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Re: Nitrates - Nitrites
Posted By: Leo Hirsch In Response To: Re: Nitrates - Nitrites (Henry Bacarisse)
Date: Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 6:09 a.m.
In Response To: Re: Nitrates - Nitrites (Henry Bacarisse)
WQll,yes.........This point has been muffed more often than good.
Let us take a fast introduction to the art of curing.
1: Sodium Chloride and absolutely nothing else. Just plain salty--but the meat keeps. Spices, smoke and so on improve taste.
2: For some reason Saltpetre (potassium nitrate, the oxidizer used in blackpowder) is added to the curing mixture. I am unable to tell when or how or why. There is a completely un-substantiated rumour that some French cavallery slaughtered their horses and cured the meat with saltpetre from their blackpowder !!!!!!!
Salpetre in itself does nothing to lean meat. It might however, as an oxidizer,promote rancidness in the fat. Pray notice: there are at least 2 routes to rancidness:
A: Hydrolysis by lipases, endogenous or microbial--the liberated fatty acids has the rancid taste.
B: Oxidative damage, especially to the unsaturated double bounds in the fatty acids. This one is promoted by saltpetre.
However, unavoidable bacteria can reduce nitrate to nitrite. The nitrite reacts with the heme-group of the red muscle pigment myoglobin, producing the heat-stable pigment of properly cured meat.
Saltpetre is added as quite a large amount (by the way: it does not diminish libido according to the best books). The necessary bacterial growth is often promoted by adding a bit of sugar at the same time.
3: Science never sleeps! Nitrite is technologically more efficient wayof producing the wanted, heat-stable pigment. And there is no way in which the presence / absence of nitrate reducing bacteria can foul the curing up.
Nitrite is toxic in itself, especially to Botulinus spp. (which is good) but also to humans (not quite so good). However, addition of sodium nitrite to the curing salt at 5 g per kg of salt has been allowed in many of the cultured states of Europe. Intake of nitrite in larger doses will destroy the oxygen-binding properties of hemoglobin, the red pigment of blood. For some reason, babies are especially sensitive to this--and turn a most surprising blue colour.
Do not try this at home, kids.........
And as correctly stated above, most nitrite in our daily food comes from vegetables. Yes, the healthy green vegetables....
The fertilizer / manure in the fertile Earth in which most of us will end very often contains nitrate as nitrogen source. Or other nitrogen sources end up as nitrate-through quite complicated routes. Need not deter us here and now.
This nitrate can then again be bacteriologically reduced to nitrite. Hey, presto.............
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