Sunday, 3 April 2011

Bringing home the bacon. Part 1

Inspired by a suggestion from my Dad but also in part by the presence of a farm in the village which sells rare breed pork, I decided yesterday that I would have a go at making my own bacon. Given that this is at minimum a five day process, today's blog will show you how to get the ball rolling and there will be one or two others where I show off the fruits of my labours. To start with you need to get hold of a fairly substantial piece of pork belly, and being the food snob that I am I would only advocate getting this from a good butcher who sells free range pork, or if you can cut out the middle man, from a local farm shop who does the same. The farm in my village sells pork from Middle White pigs, which are, according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, vulnerable. I suppose these ones are espcially vulnerable given that most are going to end up on peoples' breakfast and dinner plates. And despite looking like a cross between my brother and the orcs from Lord of the Rings, they do produce pretty excellent meat.

Britain's next top model?
 (I'm tempted here to digress into some sort of mini essay on 'rare breed' pork and the state of the British pig industry but will hold that back for a rainy day. I know, contain yourselves!!) 

As I was saying you need a fairly large and preferably boneless piece of pork belly. There are usually a few small bones, but get the butcher to take them out (or do it yourself, which isn't difficult). You then need to assemble the ingredients for the cure. This will be dry cure bacon and obviously the main ingredient is salt, but you can add a few bits and pieces for some extra flavour. Here I followed Sir Hugh F-W's advice in The River Cottage Meat Book, where he adds bay leaves, juniper berries and brown sugar. As far as quantities go, for a 1.2kg piece of meat I put together a cure consisting of:

350g Salt
75g Brown Sugar
3 Bay Leaves, finely chopped
Approx 10-15 Juniper Berries, lightly crushed
A few pinches of Black Pepper
You will also need a non-metallic container to put the pork in whilst it is curing

It is also traditional to use saltpetre to maintain the pinky colour of the pork after it has been cured, but this is optional and I didn't bother.

The cure, but no sign of Robert Smith

You then need to combine the ingredients for the cure, and after placing the pork in your non-metallic container (i.e. a plastic or wooden box), start rubbing it into the meat, making sure you cover all surfaces with plenty of the salt mixture. Don't use it all though, as you will need to check your prospective breakfast rashers on a daily basis in order to drain off the porky juices which will have leached out and then top things up by rubbing a bit more of the cure into the pork.

Future bacon

In terms of how long to leave the pork in the salt, the sainted Hugh recommends 5-6 days for a lighter cure, but 9-10 if you want to keep it for longer before consuming. However, a piece that has been in for 10 days will need to be soaked for a few hours before eating otherwise it will be too salty. I'm storing mine in the cellar whilst its curing, but any cool, dry place should be fine.

I will return later in the week with news of bacon, a few shots of the finished article and some recipes to go with it. So stay tuned for part 2.

1 comment:

  1. Hows the bacon coming along? Cant wait to see the finished product after 5 days of careful nurturing!