Traditional methods for preserving meat

Many old methods of preservation, superseded by refrigeration, are all but forgotten today. Here are are some traditional methods for preserving meat you might want to know.

Traditional methods for preserving meat

Traditional techniques

From earliest times, people have grappled with the problem of storing food for use the whole year round. Ways were found to preserve­ meat and fish as well as vegetable and grain crops, often with the bonus of heightened flavour as well. Although ­refrigeration ­has made food storage simpler and safer, many traditional preservation methods have survived, primarily because they make meat and fish taste so good.

  • Curing and smoking were once the standard ways of preserving meat, and many products — such as corned beef, pickled pork, bacon, pastrami and hams of all kinds — are still made using these techniques. Sausages, either the cooking variety or the large slicing type, are one form of preserved meat that remains a perennial favourite.
  • Modern, commercial cold cuts such as salami, devon and mortadella grew out of cottage industries where they were an economical method of using up scraps from the major cuts of meat. In warm climates, traditional recipes for cold cuts call for plenty of herbs and spices, resulting in a product that tends to be hard and dry. In cool climates, sausages generally have a milder flavour.
  • Cooked poultry was once stored for months beneath a covering of lard or butter.
  • Roast meats were kept fresh for up to a week in cold running water (when the meat started to float, it was time for it to go into the oven).

Short-term storage and ­hanging

All fresh meat deteriorates rapidly in temperatures above 5°C (41°F), so it is important to keep it refrigerated until cooked or processed.

  • Chilling or hanging often improves the flavour and texture by giving natural enzymes time to break down tough muscle fibres.
  • The temperature range for hanging is 0°C to 5°C (32°F to 41°F). If you cannot maintain this temperature, do not hang meat. Instead, immediately cure, freeze or otherwise process it for preservation.
  • Any freshly killed poultry should be hung for 12 to 48 hours, depending on its size.
  • Pork and veal should hang for one or two days; mutton and lamb for two to three days, and beef up to a week.
  • Fresh fish decays very quickly and should never be hung. Process or freeze it at once.

With the invention of the refrigerator these techniques may seem obsolete, but they can come in handy (especially during an extended power outage!) Keep them in mind, and give these traditional preservation methods a try.

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