Beginning With Bacon - Curing Your Own Breakfast

Deciding where to begin with the blog took a little bit of thought. What did I want to introduce first? A message? A mentality? Some cake? Well, all those things but I have settled with bacon....cake was a close second mind. Why the prince of the pancake court? Well, because making it is like eating it, comforting but simple, comforting because it is simple, because it typifies what I hope this blog will be and because sometimes, making bacon can feel like it's about more than meat, salt and sugar.

I spent a long time feeling intimidated by this sort of thing, convinced it was the domain of others, either raised among traditional skills and thus with a 30 year head start or those able to absorb themselves in an artisan lifestyle completely, the latter often combining with seemingly effortless cool to further convince me this wasn't a world I was able to wander in.  The reality is of course a little different. Bacon kind of is more than just meat, salt and sugar, it's welcoming and comforting and something of a breakfast institution, it's also humble in it's simplicity in a manner that allows anyone to enjoy it or indeed, make it at home at which point it really is, meat, salt and sugar.

As a first step into food DIY, bacon is perfect, in 5 minutes (plus a trip to the butchers) you can stand and say to yourself "I made my own bacon". There is something pretty powerful in this, being able to so quickly go from nothing to something can work like a catalyst in feeling the confidence to do more.

The result of that realisation isn't super awesome bacon I'm afraid (sorry, I'll explain later) but for me it was the lifting of a certain hoodoo and at least 75% super awesome bacon. My hope with this blog is to aid in lifting that hoodoo, for myself and for anyone who might ever want to try their hand at something but feel it is just out of reach. Welcome aboard this journey of food DIY, artisanal experiments. and the gradual capturing of the good life.

This version will create unsmoked streaky bacon, both back back and smoking are most definitely in the pipeline but as a kicking off point, this is perfect. To start you'll need a cut of pork belly, around 4-6 inches long. Have the butcher bone it for you but not score the skin. Next weigh out your salt and sugar, for every 100g of meat you'll need 10g of salt and 5g of sugar. Pop everything into a sealable plastic bag, give it all a good rub, working the salt and sugar into the meat then place it in the fridge. Come back in three days.....BACON!!

Before you slice the bacon give it 15 minutes in the freezer, not enough to freeze any of it but the cooling will firm up the meat and make it easier to slice, if a little chilly. Place the meat skin side down onto your chopping board and slice down from there. While the skin will remain tough to slice through this method will create a sort of guide for your knife that'll help in keeping the slice where you want it.

Ingredients

4-6" Cut of Belly Pork

10g Salt Per 100g of Meat

5g Sugar Per 100g of Meat (any sugar works great, experiment with traditional granulated varieties and  things like honey or maple syrup)

More from the lovely Simon and Debbie Dawson can be found on their website www.hiddenvalleypigs.co.uk or in one of Simon's books, Pigs In Clover, The Sty's the Limit and (a personal favourite) The Self Sufficiency Bible.

I find it pretty hard to get a rasher as thin as anything you'll pick up in the butchers when making a cut with a knife. I rather prefer the thick cuts that come with home cured bacon but it does need a little adjustment when cooking. Whether frying or grilling pop the heat to a lower temperature than normal and let your rashers cook slowly, turning when one side has caramelised nicely, it all takes a few minutes longer but it is well worth the wait.

My first lesson in bacon making came from Simon and Debbie Dawson, Devon small holders and supremely lovely folk. Some time spent with them on their small holding and the inspiration that planted will be something I revisit often. They suggest draining the excess liquid from the bag each morning, I eschewed this step this time which may account for my batch being overly salty, hence only 75% awesome. I was taking advantage of the fact that any sugar can be used to cure your bacon, granulated sugar, brown sugar, treacle or honey, the sugar you use will alter the flavour of your bacon and is well worth playing with. In this instance I had used maple syrup and feared that as it is already very runny, perhaps draining it away was not the best idea, the jury is still out on that of course. Next time I'll drain away the liquid and we'll see how it goes. Because lets face it, there will always be a next time when it comes to maple syrup and bacon.