I decided to try making my own bacon after finding pork belly for such a ridiculously cheap price I couldn’t pass it by. I happened to have got a book for Christmas “Food DIY” and together with some online research making bacon actually seemed really easy… you know, unless you did it wrong, in which case botulism was apparently a big deal… never let it be said I’ll let a little thing like that stop me!
I’m not going to give a recipe here yet because I’m wanting to work on the exact proportions and have another few goes before I commit to telling other people how to do it. I mostly want to tell people that it can be done! But as I said, there are enough sources out there for you to have a go yourself if you felt inspired. It’s a pretty simple process. I didn’t have access to any proper curing salt, which is why my bacon isn’t pink. So I went with an easy cure: putting the salt, sugar, pork belly and herbs in a zip bag and leaving it in the fridge for a week, turning the bag every day. After this you wash the bacon (thoroughly!) to remove the salt.
Then you hang them to dry, again I did this in the fridge but some sources said room temperature. I wasn’t quite willing to risk it just yet. I put a skewer through my bacon and hung it in this jug so air could circulate. At this point I think it’s officially bacon. But I wanted smoked bacon because if you’re doing a thing then you may as well go the whole hog!
I set up a cold smoker in a small caravan oven I had lying around and hung the bacon (and some cheddar) for a smoking time of about 6 hours using oak dust. I adapted an old sieve into a donut shape so it holds a ring of packed wood dust. This is lit at one end and then smoulders until it burns round the whole ring.
At that point all that was left to do was to slice and cook it and see how it tasted! If I’m honest a bit salty, but otherwise delicious! I didn’t wash the salt off as well as I should have and I might have left it a few days too long in the cure. I plan to experiment with this over the next couple of months and I’ll get back to you when I’m happy with my curing. I absolutely loved the aromatics of the herbal additions to the cure, just rosemary and thyme from the garden, but it added such a lovely subtle flavour to the bacon, which might have become pancetta at that point, it was amazing!
It made for exceptional lardons too, which added another nice level of smug self sufficiency to dinner last night where I had home grown sprouts sautéed with crispy homemade bacon. What? If I’m making the effort to make my own food from scratch and it works so well I’m definitely feeling smug about it! Give it a go, I’m sure you will too!