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.

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Lincolnshire Sausages

Pork Shoulder, Belly Pork, Salt, Herbs

Raw ingredients for Lincolnshire Sausages. Meat in front, spices behind.

Ok, back to sausages.

Recently my partner in music Sam Atki2 came up to London for the weekend, lured by the promise of making some tunes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) most of our weekend was spent in the production of bangers of a different kind. Under the influence of Batemans finest, Sam and I worked out a recipe for a coarse Lincolnshire style sausage using pork belly rather than the more usual back fat and lots of white pepper to give it a little kick. You can see some of the photos over on the adventures with the pig facebook page.

I’ve since gone back and tweaked the recipe and I’m pleased to report that it tastes amazing. Meaty, peppery, and like an authentic Lincolnshire sausage.

The recipe is below.

Lincolnshire sausages
600g pork shoulder
100g pork belly
150g breadcrumbs
16g salt
6g white pepper
2g ground coriander
1 1/2g sage
1 1/2g nutmeg
1g cornflour
water to bind. About 125 ml

Hog casings about 5/6 feet.

Firstly set your casings aside to soak for a couple of hours to remove excess salt.

Pork Shoulder, ham knife, Skinning

Using a jamon knife to skin pork shoulder

While these are soaking, skin your pork belly and shoulder and cut into pieces small enough to fit through the mincer.I find using a Spanish ham knife best to skin the meat, as I can run it under the skin very close to the rind whilst leaving the precious, lubricating fat in place. If you don’t have one, a filleting knife or similar thin-bladed, flexible knife would work well too.

Set aside your cubed meat and place in the freezer. Partly freezing the meat makes it much easier to feed through the mincer. Whilst the meat is chilling, weigh and combine all the other ingredients apart from the breadcrumbs.

Coarse minced pork

Next set up your mixer, fitting it with a coarse plate. You want the meat to remain fairly chunky to give the sausages some bite. Remove the meat from the freezer and feed through the mincer until you have a pile of coarse minced belly and shoulder in front of you. Transfer to a large mixing bowl or clean surface and combine with your breadcrumbs and seasonings. Mix well, adding water to help bind the ingredients together.

Combining the filling

You might want to fry a little bit of the sausage meat to check your seasoning at this point.

Fit your medium stuffing tube to your mincer (unless you have a dedicated stuffer in which case use that) and slowly stuff the mixture into your soaked hog casings until you’ve filled all of them. Twist the sausages into links and leave to rest for 24 hours before cooking or freezing. I left mine on a rack in the fridge to let any excess moisture drain off.

Finished sausages left to rest on a rack.

Grilled or fried and served with mash and a blob of mustard these sausages are some of my very favourites.

If you really can’t be bothered to make them then the Lincolnshire sausages produced by the Boston Sausage folk are also pretty damn fine.

I made double quantities of this recipe. The other half of the sausage meat will be making a star appearance in the next blog post.

Gochujang Pork

Gochujang Pork Ingredients. Bean Paste and Rice Wine in the background.

I’m worried.

I’m worried that I may have given some of you the wrong idea. People who’ve read the first few posts on the blog could be forgiven for thinking  that I’m some kind of jolly butcher type who spends all his time eating sausages and making pork pies. This is a half truth. Believe it or not, I also cook and eat food that doesn’t come stuffed into hog casings. Occasionally, I even eat vegetables .Don’t believe me? The proof is below.

I’ve always been a big fan of South East Asian food and have spent the last couple of years taking advantage of London (and New Malden’s) ever increasing spread of Korean restaurants. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Korean Bulgogi or barbeque food; slices of meat marinated or dredged in fermented bean paste, griddled on a tabletop barbeque until charred then served wrapped in lettuce leaves with rice, kimchi and namul.

I’ve also had a massive craving for gochujang recently that I just had to satisfy. Gochgujang and doenjang are mainstays of Korean food and are basically fermented bean and rice powder pastes.  Gochujang includes chilli, doenjang doesn’t. You can usually find it in plastic colour coded tubs in Asian shops, red for gochujang, brown for doenjang (and green for seasoned doenjang but we’re not using that here!)

Below is my version of gochujang bulgogi. In the absence of a tabletop barbeque (Liz vetoed my purchase of one…for now) a hot, heavy based frying pan is almost as good.

Gochujang Pork
600g pork cubed or thinly sliced. (thinly sliced is traditional but I cubed mine)
1 onion thinly sliced ( I used a mandoline)
2 carrots thinly sliced or cut into matchsticks. (Again I used a mandoline)

Marinade
3 tbsp gochujang chilli paste
1 tbsp doenjang soy bean paste
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
5/6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp water

To serve
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 spring onion  chopped.
1 lettuce. Little gem is good.

