So, welcome all to the first post of the Big Bacon Challenge series – I’m so excited! I put the curing salts in the first class post today to those of you who have asked for them, so I hope they should arrive with you in the next day or two. In the mean time, there are a few things you can do do get ahead – and I’ve already had one request for starting instructions!
If you haven’t already found it, start looking for a piece of pork to cure. Pork belly will make streaky bacon in five days, and a piece of pork loin will make back bacon in six. I suggest looking for a piece about 500g in weight for your first attempt (and this will leave you enough left-over cure to make another piece afterwards, possibly with some different flavours in the mix!).
You’re looking for a nice quality piece of pork, ideally with the skin still on. It’s not a problem if the skin has already been scored – as it often will be on a piece ‘intended’ for roasting – in fact I think it helps the cure penetrate more evenly. In a perfect world it would be gorgeous free-range pork from your local farm shop or butcher, but even a bargain piece of belly from the ‘value’ meats section of the supermarket will produce better bacon than you can imagine, so don’t fret too much – it’s just an experiment, after all! The important thing is that it should be nice and fresh, so buy it as close as possible to starting the curing process.
Now’s a good time to assemble all the extra bits, too. You’ll be needing:
- A non-metallic dish for curing your bacon in. I generally use a stoneware or pyrex oven dish, as this can be covered without the cling film coming into contact with the meat so the air can circulate. Mind you, I’ve seen variations on dry curing that suggest packing all the cure and the meat in a plastic bag for a week, so I’m not sure the vessel makes all that much difference!
- Some nice dark sugar – between 20 and 40g depending on the weight of your pork, soft dark brown is ideal, or try muscovado or even molasses sugar for a really dark intense flavour hit.
- Something airtight to hold your made up cure – I use a small recycled plastic tub with a snap-on lid, but a ziplock bag would also be fine.
- Kitchen scales.
- Cling film.
If you’re getting so excited you just can’t wait, you can get going already following the older posts on making streaky bacon and back bacon. Or, if you can bear to wait until tomorrow, we’ll start the series of day-by-day instructions, in much more detail!
I can’t wait to hear how all my volunteers are getting along, so please do comment as we go!
All the Big Bacon Challenge posts will be collected under the ‘BigBaconChallenge’ category heading – so go there to read them all!
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