I should have got most of you with the fifth word “bacon”. It seems to excite such passions. How often have we heard “Everything tastes better with bacon” Sadly, I have bad news for most of you. Yes, you are labouring under a misconception. What you think is great bacon is not. It pales into insignificance next to this. I know, I have eaten both. Let me tell you why.
Let’s start with the meat. So many bacon recipes start with poor quality pork. If this was a horse race, your pony would be neighing in the stalls while my stallion “Beautiful Pork” would be approaching the finishing straight, cantering ahead of a tasteless over-salted field. To make good bacon, you need to start with good pork. This is rare breed, free range ethically grown, responsibly slaughtered meat. Trust me, it all makes a difference. A huge difference.
The other ingredients are really important too. Very often, the addition of lots of strong flavours is done to disguise the lack of flavour in the meat. Not here. My ingredients are really simple.
Ingredients for Home Cured, Home Smoked Bacon Loin
- 2.6 kilos of rare breed, free range ethically grown, responsibly slaughtered pork loin.*
- 80 grammes of curing salt (Ask your butcher for some. If he can’t supply, he is not a butcher).
- 40 grammes of Muscovado sugar
*Before you Trump loving, cud chewing, rust belt American loons start ranting about bacon having to be from pork belly, you are wrong. But, in the same way as ‘The Donald’ stops off on his weekly trip to Florida to appease you with platitudes, I will appease you by preparing some from belly. It’s curing in the fridge as I type. I’ll post it in a couple of weeks.
First thing to do is to score the skin of the joint to allow flavours permeate the meat. I am in two minds on this one. Next time, I will remove the skin and we can compare.
Flip the joint over and trim off the parchment like stuff from the meat and bones. This will prevent the cure from impregnating the meat (snigger, you child, if you must).
Then, mix together the salt and sugar. The salt contains some sulphites that do two things. They act as a preservative and they give bacon its bacon colour. The colour is useful as one can be sure that the joint is cured all the way through. Rub the joint all over with the salt/sugar mixture. Massage it well into the flesh and joints.
Vacuum seal the pork (or wrap it in lots of cling film. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, turning it every other day. It will leech liquid. That’s a good thing. After 12 to 14 days, remove from the fridge, wash the meat well (In cold water only. Don’t use soap. You are going to eat this!). Dry it and admire your handiwork.
The meat will have tensed up quite a bit. This is because the salt has permeated the meat and some chemical reactions have gone on, forcing water out.
At this stage, you could carve, and use in the same way as one does with ordinary bacon. That is, fry it and use it to adorn a hamburger or such like. I preferred to hot smoke it, cooking it at the same time. So, into the fridge on a rack for 24 hours to allow a pellicle form. This is a vaguely tacky outer layer to which the smoke will attach. Into the smoker for as long as it takes to reach 150ºF (65º in real temperature).
It took about three and a half hours to get up to temperature. That was three and a half hours of me running in and out to the shed like a racetrack loser running back and forth to the bookie’s window.
Let the bacon rest for a couple of hours before carving it.
You could eat it straight away. You could vacuum some for eating later, like I did.
I had to fry some, as you do. I fried these on a dry pan. The bacon released plenty of fat and the dry fry gave a nice crispy edge too.
I served this with poached free range eggs, fresh brown bread and real Irish butter. It was truly fantastic.
At the head of this post, I said you will probably never get to know just how great this can taste. For you that is a sadness. If you have any way of trying this delicious rare breed smoked bacon (apart from calling to my house), give it a go, I implore you. The bacon that is, not calling to my house.