Saturday, September 14, 2013

Makin' Bacon

Firstly I must say that I am no expert at making home-cured bacon, I just follow the recipe in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's  book, The River Cottage MEAT Book which is my 'bible' when it comes to most things meat related.

As described by Hugh, this recipe/method results in "...a pancetta-style streaky bacon-strong and concentrated in flavour, a little on the salty side..."

This is Hugh's recipe for the Dry Cure Mixture and is enough for 1 whole pork belly cut into 3 pieces, skin scored. I used the loin as well.

About 1kg coarse salt
2 teaspoons saltpetre (potasium nitrate) optional - the main function of it is to make the bacon pink. I don't use it.
A few bay leaves, finely chopped
About 20 juniper berries, lightly crushed
200g soft brown sugar
25g coarsley ground black pepper

In a non metallic container (oops, I used a stainless steel bowl) thoroughly mix all the ingredients for the cure with your hands. (see above) Place one piece of belly at a time on a clean work surface and start rubbing it all over with your fingers into all the surfaces of the meat. Place in a non metallic tray/container (right). Repeat with the other pieces.
 Stack the finished pieces on top of each other and leave, covered in a cool place (the fridge if you live in a warm climate) Keep the leftover cure mix. After a day you will see that meat juice has collected in the bottom of the tray (left). Take the bellies out of the tray and pour this liquid away. Rub meat again with fresh cure mix. Re-stack the pieces, moving the bottom one to the top.

Day 5
Repeat this process daily. The bacon will be ready in about 5 days (longer if you use the loin like I did) however it will keep better if you salt it longer, up to 10 days.

The finished product (cut), day 10.
When ready, rinse the bacon and pat dry with paper towel. Wrap in clean muslin, or a linen tea towel and keep in the fridge. If the bacon is a bit too salty you can soak pieces in fresh water for a few hours before eating to leach out some of the salt. If you need the bacon to last a long time you can freeze pieces.

Ideally you would use a piece with a bit more fat on it than the one I used.

The first thing I made with my new bacon was pasta carbonara, with lovely chunky bits.  I think I will have to hide the rest for fear that it will be all gone after Sunday morning's breakfast!

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