Making our own bacon is something we’ve been meaning to try for years. I don’t know why we waited so long. It couldn’t really be any easier. All you need is a piece of pork belly, a plastic container, some salt and saltpetre and some muslin (as with the air-dryed prosciutto, Molly’s baby muslin came in handy), and ten days of patience. The end result is deliciously salty, porky goodness than you can slice off and cook as is, or use in dishes such as Tartiflette or coq au vin. The belly cost us just £8.50 from the ever reliable Mr Finn. Plus the pancetta will keep for weeks (in the fridge or somewhere cool, wrapped in muslin). It wasn’t really about cost-effectiveness though. It’s all about learning new tricks.
We used a ready-mix of salt and saltpetre as Siobhann had some left over from sourcing salt for our prosciutto. You can mix your own though (saltpetre can be bought from some chemists – it’s roughly 1kg of fine salt to a teaspoon of saltpetre). For references we consulted both the River Cottage Meat Book and the River Cottage Cookbook, although we ended up doing a cross-between dry curing and air-drying, but you can just do the first part and not hang the meat, but air-drying imparts more flavour. Next on the to-do list is to resurrect the cold-smoker. Bring on the meat!
Place the belly on a clean work-surface. Rub salt mix all over so it’s evenly covered. Place belly in plastic container, and store in a cool, dry place. After twenty four hours, pour away excess liquid and rub more salt mix on. Repeat for four more days. On the fifth day, rinse the belly under running water. Pat dry. Wrap in muslin and hang in a cool dry place for five more days.
Your bacon is then ready – slice it and do what you will…