First combine your marinade ingredients in a large bowl. You may want to adjust the level of gochujang depending on how spicy you like things. Three tablespoons should give you a decent level of heat without bringing about tastebud armageddon but feel free to adjust to your taste.

Add your pork, onions, and carrots to the marinade and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours combine.

Pork, Onions, Carrots, Gochujang, Doenjang, Rice Wine,

Pork and onions in marinade

When you’re ready to cook, heat a large heavy bottomed pan or wok until its good and hot. You shouldn’t need to put any oil in the pan as its already in the marindate.

Add everything to the pan and cook until your meat is thoroughly cooked through. Don’t worry if it catches on the pan a little bit. Any bits that char will just give it a lovely caramelised barbeque flavour.

Cooked Gochujang Pork, Ready for serving

A couple of minutes before you’re due to serve the pork stir in a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds and some chopped spring onion.

Bring it to the table with a good supply of lettuce leaves to wrap your pork pieces in and serve with boiled rice and kimchi. Incredible. The combination of crisp, crunchy lettuces leaves with the spicy sweet barbecued meat is sublime. A can or two of Hite would be a very appropriate accompaniment.

Finished gochujang pork

I know I said at the beginning of this post that I didn’t only eat sausages. I am however mulling on the idea of mincing the pork after marinading and stuffing into casings. Watch this space…

White Pudding

White pudding, homemade bread, salad. Wonderful.

White pudding is a breakfast sausage made of pork, oatmeal and spices and is popular across Scotland, Ireland and the north of England. My personal favourite comes from the Barrowin Furness  fishmongers in Borough Market who make little individual puddings for frying. What I didn’t realise until reading the excellent sausagemaking.org forum was how easy they are to make. When I read johnfb’s recipe (who also advised on forming the sausages in cling film) I knew I had to have a go at it myself. I made a couple of tweaks to John’s original recipe both for personal taste and to try and match it more with the Borough Market puddings. After all, what can’t be improved by adding bacon?

The results are fantastic. Sliced and fried, the pudding makes a good friend to bacon and eggs on the breakfast plate or just mashed on toast like pate. The recipe is below.

Preparing the pudding mixture

Jon’s White Pudding
600g pork cubed and chilled
375g oatmeal soaked in a roughly similar amount of water
50g leek chopped
50g bacon (I used this) chopped
10g salt
5g celery salt
20g  cornflour
2 1/2g white pepper
2 1/2g ground coriander
2 1/2g ginger
2 1/2g sage
2 1/2g MSG
1 1/2g mace
1 1/2g nutmeg
1g allspice

First take your oatmeal and soak it in water for a few minutes. I left mine for twenty simply because that was how long it took me to weigh out the spices and cube and chill the meat.

The next step is to combine everything except the bacon in a large mixing bowl and stir until it’s all thoroughly mixed. Oatmeal may well be the stickiest substance known to man so be careful to ensure that it doesn’t drag you down into the bowl like some kind of porridgy kraken.

Pork, Oatmeal, Leek, Spices

The ingredients ready for mincing.

Slowly feed the mixture through your mincer, making sure that its fitted with the smallest mincing plate you have. Keep feeding the mixture through until all of your ingredients are minced before returning to your mixing bowl, adding the chopped bacon and giving it a final stir. Don’t worry if it looks a bit weird. Pork and porridge are not the most visually appealing bedfellows. Fortunately it tastes amazing!

White Pudding Mixture

Mixed oatmeal and pork. Looking slightly evil

Now you have your white pudding mix made up, the next step is turn it into sausages. You can stuff it into hog casings (in which case prepare and stuff them in the usual way) or do as I did and form them into skinless sausages by wrapping them in cling film.

The process for this is quite simple. People who have rolled their own should have no problem with it. Take a large square of clingfilm and put a few spoonfuls of your pudding mixture in the centre. Fold the clingfilm over and press it down to make a patty. Roll your patty back and forth until you have a decent sausage shape then twist off the ends. Keep twisting until both ends are really tight to force the meat down into a more compact pudding. Make sure the sausage is tightly sealed to prevent any mixture leaking out when you’re poaching the sausages.

Repeat this with the remaining mixture until you have several fully formed white puddings ready to poach. The recipe above left me with four big puddings but that’ll vary depending on how large your sausages are.

White Pudding wrapped in cling film to make a sausage

A white pudding skinless sausage

It’s probably a good idea to rest your pudding for a while before you poach them. I left mine for twenty four hours in the fridge to let the flavours develop.

When you’re ready to poach your puddings set a large covered pan of water on the stove and bring it to a gentle simmer. Poach your puddings for twenty to thirty minutes depending on their size then lift them out of the water and leave to cool.

Poaching white pudding for 2- mins in simmering water

Poaching the puddings

Your puddings are now ready to fry as part of an excellent breakfast or spread on toast with a caper and onion salad.

