Curing meats is easy, and with a little thought and everyday sanitation, safe. I’ve made Basement Meats – a name my wife has given my cured products – since 2012 and am still living – proof it’s easy and safe. The basic ingredients for curing are salt and curing salts (nitrites and nitrates). For whole muscles, you could actually get away without the curing salts, but they do add flavor and give the cured meat its characteristic colors. I’m not going to spend time going into the science of curing, you can use the internet to do your research (Michael Ruhlman is a good search term, or Hector Kent on Dry-Curing Pork. Maybe Jamie Bissonnette – great stuff but he annoys me by putting some recipes in his book and then saying “Don’t try this at home”. And finally if you’re into Spanish cured meats, get informed about Jeffrey Weiss and his curing habits). But to get started, just make sure you have a precise scale, some time, curiosity, and a lot of patience. Start simply, and experiment by adding one extra ingredient at a time. You’ll learn a lot about how flavors affect the funk you get from dry-curing meats and develop some of your own cures this way.
Spend time getting the best ingredients you can – locally raised meats especially. Take if from me, the big box store pork DOES NOT WORK. I’ve tried it, it was the most tasteless piece of dried crap I’ve ever made. Or don’t take it from me and disappoint yourself.