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Concerning Nitrites in Cured Meats

Source:  Rytek Kutas in Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing Recipe Book, pp. 20-21, copyright 1984, republished since.


          “It is that simple to create food poisoning: proper temperatures of 40-140 degrees F, moisture, and lack of oxygen.  To be sure, whenever you smoke any kind of product in the low range of 40-140 degrees F, it should be cured.  If you can’t cure it, don’t smoke it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s meat, fish, poultry, cheese, or vegetable:  don’t take the chance.  It’s a pretty good bet that anything you will smoke has some moisture in it.  You are removing oxygen when smoking the product and the temperatures are ideal.

          Do not forget this one cardinal rule: IF IT CAN’T BE CURED, DON’T SMOKE IT.

          Most nitrite used in curing meat disappears from the product after it has accomplished its curing effects.  Within two weeks after curing, the amount of nitrite remaining in a product may be as little as one-fourth the amount initially added to it.  Cured meat products typically contain 10-40 parts per million (PPM) at the time of purchase.

          Your mouth and your intestines manufacture nitrite, and there is some evidence that our intestines’ nitrite prevents us from poisoning ourselves with the very food we eat everyday, since there is moisture in the stomach, lack of oxygen, and correct temperatures for food poisoning.

          Furthermore, there has been some evidence of crib deaths when the infant was not able to manufacture enough nitrite in its system and, consequently, died of food poisoning.

          Even more interesting, just to name a few nitrite-containing vegetables, plain old ordinary beets have been found to contain 2,760 PPM of nitrite; celery, 1,600 to 2,600 PPM; lettuce, 100-1,400 PPM; radishes, 2,400 to 3,000 PPM; potatoes 120 PPM; and zucchini, 600 PPM.  The source for these nitrites in   vegetables comes from nitrogen fertilizers.  It is nitrogen that helps to produce the green color in vegetables and to make them grow faster.

          It makes little difference whether you fertilize your vegetable garden out of a bag of chemicals or cow manure.  The chemical end result will be the same – nitrogen equals nitrite.”


~ Maurice Bonneau’s Sausage Kitchen