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.