Sodium Nitrite Q&A
I think the most common question about Smoked and Cured Bacon & Hams is along the lines of Sodium Nitrate in the curing process.
What is sodium nitrite?Sodium nitrite is a salt and an anti-oxidant that is used to cure meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs. Sodium nitrite serves a vital public health function: it blocks the growth of botulism-causing bacteria and prevents spoilage. Sodium nitrite also gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor.
Are cured meats the major source of sodium nitrite?
The amount of nitrate in some vegetables can be very high. Spinach, for example, may contain 500 to 1900 parts per million of sodium nitrate. Less than five percent of daily sodium nitrite intake comes from cured meats. Nearly 93 percent of sodium nitrite comes from leafy vegetables & tubers ( Carrots & Celery for example ) and our own saliva. Vegetables contain sodium nitrate, which is converted to sodium nitrite when it comes into contact with saliva in the mouth.
Can cured meats be produced without sodium nitrite?Cured meats by their definition must include sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is the ingredient that gives a product like ham its color and taste. Without sodium nitrite, these products’ shelf life would be shortened substantially.
What is Nitrate Free or Uncured meats?Some uncured products available today use vegetable-based ingredients like celery juice, which may contain nitrate naturally, to deliver a color and flavor similar to traditionally cured meats. When the sodium nitrate in celery, or other sodium nitrate-containing vegetables, is exposed to certain types of bacteria in the product, the nitrate is converted to sodium nitrite, which results in product characteristics similar to traditionally cured meat products. The amount of sodium nitrite consumed from these types of products versus traditionally cured meat products is virtually the same.
As soon I they find a way to stop Nitrite Free Bacon from tasting like celery we will use the nitrite derived from mineral mined salts.
On the next round of pork we will have some bacon left uncured no celery or anything. It will be like Cottage Bacon or Canadian Style.