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Okay, what's up with nitrite/nitrates?

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  • Okay, what's up with nitrite/nitrates?



    I am crossing my fingers that my daughters took the hint that the only thing on my Amazon wish list is a sausage stuffer. I've been really interested in making all kinds of sausages, particularly salami as I love it but want to completely control what goes into it. In researching recipes, they all call for a mixture of nitrate and nitrate to inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria, such as Clostridium, which causes botulism. As explained here http://home.pacbell.net/lpoli/page0002.htm, the nitrate, to be useful, must be converted to nitrite.


    I know there are a lot of smart people here, so please tell me how I can make salami or other cured meats successfully without adding nitrate. How did they do it back in the olden days?


  • #2
    1



    As far as I can tell, if you keep your sausage frozen there shouldn't be any opportunity for bacteria to grow. After all, you can keep ground beef in your freezer, and sausage is just ground meat with seasoning added. We buy a lot of homemade sausage from the farmer's market, and none of it has nitrates added. No so with bacon; local farmers send their bacon out to be cured, and almost all of the smokehouses use nitrates.

    My blog: Pretty Good Paleo
    On Twitter: @NEKLocalvore

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    • #3
      1

      [quote]

      Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is among the compounds formed in the high heat combustion of wood, charcoal, and even propane. As these compounds land on the surface of meat, especially cool moist meat from the fridge, some, including nitrogen dioxide, are moved deeper into the meat as cells lower in the smoke compounds pull them in with a diffusion and absorption process. The cells are simply seeking equilibrium. The process is the same as when someone lights a cigar in a room. All the smoke starts out near the cigar, but eventually it spreads throughout the room as it achieves equilibrium. After a while it penetrates clothes, furniture, and even food. Because it is water soluble, cigar smoke will get into wet things first, like your wife's eyes. Before long you and your cigar will be seeking equilibrium in the garage.


      The smoke ring in meat is caused by four things:


      1) low temperature cooking,

      2) combustion of the wood at high temperatures to form nitrogen dioxide,

      3) nitrogen dioxide, and

      4) moisture on the surface of the meat to help move the water soluble nitrogen dioxide into the meat.


      When these conditions are met, nitrogen dioxide in wood smoke reacts with the pigment myoglobin in meat to form nitrites and nitrates. These are the same compounds added to hot dogs and other cured meats to preserve them and they also give them their pink color.
      </blockquote>


      http://www.amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/meat_science.html


      There&#39;s no avoiding nitrates/nitrites in cooked meat, especially smoke cured meat
      [quote]

      Practically every hot dog has had sodium nitrite added. It is also common in other cured meats such as bacon, ham, some luncheon meats, some sausages, and occasionally in poultry and fish. Nitrite is added because it inhibits the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a pathogen that creates the most lethal toxin known to man, botulinum, the cause of botulism.


      Sodium nitrite also gives cured meats their characteristic reddish-pink color and adds to their taste and texture. Nitrites also expand when cooked, helping the pups plump when hot. A few companies make hot dogs without nitrites, but most do not taste very good. Only one, Hans&#39; All Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, ranked "Highly Recommended" in my tastings.


      About 5% of our nitrite intake comes from cured meats. Most of the nitrites we consume come from the natural compounds in vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and carrots, and even some drinking water. They contain nitrates (with an "a") that are converted by our digestive system to nitrites (with an "i"). Interestingly, most nitrates are eliminated in our urine within a few hours.


      Preliminary research in the 1970s indicated that sodium nitrite could cause cancer in laboratory animals. It got a lot of publicity and as a result some people began calling hot dogs "death dogs." Since then more thorough research by scientists around the world on the safety of nitrites has contradicted these early experiments. The international scientific community seems to be satisfied that the quantities of nitrites and nitrates people typically take in from the environment and from food additives is safe, that the body actually needs small amounts of nitrites and nitrates, and they may possibly have some beneficial effects. In the stomach, nitrite can create nitric oxide, a compound that is thought to be important in healing wounds and burns, controlling blood pressure, and boosting immunity. In 2003, the World Health Organization published a comprehensive survey of dozens of research papers on the subject by scientists in the Netherlands. It stated "In the studies on dietary nitrate, no association was found with oral, oesophageal, gastric, or testicular cancer. No other cancer sites have been studied." The greatest health risk from nitrites and nitrates seems to be in badly polluted drinking water.


      Based on this research, two US Government agencies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), have set a maximum amount allowed in food. Over the past 30 years the meat industry has significantly reduced the amount of nitrates and nitrites added to meats and the amounts actually used are typically way below the allowable amount. In other words, Americans would have to eat a lot of hot dogs every day to exceed the amount deemed safe.
      </blockquote>


      http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/hot_dogs_and_sausages/frankfurter_ingredients.html


      There&#39;s plenty of exposure to nitrates/nitrites in out everyday food. We have also been cooking meat on the flame for up to 2M years.


      I think we should have evolved with some way of handling them effectively by now...

