Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

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Lorenzoid
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Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

Post by Lorenzoid » Mon Apr 19, 2021 16:52

In curing whole-muscle cuts, I noticed that some recipes (e.g., the coppa and bresaola recipes on meatsandsausages.com) call for adding half the cure/spice mixture at the beginning of curing period, and then adding the other half roughly mid-way through the curing period. In that Italian
video Chris posted a couple of weeks ago, they rub the meat with spices every couple of days! Other recipes I have found call for adding all of the cure/spice mixture at the beginning of the curing period. And then there is the Coppa recipe in Marianski's "Home Production...," which calls for adding no spices during the curing period--essentially only the cure #2 and salt--and then adding the spices before stuffing into casings.

I'm sure all of the variations work well enough, but any idea what the reasoning is behind the multi-stage approach (and the Italian video's implication that the more stages, the better)? My thinking is that the simpler the process, the better, and my goal is to determine what is the simplest process that yield results satisfactory to my own palate.

Since I cured my first coppa without any spices except a liberal dusting of Calabrian pepper just before stuffing, the question of when to add spices is relevant only now that I'm ready to make my next one. I will probably go with Marianski's spice mixture.

By the way, Marianski's recipe is the only one I have seen with cumin. Definitely not a flavor or aroma I associate with coppa, but I have come to realize there are nearly as many variations on all of these products as there are regions in Italy.
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Bob K
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Re: Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

Post by Bob K » Mon Apr 19, 2021 19:36

From what I have read... The salt and cure was divided, rubbed into meat, packed in containers and allowed to drain. The salt and cure was added in stages so that there was a continuous supply throughout the curing period.
As far as the spices it is probably a matter of personal preference.

IMHO the best way is the EQ cure where all the salt, cure, and spices are added at the beginning, sealed and allowed to cure for your preferred time. A more extended curing time will allow the flavors from the spices to fully permeate the muscle block. Most of the liquid is also reabsorbed.
We make a lot of Sweetheart hams and cooked "Coppa's" with loins and 4-6 weeks is the sweet spot for flavor.
Lorenzoid wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 16:52
By the way, Marianski's recipe is the only one I have seen with cumin. Definitely not a flavor or aroma I associate with coppa, but I have come to realize there are nearly as many variations on all of these products as there are regions in Italy.
Once you are past the salt and cure amounts and methodology , all recipes are meant to be a suggestion or starting point and the rest is up to the individual Artisan :D
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Re: Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

Post by Indaswamp » Tue Apr 20, 2021 05:47

The difference between the concentration on the meat surface and within the meat determines the speed in which salt travels into the meat.

Think of a lake water damn...higher on one side, lower on the other. Remove the damn and that water rushes trying to achieve equilibrium. Not an exact analogy, but close. The equilibrium equation tilts farther toward the meat absorbing the salt with the higher concentration on the surface. This is why the salt was applied in stages, to keep a high concentration on the surface, thus driving the salt into the meat faster.
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Re: Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

Post by Lorenzoid » Tue Apr 20, 2021 16:11

That's an interesting (historical?) point, Bob, about adding the mixture in stages in a process where the meat is allowed to drain. Now that would make sense. But for we who are curing in vacuum-sealed bags, where the liquid gets reabsorbed, there may be no benefit to adding in stages. I'm thinking that's the answer to my question.
Indaswamp wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 05:47
The difference between the concentration on the meat surface and within the meat determines the speed in which salt travels into the meat.

Think of a lake water damn...higher on one side, lower on the other. Remove the damn and that water rushes trying to achieve equilibrium. Not an exact analogy, but close. The equilibrium equation tilts farther toward the meat absorbing the salt with the higher concentration on the surface. This is why the salt was applied in stages, to keep a high concentration on the surface, thus driving the salt into the meat faster.
Adding the cure/salt mixture in multiple stages makes sense if the goal is to speed diffusion of the salt and cure, but isn't the point of the equilibrium curing method that the curing time can be as long as it takes for all of the carefully measured amount to be utilized--two or more weeks in the recipes I referred to? Marianski calls for applying half the cure, curing 7 days, applying the other half, then curing 10 more days. Since other recipes call for applying all the cure at the beginning of, say, a 14-day curing period, my guess is that it doesn't make any difference.

Could it be that the multi-stage method has roots in commercial production, where a goal might be to speed up the curing period?

So I suppose that's a dead horse beaten on the cure/salt question. As for the spices, do spices diffuse through the meat the same way that the cure/salt does? And at the same rate? Would a high concentration of spices on the surface speed diffusion of spice into the meat?
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Re: Why add cure/spice mixture in stages?

Post by Mmmm Meat » Fri Apr 23, 2021 16:50

This is my first post on this forum. I've got to start somewhere...

I think you're probably right on commercial production using multiple stages. Here's a discussion that uses the multi-stage process. It states the reason to do it this way is to ensure the meat has a constant supply of salt. https://www.meatsandsausages.com/sausag ... ng/methods

Vacuum sealing the entire amount of salts and spices ultimately must result in achieving identical internal concentrations if the meat is allowed to cure long enough (in the equilibrium method). Perhaps it is faster to apply salts in multiple stages though in my mind I can't reason why that is.

Diffusion of spices into the meat is more difficult to research. I can find no real scientific explanation for the process. It appears that the salt denatures the meat protein making it more permeable for additional outward water movement and the ingress of salt. There is clearly a gradient of low (none) spice compounds inside the meat and high concentrations outside at the beginning of the cure. Some inward movement of the spices inward would be expected. Spice compounds are not simple compounds though. The ability of complex compounds to pass across cell membranes by osmosis must be a much more difficult process (in my mind). The denaturing of protein and increased permeability of the meat results in what is described as sponge-like environment that may be porous enough to allow larger, more complex compounds to move osmotically as well.

This is all a long way of saying I'm not sure, but this is what I read. Whether or not my understanding is correct..... ?
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