Making bacon, sounds like the slogan from a dodgy 70’s tee-shirt, but on this occasion it is not a reference to my infantile sense of humour but about my first attempt to make proper bacon.
I love living in France and part of my love is the food but there are a couple of things from a culinary perspective that does not suit me. One is French style tea, weak thin stuff compared to the robust English breakfast teas, another is French bacon, for a country so rich in varied high quality charcuterie, bacon is a bit of a disaster zone, a surprise really, particularly when the word bacon has French origins.
The French make great lardons for adding flavour to daubes and other dishes and the lardon can be bought pancetta style as a block of cured pork belly which is used in dishes such as Choucroute, Petit Salé Aux Lentilles and Cassoulet.
To remedy this limited shortcoming I would occasionally bring over some bacon from the UK, but truth be told increasingly the commercial bacon is rubbish, made from artificially fattened pigs, pumped full of water then flavoured artificially, I would rather give it a miss.
The annoying thing is that making decent bacon is easy, the main requirement is a bit of patience, but in the commercial world time is money. I decided to start of simple making some green streaky bacon, that is bacon made from belly pork that is unsmoked. Many recipes suggest using a whole side of belly pork. Yeah right, I like baconin fact I like my bacon as much as the next man but for practical and frugal reasons I will scale the recipe back a bit.
The bacon that I made is dry cured which simply means rubbing a dry mix of salt, sugar and aromatics into the meat. Much commercial bacon is made using a wet cure method, that is soaking the meat in brine. After curing the meat is then hung to dry for a week; it produces a full flavoured slightly salty taste with a nice dense texture with non of the dodgy gung often left in the pan with commercial bacon.
If you are going to make bacon you need some pork from decent pork, a cure recipe and time; this is how I made mine.
- A large piece of good quality belly pork, mine was about 3 kilos cut in half
- 350g sea salt
- 125g soft brown sugar
- 10g freshly ground black pepper
- 3 bay leaves, finely chopped
- A few juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 10g coriander seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp of ground cloves
In a clean, non-metallic container, mix the ingredients together. Taking each piece of pork belly in turn thoroughly rub the dry cure mix into the meat, ensuring you get into every nook and crevice.
Put the meat into a non-metallic container stacking the two pieces on top of each other, then leave in a cool dry place (the fridge is good if you have space).
Keep any left-over cure.
After a day, the meat will have leached salty liquid into the container. Remove the meat, pour off this liquid and rub the meat all over with more cure. Re-stack the meat moving the one that was on the bottom to the top. Repeat this process daily for five days.
On the 5th day rinse the meat free of the cure mix, pat dry, wrap in muslin and hang in a cool dry place. After a week of hanging the bacon is now ready.
The bacon will keep in the fridge for a month, you can just cut slices as you need them or you can slice the lot and store in the freezer in handy amounts until required.
You have probably noticed from the pictures that the bacon lacks the pink colour of commercial products, this is simply because I haven’t used sodium nitrate (aka saltpetre) a chemical used commercially that preserves the colour of the meat.
All I have to do now is neatly slice it but producing neat slices is easier said than done without a bacon slicer but I suppose that’s what eBay’s for.
Give it ago, it taste great and once made you have one less reason to hand your money over to the likes of Tesco or Walmart that will give you a good feeling in your tummy as well!