Le Tour du Porc: Suffolk Style Black Bacon

Don’t call it a comeback…

Sorry, I know it’s been a while (to put it mildly) since my last post but life gets in the way of blogging sometimes and the truth is that I’ve been off doing other things. One of these is cycling and it’s a recent trip away on the bike that has prompted this blog post. I’ve just had some time off between jobs and so Mrs Pig and I decided to go cycle touring in Suffolk. Our route took us through Peasenhall, home of Emmetts, makers of Suffolk black ham and bacon.
The bikes parked up outside Emmetts of Peasenhall

Liz loading up on bacon outside Emmetts of Peasenhall

Last time I was in Peasenhall was during last years Dunwich Dynamo. It was 6am in the morning and having cycled nearly 100 miles without any sleep, I was feeling decidedly ropey and not in the mood for bacon. This time, things were different and I was determined to get my fill of this Suffolk treat so we loaded up our panniers with thick slabs of Suffolk black bacon and headed off to the coast to set up camp for the night.

Suffolk black bacon is cured with molasses, dark beer, fennel and coriander and has a unique rich, sweet, and slightly acidic taste from the beer which offsets the sugary molasses. A few rashers of this, fried up on a camp stove and served with some hunks of bread and a mug of strong coffee are the perfect antidote to a cold night spent under canvas.
The idea of using beer to cure bacon really inspired me and I knew that when I got back to London I would have to give it a go. Below is my recipe. Before I go any further though, I make no claims to its authenticity. This is not meant to be an exact facsimile of Emmetts black bacon, rather, it’s more of a homage based on the ingredients list, some guesswork and my own bacon curing skills. Either way, it’s bloody tasty.

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Jon’s Suffolk Style Black Bacon

1 kg Pork belly
30g Celery Salt
3g (1 1/2 tsp) black peppercorns
5g (2 tsp) fennel seed
3g (1 tsp) coriander seed
3.5g (1/2tsp) Prague powder #1
2tbsp black treacle
150ml dark beer. Porter, Stout, Mild or something similar

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First things first. Take your belly pork and trim it for bacon. I got some good looking old spot pork from Flock and Herd in Peckham which came with the ribs and leaf fat still on there. I carefully trimmed these off and put them aside for dinner later in the week. Leaf fat is the highest grade of pig fat and I’ll render these down for lard. I found this link really helpful for advice on deboning.
Next measure out your salts and spices. I always tend to weigh mine out to the nearest gramme but I’ve also written down spoon measurements in case you don’t have micro scales. Next roughly pound your fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns. You don’t want to grind them to a fine powder, just crush them up enough so you can really smell the spices.
Take your piece of belly pork and place it in a large plastic bag. I use Lakeland freezer bags but you might prefer to use a ziplock. Up to you. Either is fine. Next take your salt and spices and spread them equally over the meat, being sure to work them into the meat thoroughly.
Working the treacle  and ale into the meat

Working the treacle and ale into the meat

Next take 2 tbsp of black treacle and smear it over the meat. Again, rub this into the meat. You can do it through the bag so you don’t stick to the meat. Take your beer and pour it into the bag. Confession time. I’d originally bought a bottle of London Fields Chocolate Porter but..err…well. I drank it. One quick trip to the corner shop for a bottle of Thwaites Nutty Black and we were back on track (although, if I’m honest I drank most of that too) Loosely seal the bag and set aside in the fridge, turning the bag every couple of days to ensure that the beery brine is absorbed by the meat evenly.

The meat after two weeks

The meat after two weeks curing

At the end of the week, remove the bacon from the bag and discard the brine. You might want to brush some of the crushed seeds of it at this stage but i didnt bother. Place the meat on a rack to dry and return to the fridge for another 7 days. This was ensure that the bacon has a lovely, firm texture and, if you want to smoke it, will ensure that the smoke adheres to the meat. I don’t have access to any outdoor space at the moment so I’ve had to quit smoking. I’m working on a plan to get round that but at the moment my bacon remains unsmoked.

Bacon. Finished. Delicious

Bacon. Finished. Delicious

The final step is to slice the meat up into rashers ready for gently frying for breakfast.

It may not have had that early morning cooking outdoors feeling of the Peasenhall Bacon but this stuff is seriously tasty. More delicately flavoured than the stuff from Emmets, the beer, treacle and fennel give a beautifully balanced almost creamy taste with just the right amount of sugar and spice. This is absolutely one of my favourite bacons and perfect for breakfast with some eggs on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Birthday treat. Bacon and Pecan Muffins with bacon caramel sauce

Recently my good friend Paul was in London for a Major Lazer gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and it was a good opportunity for a few beers and a catch up on life. Among many other things (animator, bass player, tattoo enthusiast), it turns out that he’s actually a damn fine chef. I met Paul in The Reliance in Old Street where he greeted me with a parcel of ‘birthday treats’.

