Smoked bacon and other meats. Make them at home.
It’s time to smoke! Intrepid smoking!! Meat and bacon!!!
The satisfaction you get from curing and smoking your own meats and bacon can be easily matched with the same satisfaction that you’re now paying under a third of the price of the shop bought one, and you now also know what exactly goes in it and how it was all made. Well, you wouldn’t know all about the meat, but unless you grow your own pigs in the back of your garden I guess you’ll never know.
So build yourself a smoker, from an old metal barrel, a shed or something else. Or buy one, there are some cheap smokers out there under £75, there are some expensive ones £300.
My favourite one, the Bradley Smoker (£300) is expensive. And for the home is perfect, small but enough capacity, light. And it provides the essential smoke (COLD) that’s needed for curing and cold smoking. You won’t achieve much with a smoker that doesn’t have cold smoke. Your meat will smoke but also COOK at the same time with hot smoke, something you wouldn’t want to do with bacon or other cured cuts.
Now all cured meat needs a cure. Sometimes it can be as simple as only salt, or it can have also black pepper, juniper, paprika, garlic and other spices. Some meats need to be cured for just a couple of days, other (like large hams) for months. It can be a dry or a wet cure.
Then all cured meats will work better in the colder months of winter. Unless you have a large walk in fridge to hang your cuts, winter is your friend.
One of the easiest (and tastiest) cuts to cure and smoke is the pork belly. Cheap (under £2,40 per kilo) and plentiful it can make the tastiest streaky smoked bacon and best lardons. Think of it also as a home made pancetta.
Then, as you master this, you can go onto bigger things, not necessarily better, as pork belly is one of my favourites. Think pork neck collar, and pork loin (back bacon here). Hocks and hams, ribs, whole legs. All in good time.
So here’s how I do the racks of ribs, the pork bellies, the neck collar and the loin.
Ingredients for the cure:
- 1kg salt
- 10-12 bay leaves
- 400g brown sugar
- 35g black pepper coarse
- 25g juniper berries crushed well
- 2 heaped tablespoons sweet paprika
- 3 teaspoons saltpetre (potassium nitrate) – optional
Crush and mix well all the cure ingredients.
The saltpetre (potassium nitrate) is optional, this would help to keep your meat nice and pink. By all means you can add it, you can find food grade saltpetre online and it’s around £7 per 700g which will last you for years and years. But you can also leave it out, this would not affect any taste or texture of the meat.
I’ve used the mixture described above for all these cuts, ribs, bellies, neck collar and loin. The only difference was in the time that the cure was applied for, 2,5 days for the bellies, 4 days for the rest.
Cut bellies into 3 pieces (easier to handle), the same with loins and leave the neck collars whole. Tie them up with butcher string if you have any an can. Not a big deal if not.
Now take a large enough container (needs to be glass or plastic, not metal) and with your hands rub well the cure mixture all over the meats. Stack them one on top of the other. Sprinkle liberally with mixture over the top. Cover and put aside in a cool place, even the garden shed would do.
The salt in the cure will draw a lot of water from the meat, this is normal. Drain all the liquid the next day, and repeat the procedure of rubbing cure mixture in the meat, putting the top layer or meat on the bottom now should you have more than one. Do this 3 times for bellies and racks of ribs, 4 times for the rest.
Then, wash them well (I chose to leave a couple of loins with the mixture of spices on, then smoke them like that), and dry them with a kitchen towel. Find a place to hang them, a cool place, somewhere when the wind can catch them. Hang for about two-three days depending on the weather. Your bacon (un-smoked) is ready now and can be stored for quite a bit of time in the fridge.
For the smoker, I smoke them with cold smoke, for about 3 hours (if you have flavoured smoker chips then use whatever you fancy, like maple, hickory or whiskey flavoured), then leave them to cool completely for a few good hours or overnight, and another 3 hours. Six hours in total for the bellies, but smoke them more if you feel like they needed. For the neck collars and loins I’ve used Jim Beam flavoured chips and smoked them for a total of 12 hours, again in 3 hours intervals.
Leave them again in a well ventilated, cool place for a couple of days to firm the meat and you’re done.
Now you have your own cured and smoked meats, and there’s no looking back. Next time, sausages maybe.