Finally, about a week late, I’ve sliced my bacon (once it had dried to my satisfaction – 3 days – I sealed it in a plastic bag and left it in the fridge until I felt well enough to slice it.
Note: When cut into, the meat should just have a faint whiff of raw bacon, and I think we all know how that smells. If it smells off, or even slightly strange (allowing for whatever you cured it in), bin it and start again. Don’t take chances.
The first thing I learned is that you need two parallel sides – the side that’s being sliced, and the side the pusher rests against, so you need a very sharp knife to trim it to shape (the piece you cut off won’t be wasted – slice it roughly with the knife and freeze separately for use as an ingredient in soups or whatever. Ditto with any small, raggedy slices (which are inevitable until you get the hang of it), and any other off-cuts.
I’d assumed, from the manual, that the divisions on the slice thickness control knob were millimetres – they’re not. Setting five will give slices about 2mm thick , which is fine for me – in a bacon roll I’d rather have a handful of thin slices than one or two thick ones.
The slicer manual also says don’t run it for more than 10 minutes at a time, which didn’t impress me, but it turned out that’s more than enough for me, as I need frequent rests. And, really, it’ll be fine for most people – it’s surprising how much you can slice in 10 minutes!
The slicer, loaded and ready to go:-
For all the pics, click to view full size, Back button to return.
This is a pic of the first few slices, which are a bit thin as they’re on setting 2:-
The belly pork is in two pieces, the thick end (in the first pic), which I sliced first, and the thinner end (in the last pic), which will be next (I’m typing this while I’m having a sit down.
As you can see from the photo, below, the slicer is set end on to the operator:-
This is because it’s easier to operate this way, and because the slices fall out of the back so, as the back is now the side, so to speak, they’re easily retrieved. There is no collection plate for the sliced meat, so I used a scrubbed high-density polyethylene chopping board (just a small one), to lay out the slices.
By the way, I used a sterilising hand-wash before starting, as I find working in gloves cumbersome and cleanliness is important when handling raw meat.
This is the end result, a plate full of sliced bacon:-
Not elegant but I don’t care.
If it’s your first time, use a cheap piece of meat, as I did – don’t go straight for the expensive organic, free-range pork belly. There is a learning curve, and it’s better to bugger up cheap meat, either in the curing or in the slicing, than the expensive stuff. Not that it’ll be wasted if you mess up the slicing, as I said – it’ll all get used one way or another.
Keep the meat chilled. In fact 15 minutes in the freezer wouldn’t hurt, and it’ll slice more cleanly. If you have two pieces, as I did, keep one in the fridge until you’re ready for it. The reason for this is that the layers of meat and layers of fat can slide across each other at room temperature, making it harder to handle
With a biggish piece of meat, it’s easier not to use the pusher at first– just keep your fingers away from the blade! To be honest – and I paid close attention to the risk factors – you’d have to do something seriously stupid to cut yourself.
Before removing slices from the back of the machine, turn it off. That’s another advantage of working with it end-on – the big on-off button is right there.
I decided to slice it with the skin (rind), on, figuring I could remove it when I came to cook it. With hindsight, I think it would slice more cleanly with the skin removed.
If you keep the skin on, slice it with the skin side down.
And that’s pretty much it. The slicer works as well as I expected given the price (adequate but not fantastic), and I’m happy enough with it. Obviously, if you’re going to be making bacon every week or so, you might be better with a commercial or semi-commercial machine. For me, though, it’s fine.
The slicer is as safe as it can be, and you’d have to be a complete half-wit to cut yourself as, used as described above, your fingers should be inches away from the blade. Still, if you’re the sort of person who let’s their attention wander, use the pusher at all times!
The bacon is covered in clingfilm and back in the fridge while I rest. Later it’ll be portioned and frozen. If you lay out the slices separately, you can fry it from frozen. If you stack the slices together (easier and less time-consuming), you’ll have to wait for it to defrost, or zap it very briefly in the microwave.
About curing: Belly pork usually has one thick end and one thin, with a clear division between the two. Based on my results I’d be inclined to cut it in two, and cure the thin end for a day less than the thick. And dry it for a day less, too.
And one final thought – Maldon sea salt cures beautifully – the meat is nicely pink and the fat creamy and firm.
Note: I don’t know what it tastes like yet. I’ll post an addendum as soon as I do. And I have – see this post.