Alongside a sinister looking bottle of ‘Cheepe Drank’ (actually a pretty nice own brewed pilsner) was a package wrapped in silver foil and a recycled carbonara carton filled with a dark brown sauce. Eagerly, I tore off the wrapping to find some dark sticky buns topped with pecan nuts and cubes of crispy bacon. Needless to say these were AMAZING: sweet, salty, and very very addictive. The recipe was a combination of two recipes, this one and this one and perhaps if Paul is feeling very nice, he might set out his method in the comments below…

Paprika Cured Pancetta

Finished bacon. Ready for slicing. Rolled to fit through my slicer

I’ve been wanting to make something like this ever since I visited the London Charcuterie Festival last year and saw a brick-red piece of cured pork on sale among the other treats on the Flavours of Spain stall. After a brief chat with them on Twitter, they confirmed that it was a cured pancetta dusted with paprika. Not having had a recipe to work from, I’ve had to use a lot of guesswork and the result is quite different to the bacon I saw that fateful day; it is, however, absolutely delicious and one to be recommended if you have the patience to wait four weeks for your bacon. I’ve already used mine in a smoky tomato soup, as a wrap for chicken and, of course, in a sandwich.

Weighing out paprika.

Jon’s Paprika Cured Bacon
800g belly pork
28g salt
12g dark brown sugar
4g black pepper
5g smoked paprika
5g sweet paprika
4g garlic powder
3g red pepper flakes
3g Prague powder #1
2 or 3 crumbled bay leaves

Take your belly pork and carefully remove the skin, taking care to leave a decent layer of fat on the meat.  Set aside whilst you weigh out and combine your salt and spices.

Rubbing spices into pork

Place the piece of pork in a freezer bag and rub it thoroughly with your seasoning mix, being sure to work it into all of the folds of the meat.

Bacon, rubbed with cure and ready for the fridge.

Seal or wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge for a week to cure, turning and rubbing as per usual to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. After about a week, remove the bacon from the bag and place on a rack in the fridge to dry. By this stage,  some of the moisture will have seeped from the meat and helped to further distribute the cure.

Leave the meat in the fridge for anything up to four weeks by which time the flesh will have dried out and darkened and the flavour will have intensified considerably. This bacon is now ready to use however you want. I had to roll mine to fit it through my slicer but you could easily cut rashers off with a knife. It has a heady smoky paprika aroma and a deeply savoury taste. I want to make this again and maybe try smoking it as I think that will really intensify the flavour even more. I’ll update this post if I do.

Petit Salé

Ingredients. Pork looks menacing.

I’ve been wanting to try making a basic salt pork recipe for a while now. I’ve had a real craving to cook some classic french dishes like Cassoulet and Petit Salé aux lentils but that is hard to do without the star ingredient, petit salé. Petit salé is a very basic French dry cure salt pork, cured with Sel Aromatise and generally soaked before use, As with the Sel Aromatise recipe posted earlier in the week, this recipe is an adaptation of one of Lindy Wildsmith’s. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to save time and cut out the soaking stage, the most important of these is reducing the salt content substantially.  I’ve also used a pinch of Prague powder to ensure that the meat retains its lovely bacon pink colour when cooked. This results in a beautiful, delicately spiced piece of pork that is equally at home in a soup, stew, or used to enhance the flavour of side dishes. It’s particularly good in my basic gumbo recipe that I’ll be writing about in a few weeks.

The pork I used for this was a tasty bit of belly that came from the Sillfield farm shop in Borough Market and came with thick creamy layers of tasty tasty fat on it (as well as quite a lot of hair. It’s strange starting a recipe by shaving your meat. I should do a post on porcine grooming at some point!)

Jon’s Petit Salé
700g pork belly, rind on.
30g sel aromatise
10g dextrose
2g Prague powder #1
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1g juniper berries, crushed.

The recipe for this,like most other bacons is incredibly simple so forgive me if the below recipe is slightly shorter than usual. It’s simply a case of some basic preparation then having the patience to wait until its ready. If however, you are confused by anything, I’d recommend casting an eye over my previous cured pork posts.

Take your piece of meat and trim off any loose bits of fat. A square or rectangular piece of petit salé is easier to cut than a misshapen piece. If your meat is hairy, you can shave it or use a lighter to burn off the excess hair.

