Curing with a high concentration of salt was the sole method used for meat preservation in ancient times. With the availability of refrigeration today, mild curing is employed to improve eating quality more than for preservation. The common ingredients used in a pickle solution, or brine, are salt, nitrite, phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sugar, and starch. Because of the different solubility of each ingredient, the hard-to-dissolve ingredients should be mixed and dissolved first, and then the other ingredients should be added. The following preparation procedure is recommended (5).

1. Dissolve the sodium phosphates in cold water (40°F).

2. Add the sodium erythorbate and dissolve.

3. Add the remaining ingredients (salt, nitrite, sugar, etc).

Agitation in the brine tank is usually needed to prevent precipitation.

Accurate pumping and uniform brine distribution in meat muscle are two major process control points. The amount of pumping determines the profitability and legality of products. Uneven distribution of pickle can cause color, flavor, and texture problems. Small-diameter needles, closely spaced, provide more uniform injecting and less muscle damage. Because small-diameter needles are used for pickle injection, a filter system to prevent particles from plugging up the hole of the needles is vital for accuracy and uniformity. The pickle solution must be kept free of meat particles or other nondissolved ingredients before coming into the needle manifold. The injection needle can be single-hole or multihole. The former can create a large brine pouch inside the meat muscle and cause a leakage problem when the needle pulls out. The multihole needle is preferred for better distribution and less leakage. The amount of pumping is usually controlled by pressure, belt speed, and stitch sequence.

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