Truthfully, I’d never even considered curing my own bacon – there are many fine producers out there – but I recently read a small article in an edition of Good Food Magazine, and it sounded so simple that I had to give it a lash..
First of all I had to find a 2.5Kg piece of Pork Belly. Not as simple as it sounds, but the lovely people from Pheasant’s Hill Farm at St George’s Saturday market, not only had a large piece, but also boned it for me. I thought if I was going to make my own bacon, it might as well be with the best pork I could find..
This recipe takes 5 weeks to make, possibly winning the prize for Eating for Ireland’s longest recipe ever! However, most of this time is taken up with you living your life, and spending about 5 minutes a day for the first 5 days, and then doing nothing but letting the Bacon get on with it for the rest of the time!
This would be a seriously impressive Christmas or other gift for the rampant foodie in your life, so don’t dismiss me just yet!
- 1 large dish, big enough to comfortably hold your pork (I used my very biggest Lasagne dish)
- Room in your fridge to hold the dish, for 5 days (a big ask, I know..)
- A plastic container with lid, to hold the Dry Cure
- A pestle and mortar – or other method for crushing seeds
- Cling film, or foil.
- A clean tea towel
- 2.5 Kg weight of boned Pork Belly – from the thick end – bones removed. I was lucky enough to get an expert to do it for me – she took out just the bones, and wasted none of the meat.
- 300g fine salt
- 200g brown sugar
- 2 tablespoonfuls of Coriander seeds, crushed
- 2 tablespoonfuls of Black pepper corns, crushed
- 2 tablespoonfuls of Fennel seeds, crushed
- A big sprig of both Rosemary and Thyme, washed and dried, leaves stripped from the stalks and finely chopped.
METHOD: Day 1:
- Into your plastic container put the sugar and salt – mix it well together.
- Add the crushed Coriander seeds, Black peppercorns, Fennel and herbs and mix together until well combined.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of the cure over the bottom of the dish, place the Pork on top, sprinkle some more cure onto the top, then cover and put in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Take the dish from the fridge and pour off all the water that will have come out of the meat.
- Dry off the dish, and repeat yesterday’s performance – Dry Cure, Meat, Dry Cure, cover, Fridge
Days 3, 4 and 5:
- As above.
- Here’s a picture of Day 5 for you – The smell is amazing (the fennel seeds were my own idea, btw) The rind is quite tough now, and the under-carriage is completely encrusted with 4 days worth of Dry Cure.
- Drain off the liquid, wash off any stuck-on bits of Cure and dry the meat thoroughly.
- Then sit it on a clean tea towel, and put it back into the fridge for a month to air dry. (that’s another 28 days to you and me) If you have a spare fridge somewhere, or a clean, dry airy space, you can leave the bacon there. It will free up room in your regular fridge.
Twenty-eight days later…
- I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary, but I trimmed off the outside of each side of the joint after its 28 day chill. There was certainly a ‘bloom’ on a couple of the sides. I sliced off a thin layer, just to be safe.
- Slice the bacon from the joint as thinly as you can – it won’t be very thin, unless you have a professional slicer – only cut what you need at the time. You’ll need a very sharp serrated knife to cut this – the rind gets very tough.
- The Bacon will keep, covered with greaseproof paper and a tea towel, in the fridge, for up to 2 months.
- The recipe I used came from the BBC Good Food magazine, and I was dismayed to read that A LOT ( their words) of water would come out of the pork – I got hardly any at all, but then it occurred to me that because I was using the very best Pork that I could find, perhaps there wasn’t too much water in it at all.
- I did a bit of checking up about curing your own bacon, on the internet, as one does. One site said to air-dry the Bacon. This means not putting it in the fridge. Virtually every house in Ireland will be waaay too warm for this coming into the winter. If you or some kind person belonging to you has a food safe (my Mum had one, sadly long gone) you could try using it, but I think the tea towel and a fridge are my best bet.