Make your own bacon

Buying bacon’s a lottery. There’s no telling the quality of pork that went into it, or the quantity of water added to bulk it out. If you want something that’s guaranteed to please, you’ll have to make it yourself.

Start with a kilo or two of good, fresh pork – preferably organic. Choose belly for streaky bacon, loin for back.

Bone it if necessary, then assemble the cure. (You can buy this readymade, but where’s the fun in that?) For each kilo of meat, you’ll need 30g salt, 10-30g sugar (depending how sweet you like your bacon), up to 10g of whatever dried herbs and spices you fancy – much more if you’re using fresh – and just 0.25g to 1g of saltpetre, AKA potassium nitrate or KN03. Your butcher may be able to supply this, or you can get it online from somewhere like sausagemaking.org. Buy as little as possible – even 50g will be enough for several fully grown pigs – and weigh it carefully, as saltpetre is toxic in high doses. Why use it, then? Because as well as producing bacon that is pink rather than grey, it kills bacteria that cause botulism.

Mix the cure, rub it thoroughly into the pork, and put the meat in a lidded, non-reactive container or a sealable freezer bag, together with any leftover cure. Stick this at the bottom of the fridge for a week, turning every day or so, then rinse in cold water and pat dry.

You could eat the bacon now, but it will be better hung for a while. (If you don’t have a meat hook, pierce a hole at one end and loop some string through.) You’ll need somewhere cool, free of strong odours and well ventilated – ie, not a fridge. A garden shed might be perfect at this time of year; cover the bacon with muslin if flies are a problem. Leave for as long as your hunger permits – at least a day and up to two weeks – inspecting it regularly. Don’t worry if it develops a little powdery white mould – this is harmless and can be scrubbed off with a vinegar-soaked cloth.

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