Tocino, cecina, or carne salada – the Dominican salted meat and food preservation process – was popular in the pre-refrigeration days and added lots of flavor to pork beef, or goat meat. Learn just how easy it's to make at home, how to store, desalt, and make it "carne guisada."
Why we ❤️ it
Salting meat is one of the oldest preservation methods humans developed. Salting is inexpensive, safe, and easy to do if salt is available. Dominicans have made dried salted meat for centuries, and we typically added spices and seasoning to enhance its flavor.
The result is meat that would last for longs periods of time, and a dish with its own unique flavors and texture. Even after refrigeration came along, people kept doing this. Nowadays, salted meat is bought and served mostly at roadside food stands.
Though we call it tocino or cecina – the Spanish name for bacon – Dominican carne salada is just one of many methods of preserving meat using salt. Pancetta, serrano ham, and bacon also rely on salt, low moisture – and smoke – to inhibit bacterial growth.
For dry brining meat, the best salt is coarse-grain sea salt with no additives. Regular salt typically has iodine added for its health benefits, but Kosher salt is perfect for dry curing.
How to make carne salada
Dominican salt-cured meats traditionally utilize salt, spices, and sun-drying to stop microbial growth. In the absence of water molecules and the presence of large amounts of salt, it becomes a hostile environment for bacteria, which makes it one of the safest meat-curing methods.
Another advantage of this method is that it doesn't require using sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate, or other chemicals commercially used to preserve meats.
Types of meat
Traditionally the preferred meats for meat curing are beef, pork, and goat. In my family, it was typically goat, but any low-fat, inexpensive cut of meat work.
Pork belly salted and dried was called "pitisalé". Small pieces of salt pork were utilized as seasoning in beans and stews before bouillon cubes became ubiquitous.
Tocino de chivo (salted goat meat).
Arroz blanco (white rice), avocado, and tostones are my favorite side dish with this tasty stewed meat. Carne salada guisada also goes great with any of our moro rice recipes, but moro de guandules or moro de habichuelas negras are my preferred ones.
- The same process and recipe can be used with pork.
- Since this is a very time-consuming process, I suggest you double or triple the quantities to make more than you'll need to make one guisado, and save the rest of the salted meat for another occasion.
- Store the leftover salted meat in an airtight container in the fridge. While it traditionally did not require refrigeration, I like the added safety of keeping it refrigerated.
About this recipe
This tocino de chivo (salted goat meat) is a recipe passed in my family from generation to generation, so I followed most of the steps from my mom's method.
The only change I made was using a dehydrator to dry it. My mom and grandma would dry it in the sun (covered with a net to keep out insects). After a full day in the sun, most of the humidity had been extracted from the meat, but they repeated the same process another day or two until the meat was fully dried.
Dry meat, once rehydrated, has a different texture from meat that was just dry-brined. If you do not want to dry it, you can refrigerate it for up to 48 hours, or store int he freezer for up to a month.
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Salted Meat [Recipe + Video] Carne Salada or Tocino
To preserve meat
- 2½ pound meat, pork, beef or goat [1.13 kg]
- ½ cup coarse sea salt
- 3 tablespoons oregano , (dry leaves), crushed
- 1 tablespoon pepper , (freshly-cracked, or ground)
- 2 tablespoons mashed garlic, (optional)
For meat stew
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 4 large tomato, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon oregano , (dry, ground)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt, (or more, to taste)
- 1½ cups liquid from boiling meat
To season the meat
- Slice the meat as thinly as possible and discard any connective tissue, bone and cartilage.Season the meat with salt, pepper, and oregano, coating it well, and let it rest overnight in the fridge.
Dry the meat
- Remove the meat from the liquid that would have seeped out overnight. Pat dry with a paper towel.Place the meat on a wire rack and dry in a dehydrator until it is completely dry and stiff. It took me about 8 hours. You can dry it in the oven over 200 ºF [93 ºC] until the meat is quite stiff and dry to the touch (it took me about 3 hours).
- Cool meat to room temperature and store in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To de-salt meat
- Rinse meat in running water. Soak overnight in abundant water (about a gallon [3.8 lt]) in the refrigerator.Boil in the same water it soaked overnight until the meat is very tender. If you cook it in a pressure cooker it should take 20 minutes. In a conventional pot it should take about an hour, add water if it becomes necessary to maintain the same water level. Save the liquid to use later on.
- Cool the boiled meat to room temperature and shred it.
- Heat oil in a 2 quart pot [2 lt] over low heat. Add onions, cook and stir until onions become translucent. Add garlic and cook stirring until the garlic releases its aroma (about a minute).Stir in the meat and cook until it has heated through.
- Mix in tomatoes and oregano and stir. Add tomato sauce and 1½ cup of water from boiling the meat (check that it's not too salty before adding it).Cover and simmer over low heat for ten minutes. Taste and add salt to taste if you find it necessary (I did not).
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutrition information.
Salted meat can last for months, but how long it lasts will depend on the curing method used. Salted and dried meat can last up to a month stored in an airtight container.