Saturday, June 28, 2008

Salt peter and juniper berries

I had been searching high and low for salt peter and juniper berries in order to cure my own bacon and jowls. I'm using a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The salt peter was especially difficult to track down. I heard or read somewhere that drugstores might carry it, but when I visited the local drugstore in Buckingham, PA the pharmacist seemed to think I was crazy and sent me to the health food store in the same shopping complex. When I asked the health food store owner, he treated me as though I was trying to make a bomb . (When they didn't know what salt peter was, I said that they chemical name is potassium nitrate. That obviously just made things worse.) Anyway, the health food store guy said to check out a drugstore in Manhattan of all places! He said that when he can't find something, he'll try asking them. Well, why didn't he ask them for me? Because he thought I was a nut.

I looked online and I found salt peter marketed to wickens for use as an anaphrodisiac. I refused to buy it on principle, and it seemed marked up a lot. I found a good deal for salt peter at, but I was a little freaked out buying something I was going to eat at a website called If it was just called then maybe because everything is a chemical, in a way. But cheap chemicals. No way.

Anyway, on Friday Mabel and I got lost and were literally driving around in circles through Doylestown and we came upon an everyday CVS. They didn't have salt peter in the aisles, but when I asked the very nice pharmacist if he had any, he looked, didn't find it, but then said that they might be able to order it. And then he pulled out this magical catalogue of chemicals and drugs printed in a 6 pt font. And there it was: saltpeter. And only $1.05 for 6 ounces. Awesome. Except that when I went to pick it up they told me that the warehouse no longer stocked it. Thanks for nothing.

It turns out that it's better to use sodium nitrite instead which you can buy from Butcher and Packer online as DQ curing salt, or pink salt. And in the end I just ordered it online.

The juniper berries were much easier. Rather than pay more for shipping than the berries themselves on the internet, I picked up a small bag of them at Aphrodesia in the West Village. I got them before buying steaks and lamb breast at Florence.

264 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014


Momneedsanap said... sells Humco SaltPeter Powder (Potassium Nitrate Powder). It's shipped from AmericaRx. For 1 lbs. it's $18.30 + $5,72 shipping = $24.02.

I've purchased products from AmericaRx through Amazon in the past and have had positive experiences.

On the Amazon website, it states "Humco Saltpeter Powder is a natural mineral with many uses in commerce and in magic. Magically speaking, Saltpeter has a long, long, long history in hoodoo as an agent of magical protection in spritual baths and floor washes and as a shoe-sprinkle".

Yup. Both the pharmacist and health food guy thought you were a serious nut case. hahaa

Also on, they have Saltpetre Potassium Nitrate in a 6oz. bottle for $3.89 + $6.95 = $10.84. It's shipped by Phillypharmacy. I've never purchased anything from Phillypharmacy though.

Good luck on the curing. I take the easy way out and eat the pork belly that's slices thin like bacon and grill it on the barbeque. Then I eat it with tiny, tiny, salted marinated shrimp and wrap it in red leaf lettuce with red pepper deng-jang sauce (Korean ssam style). This is the Korean way of eating sliced pork belly.

David said...

The curing salt from Butcher and Packer was $2 plus $7.50 for shipping for 1 lbs. I really don't like paying more for shipping than the thing itself, but I figured that it was still better than nothing.

Yes, I ran across the thing about magic. I wonder where that comes from. I also read somewhere that salt peter is considered an anaphrodisiac.

My dad makes thin rolled pork belly with kimchi and gochujang in a frying pan, and it's delicious. We tried grilling it on a bbq, but the fat drips and flares up too much.

Fred said...

Almost any old-fashioned mom and pop pharmacy (increasingly harder to find) will have saltpeter "salt petre" on the shelf, usually the humco brand which is not made in a "food grade" environment. It doesn't mean it can't be consumed, just that there is no guarantee it doesn't have impurities since it isn't made under food sanitary conditions. Lots of people seem to use it though with no issues.

You can also order it from just about any pharmacy. I ordered it from Walgreen's and it was in my store the next day.

Preferably, find a meat packing place or just go online to places like and order the pink salt, also known as "prague powder #1" or "instacure" or "modern cure". Instead of potassium nitrate, these use a 6.25% mixture of sodium nitrite and table salt.

What happens is that nitrates break down into nitrites and nitrites break down into nitric oxide by bacterial or enzymatic action, and nitric oxide is ultimately what binds to the hemoglobin molecule in the meat and keeps it looking pink. So the more modern cures skip the nitrate step and use a nitrite instead which requires less chemical for the same result.

If you were using a longer, dry-cure method, such as for salami, you would use prague powder # 2 which has sodium nitrite mixed with sodium nitrate for both the fast acting and "timed release" beakdown into nitric oxide. Be sure to use the correct one for your application.

David said...

Hey Fred, thanks for the useful and detailed comment. I've never heard of before. I'll check them out if I ever try making salami.