Makin Bacon, part 1

Like a proud father I hold aloft my primest cut of bacon for the world to admire and coo over.

When we came to visit in 2007 we stopped at a restaurant on Spencers Island and met a chef from New Zealand who cursed and bemoaned the state of Canadian bacon. I was pretty mortified, having only heard good things about Canadian bacon and having good memories of it when I was growing up in Ontario. Then I bought some and fried it up on the little gas stove in our 37 year old camper. Looking at the scrappy bit of protein awash in a sea of cackling fat I understood, and I promised myself that one day I would make some proper bacon and send it down to him. This is the start of that journey.

It began when we finally managed to send Linda-pig off to Antigonish to be butchered and returned to us in bags and boxes a few days later. I had given the butcher, Bobby Vacheresse, very specific instructions on what I needed. He showed me a diagram, we chatted a bit, I drew him a picture then later sent him a note to clarify further the bits that I wanted – bacon cut from and including the loin with the fat cap on and only a 2-3 inch tag of belly. He did a sterling job, and even managed a couple of slabs of streaky too.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about curing bacon, and read a lot of articles. What ensues is an amalgamation of these ideas, and a total experiment for me.

My base mix is 1.36kg salt to 500g brown sugar, with about 50g of freshly crushed peppercorn and to this I added 15g of cloves and 30g of cinnamon. I rubbed this generously and vigorously into every side, edge and crevice in the slabs of bacon, which I cut to more manageable sizes. Most of these I laid in a plastic tote box, with the first slab skin down and the rest skin up. These I will rotate every few days, bringing the bottom one to the top and flipping the new bottom one to be skinside down. I’m led to believe it will take between 7-25 days to cure these.

The other ones I did will be ready in a week. Following a request from one of my regular customers at Sydney market I’ve tried one with just salt and a bit of pepper, no sugar at all. Another I have rubber with the 2.5:1 mixture above but also rubbed local honey from a friends apiary into it. This should be sweet, almost candied when done. The last one I rubbed on the 2.5:1 mixture with ground pepper and 16g of caraway seeds. These three slabs I’ve put in separate bags that will stay in the fridge and simply be turned once a day.

From top-left to right we have the caraway, the sugarless and the honey. Below is the standard peppercorn, cloves and cinnamon mix.

In 7 days time the bagged lot will be ready to be dried and smoked, then I’ll send some north-east to Sydney and some south-west to Spencers Island. The rest I’ll slice, put a weeks worth in my fridge and the rest in my freezer for breakfasts, lunch and dinners to come.

Mmmm, bacon, I could hug you.

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