Curing Sausage with Celery Juice - An Experiment!


By now you've probably seen that some manufacturers are using a "more natural" approach to curing meats. Instead of using synthetic sodium Nitrates/Nitrites they're using celery juice or celery juice powder. These products are often labeled as, "No Nitrates or Nitrites Added."

Worth reading: "The 'no-nitrites-added' hoax" by Michael Ruhlman.

Disclaimer - I am NOT an expert, nor do I play one on TV. I am just a regular guy who enjoys learning about curing & smoking meats. Also, the USDA currently does NOT recognize celery-based nitrates as an effective means of curing meats. So if you decide to try this at home, PLEASE be smart about safe food handling procedures!

So, how does this work? Well, celery contains high amounts of Nitrate which can break down into nitrite which has meat curing properties.

Why do we even need Nitrites to cure meat? They allow meats retain that pink color and develop the deep flavor that we associate with cured meats. And, more importantly, it can kill the bacteria responsible for Botulism.

Celery juice, in addition to nitrates, also has a very mild flavor and pale color that won't adversly affect the flavor or color of the meat product.

How much celery juice is needed? Ahhh, That's where things get unclear, because NOBODY seems to want to share this info, so here's what I learned.

Nitrate levels in celery can vary, so without testing you simply do NOT know for sure. But, based on research done in 2006, "...commercially available Celery juice contained 2,114 ppm (parts per million) of nitrate." (Sebranek & Bacus, Meat Science | Vol 77 (2007) Pgs 141)

USDA regulations state that nitrite levels between 120 - to a maximum 156 ppm are to be used.

Based on those numbers, I calculated that 1 liquid oz. of celery juice per pound of meat should yield approximately 129 ppm nitrate.

Allright, we've got our info. Now.... On with the experiment!


Mini Smoked Italian Sausages

These were for a Church brunch the following day.

Here's 5 oz of freshly extruded celery juice and the seasonings for five pounds of Italian sausage.

I let the sausages hang at room temperature for a couple hours or so to allow the casings to dry a little and give time for the nitrate in the celery juice to break down into meat-curing nitrite. I then applied a 30 minute cold smoke

Note: As a control test, four sausages were cooked in my oven to ensure that the pink color was from the nitrates in the celery juice, and not a smoke ring reaction.
Here's a pic of the results:

Here are the sausages, ready to be hot-smoked.

Done! Pulled off when they reached an I.T. of 152 -154°, then immersed in an ice water bath to chill as quickly as possible.

Cooled & cut into the mini links.

The next morning we threw them into a crock pot set on high to fully cook them before serving.

The results were spectacular! Nicely cured all the way through and a great flavor!


Final Thoughts:

The idea of a more natural cure is definitely appealing. However, without testing you simply do NOT know for sure how much Nitrate is present in the celery juice. Powdered Celery Juice has the exact same issues. Until more conclusive testing is done, I think I would only trust celery-cured sausage products if hot-smoked in a timely manner and fully cooked to a minimum temp of 165°, which is what the USDA recommends anyway.

My next experiment should be celery-cured ham.

More info:

American Meat Science Association direct addition of nitrate or nitrite.pdf
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New member
interesting Cliff. I wanted to move to the more natural celery juice/powder but found all the same info as you. I have decided just to stay with pink salt.
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