I wanted a bit of variety in the flavour of the puddings and as I’ve just built myself a cold smoker in my friend’s garden, these seemed like an ideal candidate for the inaugural run. I don’t want to write too much about the smoking process as I’m going to cover it in more detail in its own post but I left two puddings unsmoked, smoked one for four hours, and one for eight. You can see the last one in the smoke box (with other treats) below.

Cold smoking. White pudding on the left.

The puddings were then sliced and frozen but not before frying up a plate of them to try them. They’re all fabulous! Rich, creamy and intensely savoury. The pork adds a deeper level of flavour to them but to be honest, smoked or unsmoked, they’re both bloody tasty!


Finished puddings. Heavily smoked at the front, lightly smoked in the middle, unsmoked at the back

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.

Smoky Mexican-Style Sausages

For my second post I wanted to make a completely different type of sausage to last time and one that you can’t easily find in the shops. I wanted to make something that had a smoky and rounded sweet and sour flavour and a subtle heat. Something between the sausages you can buy from the South American butchers in Brixton market and the Mexican chorizo recipe in Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s excellent book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

I also wanted to play with some new ingredients I hadn’t used before, namely recado de achiote and hickory powder.

Recado de achiote is a deeply savoury spice blend of ground annatto seeds, cumin, allspice, garlic and salt and pepper normally used for marinades and spice rubs. It gives food a spicy earthiness and a deep red colour. It’s not the most common ingredient but the folk at the Cool Chile Co were very helpful in sorting some out for me.

Hickory smoke powder is used to give food a deep smoky flavour for those of us not blessed with our own home smokers. Hickory powder is SUPER concentrated, so I’ve given a specific measurement for this.This equates to about a 1/3tsps worth but its worth picking up some cheap microscales to get things right, particularly if you want to get into curing food as you’ll be working with potentially harmful chemicals and you don’t want to overdo them.  You can pick these up easily enough online or at your local dodgy newsagent or ‘head’ shop. I can’t possibly imagine what other use they could have though….

Weighing smoke powder

Smoky Mexican style sausages -1st attempt.

600g pork shoulder, cubed
120g back fat, cubed
100g breadcrumbs
1&1/2tsp recardo de achiote powder
1tsp ancho chilli powder (I used flaked anchos because I happened to have some in but I would have preferred powder)
1tsp chipotle chilli powder
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp dextrose
2&1/2tsp table salt
1/2g hickory smoke powder
125ml white wine vinegar
Water, as needed
Hog casings

Smoke Powder, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Recado De Achiote, Ancho Flakes, Chipotle Chilli Powder, White Wine Vinegar, Salt, Breadcrumbs

Mexican sausage ingredients

Firstly, prepare your hog casings in the usual way. If you don’t know what the usual way is then have a read of the blog post below. That expains it in more detail. Make sure your pork and fat is properly chilled (I stick mine in the freezer in the bowl I’m going to mince into for 45 minutes before starting, chilling both the meat and the bowl) before feeding it through your mincer. I used the standard 4.5mm plate for this one because I wanted a slightly smoother banger than last time.

Mincing....standard

Next step is to get all your seasonings together and combined with the meat. The combination of white wine vinegar and dextrose is what gives these sausages their sweet and sour flavour. Dextrose powder is basically a refined simple sugar that is absorbed more easily than standard sugar. As a result, it helps the sausages brown more uniformly.

Spices. Recado de achiote and ancho chillis in the foreground.

Take all of your dry ingredients and combine them with the minced meat and breadcrumbs. Slowly add your vinegar whilst mixing your sausage meat. You might need to add some additional water to aid your mixing. When everything is sufficiently combined set aside and leave to chill until you’re ready to use it. You should fry a little bit of it now and check you’re happy with the level of seasoning. I added some more paprika and achiote powder at this point when I made them (and have adjusted the recipe above accordingly).
In the meantime, flush your hog casings and slide them onto your medium stuffing tube then fit the tube onto your mixer. Striking a pose is optional.
Fitting the stuffing tube onto the mincer.

Agent 00-Pork

 Get your sausagemeat out of the fridge and slowly feed it through your stuffer. When it reaches the end of your stuffing tube, pull the skins forward and tie them off. Slowly feed the meat into the skins, ensuring that your sausages are a uniform size. Keep going until you have fed all the sausage meat through the mincer. If you want to push the last of the sausagemeat through then you can push it through the mincer with a bit of bread. When you start to see bread in the tube take the skins off the stuffer and tie off. Now simply twist these into links and leave to rest for 24 hours and there you have it: spicy, smoky Mexican style sausages.
These are great hot but I prefer to grill them and then serve them cold on a tortilla with salad, avocado, cheese and chilli sauce. The lunch of champions!