I’ve posted before about various cured meat products. Some, such as coppa, prosciutto, or sopressata, require a lengthy aging period to be ready to eat. Others are cured, then maybe smoked or otherwise cooked, and are ready to eat sooner. City ham and bacon fall into this category. Homemade deli meats also fall into this category of cured meats.
Cured smoked pork loin is a good deli staple that can augment a platter of assorted charcuterie, or it can be eaten in sandwiches, or put into various dishes. (Asparagus gougeres comes to mind.) This post will describe how to make delicious cured smoked pork loin.
Vacuum packed pork loins are easy to come by. One loin makes several meals. I recently purchased a pork loin and used part of it to make pork schnitzels, some went to pork jerky, and the rest was cured like I will describe here.
The piece of loin I cut for this meat has to be fairly uniform in shape. I trimmed off both ends of the loin for my other dishes, and used a straight piece from the middle for this cured meat. If the piece of loin is thinner on one end than the other, it will cure at different rates, and may make the product uneven. Trim off any pieces that hang off the loin so it is a uniform cylinder of meat.
The loin is weighed, preferably in grams to make the calculation of the cure simpler. My piece weighed 2400g.
Use the following % rates to determine the components of the cure. Salt can be between 2-2.7%. Cure #1 should be fixed at 0.25% (no variation on this for safety). The remainder of the ingredients can be changed to your taste. Feel free to use different things in the cure, too.
50g Salt (2.1%)
25g Sugar (1.05%)
6g Cure #1 (0.25%)
3g Black Pepper, ground (0.125%)
3g Dry Mustard, ground (Coleman’s preferred) (0.125%)
Mix the cure ingredients evenly, and rub over all surfaces of the pork loin. Make sure to rub into and slices in the meat. Place the meat in a seal-able bag Scoop any cure that did not adhere to the meat into the bag. Seal and refrigerate. Flip the bag over every day or so to make sure all sides are treated evenly through the curing process. Do this for 10-14 days.
Remove the meat from the bag and wash off with cool water. I gave mine a final rinse with some whiskey. You can do this and if you want, you can also add some fresh spices to coat the loin. I just left mine bare.
If you prefer the product smoked (I do), then you will need to cold smoke it. If not, then skip to the next step.
For smoking, set up for cold smoking. I just use my barbecue cooker (The Porkulator) for this. If you’re not familiar with cold smoking, a brief introduction is that you need to generate a good wisp of blue smoke at a temperature below 85°F (29.4°C). This temperature is in the so-called danger zone of 40-140°F where harmful bacteria can grow rapidly. The curing prevents this from happening, and we will also heat the meat to eliminate bacteria in the next step.
For my setup I need a five gallon bucket of wood chips for 24-30 hours of smoke. I light a very small fire or a few (3-4) briquettes of charcoal, and then cover them with a pile of chips. This will smolder for several hours without heating up the cooker (or the meat). Add more chips as needed. If the chips ignite or the smoke turns white, I pile on more chips to settle it down to make sure the smoke is blue. Blue smoke indicates the softest smoke profile in the finished product without any of the bitter components in a thick smoke.
Another technique to improve smoke flavor is to spread the cold smoking over a few days. I will do one 12 hour session on one day, refrigerate the meat over night which allows it to equalize the smoke flavor in the meat, and then smoke again on subsequent days. The number of days and hours of smoking is determined by the desired color of the meat. When the meat looks correct, it is properly smoked.
I smoke this pork loin for 12 hours a day on two consecutive days, a total of 24 hours of smoke. After the second day of smoking, allow the meat to equalize uncovered in the fridge over night.
The next day, and this is where you’d skip to if you decide not to smoke the loin, seal the meat in a vacuum bag. I then referred to “A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking“, Douglas Baldwin’s excellent table on line for the time and temperature to Pasteurize meats using sous vide.
My loin section was almost 7cm thick in the thinnest dimension. I wanted to use 142°F (61.1°C) as my temperature, so the table states the time would be 3 hours and 45 minutes. The reference states this treatment will reduce Listeria by at least a million to one, Salmonella by at least three million to one, and E. coli by at least a hundred thousand to one in thawed meat starting at 41°F (5°C).
If you don’t have a sous vide device, I recommend getting at least one!!
Once the meat is finished with the sous vide program, place the vacuum pouch in ice water to quickly drop the temperature. It is ready to eat at this point. Slice and enjoy!
You can see the curing, smoking and sous vide did not melt the fat out of the meat. The meat will be pleasantly smoky, but the pork flavor is the main element. Salt, sugar, spices and a hint of the whiskey are a nice backdrop to this excellent handmade cold cut. Of course you can cut it thick for eggs Benedict, soups, or beans, etc.