Sprinkling the meat with cure.

Take your pork and place it in a freezer bag. Next combine your seasoning ingredients and rub them thoroughly into the meat. It makes sense to do this when it’s already in the bag as that way you won’t lose any seasoning. You want to aim for about 80% of your cure rubbed into the meaty sides and maybe 20% on the skin. My skin piece came from the butcher with the skin scored for roasting so I was able to work more cure in that way.

Meat wrapped, and ready for the fridge.

Wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge to cure, turning occasionally and rubbing the meat through the bag to work the salt and seasonings in. After about a week, take your meat out of the bag and place on a rack to dry. Place it back in the fridge and leave for another week to dry out by the end of which you’ll have petit salé ready to go. As I mentioned earlier, this is great in cassoulet, gumbo, or with lentils. You can also use it in place of ordinary bacon and the taste of it is just great; slightly spiced, salty and deeply porky.

Finished Petit Sale

Pancetta

Pancetta, Pork, Bacon, Cured, Herb Crust

Pancetta, cured and ready for slicing.

One of the great advantages to curing your own pork is that it’s a great way to develop zen like levels of patience. The actual hands on effort of making your bacon or whatever is minimal and the only investment is in waiting time.

The sweetcure bacon that I made recently was cured for two weeks which resulted in a delicious, firm rasher that tasted amazing. However, I wanted to try making a bacon with a longer cure time that had an even more intense flavour. Italian stlye pancetta seemed like the ideal candidate as it had both toothsomeness from the longer cure and an intensity of flavour from the herbs used to season the cure.

While I was in Nottingham recently, visiting relatives, I managed to pick up some really good pork belly in Gonalston farm shop. Gonalston is somewhere between a traditional farm shop and a branch of Whole Foods marooned in the Nottinghamshire countryside and they take real care to ensure that their meat is both ethically and locally sourced.

With a really good bit of pork as a starting point, the next step was to devise the cure. This was based very loosely on the basic bacon recipe in Charcuterie with aditional salt and of course the selection of herbs and spices that elevate the dish far beyond ordinary bacon.

The recipe follows:

Jon’s Pancetta
850g Belly pork (trimmed weight)
25g Salt
12g Dextrose
5g Celery salt
4g Fennel seed
3g Red pepper flakes
3g Fresh thyme leaves
3g Oregano
3g Black pepper
3g Garlic powder
3g Prague powder #1
3 small bay leaves – crumbled

Pork, Thyme, Bay, Fennel Seed, Red pepper flakes, Oregano

Trimmed pork and pancetta cure ingredients

The first step in making your pancetta is to skin your pork and cut the meat away from the ribs. Cut the ribs away from the belly and set aside for another meal. Pork ribs, smoked, marinated, or just plain make a great dinner for one and are a perfect accompaniment to beer and televised sport.

Separating the ribs from the meat.

Once you meat is deboned, trim it so it’s roughly square (again, set aside the trimmings and use next time you make sausages) and set aside whilst you make your cure.

Roughly crush the fennel seeds and combine with all of the other ingredients (except the pork – yet!) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the cure.

Sprinkling the pancetta with cure.

Take the trimmed pork and place it in a bowl large enough to accommodate it comfortably. Next take your cure and spread it evenly across the meat, being sure to work it into all of the meat, using your hands if necessary.

Meat rubbed with cure. Ready for refrigeration.

When your meat is fully covered place it in a plastic bag along with any excess cure and place it in the fridge for five days to a week, turning every couple of days and massaging the meat through the bag to really help the cure penetrate the meat. After a week or so, take your pancetta and place on a rack in the fridge. Some people like to wrap the meat in muslin at this stage but I didn’t bother.

Set aside the pancetta for anything up to four weeks. Anything longer than this and you probably want to use Prague powder number #2 as this is better for longer cures.

After this time your pancetta is basically ready. By now, the meat should have got much darker and be very firm to the touch.  Compare the photo below to the raw meat above.

Pancetta after 4 weeks.

Before you slice the meat, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to use it. Pancetta is great in a posh bacon sarnie or for wrapping meat  but it’s equally good cubed and stirred through pasta or even sliced very thinly and eaten raw. I decided to cut half of my bacon into thin rashers using the meat slicer and half into one centimetre cubes using the slicer and a knife.

Cubing Pancetta. 'Dead Homies' T Shirt optional.

The pancetta is absolutely fabulous. Gently fried or grilled, it gives a really herbal fragrant bacon with a distinct but not overpowering tang of fennel that provides a wonderful base for a variety of dishes. Raw, it’s just as good, with a taste like Parma ham and the complexity of flavours from the Italian herb blend. Try it!