      The "Seven Deadly Sins"

      • Grains (wheat/rice/oats etc) . . . . . • Dairy (milk/yogurt/butter/cheese etc) . . . . .• Nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant etc)
      • Tubers (potato/arrowroot etc) . . . • Modernly palatable (cashews/olives etc) . . . • Refined foods (salt/sugars etc )
      • Legumes (soy/beans/peas etc)

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      • #4
        1



        I&#39;ve haven&#39;t found nitrate/nitrite free bacon yet. My local butcher says they use a combination of nitrite and vitamin C in the brine and at a reduced quantity to standard curing but I have wondered if that is good enough or should I limit the bacon...my nemesis.

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        • #5
          1



          Annika, in raw sausage such as you&#39;ll find in the farmer&#39;s market, there is no reason nitrates should be added. But in a cured sausage, such as salami, which depends on bacteria to give it the traditional sour taste as it ages, I haven&#39;t found any recipe that doesn&#39;t include the addition of nitrates. Lots of recipes out there for raw sausage, and I&#39;ve made a few of them already, but I&#39;m looking to advance my skills and move up to cured sausage/salami. I miss it terribly.

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          • #6
            1



            Tarlach, that&#39;s a great link; I&#39;m going to read the information very carefully. Maybe I&#39;m more worried than I need to be.

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            • #7
              1



              They may not be as big a deal as we&#39;ve been led to believe . . .


              http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/...acon-make.html

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              • #8
                1



                Yeah seems to be more CW &#39;wisdom&#39; based on nothing more than some media coverage years ago, than has since been proven wrong (but the correction wasn&#39;t exciting news).

                The "Seven Deadly Sins"

                • Grains (wheat/rice/oats etc) . . . . . • Dairy (milk/yogurt/butter/cheese etc) . . . . .• Nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant etc)
                • Tubers (potato/arrowroot etc) . . . • Modernly palatable (cashews/olives etc) . . . • Refined foods (salt/sugars etc )
                • Legumes (soy/beans/peas etc)

                Comment


                • #9
                  1



                  In addition, bodybuilders actually supplement with NO2:


                  http://www.google.com/search?q=bodyb...8&sourceid=ie7

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                  • #10
                    1



                    It sometimes feels that "nitrates/nitrites are bad" is more or less CW. Though I never did the research myself, I never came across anything convincing that they are truly bad. I&#39;m pretty sure there is a study somewhere where they fed rats ridiculous amounts of nitrates, lo and behold, they got cancer.


                    Here&#39;s an excellent article about the history and presumed but apparently unfounded "danger" of nitrates/nitrites.


                    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/07/does-banning-hotdogs-and-bacon-make.html
                    [quote]


                    The primary source of nitrites in our diets is vegetables, and to a lesser degree water and other foods. While it’s popularly believed that nitrates and nitrites mostly come from processed meats, they’re actually a very small source of our nitrite intakes, less than 5-10%. And nitrates aren’t present at all in commercially processed meats.
                    </blockquote>
                    [quote]


                    So, to see how much nitrate people are eating and if people could be consuming too many vegetables and exceeding recommended daily intakes for nitrates, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the EFSA by the European Commission just published its report on Nitrates in Vegetables in the June issue of EFSA Journal. They compiled 41,969 analytical results from 20 member states and Norway examining the nitrate levels in produce. Nearly every vegetable tested contained measurable amounts of nitrates, with averages varying from 1 to 4,800 ppm. For example, average levels were:


                    arugula 4,677 ppm


                    basil 2,292 ppm


                    butterhead lettuce 2,026 ppm


                    beets 1,279 ppm


                    celery 1,103 ppm


                    spinach 1,066 ppm


                    pumpkin 874 ppm


                    This compares to standard hotdogs or processed meats with average nitrite levels of 10 ppm.
                    </blockquote>

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                    • #11
                      1



                      I&#39;m glad to hear the reassuring information about nitrates/nitrites, because I love bacon and all the local bacon I can get has been cured with nitrites. Sharon, I am humbled and impressed that you are going to make cured sausage! Wow! I know less than nothing about it but it sounds harder than mixing herbs and spices into a bunch of ground pork. Good luck, and I hope you find that sausage stuffer under your Christmas tree!

                      My blog: Pretty Good Paleo
                      On Twitter: @NEKLocalvore

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                      • #12
                        1



                        @onelastime - if you have Whole Foods around you, they carry tons of varieties of nitrate/nitrite free bacon. I think I&#39;ve even seen them in regular supermarkets, too.

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                        • #13
                          1



                          @brian7972 - there are two in Southern Ontario but being from a small town they&#39;re not close to me. If I ever get near one maybe I can stock up.

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                          • #14
                            1



                            FYI - Whole Foods sell nitrate free bacon and sausage.

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                            • #15
                              1



                              @onelastime - gotcha. We didn&#39;t have one around here until recently, too. Luckily for you, bacon is easy to stock up/freeze.

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