John and I have been watching a few television programmes recently about our food – how it is grown, how it is produced and how it is put on the market. Battery hens; intensive pig rearing where they can’t move about; injection of fluids into meat to plump it up and appear bigger – and more preservatives than you really need to know about!
All the above is part of the intensive farming we apparently need now to feed our growing populations (at the expense of taste and our digestive systems?) but when I was little, in Scotland, my mum used to shop at Coopers where we could buy fresh just the small amount you needed (less wastage) – loose tea and coffee and pats of butter (yes, I’m afraid I’m that old!). She would then go to the butcher (where there was sawdust on the floor and whole cows and pigs were hung up) and buy her meat. In those days, you could buy just enough for what you wanted – 2 ounces of this and that and meat by the slice – 2 or 3 of ham or 4 rashers of bacon. In the spirit of this and the first paragraph, today’s recipe is to make your own bacon sans nitrates/nitrites. I know I am usually giving you recipes for one but it would be a bit difficult to just make a few rashers – and it will keep for about 2 weeks – you can even freeze it (in which case, I would slice it first and put between sheets of parchment paper so you can just take out what needed)
- 1 piece of belly pork (I used 1 kg), preferably boned (it’s really easy to do yourself if that’s all you can find)
- 275grams coarse salt
- 92grams of soft light brown sugar
Mix the salt and sugar together and measure out 2-thirds and the remaining third split into 2 cups. Rub the 2-thirds into the meat all over and put into a plastic Tupperware box. Refrigerate. After 24 hours, pour off any liquid and rub one of the remaining cupfuls into the meat again. After another 24 hours again drain off any liquid and rub in last amount of cure. Leave for a fourth and fifth day. It should be firm and ready! Rinse off any excess salt and dry the belly. Wrap it in a piece of muslin. It will dry out a little and mature over the next few days – just slice off with a sharp knife when needed. Serve with free range eggs (my hens, of course, came up trumps as you can see). And, I know it will be frowned on, but fried bread cooked in the remaining fat is amazing!