Salting meat without nitrite is seldom performed today. In some undeveloped countries the fish is still heavily salted for preservation. Back fat or any fatty trimmings do not contain myoglobin and can not react with nitrite. For this reason they may be salted only.
San Daniele and Parma Italian dry hams are made without nitrate. In all, a very few products are made or preserved by salting alone.
When salt is added to meat it provides us with the following benefits:
•Adds flavor (feels pleasant when applied between 2-3%).
•Prevents microbial growth.
•Increases water retention, and meat and fat binding.
Salt does not kill bacteria, it simply prevents or slows down their development. To be effective the salt concentration has to be 10% or higher. Salt concentration of 6% prevents Clostridium botulinum spores from becoming toxins though they may become active when smoking at low temperatures. Adding sodium nitrite (Cure #1) eliminates that danger. The two physical reactions that take place during salting are diffusion and water binding, and no chemical reactions are present. Salting is the fastest method of curing as it rapidly removes water from inside of the meat. The salt migrates inside of the meat and the water travels to the outside surface of the meat and simply leaks out. This gives us a double benefit:
•Less water in meat
•More salt in meat
Both factors create less favorable conditions for the development of bacteria. Today the products that will be salted only are pork back fat and some hams that will be air-dried for a long time.