Finished pancetta. Sliced and cubed.

Double Smoked Sweetcure Back Bacon With Juniper and Black Pepper

Home smoked sweetcure bacon....as part of a 'balanced' breakfast.

I was really pleased with my first attempt at bacon earlier in the year. It yielded a delicious mild tasting bacon with just a hint of smoke that came from the hickory smoke powder I used.

However, I did feel slightly like I was cheating by using smoke powder. Particularly when I realised how simple cold smoking was. I’m not going to go too deeply into the smoking process here because it really deserves its own post which I will write soon but I will say that immersing bacon in oak smoke is a a truly wonderful thing.

Because oak smoke is an intense flavour, any seasonings that go into the cure have to be equally robust if you want them to stand up to the smoke. I chose black pepper, juniper, and brown sugar which, when combined with salt, make a delicious, aromatic, salty sweet bacon which is perfect for breakfast.

I also wanted to use a different cut of pork. Streaky bacon is great (and supermarket streaky is usually British which for me is preferable from an ethical point of view) but back is my favourite when it comes to the breakfast plate.

The recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s Sweetcure Bacon with Juniper and Black Pepper.
1kg Pork loin
35g Salt
25g Dark brown sugar
2g Prague powder #1
4g Juniper
3g Black pepper

Juniper, Microscales,

Weighing juniper berries

Combine the sugar, salt and Prague powder in a bowl.  Roughly crush your juniper berries and peppercorns and add to the bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed through the cure. This is vital as it prevents the nitrites from the prague powder becoming too concentrated in one spot in your bacon.

Take your loin of pork and rub it all over with your cure, ensuring you work the cure into all the nooks and crannies of the meat.

Pork loin, Salt, Brown Sugar, Juniper, Prague Powder

The loin, rubbed with cure.

When your meat is well coated transfer it to a freezer bag and seal. Place it in the fridge for a minimum of a week, turning and massaging every other day to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. Don’t worry if any water leeches out of the meat. This will help to brine it and ensure that the cure penetrates right to the heart of the loin.

After 10 days or longer remove the meat from the bag and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and transfer to a rack before refrigerating for another 48 hours or so. This helps the smoke adhere to the outside of the bacon in the smoker.

Bacon, Cheese, Brie, Chicken Wings, Oak Smoke

Pork loin in the smoker alongside cheddar, brie and chicken wings.

Fire up your smoker and smoke the bacon over oak chips for a minimum of eight hours. My smoker runs for 11 hours which was long enough for me to go to the London Charcuterie Festival in the day time and go out for my mate Sam’s 30th birthday in the evening. On my return from the pub at some shameful hour of the morning I took the meat out of the smoker and transferred it to the refrigerator overnight.

The following day I fired up the smoker again and smoked the bacon for another 8 hours. The idea being to allow one layer of smoke to settle on the meat before giving it another smoke to really intensify the smokey flavour.

Bacon, Pork Loin, Cold Smoked. Oak Chips, Macs BBQ, ProQ

Finish smoked bacon. Lovely colour from two layers of oak smoke.

The bacon is now basically finished. All that remains is to slice it into rashers.  I left mine for another 24 hours after smoking to really make sure the smoke had settled on the meat.

You can slice it by hand but an electric slicer will ensure evenly sliced rashers and will allow you to slice a large amount of pork very quickly.

Slicing Bacon. A serious business.

Finished sliced bacon.

Your bacon is now finished. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or you can freeze the rashers individually and use them when you need a porky fix. They are sublime as part of a cooked breakfast and perfect for a late night emergency bacon sandwich.

A perfect Sunday breakfast. Home made bacon and smoked white pudding with fried egg, toast, and chilli sauce.

Bacon – 2 Ways

Perfect British Bacon

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.

2 Kilos of Duroc belly, soon to become tasty bacon

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
10g dextrose
19g salt
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.

Skinning the belly. Enormous ham knife optional.

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.

Adding smoke powder to the cure - not the most exciting photo in the world.

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.

Working the cure into the meat.

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.

The bacon bits after one week. Dry cure on the left, wet on the right.

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

My piece of bacon. Ready to be tied and sliced.

Tying the dry cure bacon ready for slicing.

The Finished Bacon. Tied and ready for slicing.

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.

My new toy. Made me nervous for my fingers.

After five minutes slicing I had two huge piles of delicious home cured bacon ready to eat.

Two piles of sliced bacon. Rind on home cure on the left. Perfick Pork dry cure on the right.

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.

Finished, cooked, tasty, tasty bacon.