After my discovery of the background of the Empress of Russia’s Brine being invented during the reign of Catherina the Great of Russia sometime between 1762 and 1796 which was in all likelihood progressed by William Oake in his Mild Cure Bacon system, I decided to do a summary of well-known bacon and ham curing methods. I want to create a summary of all the different brines and cures for ham and bacon.
A. The New Cyclopedia of Domestic Economy and Practical Housekeeping
The 1872 publication edited by Ellet, E. F and published by H. Bill, Norwich, Conn. boast “five thousand practical receipts and maxims from the best English, French, German, and American sources.” I quote the ham, bacon and general brine recipes from this publication below. Access the ebook by clicking on the title above to view the rest of the entries.
867. — TO MAKE HAM SUPERIOR TO WESTPHALIA. (Udo.)
As soon as the pig is cold enough to be cut up, take the two hams, and cut out the round bone, so as to have the ham not too thick: rub them with common salt, and leave them in a large pan for three days; when the salt has drawn out all the blood, throw the brine away, and proceed as follows: for two hams of about eighteen pounds each, take one pound of moist sugar, one pound of common salt, and two ounces of saltpetre, mix them together, and rub the hams well with it, then put them into a vessel large enough to contain them in the liquor, always keeping the salt over them; after they have been in this state three days, throw over them a bottle of good vinegar. One month is requisite to cure them; during which period they must be often turned in the brine; when you take them out, drain them well, powder them with some coarse flour, and hang them in a dry place. The same brine will serve again, except that you must not put so much salt on the next hams that you pickle. If the hams are smaller, put only three-quarters of a pound of salt, but the salt will not do any harm if you do not let them remain too long in the brine; if you can get them smoked, they are then not so subject to be infested by vermin; no insect whatever can bear the bitterness of the soot; the smoke of wood is preferable to the smoke of coal. Be particular that the hams are hung as far as possible from the fire, otherwise the fat will melt, and they will become dry and hard and rank.
868.- TO BRAISE A HAM IN THE FRENCH
It is prepared for cooking in the same manner as in the preceding receipt, but when cleaned it is placed upon a layer of new bay, which has previously been laid evenly upon a clean white cloth, which should also be thin, that the flavor of the braise may be imparted. It is then placed in a stewpan, with two parts water to one part vin ordinaire, or any light white wine, and suffered to come to a boil. The scum must be removed, and then vegetables added; four carrots, three onions, a fagot of herbs, and, if approved, a little corn of garlic, perhaps less of that powerfully flavored root. Simmer from three hours and a half to six, according to the weight; when tender it is enough. The skin should then be stripped off carefully, and bread raspings strewed over it. Powdered herbs, or parsley chopped very fine, are sometimes mixed with the raspings, but taste must regulate its admission or omission.
869. — TO BRAISE A HAM
Put the ham into water the night previous to cooking, and next day wash it in warm water, trim it by cutting away all the yellow fat and rusty parts; take off the knuckle, and pare down all the under part; put it in a stewpan, and just cover it with water; lay in a slice of beef cut into pieces, a few onions, a fagot of sweet herbs, three small carrots, and a little allspice; simmer from three to six hours; it must depend entirely upon the size and weight. Take out the ham, and skin it; glaze, and serve it upon a purée of vegetables. The braise may be made into a rich brown soup, thickened and flavored with wine; it may serve also for the flavoring of soups.
871. – TO CURE BACON. – COBBETT’S RECEIPT.
The two sides that remain, and which are called flitches , are to be cured for bacon. They are first rubbed with salt on their insides, or flesh sides, then placed one on the other, the flesh sides uppermost, in a salting trough which has a gutter round its edges to drain away the brine, for to have sweet and fine bacon, the flitches must not be sopping in brine, which gives it the sort of taste that barrel pork and sea pork have, and than which nothing is more villanous; everyone knows how different is the taste of fresh dry salt from that of salt in a dissolved state, therefore change the salt often, once in four or five days; let it melt and sink in, but let it not lie too long; change the flitches, put that at bottom which was first on the top, do this a couple of times; this mode will cost you a great deal more in salt than the sopping mode, but without it your bacon will not be so sweet and fine, nor keep so well. As for the time required in making your flitches sufficiently salt, it depends on circumstances, the thickness of the flitch, the state of the weather, the place wherein the salting is going on; it takes a longer time for a thick than a thin flitch; it takes longer in dry than in damp weather; it takes longer in a dry than in a damp place; but for the flitches of a hog of five score, in weather not very dry or damp, about six weeks may do; and as yours is to be fat, which receives little injury from over salting, give time enough, for you are to have bacon until Christmas comes again.
