Basic brine cure
**Basic brine cure (enough for a 2-3 kg piece of Scotch Beef PGI)
400g coarse rock salt
125g Demerara or granulated sugar
4 tsp pink curing salt (Prague powder)
4.5 litres cold water
2 tbsp pickling spice, toasted in a small pan
background information on curing
Salt curing of meat ( fish, cheese, vegetables etc.) is an ancient way of preserving food. This method of curing dehydrates the meat and its natural bacteria, and combined with the special effects of the curing salts, renders the food safer to eat for longer.
The curing salt added to the brine mix ensures that the characteristic rosie colour is maintained rather than the unappetising grey if omitted.
To cure beef at home isn’t difficult but you need to take care. Brine curing is possibly the safest bet (dry salt-curing and air drying are other methods), and a 2-3kg piece of beef will need about 5 days of curing. (Plus 3 or 4 hours of slow cooking to turn the raw piece of cured beef into either salt beef, pastrami or corned beef). You can vary the spices to your taste.
The curing salt in our recipe, known as Prague Powder or pink curing salt (not the same as the currently fashionable pink Himalayan Salt) can be ordered online if your local butcher or charcuterie don’t stock it. Look up ‘Prague Powder’.
Alternatively you can order a cured piece of meat from your butcher ready to take home and cook in some of the ways suggested. Give the butcher plenty of notice because the first cure can take up to a week.
- Pour all the brine cure ingredients into a large non-reactive pan, pour in the water and bring to a simmer stirring until all the salts and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down completely, then chill.
- Once well chilled, add your selected piece of meat to the brine-cure and chill the whole thing for 5-6 days.
- After the curing time, lift the meat from the brine.
- Post-curing, it helps to chill the drained meat, covered in the fridge for an extra day to thoroughly redistribute the salts more evenly and prevent it from becoming too dry after cooking at the next stage.
- Then rinse the cured meat under cool running water and cook according to your chosen recipe.