Why Natural Cure?
Every time I mention natural cure in a Facebook group for bacon/sausage making (beef, of course) I always get berated and talked to like I'm a complete idiot or a baby inquiring about my first bite of food. If you're wondering; no, they never answer my freaking questions! Isn't that so annoying, to ask a question and people just go off about your question being "wrong" to begin with?! Anyway, their favorite thing to say is "Nitrates are nitrates." Ummm, heck no they aren't! First of all, if I wanted a lab-made ingredient in my food I'd go that route, but I don't, hence my questions regarding NATURAL cure. Second, aside from "nitrates being nitrates," what about the red dye they put in commercial curing powder? I specifically keep myself and my family away from synthetic food dyes in absolutely everything else we eat. I'm not caving in for meat. And third, I like to be self sufficient. I can grow my own celery and I suppose I could evaporate off my own salt from the ocean if I wanted to. I like to know that if there's ever a reason I can't buy things from the store, I'm not going to go lacking. So, THAT is why I want NATURAL cure. And THAT is why I just made my own! As the name should imply, it is DIFFERENT than lab-made curing powder. Hello!
I Googled (scratch that - I don't use Google; I use duckduckgo.com because they don't keep tabs on my ever action and filter my results based ) my brains out looking for "natural cure recipes" and "natural curing powder for sale" and "celery powder cure." Guess what! I came up pretty empty. I did find a company selling cultured celery powder, so I ordered some. First off, they didn't list ALL the ingredients on their website so when I got it in the mail, it had extra "anti-caking" agents that I didn't want. AND guess what... it was all clumped together. That anti-caking crap worked so well, huh? Aside from that, it was brown and it didn't smell fresh at all. I put it in a jar with the label that came on the plastic bag it was sent to me in (so I'd know it had those extra, junk ingredients before I used it) and forgot about it for a few months. Same song and dance.
Then I found it hiding among my spices and seasonings one day and picked it up to scoff at it once more, when it hit me - "CULTURED CELERY POWDER!" Well, duh! Cultured - Fermented! I can do that! And it makes sense as to why you would. So, the experiment was on!
Fermenting is fun! Sometimes you can run into mold issues, which is a real bummer, but for the most part, it's pretty fool-proof. I bought 4 bunches of organic celery stalks from the grocery store, brought them home, rinsed and chopped them, then layered them in a big crock with Himalayan salt. I really don't even remember measuring the salt. It was just toss in a handful of chopped celery and a sprinkling of salt, and repeat until the celery was all in the crock. Pretty easy! I topped it off with distilled water, weighted the celery down below the brine level and let it go about 2 weeks. Voila! Fermented celery! FYI, after I get used to making things I rarely measure after that point, BUT you certainly can (and should) until you get used to making these sorts of things. So, you're going for about a 5% brine solution with this ferment, so that means you want about 3TBS per quart of distilled water. Yes, you can dissolve the salt in the water before pouring it over if you like. Do NOT use iodized salt! Sea salt, Himalayan salt and Redmond salt are all great choices.
For more on fermenting, I highly suggest getting the book, Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
After fermenting, I rinsed the celery in a colander and placed it on silicon mats before placing those on my dehydrator racks. I didn't want to completely mutilate the awesome microbes (the CULTURE part), so I dehydrated at 115 degrees F for... well, forever it seemed, but basically until completely dried. It had to be at least 12 hours. If you're looking for a reliable dehydrator, I definitely recommend a LEM! It's just as good as an Excalibur, but they tend to run a little less expensive.
After I thought the celery was dehydrated I proceeded to grind it up. It wasn't completely dehydrated after all, so I stuck it back in to finish dehydrating. I mention this just so you know that if it happens to you, you can just pop it back in. It isn't ruined. Having been ground a bit, it actually has the opportunity to dehydrate completely so you won't have to worry a single bit about mold.
A Vitamix or Blendtec blender would be excellent for grinding a fine powder for this as well as herbs (yes, even those hard, pesky roots and barks). After grinding into a powder, you can store it in a jar in the pantry for a good while.
Now... How in the world do you use this newly crafted natural cure?? Surprisingly, it only takes a little bit (maybe I shouldn't have made so much at once). There are "cure calculators" out there, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll sum up what I've found for you and say that they basically suggest the following: 1tsp per 5lbs of meat for dry cure, 4tsp per 5lbs of meat (whole muscle) for dry cure, or 6TBS for each gallon of water in a brine solution. I recently made Set-Apart Beef Bacon with my natural, fermented celery powder and it worked very well when combined with my homemade seasoning blend! You can find the Set-Apart Beef Bacon process coming up soon on the blog!
I hope you found this blog post helpful and inspiring. Thanks for following us on our homesteading journey!
Just your average ex-medical scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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