Dry-cured streaky bacon
The daily application of a basic cure consisting of sugar, salt and a few aromatics, to a small, inexpensive piece of pork belly creates perfect bacon in just 10 days. It is so simple but so effective.
If your pork belly carries an even covering of flare fat (the fat layer on the inside of the belly), keep it in place. An uneven covering of flare fat could affect the curing time so it is better to remove it and render it down to make lard. The fat is easy to remove: just pull it away by hand. It will keep in the freezer for months.
Place all the cure ingredients in a clean, food standard container. A rounded bowl is ideal because it enables you to thoroughly mix the ingredients with no pockets of salt, sugar or flavourings caught in any corners.
Place a handful of this cure in the base of a food standard box or tray, big enough to hold the piece of belly. You might find the salad boxes in the bottom of your fridge are perfect for this. Add the piece of belly, skin side down, and lightly rub another handful of cure into it (you should use about a fifth of the total cure on this first day), making sure that the sides are also coated. You do not have to massage the cure hard into the belly.
Slide the salad box back into the fridge or, if you are using a separate container, cover it with a clean tea towel and put it in the fridge or a cool place such as a larder. Leave for 24 hours. In the meantime, store the cure in an airtight plastic box so it doesn't absorb moisture from the air and become damp.
The next day, there will be a pool of liquid in the container with the pork belly - a mixture of moisture drawn out from the meat and dissolved cure. This is the curing process in action. Lift out the belly and pour off this liquid. There is no further culinary use for it. There is no need to be too fastidious and it is fine for there to be some residual traces of dissolved cure left in the box. Now put a fresh handful of the cure into the container and place the pork belly back on top. You can rotate the belly in order to even out the application of cure mix but this isn't strictly necessary. As before, rub the belly with more cure mix – again, aim to use about a fifth of what you started with.
Repeat this process for up to 5 days. You will notice that the belly will get firmer and darker in colour and there will be less liquid to pour away each day as the meat cures and dries.
After 5 days of applying cure, take the belly out of the container and run it under cold water. Then clean the surface of the meat with a cloth soaked in malt vinegar and pat dry.
At this point, you can pop your meat back in the container (cleaning it out first) in the fridge or pantry. Alternatively, assuming that it is at the right time of year and you want to have a go at hanging something outside, you can find a spot out of direct sunlight where the air can get to the meat. Leave it there (loosely wrapped in muslin if you like but this is not necessary) for another 5 days. You do not have to do anything to it during this period. After 5 days (the same number of days hanging as it had in the cure), it will be ready to slice with a sharp knife or meat slicer* and eat and it will be the best bacon you have ever had.
*removing any bones as you come to them.
- 2kg pork belly, skin on, flat rib bones intact (if the belly contains any)
The cure (applied daily for 5 days)
- 500g high grade, free flowing salt
- 500g demerara sugar
- A few bay leaves, shredded
- 20 or so juniper berries, lightly bruised
- 25g freshly ground black pepper
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