Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is interested in early American history, the Civil War, and the 19th century.
Pickling During the American Civil War
Pickling meat is a way of curing and preserving different types of meats. This method was developed before the days of refrigeration or easy access to ice for keeping meats cold. Thus, we have pickled pigs feet, pickled herring, and other pickled meets. fowl, and fishes.
Pickling was, during the War Between the States, or the Civil War, performed with saltpeter, and we don't see much of that anymore. Today's pickled meats take on special flavors of a variety of spices used to preserve them. This pickling process is more about flavor today than preservation.
Here is an early meat pickle recipe that my ancestors in the Civil War learned to use to his advantage. He later used the process to pickle meats on the farm back home. It was likely passed through his sons and wives and their children. My ancestor, being English-Irish, was partial to corned beef, another sort of preserved product.
Recipe for Pickling Meats
- One large stew pot
- One large crockery or glass container
The Pickle or Brine Mix
- 6 lb. salt
- 1 lb. sugar
- 4 oz. saltpeter
- 4 gallons water
- Meat (whatever will fit in your crock)
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Several; after 3 days' pickling time
Please rate the pickles!
How to Pickle Meat
- Bring 4 gallons of water to the boil over high heat. This was done originally outside over a large camp file, but it can be managed on a home cook top these days.
- After the water is at a rolling boil, add all of the salt, sugar, and saltpeter.
- Boil the mixture until a large head of foam appears. Skim this head off the foam. Next, remove the pot from the fire and allow the pickling mix to cool to room temperature.
- Pour the cooled pickling mixture into a large crock and add the meat that you wish to preserve. This is usually beef, pork, or venison. In order to submerse the meat and keep it totally under the pickling liquid, place a clean cutting board on top of it and weight it down with something healthy, In the Civil War days and on the farm, they simply used a heavy, large, flat stone.
- Leave the meat in the pickle liquid for three days.
- Keep the pickling mixture!
- Use the pickling liquid again by adding additional salt, about two pound's worth.
- Place over high heat to a rapid rolling boil. Boil the liquid until a scum rises visibly to the top and skim this off. Cool the liquid as before and re-use it to pickle additional meat.
In its standard use with red beans and rice, pickled pork is called "pickle meat"
A Modern Meat Pickling Recipe of the New Orleans Type
For its usual standard use with red beans and rice, pickled pork is called "pickle meat" and reminds me of pickled pigs feet, but more flavorful. You can used smoked ham, ham hocks, or whatever pork you have handy,
- Use a large enamel cooking pot, or any pot that is non-reactive (don't use aluminum).
- 2 lbs of pork cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces (I like the ham best)
- 1 Qt white vinegar (cider vinegar will change the flavor)
- 1/2 cup mustard seeds
- 1 Tsp celery seed
- 2 Tsp hot sauce
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and cracked. Don't mash it or dice it.
- 1 Tsp kosher salt (regular table salt won't do)
- 12 peppercorns
- Combine all ingredients except the meat in your pot. Being to the boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- When the pickle liquid is cooled to room temperature, add the meat. Stir well, cover, and set the pot in your refrigerator or put it all into a large food container of plastic first. Keep the container in the refrigerator for three days to allow the pickling process to progress and enjoy your pickle meat.
- This meat can also be preserved further by the canning process with glass jars and a pressure cooker.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What does saltpeter do in the pickling process?
Answer: Saltpeter (or saltpetre) is the name of a group of substances that contain nitrogen. In the given meat-pickling recipe that is over 100 years old, it is used as a food preservative. Rarely used for preservation of foods today, you will find it in things like gunpowder!
Question: In the second recipe in this article, is the ham mentioned a fresh ham or "cured and smoked"?
Answer: The ham you use in this recipe can be cured and smoked, or just cured. The fresh, uncured ham gives a different flavor that some people do not enjoy.
Question: How long would it take to can pickled pork with a pressure cooker?
Answer: I do not recommend a pressure cooker for this recipe, because during the times I tried it, the consistency of the end product was sub-par; even at a range of different times, the meat seemed mushy in the end.
