Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter cured meat (Step 1: Marinating the Meat)

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Winter cured meats is a specialty of south China.  Similar to many other parts of the world, curing meats was a way of naturally preserving the meat because there were no refrigerators in the past.  By curing the meat, it would preserve it for a longer period of time.  There are different ways of making winter-cured meats, some which involve smoking and heavily salting.

Winter cured meat is not limited to one type of meat.  In fact, it can be done with pork, chicken and fish.  My focus for this recipe is solely in winter cured pork.  This recipe relies on salting the meat using salt, soy sauce, and salted cooking wine, but relies on the cold dry winters to fully cure the meat.  As such, the success of this recipe is determined by the local weather (you need several cold and windy days in a row for the best results).  If you have a cold room, then you make this recipe year round!  I don't own a cold room so I therefore make a large batch each winter that will be sure to last me the whole year.  Winter cured meat stores extremely well - months of storage does not affect the test of the meat.

Making winter-cured meat does require some planning in advance, but your taste buds will thank you in the future!

You will need the following ingredients in the following proportions:
  • 1 lb slab of pork belly
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 5 tablespoons of Chinese White Cooking Wine (but you can substitute with other hard liquors such as brandy or whiskey.  I've used Canadian Club and Johnny Walker Black Label in the past)
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of DARK soy (NOTE: the teaspoon for the dark soy is the correct measurement)
  • 1 tablespoon of Salted Cooking Wine.

Marinating the meat:
  1. Place the pork belly into the freezer for an hour after you buy it.
  2. Slice the pork belly into long, boneless strips about a half-inch thick in width
  3. Prepare a sink of cold water and also boil a large pot of water at the same time.
  4. Place each strip of pork belly into the boiling water for about 2 minutes, remove, and place into the cold water bath.  You can leave the strips of meat in the cold water.
  5. Drain the cold water and place the strips of meat lengthwise in a casserole dish.  We can now begin the actual marinating process.
  6. Make a marinade by adding all of the above ingredients (the salt, sugar, wines, soy sauces) in a bowl and mix them together.
  7. Spoon the marinade over the meat, ensuring that each piece of meat is coated.  You should also turn over each piece of meat to ensure that alternate side is also evenly marinated.  Leave any excess marinade with the meat, do not discard it.  The goal is to let the meat absorb the marinade.
  8. Cover and place into a refrigerator for 2 days.  During this time, it would be even better if the meat can be "basted" with the marinade as it sits in the fridge.
Continue to Part 2 of this recipe:


    1. Hi! Thank you so much for this entry! I am a Chinese-American living in Japan and I can't buy any of these kinds of meats! I have two questions about curing the meat:

      1) Are there any risks of botulism when you winter-cure meats? I know that threat exists if you smoke meats, but wasn't sure what they were if you are hanging them outside.

      2) Do you have a recipe for lap cheong (Chinese sausage)?

      Thanks so much!

      1. You're welcome, I'm glad you'll put the recipes to great use! To answer your questions:

        1) With the winter-cured meat as I've uploaded, the risk of botulism is low simply because of large amount of salt and salt-containing ingredients we are using. We are using table salt, soy sauce, dark soy, AND salted cooking wine. The risk is actually not with Botulism but with something called Trichinella that's specific to curing pork. The link regarding the specifics I found here:
        Scroll down to item 6.4 and you will see the length of time required for cold temperature curing of pork.

        2) I wish I had a recipe for lap cheong. Unfortunately I haven't been able to replicate a quality lap cheong. The winter-cured meat recipe above was actually passed down from a Hong Kong chef decades ago.

        I hope you will enjoy my other recipes!

      2. Hi Kirk, thanks for your reply! I took a look at the link you provided and it lists that 5F for 20 days should be enough to kill Trichinella. I live in Japan where the winters are cold, but not 5F cold. We'll hit temperatures around 37.4 on average during the coldest points of winter. Would the combination of the cure and the relatively cold temps be enough to kill off any bugs?

        Also, I don't have access to salted cooking wine. Can I substitute cooking sake with salt added to it?

        Thanks again for all your help, Kirk!

      3. So answer your first question, if the outside temperature cannot get low enough you are really taking chances with this recipe in terms of food poisoning. 37.4F on average is just not cold enough.

        As for using sake and adding salt to it, you can definitely try it! I don't recall the amount of salt in salted cooking wine, but in theory you should be able to substitute the salted cooking wine.