Sunday, 8 December 2013

Makin' Bacon

Something new to try out and another 'cookery' adventure for us; we decided to try making our own dry-cured bacon rashers. Armed with the inevitable internet recipe we set to work on a chunk of the belly pork from our recently 'won' Gloucester Old Spot carcass. People have been salting down pork for centuries but it still makes me a bit nervous; I may have been paying too much attention on the Intermediate Food Hygiene Certificate training I went through whilst at work. I almost certainly had Liz thinking grumbly thoughts at the number of questions I asked and "are you sure?" queries.

Hung out to dry in the muslin bag
In short, the slab of pork belly is well coated in a dry mixture of salt, demerara sugar and chopped rosemary, thyme and crushed juniper berries, patted on all over, all 6 'sides'. It is then put (in our case) in a plastic bag on a plate in the fridge for 5 days while the salt mixture draws moisture out of the meat. Each day you pour off the brine which has come out, turn the meat over and pat any dislodged salt back over it. Over the 5 days the slab of meat shrinks and darkens in colour, especially around the outside, so that it feels harder and tougher than did the original raw pork. The salt diffuses all the way into the meat and more water is pulled out by the salt.

After 5 days you take the slab of belly out of its bag and rinse off all the remaining excess salt (there isn't much by then) from the outside, you pat the meat dry with paper towels and then you need to hang it in a cool but well ventilated place to dry for at least 48 hours. We wrapped it in a clean muslin sheet knotted at the 4 corners and hung it from one of the baler twines which we have been using for our strings of onions, in the Tígín. At that point it is ready to use but goes on improving for a while, so you are advised to cut off the rashers you need and then put it back to hang some more till, presumably, you have used it all up.

Big excitement today, then, as we came to the Ready Date and were able to try out some of our bacon. We have to pronounce it a success. The bacon cut beautifully into rashers and fried well with, as you'd expect, NONE of that grey/white water that comes out of supermarket rashers causing them to braise rather than fry. This was, after all, a carcass with no brine injected into it which we had then salt-cured to extract a lot of the naturally occurring fluid. It was, if anything, a tad fatty, coming from the belly rather than the back or loin. At first contact it also struck possibly a little salty to our taste but this only seemed to affect the first 'taster' mouthful samples. By the time we had the rashers in a full-on bacon butty with bread, butter and ketchup it was gorgeous and very more-ish.

Incidentally we have also now had some sausage meat from this pig, in that case made by Carolyn and wrapped around two of her home made Scotch Eggs, so we can vouch for that use too and tonight we eat our first roast pork joint, the lower shoulder (the butchers call it "Hand of Pork") which is looking very promising so far. Tomorrow, maybe a minced up pork Chinese recipe involving spring roll wrappers, but tomorrow our attention turns really to lambs - we get our 5 carcasses back from Ignatius G and try to squeeze our share (2 animals) into the bulging freezers.


Renovation in Galicia said...

The bacon looks good, might the barn be a little to humid to store it in though?

Matt Care said...

Possibly. Good point, anyway, worth thinking about. This particular chunk is not likely to last long enough for that to be a problem but what do we look for as bad signs? Surface moulds? Sweating?

Matt Care said...
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anne wilson said...

Sweating in particular, your utility room might be better. Hams and bacon in Spain would normally have been stored near the top of the house in a brick built room, often off a bedroom!!Unless the house had an internal storage room. Hams and bacon would hang for ten months to 'mature' before being used, often they were smoked. A little mold on the outside is not normally a problem it would be removed before using with a little diluted vinegar.