Made this in the autumn when the temperature was consistently around 8 degrees, but I hung it outside and when the weather got wet the bacon became too damp. Try again in the spring!
The recipe I followed didn't use nitrites as it is a single piece of meat.
The secrets of home-curing your own bacon
Curing your own bacon isn't difficult and doesn't involve using a skipful of salt either
(Bacon- brine 5 days, soak 30 mins in cold water, then in freezer bag 5 days in fridge. Can eat straight away. ( or hang for a while). Make 3 and eat at different points to test it.)
The Guardian, Thursday 17 March 2011
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Home-cured and home-smoked bacon are simple to make and require minimal equipment and time.
I love bacon, though I wish I didn't. That hit of meat, fat and smoke is almost enough to make you forget what it's doing to your arteries. But it's unreliable. Far too much is horribly salty, revoltingly woolly, or both. Even supposedly reputable supermarkets pump theirs full of water, as Which? recently revealed. So, a few weeks ago I decided I'd make my own. How hard could it be? A century or two ago, our great-great-whatevers would routinely slaughter a pig every winter and turn it into rashers.
"Bacon's dreadfully easy to make," says Jasper Aykroyd. He ought to know. The "Bacon Wizard", as he calls himself, used to be a chef but now makes his living telling foodies and food producers how to transform pork into pink-and-white gold.
We start out with 4.5kg of good pork belly. This fatty cut is the basis of streaky bacon and ideal for the novice charcutier. Being thin, it's perfect for dry-curing, which essentially consists of covering a bit of pig with salt. By the miracle of osmosis, this is drawn inside to preserve the meat.
How much salt will I need, I ask Aykroyd. Five kilos? Six? I've stocked up in anticipation, but I can borrow more from the neighbours. Judging by some rashers I've eaten, I'll need to.
Er, hardly. What you want to end up with, Aykroyd advises, is bacon that's roughly 3% salt. That means just 30g of salt (any type will do) for every kilo of meat. The other essential is saltpetre, aka potassium nitrate.
This fine white powder – which is also an ingredient in gunpowder – has been used since Roman times to preserve meat, give it an attractive pink colour and transform its flavour. There's some controversy, as with many food additives, but Aykroyd insists it's misguided. "There's vastly more saltpetre in spinach, celery and other leafy green veg." All you will need for home-curing is a fraction of a teaspoonful: somewhere between 0.25g and 1g per kilo. It can be hard to get hold of but if you can't wheedle some out of your butcher, get it online at sausagemaking.org.
What else will you need? Sugar: 10-15g per kg for breakfast bacon, twice that for a sweet cure. Herbs are good, too: as much of the fresh variety as you like, but only a sparing amount of the dried: just 6-8g per kg. I fancy a combination of thyme, rosemary and powdered garlic. You're making pancetta, Aykroyd says. Fancy that.
Once you've mixed together all the non-pig ingredients, take a moment to work out how you're going to fit the meat into your fridge. "It's as big as a baby!" one friend helpfully points out. It will need to lie flat, either in a non-metallic container, or well wrapped in clingfilm on something to catch any drips. I decide I will slice my "baby" in two and once I have massaged the salt and herbs into the pork,, making sure I get into all the nooks and crannies, I put each bit in a freezer bag – skin side down – and pop it into the fridge.
Curing and drying
If you've stacked several pieces in the same packaging, you'll need to shuffle them every few days so each gets a turn in the brine that forms at the bottom. Otherwise you can more or less forget about it for a week, at which point you rinse it well in cold water and hang it up in a cool, dry place away from strong smells – a larder or cellar, but not a fridge, which is too damp. If you don't have any meat hooks, pierce a hole in the corner of the pork and thread clean string through it. If flies are likely to be a problem, you'll also need to wrap it in muslin. Make sure the pieces of meat aren't touching.
And that's pretty much it. Leave it to dry for a day, or better still a week, and you should have delicious "green", or unsmoked, bacon. It may develop a powdery white mould, but this is the same harmless variety you'll find on salami. If it bothers you, just wipe it off with a cloth soaked in vinegar. To smoke it, you will need to suspend it in cool woodsmoke for a day or so. This is not impossible – I rigged up a ramshackle smoke-room with corrugated iron and an old barbecue – but it is not essential. Even unsmoked bacon will keep for two or three months as long as you keep the temperature and humidity down. Or you could cheat and stick it in the freezer . . .
I hang mine for a fortnight before slicing off a couple of rashers. They're moist and aromatic, with just the right degree of saltiness; there's a tang of garlic and a hint of herbs. Is this the best bacon I've ever tasted? No, but it's bloody close.
Jasper Aykroyd can be found at baconwizard.co.uk.
17 March 2011 8:54AM
Home cured pork is a pleasure to make and eat, but I miss out the salt petre and just use sea salt, which contains enough nitrate to turn the meat pink without the harshness (and potential harmfulness). Nitrate/nitrite is there to prevent botulism, which is an almost negligble risk when curing meat in a piece, unlike curing sausage or salami which carries a real risk of anaerobic conditions. Interestingly, botulism is from botulus, the Latin for sausage.
17 March 2011 9:33AM
PS I kept the bacon wrapped in baking parchment in the bottom of the fridge so that it could breathe rather than sweat in plastic.
17 March 2011 10:26AM
If you start off with supermarket belly pork the results will not be as good.
I know it's heresy on this site, but...
...last year we made four batches, with belly from Morrisons, Waitrose, local outdoor-raised Old Spot, and fancy organic Tamworth. All treated exactly the same way, cured with soft brown sugar, herbs and a little garlic, and smoked with oak dust.,
Did a taste test with two sets of neighbours and family, and nobody could tell much of a difference at all.
The only provisos are:
1. Buy British, the more local the better. There is a huge difference between British outdoor pork and the Dutch/Danish intensively-farmed product. The higher quality of life obviously does matter.
2. Make sure there's a good amount of fat on the belly. It's not easy to find.
Most pigs these days are too lean to make good streaky bacon. In that regard, at least, the old-fashioned breeds are worth seeking out.
17 March 2011 10:42AM
My favorite cure recipe is salt, sugar and Chinese five-spice. It transforms fried rice (as well as being nice as a fried rasher).
& don't forget that streaky cooked in a slab with Puy lentils, served with very rich mash and sauerkraut, is one of the very best Winter meals ever.
17 March 2011 1:44PM
Saltpeter is very easy to get hold of, just type the word into google. In Poland you can buy it in the supermarkets.
I’m not sure about the value of herbs, but I use 30mg [of salt and nitrate mixed] per kilo as well. Although I tend to make lamb bacon, since it is a rarity.
One thing about the saltpetre, yes but no but. While it does have a preservative effect, it also has another useful effect. The process of making bacon isn’t as simple as osmosis, there is massive destruction of the cell walls and some quite complex chemical changes in the meat- saltpetre acts to address the issue and stop the meat becoming ‘wooly’.
If you think of brining [as in brining for flavour which is popular in America], this doesn’t use saltpetre, but almost all methods warn against the meat staying in the brine for too long.
Also temperature is quite critical, you want to store the ‘soon to bacon’ at about 8c for the most effective curing.
Personally I prefer a wet cure, and this might be more suitable for others short on fridge space but will a cool garage [or similar].