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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking With The Pig – Sage and Onion Beer Bread

This is a guest post from liz545

While Jon’s been making sausages, I’m usually behind the camera, playing sous-chef and chief sub editor. But I’m also a keen baker, making everything from bread and cakes to pastry for sausage rolls.

Finished loaf

If you’ve been inspired to make some delicious sausages, or cure your own bacon, the next logical step is a sandwich, right? And there’s nothing better than a sandwich on home-made bread. I love a good sourdough loaf, but if you’re pushed for time, beer bread is the answer.

If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great place to start, because it’s fast, easy, and you’ll probably already have everything you need to make it. It relies on baking powder instead of yeast as the main leavening agent, with the yeast in the beer giving it a little extra lift and flavour. It doesn’t really matter what beer you used – I used a dubiously named ale that Jon had knocking around, but most lighter beers would work. (It may have been a dubious beer but I’d still have liked to drink it. Grrr. – Jon) Stout or porter might be a bit heavy, though.

The mix of wholemeal and white flour means it’s robust enough to stand up to a hearty sausage, and the sage emphasises the flavours nicely. This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to play around with the flavourings. Cheese, fresh herbs, or some sautéed bacon would all work well mixed in here.

A note on measurements
I’ve used a standard American measuring cup that holds 250ml. If you don’t have one, you can use any teacup or mug, so long as you keep the proportions the same (i.e. two parts flour to one part beer).

Sage and onion beer bread
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1½ cups wholemeal flour (I used spelt, but you could use rye, or whatever brown flour you have on hand)
1½ cups plain white flour
1tbsp sugar
1tsp salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. dried sage
1½ cups beer

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease your loaf tin. Sauté the onion in a little oil until it’s translucent and a nice golden colour, then leave it to cool down a bit before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

Combine the flour, sage, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the onion mixture and the beer and mix just until combined. With quick breads you don’t want to over-mix it, so it’s ok if it looks lumpy, as long as there aren’t any pockets of dry flour.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin, brush with egg or melted butter if you want, and bake for about 45 minutes or until it’s golden brown and a skewer/knife comes out clean.

Finished sliced loaf

Let the bread cool in the tin for ten minutes, then finish cooling on a rack before slicing.