Homemade bacon

I’ve been enjoying Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Big Book Of Meat. It’s incredibly thorough in giving you all the information you need to understand how to buy, prepare and cook meat for the best results; even without any recipes it would be worth owning. I’ve just tried his recipe for curing your own bacon.

Basically, you make a cure mix of salt, sugar, bay, juniper and black pepper, and rub it into a piece of pork belly once a day for five days, pouring off any liquid that gets pulled out of the meat. And that’s it. If you also include saltpetre, it keeps it pink, but I didn’t bother with that. I’m using chunks of it in a beef and Guinness stew – HFW is very keen on the importance of adding bacon to stews – but I fried a couple of scraps to see what it was like, and apart from going white when cooked it tasted just like proper, high quality bacon. Presumably if I’d used saltpetre it would have stayed pink. This is my lump of bacon with a lump cut off it:


I forgot to say: one of the less important things I like about the HFW book is that all the measurements are in metric. In this country, we’ve theoretically been moving to the metric system for the past 40 years, and still everyone uses a mishmash of units – feet and inches for people’s heights, metres for building specs, miles for road distances, pints for beer – and it’s ridiculous. We should just get our collective act together and stop whinging about it. Food is sold in metric units anyway, by law, so why do all cookbooks still have two sets of quantities in all the recipes?

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. shadygrove

    Oh my God, that looks delicious. I hadn’t realized that bacon is basically pork belly gravlax; should’ve been obvious, since it’s clearly not smoked, but I never thought about it. I make gravlax quite a bit when wild salmon is cheap(er), but I’ve never tried bacon. In any event, I’m coming to your house for dinner. Beef-and-guinness stew with homemade bacon. Yum.

  2. Harry

    I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    My mother makes gravadlax for parties quite often, and I had exactly the same thought when I saw the recipe.

  3. Harry

    Well, it was a delicious, rich savoury stew, but it was a bit salty, presumably from the bacon.

  4. shadygrove

    Yum. Would a bit of balsamic vinegar fixed the salty?

  5. Harry

    Umm… possibly?

  6. Tim B

    Have just started this bacon procedure myself and after 48 hours, it’s looking good. One unexpected benefit was that buying a whole belly of pork from our excellent local butcher gave us a bonus rack of spare ribs, which we enjoyed last night as a prelude to our own bacon.

  7. Harry

    I love spare ribs. Yummy. Good luck with the bacon – as I say, mine was rather salty, but it gave good bacony flavour.

  8. House-of-Yes

    I just made a 6 day cure bacon following HFW’s directions. Tasty, but salty. Next time I will drop it to a 5 (or even 4) day cure, or increase the sugar content somewhat. There is a photoset at: http://picasaweb.google.com/hbdornan/HomemadeBacon02

    Half of my two pound piece became lardons for cooking; the other will be used for breakfast slices.

  9. Harry

    Mmm, looks good.

  10. Michele

    You can also use a “Loin of Pork” unrolled.

    Another idea is to marinate it in Maple Syrup for a day or so, then drain the loin and rub in some salt, pouring off any liquids produces. Do this for 4-5 days and then I tend to wash off the salt and allow the loin to dry.
    I have been curing for years. I trained as a chef.

  11. Harry

    Mmm, sounds good.

  12. Joyce

    do you use any other cure than the Maple Syrup???? I am trying my own bacon for the 1st time this year, and would like to do it without smoking (if possible). I cannot have any nitrates in my diet, so any help would be appreciated!!

  13. Amir Hamid

    This is so great! I’d like to try this with beef instead as I can’t eat pork. What’s the best cut for this curing process?

  14. Harry

    I think beef is sufficiently different to pork that you might need a different recipe — there are various types of cured beef, like salt beef, bresaola and pastrami that you might want to check out. I’m guessing really.

  15. Sulphur Powder

    Lovely, curing your own meat is wonderful. Tastes so much better than shop stuff.

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