Manufacturing cuts for charque and carne-de-sol production must be carefully prepared after deboning to produce muscle pieces or uniform thickness. Muscle blocks greater than 5 cm thick are not suitable. Where “pontas de agulha” (flank and rib pieces) are used, little further work is required apart from small incisions to facilitate salt penetration. In the case of hind and forequarter cuts, more extensive opening of the muscle blocks is necessary to ensure uniform salt penetration and consistant drying time.
The wet salting or brining operation is carried out in pickle vats of approximately 80 cm depth, of a size depending upon the capacity of the plant. The interior of the tank should be lined with impermeable fine screened concrete or with high quality glazed tiles.
Based on Salometer readings at 15°C.
|SALOMETER||BAUME||% BY WEIGHT NaCI||Composition of brine|
|Kg salt||Kg water|
Figure 5. Flow chart, manufacture of charque, showing industrial yield and chemical changes during processing.
A brine strength as near 100° salometer as possible, but never less than 95° (see footnote), should be maintained constantly during the wet salting stage. In larger plants, this may be achieved by pumping the brine continually through a secondary tank mounted to one side and above the main tank and containing raw salt. The brine, maintained as far as possible at 15–20°C, recirculates into the main tank by gravity. In the case of small throughout plants, readjustment of the brine after each batch should be sufficient for the maintenance of the necessary strength.
The immersed meat pieces are agitated vigorously, by the use of paddles, for a period of 50 minutes after which they are removed from the tank. The meat acquires a blue tone during this phase of the processing.
The brine should be tested every hour for temperature and salinometer strength and replaced each week with sterilized and cooled pickle (see footnote). The brining vats must be thoroughly cleaned before refilling.
Preparation of the piles
Dry salting is initiated, after the meat is removed from the brine tank, on a concrete floor covered with a 1 cm layer of salt. The floor should be slightly inclined, falling away into lateral channels to carry away the meat juices expressed during salting. The meat pieces are stacked into piles (see Figure 6) separated from each other by layers of coarse marine salt (1 mm thick). The salt should be shovelled over the meat as a fine shower from several directions to ensure even penetration into meat cuts and openings. The height and dimension of the pile are likely to be governed by the scale of production but should not be allowed to exceed 1.50 meters for fear of exagerating the pressure on the lower meat Layers thus causing excessive weight loss. Each pile when complete should be capped with a 2 cm covering of salt (see Figure 7).
It is usual to arrange piles initially with the fat layer uppermost but this orientation is not critical because the piles will be later inverted.
The pile is restacked after 8 hours in order to equalize pressure throughout. Thus, the uppermost meat pieces are repositioned on the bottom of the new piles (see Figure 8). As in the initial salting step, thick layers of coarse salt are placed between each successive meat layer and also on the top of the pile. The meat remains in the second pile for a period of 16 hours before being repositioned into its original order (pilha da volta).
Measurement of Brine Quality
Fill a cylinder of 500 ml with the brine well mixed bring the temperature to 15°C. in a cold store using ice where available. Place the salometer and thermometer together in the cylinder and record brine strength when temperature reads 15°C.
Figure 6. Preparation of piles during the manufacture of charque.
Figure 7. Finished pile with salt capping.
Figure 8. Restacking of piles during manufacture of charque.
The piles are remade every 24 hours in order to ensure even salt penetration and water loss. The repositioning also reduces the risk of microbial contamination of the pile. The number of “tumbling” varies according to pile size and weather conditions but should be no less than four. If the weather is not suitable to initiate drying, the meat may be kept for a further day or so in the dry salt room. Movement of the meat piles usually follows a set pattern to ease manipulation and help control production flow (see Figure 9).
Weight loss during the dry salting phase ranges between 18% for meat with a high fat content to 20% for very lean meat.
The salt recovered during the various tumbling stages may be re-used after suitable treatment in selected operations (see 4.2). During the tumbling process nothing other than coarse marine salt with a grain size less than 2mm should be used.
FIGURE 9. Schematised Layout of Salting Room Showing Tumbling of Charque Piles.
Figure 10. Washing of meat pieces to remove excess salt during the manufacture of charque.
Before initiating drying, the meat pieces are subjected to a rapid washing to remove excess salt adhering to the surface (see Figure 10). This is carried out in rectangular tanks approximately 1 metre wide and 4 metres Long, using running cold water treated with lactic or acetic acid to lower the pH below 5.5.
Drying on varales
If weather conditions are favourable, charque is usually dried directly in the sun on wooden rails (varales) positioned parallel in “runs” oriented north-south (see Figure 11). The distances between these runs should be sufficient to allow movement of barrows used to transport the meat from the washing to the open drying area.
Figure 11. Drying of meat pieces on varales during manufacture of charque.
