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Letter to the Reader
Welcome to the Earthworm Express! Good butchers are invariably great experimental scientists. They are forever tinkering with recipes and looking to create magical products.
Food is also a national priority for every government. Centers of learning invested and continue to invest considerable resources to improve technology in food production, including meat. In reality, the contribution of science and that of the observant butcher all come down to the same thing.
The earliest reference to this process is found in Mesopotamian records where there is a reference to the use of sodium nitrate to preserve meat which is to be preferred over another well-known preserving agent of the time, ammonium chloride on account of the slight astringent taste of sal ammoniac. This process of experimentation and careful observations have no doubt been going on since humans became cognitive of our surroundings.
New scientific publications see the light of day non-stop. It is hard to keep up. Academia is bent on novel meat processing technologies and it dominates scientific literature. Old school technology easily gets lost in the maze. What is, for example, the best way to mix pork gelatin in water? What are the benefits of pure honey in meat preservation? There is the entire discipline of dry-cured and long-aged cured and fermented meat products.
Earthworm Express is entirely devoted to great stories from food science and technology. In re-discovering the birth of old-school technology and understanding the science behind it, we are able to make sense of the novel technologies which see the light of day on a continual basis.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote in his magnificent work, The Tiny Work of Tiny Stories, that “the universe is not made of atoms; its made up of tiny stories.” These are some of the tiny and not-so-tiny stories from the world of meat processing and the technology underpinning our trade.
Most of the work is dedicated to old and new meat technology.
- Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation
- Nitrite Free Bacon: The Quest Continues
- The Quest for Nitrite Free Curing
- Bacon & the Art of Living -> Chapter 06: Drums of Despair
- Bacon & the Art of Living ->Chapter 5: Seeds of War
Highlights From EarthwormExpress
Specials Highlights from our blog are listed below.
Years of dedicated research yielded a story tole for the first time! In June 2008 I created Woody’s bacon in Cape Town. I decided to use selected events from the story of Woody’s, re-cast them in the late 1800s and early 1900s and tell the story of the creation of bacon. I left Woody’s in 2018 but the adventure continues and the book is being written through daily experiences. The theme is “steam-punk” in that I cast modern characters and events into a historical setting where they don’t necessarily fit! Not all the chapters are completed, but this is the unabridged version. What remains is editing it down to something readable and publishing.
Please feel free to contribute and comment!
Podcast where Gil and Eben talk meat!
I re-think every aspect of fine meat pasts in cooked sausage production for a commercial small-good manufacturers perspective. Every part of the animal is used and every part of the plant.
Years of dedicated research and design culminated in the best bacon system on earth.
- Brine design like never before with custom built technology offers superior brine preparation and meat-on-meat injection;
- A custom designed grids system that integrates into continues drying/ smoking/ chilling/ freezing system with automatic loading, offloading and grid washing;
- Bacon moves to sliver automatically;
- Automated slicing/ Packing;
- Pasteurization for clients where refrigeration is a problem;
- Surpassing shelf life;
- Lowest labour cost;
- Highest quality and consistency;
- Best control over injection yields;
- Slicing yields as high as 98%.
These pages are devoted to the curing art. It is dedicated to Robert Goodrick who’s advice I seek first and foremost. A remarkable man with remarkable talent, experience, and knowledge. Then, the amazing people from “The Salt-cured Pig”. A Facebook Group that changed my world and brought the exceptional within my grasp.
The home of the history of bacon, ingredients and all technologies related to bacon curing. As always, we deal with the history of its use and the chemistry and mechanics behind its functionality.
Honey is the worlds first natural medicine and to this day, an amazing superfood! Here we consider its history and value as a functional ingredient in cured food formulations.
Producing good bacon is simple, but the processes involved are complex. I am not a historian or a food scientist, but I work in the bacon industry as an entrepreneur. Understanding the environment is fundamental.
The best way for me to understand complex processes is to retrace the historical account of unravelling the system. This is the approach we follow related to bacon. One of the most exciting stories in bacon is that of saltpetre (potassium nitrate) and sodium nitrite.
Sausages are one of the most exciting forms of processed and fresh meat and have been with us since the dawn of humanity. Each country in the world has its own sausage tradition and favourites! Here we delve into its history and focus on a few legendary sausages.
Since blended hams have much in common with Sausages, we deal with it under the same heading.
Ascorbate provides impressive secondary value to nitrite in meat processing. It is an essential ingredient in a bacon cure, but how did it end up being used as such? What exactly is a vitamin, who discovered Vitamin C in particular and who initiated its use in meat curing? What are the mechanisms behind its functionality and are there alternatives to ascorbate? What is the relationship between ascorbate and erythorbate and is one better than the other in a curing mix?
This chapter is entirely devoted to a thorough consideration of ascorbate or vitamin C as far as it is used in the curing of meat.
I created Woody’s brand and set up Woodys Consumer Brands (Pty) Ltd with Oscar Klynveld. We later asked his two brothers to join us. Below I share some of my personal memories. I resigned from the company in August 2018. Here I share some of my memories. I also feature the memories and heritage of some of the great people we work with and the companies we interacted with.
I managed Van Wyngaardt for a year with Paul Fickling in March 2019, after which I dedicated my time to understanding and re-engineering fine meat pasts. My memories of the company are shared in the post below.
Here I celebrate some of the heroes of our trade. I don’t get a lot of time to do so, but in the future, my plan is to focus a lot more on this.
Great men, women, companies, and other organisations who contributed or continue to contribute to the food industry. In the picture to the left is Sir David de Villiers-Graaff, the grandson of the man who created the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company Ltd. whom Eben interviewed in 2014.
Research and contact: Any comments, suggestions, contributions, or corrections, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a WhatsApp on +27 71 5453029.
I trust you will find this as much fun and enjoyable to read as I have the pleasure of writing it. Thank you for reading!
Eben van Tonder