No, not the usual kind of Smithery post… but these are strange times, no? Helen and the kids bought me a bacon curing course for my birthday a few years back, and since then I have regularly made some bacon we’re feeding lots of people (Christmas, half-terms, camping trips, etc). I offered to share the recipe on twitter, and so a few folks put their hands up. Here you go…
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
There are various types of bacon cure you can buy online – try:
…which is a 5% cure, meaning for a 1kg piece of pork, you will use 50g of cure (5%)
Different cures have different ratios – ALWAYS follow the instructions that comes with a specific cure mix.
When you combine other ingredients with the cure to make a rub, what happens is that the meat will be gently flavoured with the other ingredients, as the cure begins to replace the water inside the meat. This is my standard recipe that produces a tasty bacon that doesn’t need smoking – you need allspice, rosemary, black pepper and sugar. But do search online for other ideas.
Either use pork loin to make back bacon, or belly to make streaky bacon. Get the meat deboned by the butcher before you start, or just buy a piece without bones.
If you can include the bones when you’re curing, in order to get bacon bones for making stock for soup. If you do this, then the meat weight includes the bones when you calculate the amount of cure to use. You can leave the skin on in order to have a rind. If you do, make sure to take a sharp knife and pierce through the skin into the meat in various places, to ensure the cure penetrates well.
Two large ziplock plastic bags
Some folk have vacuum packing machines at home already, but I’ve never found the need for one for bacon.
1. Prepare the mix for the rub
Combine the curing salt, sugar, allspice, rosemary and pepper in a bowl, and mix round. The amounts are dependent on the weight of your meat. As a general rule…
1 kg pork
50g of 5% cure (e.g. 5% as the name suggests)
20g sugar (unrefined granulated sugar, brown or Demerara sugar)
4g freshly chopped rosemary leaves
A pinch (0.5g) of crushed black peppercorns
2. Rub the mix all over the pork
First, place the pork in a large ziplock plastic bag. Then tip some mix in on one side of the meat, and rub it in throughly all over. Turn the bag over, and rub it in on the other side of meat, and down the sides. By the end, all the mix should be in the bag with the meat, and you can seal it up, getting as much air out as possible. I then put that bag in a second ziplock bag too, and get the air out again.
3. Cure for 4-7 days
In the bag after the first day or so, you start to see a watery brine forming in the bag, as the water is replaced in the meat. Keep turning the bag over every day or so, and give the meat a little massage when you do – it means the cure will distribute evenly. Don’t empty the brine out of the bag. The longer you leave the meat to cure, the saltier it will become – my personal preference is a 4 or 5 day cure.
4. Rinse and dry
Finally, open the ziplock bags and empty the brine out into the sink. Take the meat out and give it a really good rinse under the tap, or place in a sink of cold water. It’s totally fine to submerse it like this, and leave it in there for a while if you want it to be a bit less salty.
Pat it dry with a tea-towel all over (you’ll probably need two tea towels).
Place on a chopping board covered in baking parchment. You can cut a small slice or two off the end now, just to try what it’s going to be like (I’m not judging you, I never fail to do the same).
But you’ll find (especially if the rind is still on) that it’s a little hard to slice. Leave in the fridge for another couple of days, and it’ll firm up a bit more, the rind is easier to get through, and the joint holds its shape better. Then just slice rashers off with a long sharp knife when needed.
A good trick is to use a second, thick chopping board over the top of the bacon, and slide you knife blade down the edge of it as you cut the bacon below.
If you cured the bones too, just rinse them off too, and make a stock but putting the bacon bones in a large soup pan of water with a few roughly chopped vegetables and maybe a bay leaf. Makes an excellent stock for a pea soup.
And there we go, home cured bacon. It will keep like this, unwrapped, for a good few weeks in the fridge.
If you get to the end, and it’s becoming tricky to slice, just chop into small pancetta style pieces to add to other dishes.