the appetizer:

The Art of Charcuterie by John Kowalski and The Culinary Institute of America includes recipes like Pastrami (Brined, Spiced, Smoked Beef); Dry-Cured Pancetta; Mousseline-Style Forcemeat; plus articles like Concerns Over the Use of Nitrate and Nitrites.

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Concerns Over the Use of
Nitrate and Nitrites

by John Kowalski and The Culinary Institute of America

The Art of Charcuterie


There are several concerns related to the use of nitrates and nitrites. The most prominent concern is the formation of nitrosamines via the binding of nitrates to amino acids, which are a by-product of the degradation of proteins. A study done in the 1970s showed that rats that were exposed to nitrosamines developed malignant tumors. As a result, the USDA and FDA placed restrictions on the amount of residual nitrates and nitrites on food to 200 parts per million (0.02 percent) or lower. However, it becomes exceptionally hard to deal with such small amounts of the ingredient. Thus, premade mixtures are available for purchase: Insta Cure No. 1 and Insta Cure No.2.

Insta Cure No. 1 is a blend of 6 percent sodium nitrite and 94 percent sodium chloride (table salt). It has a distinctive pink color, which is why it is also known as Tinted Cure Mix (TCM). Insta Cure No.2 is much like its counterpart, but contains sodium nitrate instead of nitrite. As a further precaution, the FDA requires meat packers to use antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid, or a vitamin C derivative (sodium ascorbate or sodium erythorbate) to further prevent the formation of nitrosamines.

The USDA recommends the following ratios of meat to nitrate/nitrite:

Type of Meat Nitrite Level (ppm) Nitrate Level (ppm)
Bacon, pumped (injected with the brine 10%) 120 (with 550 ppm ascorbate or erythorbate) None
Bacon, immersion-cured (immersed in the brine) 200 (2 lb/907g to 100 gal/384 L brine) None
Cooked sausage 156 (1/4 oz/7g to 100 lb/45.36 kg meat) None
Dry and semidry sausage 625 (1 oz/28g to 100 lb/45.36 kg meat, dry-cured) 1,719 (2-3/4 oz/76 g to 100 lb/45.36 kg meat)
Dry-cured meats 156 (1/4 oz/7g to 100 lb/45.36 kg meat) 2,188 (2 lb/907g to 100 gal/384 L brine at 10% pump (10% in brine of the total weight is injected into product)

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This page created February 2011