My goodness look what you all have been up too! Now your into my favorite neck of the woods. It all looks great folks I am proud of you all.
I woud like to just add a few comments mostly directed at Crystal;
#1 as far as nitrates go, you eat them everyday and just don't know it. If you ever eat root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips, even celery and green leafy vegetables you eat nitrates. They are naturally occuring and particularly heavy in the things I just mentioned. You would obsorb more nitrates eatting a carrot or potatoes than you would get from curing a ham or bacon IF used as directed.
#2 if you buy products which are NATURALLY CURED AND NITRATE FREE - it's probably a lie. Many companies these days use a biproduct found in celery to cure meats and sausages and are considered ORGANIC. Guess what that biproduct is? It is simply the nitrates found in celery! Still Nitrates! Somehow they are allowed to call it nitrate free.
#3 as far as the cream of tartar goes it is NOT used for curing the meat it is only a way to help get that nice rosey color in your meats that you get from nitrates. For example a ham will be less pink without using nitrates and some people find a pale ham unappealing - but add a teaspoon of cream of tartar and it looks better- it will turn pink.
#4 the biggest reason I "wet cure" big meats is salt. I find salt packing way to salty for my tastes. Even soaking it in water before the smoke to remove the saltiness is a bit much for me and seems counter productive and wasteful to me. I only dry cure sausages like salumi but that is another process altogether.
#5 Tomato powder is wonderful stuff! As is the Worchestshire powder! In my humble opinion THE best tomatoe powder or any other freeze dried foods come from Honeyville grain. http://store.honeyvillegrain.com/freeze-dried-vegetables.aspx?page=2
I highly recommend the tomato powder for soups, stews, juice or paste and it tastes like it was picked this morning. I few others I have tried did not have that fresh flavor. The fruits - blueberries, strawberries, mangos, anything without ig seeds are great I have even made pies with them. I didn't like the raspberries as they still have seeds and seem crunchy - I don't like the big seeds.
Good luck guys and gals!