The meat pieces are extended over the rails with the muscle layer uppermost in order to limit undesirable changes to the fat caused by direct exposure to the solar rays. The initial drying, directly in the sun, is limited to a maximum period of 4–6 hours. This period of exposure may be subsequently lengthened to a maximum 8 hours. Temperatures in excess of 40°C on the meat surface should be avoided.
To ensure an even drying over the extended muscle pieces, the meat is placed on the rails during the morning and removed again in the afternoon. The north-south orientation of the rails permits an even solar coverage.
The meat pieces are exposed to the sun each day over a period of 4 to 5 days. In Brazil this is known as 4 to 5 suns or “sois”.
After each period of exposure the pieces are recollected (see Figure 12), stacked in piles on concrete plinths and covered with an impermeable cloth or tarpaulin to protect them against rain and wind and to hold the heat absorbed by the sun. The top of the pile is usually built with a crown to facilitate purging and, in the case of rain, water will run off.
Figure 12. Restacking of piles during during of charque.
Alternative processing - “Winter Piles”
The process of “winter pillage” is used during times of the year when there is constant rain or cloud cover or in regions where weather patterns are uncertain.
Meat pieces are stacked in piles upto 3 metres in height (depending upon availability of material) on special concrete plinths (see Figure 13), immediately after the 3rd or 4th tumbling and without prior washing. Piles should be built with a 10% slope from centre to sides to allow free draining.
The piles may be erected in a covered area adjacent to the dry salting room or in a refrigerated store, if this is available. Fine salt (less than 2mm grain size) should be positioned between layers at the moment of putting into piles.
Where piles are kept at ambient temperatures, they must be carefully maintained to obviate microbiological spoilage. This is achieved by covering the whole pile with a thick layer of marine salt, treated with sodium hypochlorite solution (0.4%) up to a thickness of 20–30 cm. Alternatively, salted offals such as lungs, hearts and kidneys may be used to cover the meat pieces. Air penetration into the pile should be prevented as far as possible. A heavy hessian cover moistened with 50% sterilized brine is usually employed to prevant dessication of the upper meat layers. This is tied down using strong cord. The fermentation process takes place under strictly anaerobic conditions.
The piles may be maintained in this state for periods up to 4 months after which the meat is washed using water treated with lactic or acetic acid, and dried in the sun according to the procedures earlier described. “Winter pillage charque” is usually only subjected to sun drying for 2–3 “sois”.
Processing procedures for carne-de-sol are very similar to those used in the manufacture of charque and both operations may be carried out in the same premises using similar equipment and facilities.
Figure 13. Preparation of charque for “winter pillage”
Figure 14. Flow chart, manufacturing of carne-de-sol, showing industrial yield and chemical changes during processing.
The salting operation may be considered as comprising an active and passive phase. During the initial active phase, refined or ground marine salt is rubbed into the meat by hand with the object of ensuring a complete coverage and even distribution. This operation is best carried out on tables covered with stainless steel or high density plastic.
The passive salting phase is similar to that used for charque. Meat pieces, after hand rubbing, are placed with the fat layer uppermost on a concrete floor covered with a fine layer of coarse marine salt. The pieces are stacked into piles (see Figure 8), separated from each other by 3 mm layers of salt. The height and dimensions of the pile are likely to be governed by operational scale but in any case should not exceed 0.50 metres high.
The stack is remade and inverted 4–6 hours later to permit an even pressure over the mass and to guarantee a uniform salt penetration.
The remade pile is allowed to stand with a 10 cm covering of salt for a further period of 4–6 hours.
The same tanks used for washing charque may be utilized for carne-de-sol. In the schematised layout in Figure 1, the washing area for carne-de-sol is enclosed within the covered drying area to improve product flow and to minimise contamination. A 1% solution of lactic or acetic acid may be incorporated in the washing water to lower its pH to less than 5.5, thus reducing risks of microbial development. Use of these chemical control measures does not substitute good plant hygiene and careful attention to raw material quality.
The muscle pieces should be washed rapidly to remove excess surface salt and then transferred to the covered drying area for drainage and drying.
Since carne-de-sol has a limited life and is likely to be produced throughout the year regardless of climatic abberations, it is usually subjected to drying in sheltered, well ventilated areas. The pieces are extended over rails with the fat layer uppermost for a period of between 8–14 hours. During this time the excess meat juices are allowed to drain away. The problem of insect infestation can be minimised by enclosing the whole drying area in fine guage setting.
At the end of the drying phase the meat pieces are collected and taken to the packing room to be wrapped and made ready for sale. In some parts of Brazil, the semi-dried meat is smeared with a fine layer of vegetable oil, such as soya oil, prior to wrapping, in order to remove salt crystals which appear on the product surface during during. This is optional but does result in a significantly improved appearance.