How to Cure Bacon
Curing English bacon had become, along with our trialling of curing English ham in Spain a top priority. There are simply some mornings you wake up, forget about the health drive and make a good old bacon butty, well we say ‘good’ but sadly in our area of rural Spain the bacon is debatably ‘ok’. So, it was time to go and have a word with our reliable Spanish butcher Julian for some more ‘special’ curing salt.
Julian doesn’t make bacon, nor do any of the butchers in the local area as bacon isn’t really something the Spanish do, yes you can buy Spanish ‘bacon’ in packs which is usually always the streaky variety but it never really hits the spot (at least not to an English bacon lover). In actual fact the nearest thing in rural Spain you are likely to find to bacon is cured ‘pancetta’, again from the belly producing the streaky variety this can be sliced up and fried. The main problem with Spanish pancetta is that it is very salty – what we needed was something a little more authentic, something homemade which, when fried didn’t release that white liquid like economy commercial bacon so off we went to La Carniceria de Julian who, it has to said was taking more than an enthusiastic interest in our new ham and bacon ventures – A good butcher he certainly is and also an eagle eyed businessman!
The first step was to get the right cut of fresh pork, we showed Julian a photograph of a rasher of bacon with the big eye of meat at the top and he immediately knew what was needed. The next day a 7 kilo lump of meat was trimmed and presented ready for curing. Eager to discover what our own homemade bacon was going taste like and compare to the good stuff back in blightly we set to work measuring ingredients, massaging and skewering. The meat was then left to cure in a safe place in our neighbours garage for the next couple of weeks . . .
Step 1 – Buying the Meat
We are very fortunate that we have a great local butcher who is always happy to help, advise and genuinely has an interest in what we need or want to do. In this case we wanted to make our own back bacon but we had no idea which cut of meat we needed. Julian explained that you need the loin of the pork but with some of the belly still attached. For streaky bacon, it is just the belly pork. For such a large piece of meat, we had to order a couple of days ahead and here it is all prepared for us in a deep plastic tray which would be home to our bacon for the next week.
Step 2 – The Ingredients for a dry cure
Loin or belly pork (we had a seven kilo piece)
You will also need a non corrosive container large enough for the meat, a mixing bowl and spoon, scales and / or measuring jug and a wooden skewer.
Step 3 – The Right Mix
For every kilo of meat you need:
40g curing salt
35g table salt
10g demarara sugar
Pour all the ingredients into the bowl and mix well to combine.
Step 4 – Apply the Salt
Take your salt cure mix and sprinkle generously all over one side of the meat with your meat in the container it will be curing in.
Step 5 – Massage the Salt
This is the fun part! Rub the cure mixture all over the meat, rubbing it in and try and get into all the little folds etc so the meat is smothered in the cure mix. Don’t worry if the salt falls off as you go just pick these bits up and use some more.
Step 6 – Puncture the Meat
Using your wooden skewer, pierce the thicker parts of the meat going as far down as you can.
Step 7 – Turn the meat and Repeat the Process
Once you are happy that the first side has been covered enough, carefully turn over the meat and repeat the process of sprinkling and rubbing in the salt. As this is the side with the rind, you may need to puncture more times and re rub so the cure gets right in.
Step 8 – Cure
Place your cure covered meat in a cold larder or cellar for one week (not in the fridge as we don’t want extra moisture) We use next doors garage as it is perfectly cold and dry there. Don’t worry if liquid comes out of the meat during this week, it is perfectly normal.
After the week take out the meat from the container, wipe off the salt and dry it thoroughly. Wrap the meat in muslin to protect from flies and then hang for 2-3 weeks. Again we were lucky as our butcher hung it for us in his secadero.
The end result?
Fantastic! Proper bacon which when fried produced no white gunk which is a great sign of quality. The flavour is quite different to the kind of bacon you can buy from the supermarket which is a world away again from commercial Spanish bacon.
Julian is now curing his own bacon both for the local expat community as well as the locals in Orce who have been quite taken by the new product from the village butcher. Introducing the unmistakable smell of fried bacon in the morning is the next challenge, and the first thing we made with our bacon was of course a lovely big sarnie . . .