It amazes me how something that soldiers use as a gun powder can also be used as a food preservative. In this case, I am talking about saltpeter.
Despite its wide range of uses, I will talk about saltpeter as a meat preservative. People use it to cure meat for it to last longer. Suppose you have never heard about saltpeter and only came across it recently—no need to worry. I have your back.
I will explain what saltpeter is and how you can use it. And if you need to use and do not have it, I will recommend the best alternatives you can find in its place.
Sometimes, it is hard to find saltpeter. In such times, a substitute will come in handy. Saltpeter substitutes are beet juice, non-iodized sea salt, raw sugar, celery powder or juice, and curing salt.
Simply put, saltpeter is another name for potassium nitrate. Up until recently, I knew potassium nitrate as fertilizer. Then, I came across a meat curing process that required me to use saltpeter. That is when I realized it was more than fertilizer.
Besides being used on the farm, soldiers use potassium nitrate as gun powder.
However, cooks use saltpeter to cure and brine meat in the kitchen. What is the essence of curing meat?
Curing is an ancient method of preserving meat. We use saltpeter to cure the flesh and keep it edible for longer.
The salt drains all the water from the meat. Without the moisture, microorganisms cannot survive in the flesh. Seeing that these microorganisms are the ones that make the meat go bad, their eradication ensures that the meat stays fresh for a long time.
Another way that chefs use saltpeter is as a thickening agent. They use it in soups to give them the desired consistency. Cooks also use this salt to soften meat.
The next time you want to make your cooking easier and faster, use saltpeter on your meat.
It would help if you were wary of the amount you use. A tiny amount of this salt will go a long way. Remember, saltpeter is a chemical, and if you overuse it, it can be harmful.
You might have heard of the many uses of saltpeter, and you want to try it for yourself. Maybe you want to cure your meat or make it softer.
You may also want to use it to thicken your soup. Whichever the case, you need to use saltpeter. What happens if you can't find it?
I will talk about the best substitutes for saltpeter that you can use if you do not have it. Read on.
1. Beet Juice
As I have mentioned earlier, saltpeter is potassium nitrate. In short, these are a combination of chemicals that make it. If you overuse them, you might experience serious health problems.
Of late, a lot of people are watching their diet. There have been many campaigns that encourage people to eat healthily. For that reason, you might want to consider using a natural way to cure your meat. What better way than using beet juice?
Beet juice is the juice that people extract from beetroots. Beetroots have nitrates as one of their core compounds. Nitrates are the ones that are used when curing meat.
Using beet juice to cure your meat is both healthy and cheap. Beetroots are widely available, and you can buy them in any grocery store. Squeeze the liquid and then dip your meat in it.
The results might not be as perfect as using saltpeter, but using beet juice is a good alternative if you do not have the salt.
2. Non-iodized Sea Salt
Non-iodized sea salt does not have nitrates. The lack of nitrates does not mean that you cannot use them to cure meat. Salt is deliquescent in general, meaning it will absorb water from the meat.
As we have already seen, water is the course of meat going bad. It allows microorganisms to survive in the flesh. So, when the salt absorbs the water, it reduces the chances of the meat rotting.
If you are wondering why you should use non-iodized sea salt and not iodized salt, it's because iodine will make the cured meat taste bad. You can, however, use iodized salt if you do not mind the taste.
Iodized salt also slows the cooking process. It will take longer to cook when you use it to cure meat. In a way, it hardens the beef.
You cannot use this salt to preserve meat for a long time. This is because non-nitrate curing methods do not eliminate all the microorganisms. The possibility of bacteria surviving in the beef after curing it with non-iodized salt is high.
3. Raw Sugar
Raw sugar is another excellent saltpeter substitute. It contains nitrates which are vital in curing meat.
This sugar is in the form of granules that manufacturers make from refining sugarcane. The central region that produces sugarcane in the US in Florida.
Therefore, raw sugar is mainly concentrated here, but manufacturers ship it to other parts of the country.
We cannot know the number of nitrates found in raw sugar with certainty. Therefore, it can be unclear the specific amount of raw sugar you need to use o cure meat. Due to this reason, this sugar is not a reliable curing agent.
If you, however, do not have saltpeter, you can use raw sugar. It might not preserve your meat for long, but it will work for a short time.
Considering that raw sugar is a natural substance, it is also healthier. It will, however, alter the taste of your meat. Supposing you are considering using it, this is a risk you must be willing to take.
4. Celery Powder or Juice
We all know celery. In fact, some of us have enjoyed cooking with celery or drinking a celery smoothie. It is highly nutritional, and people consider it when thinking of a healthy diet.
Celery contains very high levels of nitrates. As we have seen, nitrates are essential when curing and preserving meat. We have also discovered that they help soften the meat.
One of the main advantages of using celery powder or juice as an alternative to saltpeter is that it is organic. The nitrates contained in the powder are naturally occurring and not manufactured like those of saltpeter.
Manufacturers use celery powder or juice to cure their meat and label it as nitrate-free. This means that the nitrates they have used are organic and not inorganic.
You can also use celery juice to cure your meat and cook the meat if you do not have saltpeter. Celery is available in grocery stores, and you can squeeze its juice simply.
5. Curing Salt
Curing salt is an obvious substitute for saltpeter. Its name suggests its purpose, and it is hard to miss it in the stores. Curing salts are more famous than saltpeter.
People make this salt from sodium nitrate. The main difference between curing salt and saltpeter is in the composition. The former has sodium in its composition, while the latter has potassium.
They both contain nitrates responsible for absorbing moisture from the meat, thus preventing microorganisms from thriving inside the meat.
There are different types of curing salts, and they all have different levels of concentration. When purchasing curing salt, choose the salt that best suits your needs.
Curing salt is pink, and it is hard for you to miss it. It is also sold all over the United States and at a pocket-friendly price.
If you want to replace saltpeter with something that works the same way, curing salt will be your choice. It is known to preserve meat for a long time, unlike other alternatives in this list.
Meat preservation is an ancient practice. Human beings have practiced it for a long time, and it helps the meat stay fresh for a long time.
We have evolved as a species, and so have our preservation methods. We have gone from using fire and smoke to using various chemicals to preserve our meat for longer.
Saltpeter is one of those preservation chemicals. Although we have discovered that it has other uses, cooks use it to cure meat and as an ingredient in cooking.
We have also discovered that it is a chemical and might harm us if we overuse it. Thus, the need to use substitutes once in a while.
I have discussed the five best substitutes that you can use in place of saltpeter. Some of them only work short term while others work long term.
After reading through the substitute, you will realize whether your preservation needs are long-term or short-term. After that, you will choose the replacement that works best for you. All the best.