I want this blog to be about more than just sausages.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sausages, but there are a lot more adventures with the pig to be had than just bangers. There’s a whole world of charcuterie and pork recipes out there and I want to try them all! Who knows, I may even try some other meats at some point.
I decided to put the mincer to one side for this blog post and try my hand at making some cured meat, and bacon seemed like the natural step to take for a couple of reasons. Firstly, its pretty simple, and secondly I love it but there’s a lot of crap bacon out there made from unhappy pigs that I’d rather not eat. Beause of this, I felt that it was important to try and source some really good quality British pork for my first attempt at making bacon.
A recent trip to Norfolk yielded lots of culinary delights. Alongside this, this, this, this and an incredible sausage roll here I found my way to Perfick Pork in the small village of Ryburgh. Owned and run by David, a west London emigree, Perfick Pork is a ‘conception to consumption’ business who breed their own Duroc pigs for sale in their shop and online. They also butcher, cure and smoke their pork in house and sell high quality beef and poultry from local fams.
I picked up a couple of kilo pieces of pork belly that had been butchered the day before. After a chat with David about the way they made their bacon. he was kind enough to give me some of his own bacon cure, made to a secret family recipe.
I’d orignally planned to cure the bacon using a recipe from Charcuterie and one from the sausage making forum that I’d tweaked but the chance to use mysterious powder from a master butcher was too good to pass up. The Charcuterie recipe will have to wait!
The other cure I used was a tweak of the basic dry cure recipe here. I swapped the sugar for dextrose as I thought it’d break down more easily (and because I had some to hand. No big deal if you don’t) and added some smoke powder and black pepper for a bit more complexity of flavour.
Perfick Pork Recipe
1kg pork belly (600g skinned and boned wieght)
30g Perfick Pork secret recipe bacon cure (5%)
Jon’s Basic Bacon Recipe
1kg pork belly (700g boned weight)
2& 1/2g Prague powder number 1
1/2g smoke powder
10 or so good twists of black pepper
The first step in making bacon is preparing the meat. This basically involves cutting the ribs away from the belly as close to the bone as you can to leave a big piece of meat. The ribs didn’t go to waste. They got rubbed with chipotle, achiote, and lime juice, roasted up and served with chips, corn, and cold IPA in front of the football.
I also took the skin off one of the pieces, leaving on as much fat as possible, partly to try and match the perfick pork bacon but also for a bit more variety between the two recipes.
The next step was mixing up the cure. It’s important to be as accurate as possible when working with curing salt/Prague powder as it contains sodium nitrite. Out come the microscales for weighing up quantities. I’m going to buy some digiscales as soon as possible for accuracy from the dodgy newsagents in Elephant and Castle shopping centre but until then the retro chemists scales will have to do.
Mix up the cure according to the quantities above (percentage quantities can be found in the original recipe) being sure to make sure it’s all very thorougly combined.
The next step is to rub the cure all over the meat,working it into the flesh and making sure you coat the whole piece thoroughly. My cure went on the rind on piece of belly with 90% on the flesh side and 10% on the skin. Its probably sensible to wear gloves to do this part.
Once both pieces were thoroughly rubbed with cure, the next stage is was to package them up ready for curing. I decided on David’s advice to fully dry cure his piece and so I placed it on a roasting rack above a tray. If I’d had the space in the fridge I would’ve hung it but this seemed like a decent second choice. My piece was sealed up in a large freezer bag to let it cure in its own juices. Both pieces then went into the fridge to cure.
Every couple of days I turned the pieces and rubbed the surface of my piece through the bag to make sure that the cure was evenly distributed.
After a couple of weeks curing I took my piece out of the bag and left it to dry out a little on another rack. Another two days followed by a quick rinse (of mine) and a pat dry and I had two very special looking pieces of bacon! I then tied them ready for slicing and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours to make them easier to slice
So far, this had been a relatively cheap recipe. The meat cost just over ten pounds and the various spices on top of that probably added on a couple of quid. However…I really wanted to slice my bacon properly into rashers and so ended up splashing out £40 for this to do the job. Consequently this bacon comes in pretty high on the price per rasher!
Economics aside, having a meat slicer really made the job of finishing the bacon so much easier. I was able to very quickly cut uniform rashers although I had to tie up the bacon to fit it through the slicer.
After five minutes slicing I had two huge piles of delicious home cured bacon ready to eat.
It was really noticable how different the two bellies were. Mine was very juicy with a mild salted flavour. It tasted a lot like commercial streaky bacon but better. More succulent with a pronounced porky flavour. The perfick pork dry cure was completely different. Much firmer and more toothsome with a pronounced saltiness. Both are excellent. Making them was a really simple and rewarding process and one that I fully intend to explore further.