This morning, bright and early (probably a little *too* early after last night’s lovely Christmas dinner with some excellent friends!) and in the freezing cold, I got my smoker out and set up. For the past couple of weeks, my fridge has been half full of partly cured pork products. Well, the curing finished last week, and today it was time for some smoke!
What you can see hanging there is my boxing day ham, and a batch of Christmas streaky bacon. For more information on my DIY cold smoker, you can have a look at the smoking and curing posts, collected here. For suggested UK supplies of smoking and curing ingredients and paraphernalia, have a look at my suppliers list.
The little sawdust-burning ProQ cold-smoke generator has served me very well in the course of the last year or so, but we had a bit of excitement with it this morning, after the tea light which is used to start the sawdust smouldering decided to overheat and do a striking impression of a miniature chip pan fire! You’ll be relieved to hear, I’m sure, that no serious harm was done to the bacon, and that I still have my eyebrows! It was however alarming enough that I’m going to look into alternative ways of starting the smoulder in future.
The amazing colour of the ham comes from the same treacle-based cure I blogged about using earlier this year, though in deference to the larger piece of pork leg, and the fact that this time, it has the bone in, I allowed a curing time of 10 days. The only other change was the addition of a couple of fresh bay leaves to the curing solution. The gorgeous 2.5kg piece of pork leg came from our local farm shop butcher, who has wonderful meat.
Between now and Boxing Day, once it’s rested for 48 hours to let the smoke flavours permeate, I’ll wrap it up and put it in the freezer. I’m expecting that, once boiled and glazed, it will look a lot like this – I can’t wait to see what difference the smoke makes!
It’s been curing over the last week, using a bacon-in-a-bag technique I’ve been refining over the last year. Nearly all my home-cured bacon is made this way now, and I’ve settled on an 8% cure for most purposes, made up with between 66-75% curing salt and 25-33% sugar.
This total batch was about 2.5kg in weight. In addition to the meat, I used –
- Supracure – 133g (see my other curing posts for more information about this pre-mixed curing salt)
- Mollasses sugar – 66g
- Aromatics, consisting of 4 bay leaves, 20 juniper berries, 40 allspice berries, one clove, and about 1/4 of a whole nutmeg
- Two large strong freezer bags
Grind up all the spices in a spice grinder (except the nutmeg, which you’ll probably be safer grating by hand), and then mix the spices into the salt and sugar. Prepare the pork belly by trimming it if required and then slicing into the appropriate pieces.
Now rub about half of the cure generously over all the surfaces of the pork, and pack it into the freezer bags. Put these in the fridge and turn them over at least once a day, alternating which one is on top if you have more than one bag.
In two days (three if you’re using pork loin rather than belly), pour off any liquid which has accumulated in the bag – this may be very little if you started with excellent quality meat that hasn’t had water added! – and apply the rest of your cure mixture before returning to the fridge for a further 3 days, turning daily as before.
After your 5 or 6 days in total have elapsed, take the bacon out of the bag, rinse it carefully under cold tap water, dry with kitchen towel, and place on open racks or uncovered on plates in the fridge for another day (or ideally two) to allow the pellicle to form – this is a sticky glossy surface which will develop on the surface of the bacon.
Then, you can eat your bacon, or, as I did today, smoke it.
I’ve used a mix of beech and apple sawdust for todays smoke run, it gives quite a strong, aromatic smoke which I think will stand up well against the robust flavours in both the ham brine and the bacon cure.
The bacon will be frozen, wrapped as individual pieces in waxed baking paper, until we use ours to make our pigs-in-blankets on Christmas day (it was amazing last year!), or give it as gifts.
I’m trying to write a post a day during Advent, so, please come along with me while I try to Blog Advent – the Country Skills Way – and forgive me if I don’t quite manage it!
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