Salt part III: Cures and Brines

Has I discussed on my first post on salt, salt is not only a flavour improver but it is also has preservative virtues. These have been the only way to preserve protein rich food for a very long time.. Based on the on the basic physic phenomenon that see a concentrated solution draw water out of living cell by osmosis; water in the less concentrated fluid moves out of the cell to relieve the imbalance, in consequence if there is a sufficient concentration of salt in the food it can prevent the growth of spoilage bacteria. This reduction of the water in the environment stops or reduces the growth of dangerous (except for the listeria that does not need a lot of water to survive) bacterium while allowing harmless, flavour producing and more salt tolerant ones to grow, like in cheese making for example.

So there are few simple recipes for brines and cures:

Dry cure for poultry (for a 4kg piece):
0.140kg fine table salt
0.010kg peppercorn
0.010kg 4 spice
0.010kg saltpetre
0.040kg caster sugar

Dry cure for rabbit dishes (for an average size rabbit):
0.050kg table salt
5 peppercorns
5g sugar
2g saltpetre
1 bunch thyme
1 bay leaf
2 juniper berries
2g mixed spice

Dry cure for goose (for a 2kg bird):
70g fine sea salt
20g sugar
5 peppercorns
5g saltpetre
5g mixed spice

Dry cure for smoked ham (for 2 averages size hams):
1kg fine salt
0.150kg sugar
40g peppercorns
25g juniper berries
1 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
Curing time: 28 days

Brine for smoked ham (for 2 average size hams):
4.700kg fine salt
45g cloves
30g saltpetre
a large bunch of thyme
20 bay leaves
100g juniper berries
Water to cover

Dry cure for smoked salmon (enough for two fillets):
200g fine salt
1 Bunch dill
Zests of one lemon
20g brown sugar
Timing: 24-36h

Brine for gravadlax (enough for one fillet of salmon)
100g fine sea salt
50g brown sugar
1 bunch dill
2 shots of aquavit (vodka)
1 dash of pernod
5 peppercorns
20 pink peppercorns
2 lemons (zest and juice)
1 orange (zest and juice)
Olive oil to cover

Dry cure for dried fish
Enough grey unrefined sea salt to cover the fillets of fish up to a 1/2cm thickness.
10 peppercorns

Dry cure for pickles (enough for 1kg gherkins)
100g salt
10 peppercorns
20 grains of coriander

Salt concentration in cooking (% of the total amount of liquid)

- Boiling seafood such as brown crab, lobster and craw fish: 3%
- Boiling vegetables: 1%
- Boiling potatoes (except in hard water area): 2%
- Boiling eggs in the shell: 10%
- Poaching eggs: 1%
- Poaching fish: 1%
- Boiling rice and pasta: 1%

For more information: Curing fish, curing meat, recipes.


  1. Really interesting stuff- love the brine for the gravalax.

    on 23 July, 2008