Preserving Meats by Salting and Brining

June 20, 2011
Sliced Pork

Certainly among the oldest ways of reliably preserving meats, salting and brining have given the world some of its favorite dishes.

Things You Should Do Before You Start

  • Obtain meat. Beef or pork would do nicely.
  • It is wise to mosey about the far reaches of your home with a thermometer in hand. Make a note of the temperature of your cellar, attic, bulkhead, shed, and any unheated area of your home during the cold months. That way, when you need a place to store full crocks, you’ll know where to go. 

Salting Pork

This time-tested (and virtually forgotten) method of preserving your meats is neither difficult nor especially time-consuming. 

  • Cut your meat into 4-inch to 6-inch slabs. Generally, for every 12 pounds, use ½ pound of pickling salt and ¼ cup brown sugar. Coat all the pieces with the salt mixture.
  • Sterilize a 2-gallon or two 1-gallon crocks. To sterilize, wash and rinse it well with boiling water. 
  • Pack the meat tightly in the crocks (or jars if you don’t have a lot of meat to store), and cover tightly with cheesecloth.
  • Keep the meat at 36°F (no more than 38°F; no lower than freezing) for at least a month. Wrap the meat in moisture-proof paper or plastic wrap. It will keep all winter. 

That’s it! You just made salted pork! Remember, however, if it gets too warm or cold, you must move your meats, so check it every once in a while. 

Brining Pork

Just as reliable, but requiring a little bit more attention, brining is another way to preserve your meats.

  •  Pack the pieces of meat in a sterilized crock or jar and cover with a brine of 3 quarts water, 1 pound pickling salt, and ½ cup of brown sugar. Be sure the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  • The brine must cover every inch of the meat, so if it doesn’t, weigh it down with a plate and a heavy object like a canning jar full of water. Cover the container and store for a week at 36°F.
  • Remove the meat, stir the brine, and repack meat each week for 4 weeks. If the brine is thick or stringy, wash each piece of pork thoroughly, resterilize the container, and mix fresh brine.

Easy as pie! Now put your new-found salting and brining skills to use with these traditional delicious meat dishes.

Corned Beef

The basis for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast, corned beef is equally good served as hash or on a sandwich.

  •  Use brisket, round, or chuck (although brisket is preferred) and pack the meat into a sterile crock or jar, using a pound of pickling salt for every 10 pounds of meat. 
  • Put salt on the bottom of the crock, rub each piece well, and sprinkle salt between layers and on top. Let it sit for 24 hours. 
  • Dissolve 1 cup pickling salt, ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon sodium nitrate (Prague Powder #1 aka pink curing salt), and 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon of warm water. Add 2 tablespoons pickling spice, 2 teaspoons paprika, a dozen bay leaves, and four garlic cloves. Cool and pour over meat in crock. Make sure all the meat is covered. Let it cure for 8 weeks at 36°F.
  • Each week, turn meat and check brine. If the brine is thick or stringy, pour it off, wash meat, resterilize container, and make a new brine using two cups of salt this time to make up for the salt you packed the meat in. 
  • You can leave the saltpeter out if you’re opposed to it, but your meat will be gray instead of pink. 

Spiced Beef

An old English favorite for Christmas, spiced beef has a distinctive flavor and is served sliced very thin as a first course or as a nibbling mean with common crackers or buttered bread.

  • Cover a 4-pound beef brisket with ¼ cup dark brown sugar, pressing it in firmly. Place in a covered dish and stick it in a cold place (the fridge is fine) for 2 days. 
  • Crush together ¼ cup whole juniper berries, 2 tablespoons whole allspice, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, and ¼ pickling salt. Each day for two weeks press about 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture onto the surface of the meat and return, covered, to a cold place.
  • After 2 weeks, wash beef under running water to remove spices, place in casserole dish, and add one cup water. Bake at 275°F., covered, for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is very tender. 
  • Cool to room temperature and wrap in plastic wrap. Put meat on a flat place, cover with a board or place, and weight it down with about 5 pounds. Refrigerate for 24 hours, weighted.
  • Remove weight and store meat, tightly wrapped, in refrigerator. It will keep for a month.  


The Forgotten Arts, Book Five, 1982

Reader Comments

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Meat storage

I read the article about salting and using brine for meats. My question is how do you store the meat afterwards? With the brine it just says what to do for 4 weeks. How is it stored after the 4 week process?


freezing salted pork

I'm curious why salted pork cannot be frozen. Is it over concern for the texture? Or is there a health-related reason?

A cool place?

I realize these are old timey recipes for preserving meat .... but my refrigerator doesn't get down to 36 degrees. Anyone have a method of preserving meat at normal temperatures - like summer or fall in the southeast?

You will find some recipes at

The Editors's picture

You will find some recipes at the top of this page. You can also search our recipe archives at

"Cold Packed Meats"

My parents used this process a lot but they are gone now. Do you have a recipe for this process? They used to do this wiith beef, pork, chicken, fish.....most all kinds of meat and it would stay good for years.

I'm really new to this but i

I'm really new to this but i want to learn and learn the right way first. So i have a couple questions because saltpeter is banned form buying can i use regular salt and if so how different do i do it? Also i see you say crock to put them in i'm thinking a crock pot but i know i'm wrong so what is a crock to store the meat in? i live in michigan and it is going to be cold this year and would like to do some canning of meat and soups now so i'm good when i cannot get out. thank you

Saltpeter can be purchased as

Saltpeter can be purchased as "prague powder" and gives cured meats their pink color. It is not required but, the finished product will be gray in color. The "crock" mentioned is a thick stoneware container with straight sides.

Can you can?pickle?or

Can you can?pickle?or brine???? preserve Quail or chicken or turkey??

can you use meat from the

can you use meat from the store?

Yes you can, Robin.

The Editors's picture

Yes you can, Robin.

Salted beef and pork in a

Salted beef and pork in a crock.. How do you use the meat afterwards?

You boil or soak some of the

You boil or soak some of the brine out so it is palatable (very important to get excess salt out first), then you use it in either soups or stews. Good cuts of corned pork can be cooked with onions, tomatoes,gravy etc. and used just like any other meat for dinner. Less presentable pieces can be cut up into small pieces, fried, with onions etc and added to vegetables for another kind of dish. Lovers of corned pork just use it cooked up with seasonings and eat it with anything else you choose to...with bread for breakfast,rice for lunch or dinner etc.... Try it!..once you taste it, if you love it, you will always want more. :-)