Readers (& participants) in the Big Bacon Challenge will have noticed how little effort is involved in making dry cured bacon at home. While I was teaching myself to make bacon by this process (which involves daily application of dry cure to the piece of meat), I came across several references to bag methods of ‘dry’ curing.
In this ‘bacon in a bag’ method, you apply the cure to your meat, put the whole thing in a plastic bag, seal it up, and leave it in the fridge for several days, turning occasionally, and adding fresh cure once in mid-process. It removes the trivial once-daily intervention in the curing process, and the need to find space for a dish in the fridge for the length of the curing process, so might be even easier for busy busy folk… *if*, that is, the results stack up in terms of flavour and quality.
I used my normal black pepper cure for this experiment. My total cure weight was 10% of the weight of the meat and made up of 4 parts of supracure to 1 part of dark soft brown sugar with about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper added (see here for more advice on mixing your dry cure).
In addition to your piece of belly or loin pork and cure, you need a nice large freezer bag which is reasonably robust, and some sort of clip or bag tie to seal it. Sprinkle a bit of your cure into the bottom of the bag, place the washed and dried piece of pork in the bag skin-side down, and then continue to rub cure on the meat until you’ve used about half of your total dry curing mix. Seal the bag excluding as much air as possible, and put it in the fridge.
Turn the bag over from time to time (I turned it every time I went into the fridge for something else, but once a day is fine). You will notice quite a lot of pickle accumulating in the bag. After two days for belly, or three days for loin, take the bag out of the fridge.
Drain the pickle, and apply the rest of the cure, before returning the bag to the fridge for another three days. Effectively we’re curing in a very concentrated brine made from the applied salt and the meat’s own water. By this stage, at around the half-way mark, it’s already showing the changes I’d expect from successfully-curing bacon, which is a good sign!
After these three days have passed (making a total curing time of five or six days depending on your bacon cut), take the bacon out of the fridge. Remove it from the bag, rinse it off under the tap, pat dry carefully with kitchen paper, and return it to the fridge un-covered on a plate for 24 hours to finish drying and form a pellicle (that glossy, slightly tacky surface layer). After that, wrap it loosely in a piece of baking paper and keep it in the fridge until you want to slice it and eat it.
I rested mine for three days before slicing – I was planning to put it through the smoker but the weather on my day off wasn’t particularly suitable.
Sliced for breakfast this morning, the texture and appearance on slicing was exactly as I have come to expect from my home dry-cured back bacon.
I sliced away but retained the outside piece for lardons before carefully preparing four slices for frying. The piece of loin pork I used was very lean, and needed a little olive oil to the frying pan to really get things going. The bacon re-arranged itself in the pan as the rind buckled, but didn’t noticeably shrink, and there certainly wasn’t any of that nasty white watery muck we’re so used to seeing in commercial bacon!
And tasting wise? I would say I couldn’t detect a difference between bacon prepared this way, and my usual technique – but with one caveat. One of my slices was the second-slice from the edge after the one I’d held over for lardons. This slice, quite unlike the others, was unpalatably salty, with almost a salt ‘sting’ on the tongue. I think this can probably be ascribed to the concentration of cure applied at once in this method, despite a good long resting period, the outside surfaces of this bacon are quite aggressively salted. I would cut off a thicker end-slice in future when using this method – probably somewhere between 5mm and 10mm of the end grain at both ends. Used in a stew or sauce, it would be fine, but it’s less than ideal to eat as sliced bacon.
So, if you want an *even* easier method for home-cured bacon, do give this one a whirl! For me, though, it’s likely to be a technique I fall back on when I know I’m going to have a really busy week and still want some bacon for the following weekend.
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