The Fascinating History and Use of Ascorbate

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.

Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi

To introduce our chapter on Vitamin C, meet Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi.

This colourful Hungarian biochemist is one of the main characters in the discovery of this important vitamin.

He “studied medicine in Budapest and Cambridge and completed a doctorate with a thesis on vitamins, led by Hopkins. He worked as a professor at the universities of Pressburg, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Leiden and Groningen; in 1947 he settled in the United States, where he taught at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole and headed the Institute for Muscle Research.”  (

“In 1928 Szent-Györgyi isolated an organic reducing agent, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), present in oranges, lemons and cabbage; and actin, a protein found in muscle and myosin which allows muscle contraction. He also discovered that muscles use ATP to contract as an energy source.”  (

“For the discovery of vitamin C and for his work on combustion processes of nutrients inside the cells, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937.” (

Two quotes by Dr. Szent-Györgyi

“A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill if you don’t eat it.”

“So I set out to study the oxidation system in the potato, which, if damaged, causes the plant to turn brown. I did this in the hope of discovering, through these studies, the key to the understanding of adrenal function.”

The story of bacon is the most fascinating story ever told!


Concerning the Discovery of Ascorbate


Regulations of Nitrate and Nitrite post-1920:  the problem of residual nitrite and the introduction of ascorbate



Picture 1:  Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi from