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How to Pickle Meat With a Centuries-Old Recipe

Updated on August 19, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects recipes from past generations among ethnic groups, the 13 Original Colonies, the American Civil War & the 19th century.

A delicious ham sandwich. Ham was picked on the form back in American Civil War days by my great-grandfather.
A delicious ham sandwich. Ham was picked on the form back in American Civil War days by my great-grandfather. | Source

Pickling During the American Civil War

Pickling Meat is a way of curing and preserving different types of meats and 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. It 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)

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 50 min
Yields: Several; after 3 days' pickling time

Please rate the pickles!

3.4 stars from 23 ratings of Pickled Meat
A ceramic pot is good for use as a crock. A metal pot leaches metal molecules into the mix and produces an off flavor..
A ceramic pot is good for use as a crock. A metal pot leaches metal molecules into the mix and produces an off flavor.. | Source

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 pounds worth, and
  • 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pickled Bologna is an old country and farm treat. Thai Pickle Sausage
Pickled Bologna is an old country and farm treat.
Pickled Bologna is an old country and farm treat. | Source
Thai Pickle Sausage
Thai Pickle Sausage

© 2007 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 weeks ago from North America

      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. :)

    • profile image

      Karen 6 weeks ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 months ago from North America

      Hi charlie,

      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.

    • profile image

      charlie 8 months ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      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.

    • profile image

      ianky 2 years ago

      when pickling beef does it need to be in a crock or will a different container be ok?

    • paizley profile image

      paizley 3 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from North America

      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.

    • profile image

      mike 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Plastic would eventually dissolve. Stick with glass.

    • profile image

      Hobart 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I hope you can out these recipes to good use. They have worked for long time.

    • Brandon Martin profile image

      Brandon Martin 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      sounds pretty awesome!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      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.

    • profile image

      Shanzy 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I'm happy it was interesting to you!

    • profile image

      thehistoricfoodie 5 years ago

      I stumbled onto your site and enjoyed a good read. Thanks.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 6 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I love pickled foods, escpecially meats. great hub. i think i will have to expierment.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful pickling ideas.Thank you for sharing them. God Bless You.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 6 years ago from Yorkshire

      sounds very tasty, i will use your tips.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for sharing this antique pickling recipe and process. Voted up and awesome. Saving this one to my favorites.

    • cameciob profile image

      cameciob 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      shivanie persaud 6 years ago

      list 5 methods used to preserve meat

    • profile image

      Bruce campbell 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      MKayo 7 years ago from Texas

      Wow, I never even knew this could be done - I guess I learned something new - Thx!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      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.

    • profile image

      reggiehg 8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      It should be fine after pickling is complete. The pickling processes the meat, just as citrus juices "cook" fish in cerviche.

    • profile image

      Joey Griffis 8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thank you SunSeven and DR.B.SARAF Ph.D. I never knew about preserving fish; thanks for that information. I must study sukhua,

    • profile image

      bhubaneshwar 9 years ago


      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'.

      DR.B.SARAF Ph.D.

    • SunSeven profile image

      SunSeven 9 years ago from Singapore / India

      Thanks Patty. You are one of the best and the most prolific Hubber here. Have a great day.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      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 profile image

      SunSeven 9 years ago from Singapore / India

      Very interesting. I am going to try this some time soon. Thank you very much Patty, for this hub.

      Best Regards