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Lacto-fermenting Meat and Fish: Part Two
Fermenting meat in its most basic steps requires no extra equipment than that you already have for vegetable and fruit fermentation. You cannot use open-air containers or jars, but other than that you are already ready to get started.
See Lacto-fermenting Meat and Fish: Part One for an introduction to fermenting meat and fish.
Selecting the Meat
Use only the highest quality and freshest meat you can find. Trim away any blood clots, glands, or sinews, which may provide an environment for harmful bacteria. When choosing meat for making fermented sausages, you will need to choose a cut that includes about 10 percent fat, or purchase fat to add to the meat during the grinding process. Pork fat works best for most additional fat called for in a fermented sausage recipe, because it is firm and solid with a higher melting point.
Common Ingredients Called for in Fermented Meat Recipes
Cure #1. Also called pink salt. This salt is a source of nitrates for basic and fast fermented meat and fish recipes. It is really just salt with nitrates added, which is dyed pink so that you don’t mistake it for normal salt. It should be kept sealed tight and dry away from children and stored away from commonly used ingredients, for consuming it like normal salt would be harmful to your health.
Cure #2. Cure #2 is a significant source of nitrates, which eventually transform into nitrites, which are essential for effective long-term meat storage. It is used in long-ferment recipes. Like Cure #1, it is also harmful and should be kept up and away when not in use. This curing salt can go by other names, but usually the term #2 is included in any title it holds.
Spices. There are no specific rules for adding spices to a fermented meat, except that it is usually best not to use fresh spices, because they can harbor harmful bacteria. Use dried and ground spices, which will flavor your meat more evenly and safely.
Cultures. Just like in cheese and kefir and sourdough, some forms of meat and fish fermentation require starter cultures. Your recipe will call for a specifically named culture which can usually be found in butcher shops or, more easily, online. Learn about the cultures you work with so as to know the dos and don’ts of recipe alteration.
Sugar. As mentioned in Part One, you will sometimes be adding natural sugars to the fermenting meat to feed the working bacteria. You can generally substitute any sugar you normally use, adjusting amounts according to that sweetener’s strength, but do your research before changing anything in a meat fermentation recipe, because it can affect the safety of a recipe if it is altered too much. Some sausage recipes will call for dextrose in addition to a regular sugar. Dextrose, a corn sugar, is merely a sugar that is easily digested by fermenting organisms, making them stronger and more active more quickly.
Casings (for use in fermented sausage recipes). Sausage casings are rather easy to find. Sometimes your local grocer will carry them next to the pre-made and cooked sausages. Usually they are just cleaned, preserved, and salted sheep or pig intestines, but synthetic and vegetable substitutes can sometimes be found. The casings will need to be soaked in warm water before use, to de-salt them from their dry salt or brine packaging, and to make them pliable and stuff-able. You will generally need about 2 feet of pork casing for 1 pound of sausage, and 4 feet of sheep casing for the same. When you have soaked them according to the package or distributor’s directions, run them through your hands to check for holes and to get the water through the center. You can also use a faucet to run water through them before using them, but make sure it is purified and not just tap water.
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