pork

Making home-made bacon

Posted on

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.

Advertisements

Local rare breed pork roast for Christmas

Posted on

Rare breed pork belly -- yum!
Rare breed pork belly — yum!

This Christmas we cooked a roast pork belly for lunch, when all the relatives came around.

But this was no ordinary, supermarket-sourced cut of pork. Instead, it was a rare breed, free range pork belly, sourced from Farmgate, who have a shop just around the corner from work in Redfern.

The pork belly was incredibly easy to cook. Score the skin with a knife, and rub with oil and spices. Then roast on a high heat for 30mins, and on a lower heat for an hour. Let rest.

The result? Incredible crackling, with enough for everyone. The meat itself was tender to the point of falling off the bone. Delicious!

This was the best of all worlds. A great meal, with minimal fuss. Ethical meat sourced from a local grower. It’s now so easy to eat wonderful food, why compromise on second best! 🙂