Black Pudding

Finished black pudding. Ready for frying.

It all started so well.

I was idly browsing the internet, looking for new ingredients to try out. How then did it end at 2am on a Wednesday morning standing covered in blood, in a kitchen that looked like something out of CSI?

I’ve always really liked black pudding. I can appreciate that it’s not to everyone’s taste but for me, the combination of blood, fat and cereals is a heavenly one. I’d never really thought about making my own though. Never that is, until a combination of finding dried blood for sale and a friend lending me the River Cottage Cook Book led me down a dangerous path.

One fateful Tuesday evening, I thought, “Oh I don’t have much on tonight. I’ll make some black pudding. How hard can it be…” Skip forward 6 hours to me standing in my kitchen, tired, grumpy and looking like an extra from an early Peter Jackson film. Should you wish to join me on this particular (mis)adventure with the pig, the recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s British style Black Pudding
150g dried pigs blood
1 ltr water
25g salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
250g oatmeal soaked overnight
250g pearl barley, boiled until tender
500g pork back fat, derinded and cubed
500g onions, finely chopped
250 ml double cream
1g mace
1g ground coriander
1g cayenne pepper.
Hog casings – more than you think…. (maybe about 15 feet)

First soak your casings in the usual way.

Pork fat and onions. Cooking gently.

Next, take a handful of your back fat (perhaps 100g) and gently heat until it starts to render liquid. When a tablespoon or so of fat has run, add the onions and the rest of the back fat and cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and the fat has started to become translucent. You might want to cover the pan to encourage cooking.

In the meantime, slowly combine your dried pigs blood with the water to hydrate it.  You might need to beat it together for a while to ensure that you remove any lumps.

Keep stirring, adding your salt, pepper and spices until your blood mix is thoroughly combined.

Blood and spice. The kitchen is still clean at this point.

Take your soaked casings and cut into lengths depending on how long you want your puddings. I cut mine into pieces about 45 cm long which made roughly 30cm puddings. Tie your skins at one end, making sure the knot is secure. You don’t want them coming undone when you’re trying to fill them.

Take your oatmeal and cream and add it to the fat and onions before continuing to cook over a low heat for a minute or two.

Up until now it’s been a fairly clean task. This is where it starts to get messy…

Adding blood to the cream, fat, and oatmeal. Still fairly clean....

Take your pan off the heat and slowly pour in your seasoned blood, continuing to stir until it’s all combined. Add your oatmeal, stirring continuously to stop the fat and cereals sinking to the bottom. Put an apron on. You will spill some.

Set a large pan of water over a gentle heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.

Take your sausage casings and slide them over your medium sausage stuffing tube or a funnel. Now using a ladle, slowly start to fill your casings until you have a thick sausage. You will want something like a chopstick or skewer to push through any bits of fat or cereal that get stuck.

Poking fat through a funnel

Slide your skin off the funnel when you’re about 5-7cm off the open end of the skin and tie securely. This is quite tricky as your hands, your casings, and most of your kitchen are liable to be covered with blood at this stage. I can see why commercial producers use metal ties to seal them.

Filling puddings. Not having fun any more...

Repeat this until you have filled all your casings. The puddings will still be quite liquid at this stage. Lower the puddings into your pan of barely simmering water and cook for 20 minutes or so making sure the water doesn’t boil too fiercely. If your puddings swell up, prick them with a pin to ensure they don’t explode. No one wants to be showered with exploding pudding.

The horror. The horror.

After 20 minutes, remove your puddings from the simmering and drop them in a bowl of iced water for a couple of minutes. your puddings are now ready to eat or slice and fry.

Fried black pudding, rye bread, cornichons. Good times.

You can serve these as a quick supper with bread, salad, and fried apple slices or as part of a classic hangover cure fry up.  They are also good used to stuff a pork loin or mashed with potatoes as an accompaniment to sausages.

Next time I do them, (if the girlfriend will allow me back in the kitchen!) I think I will add more oatmeal to make them firmer. I’ll also try using larger artificial casings to make wider, more traditional puddings.

Only make as many as you will eat in a few days or slice and freeze them. The smell of gone off black pudding is the smell of undiluted evil as I discovered to my cost on my return from a weekend away.

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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.