The daily application of a simple cure, consisting of sugar, salt and a few aromatics, to a small, inexpensive piece of pork belly creates perfect bacon in just 10 days.
2 kg free-range pork belly, in one piece.
500g POV salt
500g demerara sugar
A few bay leaves
About 20 juniper berries, lightly bruised
25g black peppercorns, freshly ground
Grind up the bay leaves, juniper berries and peppercorns. Place all the cure ingredients in a clean bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle a thin layer of the cure over the base of an air tight plastic box big enough to hold the pork. Add the pork, skin side down. Sprinkle more cure over the pork. Lightly rub the cure into the pork. You should aim to use no more than a fifth of the cure today. Keep the remaining cure in an airtight container.
Put the plastic box containing the pork into the fridge. Leave for 24 hours. The next day, there will be a pool of liquid in the container with pork belly – this is a mixture of moisture drawn out from the meat and the dissolved cure. This is the curing process in action. Lift out the belly and pour off this liquid. Discard. There is no need to be too fastidious and it is fine if there are some residual craces of dissolved cure left in the box. Now put a fresh handful of the cure into the container and place the pork belly back, on top. As before, rub the belly with more cure mix – again, aim to use about a fifth of what you started with. Repeat this process for up to 5 days.
You will notice that the belly will get firmer and darker in colour and that there will be less liquid to pour away each day as the meat cures and dries. After 5 days of applying cure, take the belly out of the container and run it under cold water. Then clean the surface of the meat with a cloth soaked in malt vinegar and pat dry.
Then hang the meat outside. A purist will suggest that you invest in a rack of hooks called a “bacon comb”. I’ve found that there is no need for this. I simply drive a hole through the corner of the bacon with a skewer and loop a piece of string through.
Find a space out of direct sunlight where the air can get to the meat and hang the meat there for 5 days. I hang the meat in a muslin bag to keep the flies off. It is a good idea to check it regularly to see if the sun is on it at certain times of the day, or to see if there is a breeze blowing over it. After 5 days it will be ready to slice. I use an electric meat slicer as I found that this is the only way to get thin slices.
If you want to smoke your bacon, allow it to dry for 10 to 14 days before you do so. The put it in the cold smoker and smoke it for 8-10 hours.
This recipe is adapted from the River Cottage Guide to Curing and Smoking. If you approve of Amazon, here is the link.