Curing Brine and Microbial Transglutaminase (MTG) – designing the optimal blend

Curing Brine and Microbial Transglutaminase  (MTG) – designing the optimal blend
by Eben van Tonder
4 June 2017

The articles on the complete bacon production system are available in booklet form:

Photo by Robert Goodrick.  (  Products not cured with Eben’s brine.


Here a new approach is presented to formulating a curing brine.  We started by considering preservation techniques as old as 7000 years.  Following ancient traditions, we used ingredients that were proven over thousands of years.  We strained these through the filter of the most recent research.  We remain mindful that the brine must enhance the efficacy of Transglutaminase, another natural process which we use to restructure whole meat muscles.  We finally bring it all together in a tradition which started almost 2500 years ago by seeing food not just as a commodity and a necessity, but as an art wich must appeal to our most active senses.


Life is very short and whatever we do, we look for the exceptional.  A few facts distilled into the brine formulation which I am about to suggest.    I believed that in the art of meat curing, we mimic natural processes.  There is ample evidence that ascorbic reduction of nitrites to nitric oxide plays a vital role in human biology, therefore confirming a broad similarity between the curing process and some aspects of normal biological processes.

Secondly, meat curing has in all probably existed for at least 7000 years.  (Salt – 7000 years of meat-curing)  It is an ancient art with ingredients that have been carefully selected over millennia. I go back to the oldest known ingredients in a brine, designed for meat preservation.  Every ancient ingredients’ inclusion is supported by modern verification of its efficacy in a meat brine.

The final ingredients have been selected to support the enzymatic activity of Microbial Transglutaminase.

There is a very important ultimate consideration.  As the Maya civilisation was being born in the Americas and Aristotle was preaching that the earth is a sphere using lunar eclipses and other observations; as the Persian Empire collapses under the conquest of Alexander the Great, echoing in the height of Classic Greek civilisation, around the 350 BCE, European cuisine as an art form was being born on the island of Sicily by the ingenuity of local cooks.  They emphasise that the freshest produce be used; cook it simply and add little, if need be, only salt.  On Sicily, salt is an art form in itself and it is in this exact tradition that the following brine recipe is being suggested.  Simple salts, natural tree gums and oils from herbs that complement the meat.

Here are the suggested brine components and a short reason behind each components inclusion.

1. Sodium nitrite -> Sodium nitrate, converted to nitrite through bacterial action. This salt, which occurs naturally in the Atacama Desert of Chilli and Peru, in the Taklimakan Desert of China and in India has been used to preserve meat since 7000 years ago.

2. Sodium Ascorbate ->  extracted from Paprika, this anti-oxidant has been used with nitrate salts for centuries.

3. Natron ->  The oldest known meat preservative from Egypt, found in the Wadi El Natrun.  This naturally occurring salt is comprised of sodium carbonate decahydrate (Na2CO3·10H2O, a kind of soda ash) and around 17% sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) along with small quantities of sodium chloride and sodium sulphate.  Sodium carbonate’s inclusion, functionally, is based on a study that indicates it can be effectively used to replace phosphates and reduce salt.

We may replace it with sodium bicarbonate.  The sulphate we add in any event through gypsum (calcium sulphate).  Sodium chloride we replace with potassium chloride for a reduced sodium brine and due to the good synergy between K+ and Transglutaminase.

For the addition of sodium bicarbonate, reference the study at

4.  Gypsum (calcium sulphate).  A sulphate mineral, naturally occurring in deserts around the world and a known component of meat curing brines since the year 3000 BCE.

5.  Dextrose.  Suger has been used since antiquity in meat products.  In Europe, it became popular during the 1800’s in curing brines.  It serves a general purpose of creating a “generally reducing meat enviroment”  as far as the formation of nitric oxide is concerned.  It imparts a nice colour when the meat is being fried and contribute to the overall flavour profile.

6.  Potassium Chloride.  A common, naturally occurring mineral, known from antiquity and have been used in meat preservation since the dawn of humanity.

7.   Rosemary oil extract.  A favourite of Paracelsus, this is one of the oldest meat preservatives known and has been used for thousands of years.  Its functional benefits are as both an anti-oxidant and antimicrobial.  Besides these, it contributes to the overall flavour.

8.  Cold Gelling Carrageenan.  Seaweed is known to have been used for over 2000 years in various dishes.  In our brine preparation, it adds to the meat’s juiciness.  It has a particular function with Microbial Transglutaminase of providing thermal stability and during processing, it ensures that the maximum amount of MTG is retained in the muscle.



We present a curing brine of exceptional quality.  It is packed with naturally occurring ancient preservatives and flavour.  It works well in synergy with Transglutaminase.  It utilises the most recent advances in gelling technology.  It is reduced sodium with no added sodium chloride.  It facilitates curing well through the inclusion of Chloride along with nitrite.

Now it is a matter of testing and tasting.  Results will be reported.  Life is good!

(c)  Eben van Tonder

This article is an attachment to the article, Restructuring of whole muscle meat with Microbial Transglutaminase – a holistic and collaborative approach.

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