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Bacon – an experiment in home curing

Bacon – an experiment in home curing
Bacon – an experiment in home curing
Bacon – an experiment in home curing
Bacon – an experiment in home curing
Bacon – an experiment in home curing

‘Fortune favours the brave.’ – My Greek of the week, Pliny the Elder

This article is about the greatest love of my life, a sizzling hot, delectable, hunk of muscle. Yes that’s right, Bacon. Honestly, can anything beat a crispy rasher, slowly dripping grease onto a freshly buttered wodge of bread? Bacon is produced by a process of curing and hanging, a traditional process that was once widely practiced in households across the UK.  Sadly this vital method of meat preservation has been all but abandoned as an everyday culinary practice.  I decided that the time had come to rectify this loss.

Armed with my slab of pig, a bottle of bourbon and enough salt and sugar to endanger the cardiac health of an Olympic athlete, I put my listeria fears aside and embarked on a 10 day bacon making spree. My efforts have yielded two batches of bacon, 1 sweet and 1 herby. Read on to discover my verdict.

A bit of background

The word bacon is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning ‘buttock’. Just think about that next time you tuck into a nice BLT. Most cultures have a history of curing pork which dates back to ancient times.

Recently bacon has enjoyed a rapid increase in popularity, dubbed “bacon mania”, which has seen the introduction of dishes such as the bacon explosion and chocolate-covered bacon on a stick. I will be refraining from trying either of these abominations to humanity.

Usage

Bacon can be eaten grilled if you care about your health, or fried if you care about the taste. Cook it on a BBQ and feel all manly.

The cost

This project wasn’t really a cost cutting exercise, I could have bought much cheaper bacon. For 1kg of bacon (and the cure) I forked out about £14 which is cheaper than the going rate at local butchers, deli counters and overpriced supermarkets.

The effort

Curing was surprisingly easy. It took 15 mins a day. I suppose the major inconvenience was the hanging part. I was essentially hiding a carcass in my wardrobe for a week and it did have a rather ripe scent. You can’t get away from the fact that infusing gin in your garage is edgy but hanging meat in your wardrobe is mildly sinister.

The taste

Sweet

A bit of tang from the hanging, which makes it slightly gamey. Think road kill in a good way. You just can’t get away from the fact that a slow and process performed with care gives a depth and complexity of flavour which cannot be captured by cutting corners. The bourbon brings a smokey warmth and sweetness which contrasts with the meaty flavour nicely. Pass the maple syrup, this batch was made for pancakes. A tad on the chewy side perhaps.

Herby

The quantity of fat in this section definitely makes it more streaky than bacon. For me this is no bad thing. The crispy caramelised lard packs an unbelievable amount of flavour, which is a testament to the quality of the meat. The rasher has just the right amount of snap and chew. Crucially it really doesn’t taste much like regular bacon at all, like another type of meat entirely. The herbs could come through more however.

‘This is absolutely the best bacon I’ve had all day’

-My mum

Thanks mum. Next time I will get Doncho to comment.

Evil corporate brand

It tastes good, just not really good. It is also covered in a layer of disconcerting stringy white scum.

The verdict

Yes yes yes, bacon is good for me. I think I could improve both batches however, and after the success of my first attempt I’m sure I will! 8/10. I plan to keep this food tradition alive and well in my household.

Twitter @foodfromscr_tch

Rebekah Forty


The Slow Food blog is welcoming contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here

Ingredients

1kg Pork belly:

Where better to begin my search than Slow Food’s Ark of Taste? After a quick scroll through this catalogue of endangered foods I came across the Oxford Sandy and Black pig, a lean and spotted beauty with a rich heritage and a local history, perfect! It took me some time to track down a supplier and I had to resort to sending desperate emails to Sandy and Black farmers; ‘itinerant food blogger seeks 1kg of pork belly with an even covering of flare fat’. Finally I made contact with the good people of Coopers Oxford Pork who kindly responded to the garbled message I had pinged off at 1am. They carted a pork joint to my local market especially, thus literally saving my bacon.

250g Sugar: Whatever variety you have to hand. For sweet cures try something darker.

250g Salt: What else can I say? Salt is salt.

2tsp Cracked pepper: I like rainbow peppercorns.

Some suggested optional flavours

Herby: Crushed bay, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, fennel seeds.

Sweet: Nutmeg, cinnamon, treacle, bourbon, coffee.

Method

  1. Throw together your cure ingredients in a bowl and mix well
  2. Scatter/splatter a handful of the cure in the bottom of your biggest tupperware (the one that barely fits in your fridge), Place the meat skin side down in the box and rub another handful of cure into the top and sides. Don’t go overboard, you need enough cure to repeat this 5 times.
  3. Leave the belly to exude for 24 hours.
  4. Tip out the juices and repeat step 2.
  5. Eat sleep rub repeat for another 3 days, 5 in total.
  6. Hang it in a dark space like a guilty secret. Preferably maintain good air circulation and a cool room temperature. I hung mine in a closet during in the day and on my curtain rail by the open window at night. Nothing says good morning like a swinging carcass.
  7. Slice thin and enjoy the fat.

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