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS
Tza Yad on June 23, 2020:
I love the 2nd recipe. But I will put my own twist on it. Something I learned to make on Guam. Kaleguin. It's made with lemon or lime instead of vinegar. Sliced flank steak or similar meats for fajita cuts work best. I have made hot, spicy, sweat and spicey and I love them all. My favorite is with pepper corn, allspice (whole), sarano peppers, who garlic and lemon/lime. It comes out sweat and spicy and leaves you wanting more.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 20, 2019:
I have heard that it does work, but have never tried it. Let us know how it goes.
Rose1550 on November 19, 2019:
Will this recipe work with smoked pork hocks?
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 09, 2018:
They sound delicious, Kim, although I have never seen that recipe. Romanians have a recipe for them, I see, at a wiki called romanianrecipes.
kim wyatt on February 08, 2018:
Trying to find recipe for pickled Italian meatballs.you store it months before enjoying them.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 12, 2017:
Hey, Karen; that is a really good idea! Thanks for sharing it; more people might try some of these food prep techniques now. Lots of homes have a crock pot of some kind. :)
Karen on August 11, 2017:
I use the crock from my slow cooker...a plate turned upside down ( as my mom did) on top, and a large washed beach stone for weight.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 15, 2017:
I would bet that my great grandmother's and grandmother's root cellar from 1870 through 1910 had those very same crocks! Thanks for enlightening us about them; it is great to learn more history of foods.
charlie on January 14, 2017:
Some of these recipes come close to what I remember from 55 years ago. We used home butchered pork, feet and hocks and they were cooked and placed on 5 or 10 gallons crocks, the type sauerkraut, pickles and other things I can't remember. I was very young then so didn't learn all about how it was done .
I just remember these big crocks of pickled stuff that sat in the basement through most of the winter. There was no canning in jars, they stayed in these be crocks until used up (this was in northern Illinois). It would have been early to mid 1950s.
Is there anyone around from those days who pickled food this way?
Appreciate hearing from any one who remembers the way it was done then.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 09, 2015:
A crock is the traditional vessel, but you can use anything ceramic. Most metals will eat away in the pickling ingredients and provide an odd flavor. Plastic is not very good, but heavy plastic might do, if you have nothing else.
ianky on February 09, 2015:
when pickling beef does it need to be in a crock or will a different container be ok?
paizley from Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 23, 2014:
I pickled some turkey breast today. I bought a fresh 5.5 lb breast and had tons leftover. The turkey was brined initially then slow roasted at 170° for 5 hours. The meat stayed super moist. I took half of what was left over, cut into bite sized pieces, covered the meat with 2:1 vinegar water ratio, added dill, black pepper, onion, red pepper flakes, celery salt, and some of my homemade Montreal steak seasoning. The vinegar solution was divine! I can't wait for the turkey to be ready to eat. I'm sure it will be delicious! Will probably an outstanding as an hors d'oeuvres.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 28, 2012:
Hi mike -- There are two methods for making absolutely safe pickled pork, confirmed by local county extension services and health departments (see above recipes and change the spices any way you like, except the amount of saltpetre in one and the inclusion of enough salt and vinegar in the other). The two safest methods are:
1) one that uses SALTPETRE (important) and 10 days of dry curing without cooking and
2) one that uses COOKING in brine for 4 or 5 minutes, followed a refrigerator cure for 3 or 4 days.
The recipes in the Hub are one of each method, and your spices and such sound tasty - I've seen them listed on the Internet for pickling pork.
Your pork may be fine, but at the first sign of any food poisoning, usually about 4-6 hours after eating, go to a doctor or ER.
mike on November 27, 2012:
i'm trying a different recipe. i got a pork loin and then salted it with roughly 4 parts salt and 1 part brown sugar and let it cure in the fridge for three days. i put the pork on a plastic lid in the tupperware and put salt on the floor of the container but didn't completely cover the container in salt.
The plastic lid keeps the pork elevated so the liquid that leaches out doesn't come in contact with the meat.
After three days, the pork was fairly dry. i then sliced it into thin slices.
then i filled a coffee jar with onions, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, chopped garlic, soy sauce, whole pepper corns, dijon mustard, and a dash of sesame oil.
now i've put the cured pork slices in there. the mixture tasted delicious - unfortunately i forgot to keep track of the measures. it tasted sweet, tangy, spicy, salty, and aromatic all at once.
i just am not sure if the pork is safe to consume as it was dry cured raw and then pickled raw - but it 'feels' safe - because the meat was almost the consistency of jerky which i've eaten after drying in a dehydrator and it was raw.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 25, 2012:
Plastic would eventually dissolve. Stick with glass.