The place for salting should, like a dairy, always be cool, but always admit of a free circulation of air; confined air, though cool, will taint meat sooner than the midday sun accompanied by a breeze. With regard to smoking the bacon, two precautions are necessary: first, to hang the flitches where no rain comes down upon them, and next, that the smoke must proceed from wood, not peat, turf, nor coal. As to the time it requires to smoke a flitch, it must depend a good deal upon whether there be a constant fire beneath, and whether the fire be large or small; a month will do if the fire be pretty constant, and rich as a farmhouse fire usually is; but over-smoking, or rather too long hanging in the air, makes the bacon rust; great attention should therefore be paid to this matter. The flitch ought not to be dried up to the hardness of a board, and yet it ought to be perfectly dry; before you hang it up lay it on the floor, scatter the flesh side pretty thickly over with bran, or with some fine sawdust, not of deal or fir; rub it on the flesh, or pat it well down upon it; this keeps the smoke from getting into the little openings, and makes a sort of crust to be dried on.
To keep the bacon sweet and good, and free from hoppers, sift fine some clean and dry wood ashes. Put some at the bottom of a box or chest, long enough to hold a flitch of bacon. Lay in one flitch, and then put in more ashes, then another flitch, and cover this with six or eight inches of the ashes. The place where the box or chest is kept ought to be dry, and should the ashes become damp, they should be put in the fireplace to dry, and when cold put back again. With these precautions, the bacon will be as good at the end of the year, as on the first day.
It may be as well to observe in reference to the above receipt, given by the very celebrated William Cobbett, in his Cottage Economy, that most counties in England have their peculiar method of curing hams and bacon, each varying some slight degree from the other, and, of course, each is considered orthodox. But for simple general rules, the above may be safely taken as a guide; and those who implicitly follow the directions given, will have at the expiration of from six weeks to two months, well flavored, and well cured bacon.
872. – TO CURE BACON FOR LARDING.
It is of little use preparing a small piece of bacon for larding, for different joints require larding of different lengths; a piece of beef, for example, will, if of a tolerable size, require very lengthy lardings, as of a fowl will require but small ones. Ten to twenty pounds should at least be prepared. Take fifteen pounds and the fatter is the better; rub it well with a pound and a half of pounded common salt; if in one piece, lay it upon a board with another over it; if in more than one piece, let each piece have a board with a weight at the top; keep it in a cool place four or five weeks; hang it to dry but not to be smoked.
875. – BACON, TO MAKE.
Rub the bacon with a little common salt, and let them lie till the brine runs from them; in a week rub off all the salt, from them; in a week rub off all the salt, and put them in a tub, then rub into the flitches a pound of saltpetre pounded and heated, the next day do the same with common salt, also heated; let them lie a week, often rubbing them; do the same for three weeks or a month, at the end of that time dry and hang them up for use.
911. – ANOTHER WAY, THAT GIVES A HIGHER FLAVOR.
When the weather will permit, hang the ham three days; mix one ounce of saltpetre with half a pound of common salt, and also of coarse sugar, and a quart of strong beer; boil them together, and pour them immediately upon the ham; turn it twice a day in the pickle for three weeks. One ounce of black pepper, and the same quantity of allspice, in fine powder, added to the above, will give still more flavour.
Or: -Sprinkle the ham with salt, after it has hung two or three days; let it drain; make a pickle of a quart of strong beer, half a pound of molasses, one ounce of coriander seeds, two ounces of juniper berries, one ounce of pepper, the same quantity of allspice, one ounce of saltpetre, half an ounce of sal-prunella, a handful of common salt, and a head of shalot, all pounded or cut fine. Boil these all together a few minutes, and pour them over the ham: this quantity is for one of ten pounds.
912. – FITZSIMON FAMILY RECEIPT FOR CURING HAMS
Mix one ounce of saltpetre, one pound of common salt, and one pound of coarse brown sugar, all together, and rub the ham well. Let it lie for a month in this pickle, turning and basting it every day; then hang it in wood smoke in a dry place, where no heat can come to it, and, if to be kept long, hang it for a month or two in a damp place, and it will eat firm and short. Observe, hams thus made need not be soaked; put them into cold water, and let them be three or four hours before they boil, skimming the pot well and often until it boils. These hams have been made with a less quantity of salt and an additional quantity of saltpetre, and it has been found to answer well, the hams being in that case soaked before boiling.
