There are all sorts of ways to cure meat, but most at some point require cold-storage to prevent rot. There’s salt curing, smoking, drying, and good old-fashioned freezing, among many others. With one method of curing however, you don’t need to worry quite so much about how quick you eat your meats, or where you store it. Pickling meat is a way of curing and preserving it developed long before refrigeration. It may sound a little strange, but read on. It can actually be quite tasty!
While there are a few different methods, the only hardware really needed for the simplest is a large stew pot, a crock pot and glass mason jars. To make the brine, you’ll need six pounds of non-iodized salt, one pound of sugar, four ounces of saltpeter, four gallons of water, and however much meat will fit in your crock pot. A little surprised to see saltpeter in here? Its actually a crucial part of the process, allowing the meat to retain both color and flavor.
Bring your water to a boil over high heat. Once there, reduce it to a rolling boil, and throw in the salt, sugar and saltpeter. Keep things boiling until a large head appears on the mixture. Skim the foam off, and remove your pot from the burner, allowing the mix to cool to room temperature. Pour this mixture into your crock pot, and add the meat–usually a red meat like deer or pork–cut into medium-sized cubes. The trick is, the meat needs to be totally submerged, so find a heavy object you can place on top, to keep it under the surface. I’ve found a plate, made heavy by piling stable objects on top, works well. Now let this mixture sit for three days, preferably in your refrigerator, or at least somewhere cool.
Once complete, this meat can be canned and stored for years like produce. Fill a mason jar with meat, and pour in a few inches of boiling water. Tighten the lid, put them in a pressure canner (yes, a pressure canner, the boiling method WILL NOT work on meat) and follow the instructions for your particular unit. Once done, set them on your counter for a day and let them cool completely, before checking the rings for a good seal, and store. Meat in this state will keep for years. If any didn’t seal right, put them in the fridge and enjoy within a few days.
One last thing! Save your brine. To use again, just add two more pounds of salt, boil the liquid and scrape the scum off the top. Your brine is now ready to pickle more meat.
While, as mentioned, this method works with all red meat, it is a particularly fun process to do with fresh venison. To all my fellow hunters out there, good luck this season, and I hope you find pickling your prize as enjoyable as I do!
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”