Mmmm Bacon! Everyone loves bacon. I’ve had a couple of attempts at bacon and now it seems to be working just fine and resulting in very yummy bacon. Having got totally fed up with the stuff that passes for bacon in the supermarket, even the expensive stuff gives out loads of water and you end up boiling the bacon rather than frying or grilling. So here we have a home made dry cure bacon, when you cook with this then nothing comes out of the bacon bar the fat. The starting point for our bacon is going to be a whole belly of pork, take a visit to your local butcher and ask for a whole belly, mine weighted in at around 4.5Kg and sadly the photo I took was too blurry to be usable, another valuable lesson in blogging, check your photo’s before you move on with the recipe! Our butchers sell the pork belly with complete with skin and ribs, if you have a good filleting knife then its not too hard to remove the skin and ribs yourself or alternatively you can ask your butcher to do it. If you are really keen on bacon rind then you can leave the skin on, however my experience with this is that it makes the bacon very difficult to slice. Don’t waste the skin or the ribs, you can find ribs recipes everywhere and then make amazingly wonderful port scratchings with the skin.
Now this isn’t a quick overnight recipe, we’re talking 4-5 days for the curing and another 5-10 days of maturing/drying but the result is well worth it in my opinion. You are going to need some bits and pieces for the recipe:
- Whole Pork Belly, skin & ribs removed
- Large coverable plastic container (for the curing)
- Small plastic container (for the cure)
- Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate)
- Spices (Juniper Berries, Corriander Seeds, Bay Leaves)
- A Meat Hook
- Somewhere cool & draughty to hang the bacon like a garage/outhouse
The Saltpetre is important for two reasons, firstly the prevention of Botulism, secondly it keeps the bacon pink once cooked otherwise its more of a grey colour. Only a small amount is required and you can source it from eBay, make sure you buy food grade, I’ve read you can also get it from your chemist but haven’t tried that route. I’m not sure how high the risk is from botulism if you don’t use saltpetre, however botulism poisoning is pretty nasty. Food poisoning of any kind is nasty and for that reason please make sure you clean all your surfaces and containers before use. I use Milton fluid to sterilise the curing container before use. We’re midway through eating the second batch of bacon using this recipe with no ill effects so far.
Once you have everything together then its time to mix the cure, don’t worry if you mix too much, it will keep in a sealed container until next time. The cure recipe is per Kg of pork belly. Grind your spices in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder before mixing.
- 50g/Kg Salt
- 50g/Kg Demerera Sugar
- 0.5g/Kg Saltpetre
- 4g/Kg Herbs & Spices (I use Juniper Berries, Coriander Seeds & Bay leaves)
Put all of the cure ingredients into a plastic container and mix thoroughly. Place the large plastic container you are going to use on the kitchen floor and sprinkle a good handful of cure onto the base where you are going to place the pork belly, place the pork belly skin side down on top of the cure and press it down well into the cure. Now sprinkle another handful onto the top and rub, spread, massage the cure all over the meat. Take additional handfuls of cure as needed and rub it into the sides of the pork and also make sure you rub cure into any/all crevices or cracks on the pork, now flip it over and make sure the fatty skin side has a good rub of cure. You can scrape up any loose cure in the container and use that as well.
Once its all covered then place the lid onto the container and place it somewhere cool and out of the way such as the garage. Stick something under one end to tilt the container so that the liquid that drains out of the meat will drain away to one end. For the next 4-5 days each day you need to drain off any liquid in the bottom of the container and apply a fresh rub of cure to both sides the meat. also turn it over each day so a different side is facing upwards. The longer you cure the saltier the final result, I typically cure for 4 days. As the cure/salt penetrates the meat it will both preserve and remove liquid and at the end of the four days the pork belly will have a noticeably different texture and as it dries further with hanging it will harden further. I measured the amount of liquid coming out of the meat over the five days:
- Day 1 – 150ml, Day 2 – 100ml, Day 3 – 75ml, Day 4 – 90ml, Day 5 – 60ml
At the end of the 5 days you need to wash the meat and remove all of the cure that is still on the surface. The easiest way is just to fill the curing container with water and rub it down with your hands, empty, fill again and repeat the process. Once rinsed off then place a clean/freshly washed tea towel on the surface and place the cleaned/drained meat on top, then use another tea towel on the top and gently pat the cured bacon dry.
Whilst you could start eating it now then ideally it needs to dry/mature for another 5-10 days. Take your meat hook and push through one corner of the bacon and then hang the bacon preferably somewhere cool and draughty, I use the garage. You can see the new batch hung next to what is left of the old bacon. That smaller hanging piece is around 2.5 months old, as the bacon dries further its flavour and colour develops.
When hanging your bacon take care that it is not within reach/accessible to predators, insects, etc. Make sure it stays dry. Some people hang their bacon outside, in which case you will want to cover the bacon with a layer or two of muslin/cotton and sew it closed to keep out insects and such. Our first batch of bacon was made towards the end of summer and we didn’t have any issues with flies or insects in the garage, I even bought some muslin to sew the bacon into but never used it as all seemed OK just in the open air of the garage.
After another 5 days….. We are ready for the eating after some careful slicing. Below you can see what its like after 5 days, you can see the thin layer bloom/mould that forms on the outer surface of the bacon, its harmless. If you are seeing larger thicker blobs of mould/discolouration then something is wrong and there is probably not enough air circulation or some other contamination and you will need to remove/discard the affected bacon. I’ve never had that issue with this recipe or with the previous bacon recipes.
Now its time for slicing, cooking and eating bacon sandwiches. Take a long sharp carving knife and slice as thinly as you can, the longer the bacon hangs for/dries the firmer it will become and the more the flavour will develop, its also easier to slice. After around a month of hanging it looks, feels and tastes very much like Parma ham. I’ve tried it raw after about a month of hanging/drying and its absolutely lovely when thinly sliced. There is a risk (fairly low) when eating raw ham/bacon like this as whilst the salt prevents bacterial contamination then its still possible for parasitic contamination that may have been present in the raw pork to survive the curing process.
Personally I will never go back to shop bought bacon again, the taste and texture of home made bacon is absolutely lovely. Preserved this way and stored properly then I’ve kept bacon for around 10 weeks, it didn’t go bad, it just got eaten….
I’ll add some caveats at the end here, you follow this recipe at your own risk, I make no guarantees and take no responsibility for your results. Be sensible, take care: Look, Smell and Taste. If it doesn’t smell right or look or taste right then DON’T eat it. Remember you are still dealing with raw meat, albeit cured/preserved as has been for many many years. That being said then neither myself or any of my family have come to harm and I’m careful about hygiene.