Making Bacon – Stage One: The Cure…

Ending the old year on a high(ish) note, making bacon. Or, at least, starting the process, which will end in a week to 10 days.

First drawback was the coarse sea salt I ordered – it’s so coarse you could gravel a bloody drive with it! And so hard I can’t crush it. Utterly useless.

Luckily, I had just enough Maldon flakes to do the job – 200g – and to that I added 100g of molasses sugar and a teaspoon of ground black pepper, all thoroughly mixed – just get your hands in there, there’s no better way.

You’re supposed to use Koshering salt** – coarser than table salt, finer than gravel! – but it’s hard to find, and ferociously expensive when you do. I’ll stick with Maldon.

**Also sold as Kosher salt, it’s used in Kosher kitchens for extracting blood from meat, before cooking.

The meat, from Waitrose, for some reason had a deep diagonal slash going all the way through the flesh to the skin – so deep there is no way it could be accidental. God knows what they think they’re doing. Maybe they employ the same blind plumbers to do meat prep as Sainsbury’s do?

All the websites I’ve pillaged for information say the same thing – rub the washed and dried meat with the salt mixture – the cure. You can do that until hell freezes, but it’ll just fall off again!

So, what I did was put the meat – cut into two, now, to eliminate the slash, and trimmed of any ragged bits – into two freezer bags, put a thick layer of cure on the flesh side, pulled the plastic tight to hold it in place, flipped it and repeated it for the skin side, making sure all the edges were well coated too. Then I squeezed out the air so the bags clung tightly to the meat, then knotted them – and the cure stayed nicely in place.

Now they’re in the fridge, with the bags keeping the cure tightly applied to all the surfaces.

They’re on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest flat surface, and apart from turning a couple of times, will be left to their own devices for 7 days – maybe 10, depending on how they progress.

The meat will give off some water during the curing process – which is the point – but not as much as some websites would have you believe. Looking at the labelling for dry cured ham, the weight loss – to water – is around 10%. That tallies with my experience making the panceta a few weeks ago.

The water will dissolve the cure, but don’t worry, it’ll still do its job. There is no need to pour off the liquid, because if you do, you’ll just have to start the whole process from scratch, and reapply the cure mix. Just leave it alone – it’ll be fine.

Finally, one thing I noticed with the panceta – the brine will permeate the plastic (plastic bags, and clingfilm, are microporous), not enough to make a mess, but enough to make your hands salty every time you turn the bags. Puzzled the hell out of me until I figured it out. Double-bagging doesn’t help, either, just delays it a few hours.

Making bacon, by the way, is an ideal activity for spoonies, as aside from about 15 minutes work at the start, it’s pretty much effortless. Well, it is as long as you buy a basic bacon slicer – slicing by hand is a pain.

Talk to you again in a week for the next stage – drying…

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