Home made bacon
For over a year now I have been thinking and talking about making bacon at home. I had read that it was pretty easy to make and the idea of home made appealed to me. I finally got around to trying it out and…..it is definitely the best bacon I have ever eaten!
I hate the idea of all the nitrates in bacon, and I find the standard butcher/supermarket versions to be sadly lacking in taste and texture. I am always on the lookout for ‘good bacon’ and have tried many versions from the new fancy butchers springing up all over Sydney. They are ok, but my favourite one to buy was from Schultz’s smokehouse in the Barossa Valley in South Australia (stocked in a few delis and Harris Farm markets). But not any more – that quest is over. Bacon now joins the list of things I am probably never going to buy again. Making it was ridiculously simple, and the results are outstanding. You should give it a try! It is not necessarily the cheapest bacon, particularly if you start off with some nice free range or organic pork. However, if you are used to paying $7 for a packet of four slices of bacon, you will find the home made version a bargain.
I started off with a piece of Bangalow Pork (free range and hormone free) belly – about 1.2kg from memory. I washed and dried it well.
Since I had never made this before, I just experimented with quantities. Next time I think I will do pretty much the same, but maybe pull back on the salt just a little. A lot of recipies I read on the internet for dry cured bacon seem to use zip lock bags to store the pork, and they encourage it to sit in the liquid that comes out of the pork. That just didn’t sound too good to me so I did the cake rack method. The butcher I bought the pork from was very sceptical about my plans for making bacon and advised against a dry cure. He said that when he makes bacon he injects 30% of the weight in extra water into the pork; and he was a big fan of the nitrates claiming them to be not too bad at all. “And that is why I don’t want to buy your bacon” I thought to myself silently as I waited for him to ring up my purchase.
Home made bacon
(quantities are approximate – adjust to suit the size of pork you are using)
1.2 kg piece of pork belly
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1.2 cup of salt
I poured about a quarter of a cup of maple syrup over the pork and made sure there was enough to coat the whole piece generously. I then sprinkled a few tablespoons of salt on all sides of the pork. I placed it skin side down on a little cake rack (metal) that fitted well into a large plastic container. I then put the lid on and put the pork in the fridge. The next day I drained out the liquid from the contained and turned the pork over to be skin side up. I thought the salt would draw out a lot of moisture (hence the cake rack) – but I think perhaps because of the lovely quality of the pork I used, I ended up with overall less than a quarter of a cup of liquid drawn out. I noticed the colour had changed slightly and the piece of pork got a lot stiffer/harder. The second day I repeated the maple syrup and salt thing and put it back again in the fridge. Each day I drained out any liquid that had accumulated in the bottom of the container. I did this for seven days (although I think anything between 4-10 days would be fine). This is what it looked like after seven days in the fridge – darker colour, harder, not much shrinkage.
I used our webber barbeque to smoke the pork. Apparently it is now officially bacon and can be sliced and fried without the smoking – I didn’t try this. If you are concerned about salt levels you could fry up a slice to test taste, remembering that the outside will be slightly saltier than the inside. After much struggling I managed to light about 8 heat beads (I think the tiny quantity made it harder to get them to light!). We are aiming for a cold smoking so you need to use just a few coals/heat beads. Too much heat and it will cook rather than just smoke. I soaked a few chunks of smoking wood (hickory and apple) in water for an hour or two. Once the heat beads were nice and hot, I placed two chunks of the wood on top, places the pork in the webber (on the opposite side to the coals) and put the lid on. Remarkably it was still smoking well for two hours. At the two hour mark I put the other two lumps of wood on top of the coals which were still going strong and put the lid back on. After a further hour and a half I took the bacon out. It was a beautiful looking piece of smoked meat and we had to slice some up and cook it immediately, despite it now being about 10pm at night! It was absolutely sensational and I was so excited by the results.
The next morning we sliced it up and I vaccum sealed a few slices in separate bags. The bacon will apparently keep fine in the fridge for about a week. But since it has no preservatives (apart from salt), it is recommended that you either vaccum pack it or freeze it to store it well. It must also be cooked before eating – it looks partially cooked in the pictures, but that is just the result of the smoking. Does this not look like the best bacon ever?! And let me tell you, it smells and tastes like it too!
I have already bought my next piece to start salting….a piece that includes the loin part as well as the belly this time – to get a less fatty version.