Making Bacon

I’m not quite sure why, but I decided the other day to have a go at transforming a lump of pork belly into bacon.  I like bacon a lot, so why not have a go?

I got just over a kilo of fresh pork belly from the local butcher and it’s been sitting in the fridge while I um-ed and ah-ed about what to do with it.  Frankly, I got the belly because I was going to make Dong Po pork (see my food catagory for recipe) as I haven’t made it since I moved away from Chinatown.

But it sat in the fridge for a few days and I decided that I’d better get a move on, so today – after meticulously cleaning the kitchen and bleaching everything that I couldn’t drench in boiling water – I decided to give it a go.  My recipe (such as it is) is based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall’s out of his “Meat” book.  I chose it because it was the simplest and also because his is the only one that does not require the use of potassium nitrate as a curing agent (impossible to buy locally, it seems).  I would prefer to use it because of it’s preserving properties (anti-botulism etc) but my only option seems to buy a 20kg tub of general “pickling salt” from a butcher’s supply shop or to import some from the US.

So, into my large tub I mixed a kilo of rough salt, 200 grams of brown sugar, 20 juniper berries that I crushed finely, a similar amount of black pepper (because I like it), some dried thyme (not in the recipe but I thought it would be good) and a little dried garlic (because I’m me).  This was mixed until uniform.

I rinsed my pork belly and patted it dry and in a very clean tub, I rubbed it with handfuls of the cure mix, covered it and let it sit on the bottom of the fridge – neatly covered.  Tomorrow, I’ll pour off any liquid and re-salt it and will repeat for the next few days.  One of my other curing books says you need to cure about a day per inch of thickness which would make this a three day cure but that seems a little short, so I’ll go with Hugh’s recommendation of 5, after which I intend to suspend it in my chiminea for a light smoking after which it will be tried and tested.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

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2 Responses to Making Bacon

  1. Chris says:

    Man, you can say you’re going to make bacon and then not give us the followup!

    I’m thinking about doing the same, but was going to follow Alton Brown’s method:

    But if I can get away without havong to build the cold smoker, even better.

  2. ninazer0 says:

    Alas, it all turned into a complete disaster!

    The first problem was that I over-cooked it on the BBQ.

    The next problem was – even under the charcoal – the bacon was just far too salty. I’m not sure if it was in the initial cure or if I simply hadn’t rinsed the salt off properly before freezing, but it was amazingly salty and totally inedible. It’s currently sitting in the freezer again waiting to be chunked into winter stews as seasoning.

    Chris: The cure you’ve posted looks much better for the sort of pork belly I’ve been getting, which is fairly lean. I think part of the problem was that my dry cure recipe was meant for the old-fashioned style of pork belly – ultra thick and fatty (and hard to find around here), hence the over-salting.

    What can I say? I’ll give Alton Brown’s version a go – perhaps we can compare results??? 🙂

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