Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Ingredients for Fermenting
Choosing meats, fish, and eggs for fermenting means recognizing and choosing only the freshest cuts of meat, the freshest fish, and eggs that have been purchased soon after having been laid.
When buying meat from a butcher, let him or her know that you will be fermenting a specific cut of meat. He will keep the piece a manageable size and not potentially grind it into burger as he would normally.
Selecting your meats is also common sense. If you can’t stand the taste of spicy sausage, you probably don’t want to make 20 pounds of homemade spicy sausage. Choose foods that you like to eat from the store, and try to find recipes for making them at home.
Picking spices, herbs, and flavorings for meat fermentation
After you know what types of fermenting you will be doing, it is time to get creative and choose your add-ins. This may mean going easy on the red pepper and increasing some of the herbal parts, if you’re not fond of spicy foods.
Like any good recipe, your results will only be as good as the ingredients you put in. Choose fresh herbs and spices. Use flavoring suggested in a recipe to begin with, changing it up once you understand how the fermenting process works and how the recipe is supposed to taste.
A fermented recipe is no place to use up dried out, flavorless herbs and spices. If you can’t easily smell your add-ins when crushed, then they are too old. Find something fresher or leave them out altogether.
Here are some basic flavors that go into most fermented meat recipes:
Kefir: A fermented product, kefir is created with bacterial grains that resemble cauliflower. These gelatinous grains are removed and reused over again. They eventually grow in size and can be divided to share.
Nitrates or nitrites: This ingredient is used for flavor enhancement, provides the appealing pink-cured color, and helps prevent rancidity.
Salt: Flavors the meat, but also draws out moisture from within the meat, making it less inhabitable for bacteria that can cause illness. Salt also helps the cure to penetrate the meat, bringing the flavor throughout the entire thickness of the piece. Although you can use salt on its own, it would be unpalatable to eat, and the meat would take on an unsavory color.
Spices: Herbs and spices are added to the brine to create a unique recipe. Spices are the single thing that can change a recipe from boring to taking center stage. Add these flavors to make a less than palatable cut of meat taste appealing.
This is the perfect place to start playing with heat, too. The combination of salty and hot is a surefire hit for most people. Look for powdered hot peppers and make your meat as spicy as you dare.
Sugar: To counteract the salty taste and add a new facet of flavor, sweetener is sometimes added to the curing process. Most commonly used in wet brine (which is fermenting), sugars can include cane sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Each brings its own flavor to the recipe.
An essential ingredient in most brines is the sugar. The sugar can be white, brown, maple syrup, honey, molasses, or any combination of sweeteners. These unexpected flavors add an additional flavor component, smoothing out the saltiness and helping to take the sting out of the spiciness factor. You can’t ruin the effectiveness of a recipe with the sugar ingredient, so feel free to play around with this ingredient to your heart’s content.
Selecting starters for fermenting meat
When fermenting meats, fish, and eggs, it is acceptable to start from scratch, and your recipe will turn out very well. Fermenting hobbyists will often add a bit of old fermented liquid to the new recipe, to give the bacteria a good boost right from the beginning. This is as simple as it sounds: Add a little bit of starter from a successful batch of fermented food to the new jar or container of the same food. It’s that easy!
Although not necessary for all ferments, use a starter from a previous batch of the same recipe, whenever possible. Think of it as insurance for a healthy, new ferment.