Overnight home-cured bacon chops
Curing meat is not the sole preserve of the experts. There are simple, small-scale curing methods that any cook can use to excellent effect. This is one of them: a fail-safe technique for curing pork overnight that will introduce you to the simple principles of the process – i.e. using salt not merely to preserve but also to intensify the flavour of the meat. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the cure recipe and the method, you’re only a step away from creating your own home-cured bacon (see variation), which can be used wherever bacon is called for in sauces, soups and stews.
4 large free range pork chops
2 tablespoons sunflower or groundnut oil
For the cure:
50g fine sea salt
25g caster sugar or soft brown sugar
3 bay leaves, finely shredded
12–16 juniper berries, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the cure and put them into a plastic container or ceramic dish (a metal one is liable to react with the cure). Add the pork chops and rub the cure lightly all over the meat with your fingers.
Cover the container and leave in a cool place (a cool larder or fridge) overnight or for at least 12 hours, or 24 hours for extra-large or thick-cut pork chops, but no longer. Turn the chops once or twice, if you remember. Then rinse them well and pat dry. That’s it: your pork is now cured, your chops are now bacon. They can be used immediately, but will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 5–6 days, and the flavour will improve all the time. They also freeze well.
To cook the chops, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry them fairly gently for about 6 minutes per side, until cooked through. Or you can grill them, brushed lightly with oil.
Season with pepper and serve with mashed potato or a mixed root mash and leeks and greens.
Variation: Home-cured bacon belly
Instead of chops, use 1kg pork belly, off the bone but skin on. Cut into strips 3–4cm thick and cure in the same way, but this time for 48 hours, turning the meat over a few times. After rinsing, the bacon
belly strips can be kept in the fridge for 5–6 days or frozen.
You’ll struggle to turn this bacon into ‘rashers’ without a meat slicer, but – like pancetta – it’s perfect for cutting into chunks or small dice and browning gently in a frying pan to add to sauces or stews. Or try scattering fried matchsticks over salads or scrambled eggs.
Recipe from River Cottage Every Day! By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Photography © Simon Wheeler