913. – WESTPHALIA HAMS
Prepare the hams in the usual manner by rubbing them with common salt and draining them; take one ounce of saltpetre, half a pound of coarse sugar, and the same quantity of salt; rub it well into the ham, and in three days pour a pint of vinegar over it. A fine foreign flavor may also be given to hams by pouring old strong beer over them, and burning juniper wood while they are drying: molasses, juniper berries, and highly flavored herbs, such as basil, sage, bay leaves, and thyme, mingled together and the hams well rubbed with it, using only a sufficient quantity of salt to assist in the cure, will afford an agreeable variety.
916. – BACON
The method of curing Malines Bacon, so much admired for its fine flavor. — Cut off the hams and head of a pig, if a large one; take out the chine and leave in the spare rib, as they will keep in the gravy and prevent the bacon from rusting. Salt it first with common salt, and let it lie for a day on a table that the blood may run from it; then make a brine with a pint of bay salt, a quarter of a pound of juniper berries, and some bay leaves, with as much water as will, when the brine is made, cover the bacon; when the salt is dissolved, and when quite cold, if a new-laid egg will swim in it, the brine may be put on the bacon, which after a week must be rubbed with the following mixture: -half a pound of saltpetre, two ounces of sal-prunella, and one pound of coarse sugar; after remaining four weeks it may be hung up in a chimney where wood is burned; shavings, with sawdust and a small quantity of turf, may be added to the fire at times.
917. – THE BLACK POOL RECEIPT FOR CURING BACON.
For a middling-sized hog take twelve pounds of the best common salt, and one pound of saltpetre pounded very finely; rub it in well, and cover the meat about an inch thick, hams, chaps, and all; lacing it with the rind downwards. Let it remain for a week; then take off the salt; turn the whole with the rind upwards; then lay the salt on again for another week. Then remove the salt, and turn it a second time; lay on the salt and let it remain four days longer. It will then be properly salted. Wipe it clean; rub it all over with dry salt; and hang it where it will have a little air of the fire until it is dry. Then sew it up in whity-brown paper, and hang it in a dry place where no heat can come to it; and, if these precautions are taken, it will not get rusty.
The meat must be salted on a board that is well perforated with holes, to let the brine run from it; and it must be covered up closely with a coarse cloth to keep out the air; and, while salting, take care to lay the pieces as close as possible one upon the other.
918. – WILTSHIRE BACON
Sprinkle each flitch with salt; and let the blood drain off for twenty – four hours. Then mix one pound and a half of coarse sugar, the same quantity of fine salt, six ounces of saltpetre, and four pounds of coarse salt; rub this well on the bacon, turning and wetting it in every part daily for a month; then hang it to dry, and afterwards smoke it ten days.
924. – TO PICKLE PORK
Take half a bushel of common salt, one pound of coarse salt, half a pound of saltpetre, and six pounds of coarse brown sugar; make hams of the legs. Take the sides of the pork, and rub them well with common salt; lay a thin bed of salt in the tray, and place one of the sides in it; sprinkle with salt to cover it; lay the other side on the top, and sprinkle it also. Let them lie two or three days, rubbing the salt well in; then cover the whole with the other ingredients; and, as soon as the salt begins to give, rub them well in; turn the sides frequently, and let them be covered with brine; it will be fit for use in six or eight weeks.
925. – A PICKLE
That will keep for years, for hams, tongues, or beef, if boiled and skimmed between each parcel of them. To two gallons of spring water put two pounds of coarse sugar, two pounds of coarse, and two and a half pounds of common salt, and half a pound of saltpetre, in a deep earthen glazed pan that will hold four gallons, and with a cover that will fit close. Keep the beef or hams as long as they will bear before you put them into the pickle; and sprinkle them with coarse sugar in a pan, from which they must drain. Rub the hams, & c., well with the pickle; and pack them in close, putting as much as the pan will hold, so that the pickle may cover them. The pickle is not to be boiled at first. A small ham may lie fourteen days; a large one three weeks; a tongue twelve days; and beef in proportion to its size. They will eat well out of the pickle without drying. When they are to be dried, let each piece be drained over the pan; and when it will drop no longer, take a clean sponge and dry it thoroughly. Six or eight hours will smoke them; and there should be only a little sawdust and wet straw burnt to do this; but if put into a baker’s chimney, sew them in a coarse cloth, and hang them a week. Add two pounds of common salt, and two pints of water, every time you boil the liquor.