Making home-made bacon

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Our first slices of home-made bacon
Our first slices of home-made bacon

The wonderful roast pork belly we had over Christmas reminded me that pork belly is also the starting point for home-made bacon.

So I returned to Farmgate, and picked up a 1kg de-boned pork belly, as well as some tips from Melinda who runs the shop.

I had two starting points: the The art of home-made Bacon blog post by Milkwood Permaculture, and a set of instructions in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book. In the end, I did a blend of the two as follows:

Lightly crushing the spice and herb mix.
Lightly crushing the spice and herb mix.

Home-made bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1kg de-boned pork belly
  • 2 parts salt to 1 part sugar
  • celery juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • bunch lemon thyme
  • 6-8 juniper berries
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 star anise
  • 20-30 mustard seeds

Process:

  1. Finely slice the bay leaves and add to a mortar and pestle with the rest of the spice mix. Lightly crush.
  2. Combine the salt, sugar and spice mix.
  3. Mix with celery juice until a damp/wet mix results.
  4. Rub the salt mixture into the pork belly, and place in a sealed plastic container.
  5. Store in the fridge for 7 days.
  6. Remove the pork, give it a wash, and voila!
The pork belly covered in the curing mix, ready to go into the fridge for a week.
The pork belly covered in the curing mix, ready to go into the fridge for a week.

Notes:

  • In commercial settings, “pink salt” is used to maintain the pink colour expected by consumers. This contains nitrates as well as food colouring. No go for an organic project!
  • Celery juice is naturally high in nitrates, and this was recommended by Melinda at Farmgate and in the Milkwood blog post.
  • The star anise was suggested by Melinda, as it increases the Umami in the bacon.
  • You can either hot smoke the bacon (see Hugh’s book), or cook it in a 100C oven for two hours (Milkwood post).
  • Or, following Hugh’s lead, you can do neither, storing it in the fridge wrapped in greaseproof paper for up to a month, and then freeze it. (This is what we’ve done.)
The pork belly after 7 days of curing, straight out of the fridge.
The pork belly after 7 days of curing, straight out of the fridge.

The result?

Bacon, but not like you get in the supermarket. Unlike the bland-flavoured, even-coloured commercial bacon, this is richly flavoured, salty and more-ish.

In just a week, the pork shrinks noticably in size, and becomes quite firm. The rashers are very fatty, and can be a little overwhelming if eaten “straight” with eggs and toast.

We used a thick-cut slice of bacon in home-made “split pea and ham” soup (or in our case, split pea and bacon soup). This classically thrifty soup is superb with the bacon!

The final result: bacon!
The final result: bacon!

Possible modifications

  • The bacon was very salty and strong in flavour after 7 days of curing. For “eating” bacon, I’m going to try just 5 days of curing. For “cooking” bacon, the 7 days is perfect.
  • I’m going to talk to Melinda at Farmgate about cuts of meat, to see if it’s possible to get a cut with more meat and less fat (perhaps the thicker end of the belly?). I’ll report back.

All in all, we’re declaring this experiment a success! It’s actually very simple to do, and highly recommended.

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3 thoughts on “Making home-made bacon

    Darren (Green Change) said:
    February 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I made bacon from the belly of a pig we raised ourselves:

    http://green-change.com/2011/02/28/home-made-bacon/

    It was delicious, but sadly I haven’t raised any more pigs or done home-made bacon again since. I’m going to have to buy some good free-range belly and give the bacon another go!

    Raising pigs again is a bigger commitment, one that I don’t have the spare time for at the moment. Pity.

      James responded:
      February 17, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      Making bacon from your *own* pigs, that’s hard-core! 🙂

      I’m very jealous, if only we had space for pigs, I’d do it for sure.

      What recipe/approach did you take to making the bacon?

        Darren (Green Change) said:
        February 17, 2013 at 10:03 pm

        Hard core would be killing and butchering the pig yourself as well! I’d love to try that, but don’t feel confident enough in my ability to dispatch such a large animal humanely. I do process my own ducks, chickens and rabbits though. I’m hoping that next time we have pigs I might be able to find someone to help me do it, perhaps in exchange for some of the meat.

        I used a wet cure, pretty similar to this recipe: http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/how-to-make-your-own-tasty-home-cured-bacon-without-a-smoker-3417

        I’d like to try something closer to what you did next time.

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