A Charcutepalooza I Shall BE

I can’t give up.  I have been thwarted in every direction I turn for this damn curing product.

I have been told it is dangerous…it is not sold here in its pure form…Listeria and Botulism will plague my family.

Bullshit!

First I must begin by telling you that people who cure and do Charcuterie are dye-hard fanatics who would not let a neophyte like myself get into harms way.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, Yummy Mummy, Charcutepalooza, Join in Albany, The Art of the Pig are just a few of the bloggers who have come to my aid, answered all my stupid questions and kept encouraging me.

I had the following post all made up and ready to go, but today almost a week later I have ordered my cure and decided where my Breast will hang.   Okay Yummy Mummy said they have been getting all kinds of perverted thoughts on the month of Duck Breast Proscuitto and since belly is next she is already thinking of a whole new world of perv that will be sent her way via emails.

This is very exciting for me especially since I have once made Michael Ruhlman’s Cured Salmon and have been making it ever since.  First time I used Molasses and boy was it good.

So since Thursday I have done nothing but researching and reading on where to find Cure and finally have placed my order.

I am not up to speed with the rest of them; I would never be able to run a marathon and come in on time.  I always need my own space and pace.

They are having a Twitter-a-thon on this subject where Bob Del Grosso will be answering Twits, but since I am probably the biggest Twit I won’t take up his time.  Also I cannot figure out how to do this kind of thing and I am truly embarrassed to ask for help when I will need all the help I can get later on.

So here is what I originally wrote.  Read it and then destroy it cause none of it is stopping me and it shouldn’t stop you.  Although don’t follow me: go to the above websites and follow them.

Originally entitled:  A Charcutepalooza I Am Not

I have no goals or longterm desires to write for any food magazines or internet food sites.  What I always want to do is follow: follow food people much more knowledgeable than I at what they do best.  Whether it be Sake  Sommeliers, or Sushi Mavens; Bread bakers or Restaurant Critics…my goal is to learn and to write about my lessons.  I enjoy following; I have had enough of leading.

Last week through various food blogs including Michael Ruhlman’s, I learned that a year’s odyssey of home curing, smoking and general Charcuterie was going live on the internet inviting many other food bloggers to join in and to post all their efforts and results; both good and bad.  Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, The Yummy Mummy are the two Food Bloggers beginning this mission.

My first instinct was to say Nah. That’s just a little too outside my comfort zone especially with the facilities I have to deal with like no basement or cold room.


Even though that was my initial thought, I spent an hour combing through three of these blogs.

As I did so and as I read of the first project I felt a surge of excitement.  A tinge of desire.  Especially because The Yummy Mummy was such a novice herself.  It all seemed so easy.  Or so I thought.  That Duck Prosciutto is what made me want to set out for a first-timer to try to make this.  It is an especially easier kind of Charcuterie to do.

***I will refer to the cure in question as Pink Salt as opposed to Prague Powder #1.  It is also known in places as DC powder and DQ powder as well Instacure.

Quebec: home of the Charcuterie…home to tourtieres…home to Foie Gras…home to Au Pied du Cochon.  Impossible to find Pink Salt…impossible to find curing salt sold retail even under its various other names like Prague Powder #1. I went to Chowhound for answers and it wasn’t helpful.  In fact, I learned that it is virtually impossible to find Prague Powder #1; not to mention the overt notes of caution I was getting.

Caution is fine.  I knew what I was doing; I knew I was going to follow recipes to a fine tooth point which is of high importance and necessity in home curing.  I had no intentions of beginning my Duck Breast and turning it into Duck Prosciutto without fully reading as much as I could on the subject.

In fact I was already prepared not to keep pace with the actual bloggers on their time frame but instead doing it in my time-frame after reading their results.

One place on the internet wanted to sell me a 55 lb supply.  Obviously not.

The Canadian site I found called Stuffers.com was a suggestion from somewhere; but theirs, labelled under their own name as Stuffers Cure, contains added Sodium Bicarbonate and Glycerine.  Michael Ruhlman was kind enough to tell me the cure should have only two ingredients and be labelled clearly as 6.25% Nitrate with the balance of the cure being salt.

I went to every online site that was suggested by Chowhound/Montreal and egullet.com/Montreal and even from those who are on the Charcutepalooza Facebook page.  I am still waiting to hear if two of these American internet shopping sites will ship to Canada.  “Nitrate” of which 6.25% is necessary in the cure is currently highly regulated in Canada.  I am not sure they can even ship if from the States across border; some have it shipped to their U.S. addresses or pick it up in Plattsburgh, NY.

If you go to the link of “Nitrate” you will understand Canada’s regulations and why I think they are talking directly to me… Math was never my subject.  I cannot even understand what those tables mean.

Some ‘hounders’ talked of stores that will sell it to you from bins in their back rooms; but as a novice this seemed more stupid to me than not especially since I am following a recipe and have no idea what it is I am being sold.  In fact some of the ‘hounders’ didn’t know either.

All research to this end was done on Thursday as I sat on my ass all day long on the internet.  Friday I set out physically to conjure up some Pink Salt.

First I hit my Italian butcher.  He had no idea what I was talking about and no he did not have any.  Later I realized this was his way of not having to give or sell me any and still keep my business.  The next butcher I hit (and who I knew) said out rightly ‘No’.

