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Customer Review

148 of 159 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Needs work., January 17, 2006
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This review is from: Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (Hardcover)
Note: This review is based on my specific interests for buying this book, and may not be relevant to all readers. I was looking for information about making cured and smoked products such as bacon, smoked pork hocks, corned beef etc - foods that require sodium nitrites. Little has been published for the home cook regarding this topic - specifically, the minimum amounts needed for a given recipe without risking botulism.

If you're concerned about nitrite intake and are a kitchen novice, I wouldn't recommend this book. Although I feel it contains worthy information to rate 5 stars, accessing and interpreting that information can be confusing:

Information is illogically laid out and confusing, such as:
- the informative chapter on salt, starts on page 30, then on page 35 suddenly discusses buying a whole pig, then returns back to salt on page 38.
- The recipe for Cured Salmon (pp. 50-52) is illustrated with a page for preparing Smoked Salmon, but that recipe is on pg. 96.

There is contradictory and confusing information, such as:
- a reference to Bruce Aidell's procedure for Canadian Bacon, suggesting adding 2 teaspoons of cure (nitrite mix) to an All Purpose Brine recipe found on pg. 60. But on page 88, the recipe actually calls for 8 teaspoons - a 4x difference. [Note: Aidell's recipe in Complete Book of Pork calls for 2 1/2 tablespoons.]
- The recipes call for cooking pork to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. But the Recommended Temperatures (pg. 62) states "130-140 degrees... for a finished temp. of 140-145." And the 150 degrees doesn't refer to stop-cooking temp or finished temp.

The recipes tend to be overly generic: Do ham hocks (almost all bone) really require the same amount of nitrites as boneless pork loin (all meat and with water content which dilutes the nitrites)? If yes, why?

While I would not hesitate to buy this book again, I would recommend reading it completely, taking notes as you go, and compiling the information that you need. In other words, you become the book editor. My own copy is littered with post-its.

If you do buy this book, I would also recommend: Paul Bertolli's "Cooking by Hand", which contains a specific how-and-why discussion on using nitrites; and Aidell's "Complete Book of Pork", so that you can make your own conclusions.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2011, 9:59:57 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 2, 2011, 10:02:17 AM PST
rwizard says:
As I am sure you know, since you have clearly done a lot of study, the science weighs in favor of nitrates/nitrites and I personally have no particular fear of them. I always feel sorry for the people paying big prices for the "no nitrites added" bacon, not knowing that it is full of nitrites from the celery juice. What a fraud. And all because of an unfounded fear of an abundant substance.

But that isn't why I wanted to comment. I share your interest in making things like bacon, and this book was my guide to first accomplishing this. I found the book to be adequate, and interesting, although I too noticed some minor problems. (A trip to the Internet helped me to resolve questions about cure rates.) It also introduced me to making things I had not considered. Sadly, few books are perfect, especially in these days of less than adequate editing, but I am glad I have this one on my bookshelf.

Based on your suggestions, I will probably be ordering one or both of the books you recommend (although not right away, as I just ordered several of James Peterson's excellent books to round out my collection of his works). I am also intrigued by the The River Cottage Meat Book , which appears to have material on preserving and storing meat, as well as other potentially useful information. One thought, you might want to change your book suggestions to product links - it makes it easier for people to check them out, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it boosts your ratings in Amazon's secret formula.

Thanks for the review, and I hope you have better sources for pork bellies where you are than I have found where I live (1 butcher who has them sometimes!). Take Care, and Bon Appétit .

Posted on May 29, 2012, 1:47:30 AM PDT
Syzygies says:
Yes, as a mathematician I am drawn to Paul Bertolli's more concise but reliable discussion. Making quick, light house-cures for a ceramic barbecue (komodo kamado), I rely on spreadsheets based on Bertolli's calculations: Figure out the total water in the brine bucket, applying a percentage to estimate the water in the meat, accounting for bone fraction. Now add salt(s) in proportion to achieve a desired equilibrium concentration, a target one adjusts with experience. For example, 9 liters water + 70% of 11.76 lbs meat is 12,737g water, so 2.5% salinity requires 318g sea salt.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2013, 2:46:40 PM PDT
Wow! Thank you...heading off to research Bertolli as soon as I hit "buy with one click" on this one. Love the concept of being able to understand HOW to properly brine my 4# pork loin (as in your example above) ...or whatever when it's less simple than (for instance) cutting a recipe in half.
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