controlled atmosphere to avoid the depreciation which affects frozen meat is equally useful in other meat markets, such as that for pork, which now also enjoys an international trade.
Ham is pork from a leg cut that has been preserved by wet or dry curing, with or without smoking. As a processed meat, the term "ham" includes both whole cuts of meat and ones that have been mechanically formed.
Nitrate is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO−
3 and a molecular mass of 62.0049 u. Organic compounds that contain the nitrate ester as a functional group (RONO2) are also called nitrates.
A preservative is a substance or a chemical that is added to products such as food, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, paints, biological samples, cosmetics, wood, and many other products to prevent decomposition by microbial growth or by undesirable chemical changes. In general, preservation is implemented in two modes, chemical and physical. Chemical preservation entails adding chemical compounds to the product. Physical preservation entails processes such as refrigeration or drying. Preservative food additives reduce the risk of foodborne infections, decrease microbial spoilage, and preserve fresh attributes and nutritional quality. Some physical techniques for food preservation include dehydration, UV-C radiation, freeze-drying, and refrigeration. Chemical preservation and physical preservation techniques are sometimes combined.
Smoking is the process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood. Meat, fish, and lapsang souchong tea are often smoked.
Corned beef is a salt-cured beef product. The term comes from the treatment of the meat with large-grained rock salt, also called "corns" of salt. Sometimes, sugar and spices are also added to corned beef recipes. Corned beef is featured as an ingredient in many cuisines.
Braunschweiger is the name for several types of sausages in different regions. In the German language, Braunschweiger is the demonym for people from Brunswick, but under German food law refers to a variety of mettwurst. In Austria, Braunschweiger is known as a type of parboiled sausage (Brühwurst), while American Braunschweiger is often confused with liverwurst.
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This alkali metal nitrate salt is also known as Chile saltpeter (large deposits of which were historically mined in Chile) to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate. The mineral form is also known as nitratine, nitratite or soda niter.
Smoked salmon is a preparation of salmon, typically a fillet that has been cured and hot or cold smoked. Due to its moderately high price, smoked salmon is considered a delicacy. Although the term lox is sometimes applied to smoked salmon, they are different products.
The nitrite ion, which has the chemical formula NO−
2, is a symmetric anion with equal N–O bond lengths. Upon protonation, the unstable weak acid nitrous acid is produced. Nitrite can be oxidized or reduced, with the product somewhat dependent on the oxidizing/reducing agent and its strength. The nitrite ion is an ambidentate ligand, and is known to bond to metal centers in at least five different ways. Nitrite is also important in biochemistry as a source of the potent vasodilator nitric oxide. In organic chemistry the NO−
2 group is present in nitrous acid esters and nitro compounds. Nitrite is also used in the food production industry for curing meat.
Nitrosamines are chemical compounds of the chemical structure R1N(–R2)–N=O, that is, a nitroso group bonded to an amine. Most nitrosamines are carcinogenic.
Smoked meat is a method of preparing red meat and fish which originates in prehistory. Its purpose is to preserve these protein-rich foods, which would otherwise spoil quickly, for long periods. There are two mechanisms for this preservation: dehydration and the antibacterial properties of phenols and other chemicals in the absorbed smoke. In modern days, the enhanced flavor of smoked foods makes them a delicacy in many cultures.
Processed meat is considered to be any meat which has been modified in order either to improve its taste or to extend its shelf life. Methods of meat processing include salting, curing, fermentation, and smoking. Processed meat is usually composed of pork or beef, but also poultry, while it can also contain offal or meat by-products such as blood. Processed meat products include bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, jerky, canned meat and meat-based sauces. Meat processing includes all the processes that change fresh meat with the exception of simple mechanical processes such as cutting, grinding or mixing.
Lebanon bologna is a type of cured, smoked, and fermented semidry sausage. Made of beef, it is similar in appearance and texture to salami, though somewhat darker in color, and typically served as a cold cut or appetizer. Lebanon bologna has a distinct tangy flavor, more so than other fermented meat products such as summer sausage. Hardwood smoking imparts a strong smokiness to the traditionally prepared versions of the product; increasingly, liquid smoke is used as a substitute for this costly time- and labor-intensive process.
The origins of meat preservation are lost to the ages but probably began when humans began to realize the preservative value of salt. Sausage making originally developed as a means to preserve and transport meat. Primitive societies learned that dried berries and spices could be added to dried meat. The procedure of stuffing meat into casings remains basically the same today, but sausage recipes have been greatly refined and sausage making has become a highly respected culinary art.
Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.
Curing salt is used in meat processing to generate a pinkish shade and to extend shelf life. It is both a color agent and a means to facilitate food preservation as it prevents or slows spoilage by bacteria or fungus. Curing salts are generally a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrite and are used for pickling meats as part of the process to make sausage or cured meat such as ham, bacon, pastrami, corned beef, etc. The reason for using nitrite-curing salt is to inhibit the growth of bacteria, specifically Clostridium botulinum in an effort to prevent botulism.
Cured fish refers to fish which has been cured by subjecting it to fermentation, pickling, smoking, or some combination of these before it is eaten. These food preservation processes can include adding salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar, can involve smoking and flavoring the fish, and may include cooking it. The earliest form of curing fish was dehydration. Other methods, such as smoking fish or salt-curing also go back for thousands of years. The term "cure" is derived from the Latin curare, meaning to take care of. It was first recorded in reference to fish in 1743.