He spent some time talking to me and his version of what I was about to embark on…this was his take on it as I understood it…

He cannot, by law, sell me the Prague Powder #1.  He was a little astonished as to why I wanted it; I explained.  He followed up by saying that every retail or manufacturing outlet that cures, smokes or pickles any kind of meat for re-sale is highly monitored by the Health Authorities on a regular basis.   Temperature controlled rooms are necessary; proper mixing facilities are necessary; curing and pickling products are highly tested.

It is an industry with high controls for any re-sale market.  This is so for home curing, as far he knows, as well.

It is against the law to sell curing salts like Prague Powder or Pink Salt, in Canada, for home use.  If a place or person is caught doing this i.e. if he is caught selling or giving me the cure he could lose his business license.  If I got sick; (in his opinion he felt it was too big a risk for me to do because of botulism) and it was linked back to him; it is Criminal.  That is the law.

It is a gray area to sell Prague Powder#1 to anyone and I am thinking that maybe it is why the site I spoke about earlier had other ingredients that may have fallen into this gray area…the addition of sodium bicarbonate and glycerine.

He knows of butcher shops that make their own meats and sausages that are not licensed to sell retail, it is done; but, according toButcherman, it will be virtually impossible for me to attain any kind of this curing salt…. and if I am ‘unlucky enough to have someone sell me some’ that is not packaged I should be aware of what could happen.

Yes, this part I know and I can deal with intellectually knowing the hazards which are why reading, reading and more reading is what I fully intend and intended to do.

I came home feeling defeated, sad and energized.  At this point I was beginning to just want to get hold of Pink Salt even if I wasn’t going to cure.  Out went an email to McGill University Dept of Agriculture and Environmental Science and to Dr. Joe Schwarz, an old professor of mine.  Awaiting their reply.

A few Facebook Charcutepalooza’s wrote suggestions where I could order Pink Salt; some I am awaiting answers on and one had the same problem as Stuffers.  They sold under their label and although stipulated 6.25% nitrate and salt; they did not volunteer any other ingredient even though the description led me to believe there were other ingredients.  Not only that; but their cautions on use and process actually scared the bejesus out of me.

Being a novice in Charcuterie, never having gone to butchery or cooking school, knowing the importance of cleanliness and proper storing and cooling conditions; I felt that if they had to be so specific in their description of the cure they are selling, to people who I assume know what they are buying, was just another stone blocking me.  All these stones, all this difficulty, has finally left me feeling that if home curing in Quebec was so easy, I would have in hand today, my Pink Salt.

Home curing is not illegal.  Home curing and selling is.  The intellect in me says there is a reason buying Pink Salt is so difficult.  (Again Pink Salt is not the term used in Canada and the color is just an agent I was told and does not affect the taste.)

If it is so hard to come by; perhaps I should not have it.  Sad, but that is now how I feel.

This is not over.  I will, over the next many weeks and months, while I go about the city, make it my business to visit the butcher stalls at the Jean Talon Market and Marche Atwater.  I will however, not buy product that is not packaged and labelled.

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6 Responses to “A Charcutepalooza I Shall BE”

  1. And I thought the US was weird with its not quite written down fixation on raw milk.

  2. In this process I found out that makeup: shadows, lipsticks, cannot be shipped x border because of the dyes they put in the States…crazy, but I went to the website ordered it gave my address and sure enough up popped the information they cannot ship ‘the makeup’ to Canada. Also under FDA approval.

  3. Hello!!

    I’m doing this Charcutepalooza as well. But since I live in France, I have seen curing salt containing Sodium Nitrate in my wholesalers over Christmas, it was just sitting benignly on the shelves next to Alum. I didn’t think to pick any up but I’m pretty sure I can just buy the stuff. Thanks for reminding me about it. I need to post my experience with the duck breasts, they were lovely!

    You keep at it; if it proves completely impossible, I’ll see what I can source for you here in Europe. :)

  4. Thank you both…I have to date ordered from a Canadian company the curing salt containing the proper nitrate amount. My concerns initially were the added ingredients of bicarbonate and glycerine; but Warner I think you and Join in Albany alleviated that concern. I have ordered it. I have my room thermometer to make sure my temp is accurate as I will have to navigate the window open and shut cause I don’t have a cold room; an S hook for hanging; and once I get the cure I will also buy my organic duck breast…

  5. Wow.. I can’t believe the hard time you’re having up there.

    We have the same laws in the states against home curing and selling, but we can buy both cure #1 and # just about anywhere ( even Mortons Salt company makes a home cure that is sold in almost every supermarket)

    If you still need help, send me an email and I’ll send a bag your way.

    I bought a 4lb bag of each last year, and won’t be through them until sometime in 2020 :)

    welcome to the world of charcuterie!

    todd

  6. Yes it was incredible however I did manage to buy a small bag at a Canadian online store that someone in Albany linked me up with. Unfortunately my proscuitto was not successful; I could not control the humidity in the room however the temperature was pretty well on target. I had no choice but to hang it in a guest bedroom with the window open and the door closed. It dried out too much: but the worst part about this was all the negative remarks and the cautions…even though intellectually I knew I did each step properly I could barely summon the courage to actually eat a slice of it.

    What this project did for me was to introduce me to a lot of Canadian Food and Agriculture laws I never knew existed…as a small example I had no idea that any product having food dye in it is illegal to pass borders between US and Canada. A small thing like a lipstick or eyemakeup cannot be shipped to Canada from anywhere in the States…If not for this project I would have no idea this law even existed.