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?