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Charcuterie 101

I’ve recently been exploring the world of charcuterie – the process of creating prepared meats such as bacon, ham, sausage and the like.  I love these types of food and probably consume more than my fair share.  Hey – who doesn’t like a few thick pieces of bacon?!  Even vegetarians admit that bacon is the one thing that they would break their veggie habits for if they were to do so.  It’s simply irresistible.

After spending the last 8 years savoring the lovely bacon from Skagit River Ranch; I decided to try my hand at making the finest of the prepared meats.  It was then that I landed on purchasing Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Curing and Smoking by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – chef at the Forest Grill in Birmingham, MI.  You may have heard of or remember Ruhlman who typically plays arch-nemesis and sometimes friend to Anthony Bourdain on his numerous TV shows.  This book has long been regarded as the bible of charcuterie and I was not disappointed.  It’s written in a simple style that really breaks down the process of creating your own prepared meats at home.

The ‘mother’ recipe for curing bacon is the ‘Basic Dry Cure’.  It’s simple to make and serves as a starter for many things to by made such as bacon and pancetta.  After some experimentation I came up with a bit of an alteration on the original recipe which uses a natural brown sugar called ‘Demerara‘ which is extracted from sugar cane and not refined.  I like my bacon with a bit of sweetness and typically add maple syrup or brown sugar to the curing process.  So, the demerara plays in nicely. The Basic Dry Cure I use is as follows.  Note that all measurements are done in dry weight so you’ll need a digital kitchen scale to make the cure.

Basic Dry Cure Recipe


  • 900 grams kosher salt
  • 630 grams demerara sugar
  • 90 grams #1 Cure (pink salt)

Please note that ‘pink salt‘ is not the fancy Himalayan stuff you find at Whole Foods or elsewhere.  Pink salt is actually a curing salt that contains nitrite and prevents ‘bad’ bacteria from growing as well as preserving color in the meat among other things.  Nitrites in small quantities are not harmful. They naturally occur in leafy greens and root vegetables.  It’s Nitrates that you want to stay away from.  Pink salt can be found online at The Hungry Dog’s Store.


There really isn’t too much to making your cure as it’s quite a simple process.

  1. Weigh ingredients and combine in large bowl
  2. Mix ingredients with large whisk
  3. Store ingredients in large, airtight container to prevent them from hardening/sticking together

Once you have your basic dry cure prepared you are ready to start making bacon, pancetta and many other salumi and charcuterie delicacies.

For more on charcuterie and curing meats check out my other posts here.