Hobart on July 25, 2012:
I like your recipie but wondered if an air-tight container would substitute for the glass or clay crock jar? Getting ready for Obamageddon!
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 15, 2012:
I hope you can out these recipes to good use. They have worked for long time.
Brandon Martin from Colorado, USA on June 14, 2012:
sounds pretty awesome!
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 19, 2012:
I'd keep it in the refrigerator if you're going to use it within a week. Otherwise, can it like you would a vegetable - hot water bath, glass jar and ring top.
Shanzy on January 19, 2012:
Hi i was lookin fo ways to preserve th pork i have at home n came across this site have never pickled before so after th meat has been submerged in th pickle for three days how do i store it
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 02, 2011:
I'm happy it was interesting to you!
thehistoricfoodie on November 02, 2011:
I stumbled onto your site and enjoyed a good read. Thanks. thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com
Ryan from Louisiana, USA on July 13, 2011:
I love pickled foods, escpecially meats. great hub. i think i will have to expierment.
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on June 14, 2011:
Wonderful pickling ideas.Thank you for sharing them. God Bless You.
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on May 05, 2011:
sounds very tasty, i will use your tips.
Becky from Oklahoma on May 03, 2011:
Thanks for sharing this antique pickling recipe and process. Voted up and awesome. Saving this one to my favorites.
cameciob on February 19, 2011:
Patty, I remember now that my grandpa used to pickle bacon, that they will eat it in the wintertime. It tasted like garlic because they will boul garlic in the water. In my country (Romania) we called that "saramura". It was very good.
shivanie persaud on February 07, 2011:
list 5 methods used to preserve meat
Bruce campbell on December 12, 2010:
Fascinating. I love the tidbits of history. If there was more there for a story of its own that would be great also. I’ll be trying this soon also. As you can see from my hub I’ve been working on the whole canning art/science thing for a life style change. Thank you for sharing. DBC
MKayo from Texas on September 14, 2010:
Wow, I never even knew this could be done - I guess I learned something new - Thx!
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 10, 2009:
I would feel safe having pickled meats sit on a table throughout an afternoon. They may last as long as cucumber pickles at room temperature (days or longer), but note whether they begin to smell "off" (discard if and when they do).
Kosher salt provides a different texture and curing process than does table salt. Similar to burying a fish in salt to cure it - Kosher salt comes in larger pieces/crystals works well, table salt makes it salty and not so well preserved - it dissolves too fast.
reggiehg on June 09, 2009:
Hi Patty ;-)
About how long will these recipes last in room temperature?
And why does it have to be kosher salt and not regular table salt for the 2nd recipe?
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 17, 2008:
It should be fine after pickling is complete. The pickling processes the meat, just as citrus juices "cook" fish in cerviche.
Joey Griffis on November 17, 2008:
Hi Patty, I would like to know if this meat can be eaten with out cooking, after it is pickled? Being it was pickled with raw meat. Thanks Joey
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 08, 2007:
Thank you SunSeven and DR.B.SARAF Ph.D. I never knew about preserving fish; thanks for that information. I must study sukhua,
bhubaneshwar on November 07, 2007:
Thank you so much for the valued information. Here in India, we do not keep preserved meat, eat fresh only. But, people preserve fish , they add salt and dry it in shade. This is known as 'SUKHUA'.
SunSeven from Singapore / India on November 02, 2007:
Thanks Patty. You are one of the best and the most prolific Hubber here. Have a great day.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 02, 2007:
Thanks very much for the nice comment, SunSeven. I like the second recipe a bit better than the first.
In my favorite Korean restaurant here, which unfortunately closed down, complementary pickled meets were presented before your order was taken. The kind waitreses and hosts would bring over 12-18 different small dishes with pickled meats of beef, pork, several types of fish, squid and other deliacies. My favorite Indian restaurant also oved away to locate in another state. Their hot pickled delicasies are something I miss very much as well.
Thanks for stopping by -- you are so interesting in your pursuits.
SunSeven from Singapore / India on November 02, 2007:
Very interesting. I am going to try this some time soon. Thank you very much Patty, for this hub.