Category Archives: Bacon

Pancetta di Larbo

This is a rolled pancetta – pancetta arrotolata – from a recipe by my mate Larbo who now lives in the US.

It’s unusual as it’s flavoured with orange zest and fennel – not the traditional flavours you expect in pancetta.

The meat was dry-cured for 12 days, rolled and tied, and has been hanging in my air-drying fridge for 27 days.

Allowing for the removal of the skin when it was rolled, it’s lost 22% of its original weight – in supermarket terms it’s been made with 127gms of meat per 100gms pancetta.

Here’s Laurence’s recipe:

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Pancetta di Thurlaston

This Pancetta cuts right back on the spices letting the meat shine through.

If you make it, try to get a very thick piece of belly pork from the butcher; the one I used wasn’t really thick enough because the shrinkage is quite considerable. It looks thicker in the photo than it actually is. What looks like green/black mould is actually beneficial white mould on top of the powdered black pepper that I used because I was too lazy to grind the coarse black pepper that I included in the recipe!

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Jason’s Pancetta

Many local farm suppliers are only too happy to sell you half a pig, usually rare breed; Gloucester Old Spot and the like. They generally weigh around 55-60lbs for the whole side before boning and making it into whatever pieces you require.

For curing, I wanted a side from a much larger pig, a ‘baconer’; a side of this will weigh between 80-100lbs. I got one from Don Hutton at Warwick Bridge Farm, Littlethorpe weighing 93lbs which has given me 75lbs of usable meat (60lbs excluding hocks, trotters, liver, heart and cheek). By the time it’s converted into ham, bacon, sausage, faggots etc I’ll have about 70lbs of edible products. This photo of a piece of loin being dry-cured for back bacon shows the size of it.

Pancetta

I’ve made all the usual things like bacon, ham and sausage and decided that my first venture into air drying meat would be pancetta. This Italian streaky bacon is made by dry curing bacon with a load of spices added to the cure, and then hanging it up to dry for a month or so – apart from the spices, that’s how we made bacon a few years ago!

Firstly, take a nice chunk of belly pork:

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Ventrèche – Bacon by another name

The Gascon salted pork called Ventrèche is bacon that at its most traditional seems to be cured with just salt as a curing agent. However, commercially produced varieties seem to contain nitrite curing salts. This Cookery School article infers that it’s a fresh product used after a day’s salting – however, this by an attendee at the same school explains:

“After salting the belly and adding pepper to taste, we tie it up… …then suspend the roll to smoke it in the giant kitchen hearth overnight before hanging it in Camont’s ancient pantry for use throughout the season”.

That goes some way to show that it is a cured product (albeit that this one’s without nitrite). Of course, it introduces smoking into the equation just to confuse the issue. Other sources refer to it as an unsmoked product and use nitrite or nitrated curing salts; what all varieties have in common is a noticeable swirl of black pepper between the rolled layers of meat, although it can also be sold ‘flat’. It would appear that it can also contain garlic.

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Bacon Calculator

Whilst there are already quite a few cure calculators for bacon on this site, none allow you to choose your own levels of salt, sugar etc. This one enables you to do just that whilst still curing to either EU or US commercial standards.

It has not been possible to present this calculator in the style of the rest of the site but it is fully functioning and accurate. It can be used for any type of dry curing project, not just for bacon.

Links at both the top and bottom of the page will return you to the main site when finished.

Bacon Curing Calculator

Dry Cured Bacon – Tutorial

This is an adaption of the tutorial that I wrote on ‘beginners’ bacon curing for the sausagemaking.org forum.

Let’s Make Bacon!

Cure suppliers

Details of cures and suppliers can be found on this page.

Cleaning/Hygiene

Pay attention to hygiene; keep everything clean and safe. Ensure work surfaces and cutting boards are clean. You may wish to use plastic gloves when handling curing salts.

Choice, Size and Source of Meat

Your meat can be from the supermarket, local butcher, or direct from the farm-shop or farm. You can cure as much or as little as you want. Remember though, the better the meat: the better the bacon. For this reason, many people choose rare-breed or free-range meat. However, for your first project, a joint from the supermarket is fine. If something goes wrong it won’t have cost you the earth!

You’ll need:

For Streaky Bacon – a boned joint of belly pork
For Back Bacon – a boned joint of loin of pork

In the supermarket, both of these are likely to be rolled and tied with string. Remove any string and unroll the meat. It should be noted that the rashers from these joints are smaller than those of commercial bacon as smaller pigs are used.

The Dry Cure

For this guide, we will pretend we are dry curing a piece of meat weighing 1930gm (1.93kg/4.24lb).

For each 1kg of meat we need:

22gm Salt
8gm Sugar
2.4gm Cure #1
0.4gm Sodium ascorbate (optional)

The sugar can be one of your choosing white, brown, Demerara or even honey or maple syrup. The darker the sugar: the stronger the flavour. A mixture of white and Demerara, or light brown sugar, makes tasty mild bacon.

Weigh your piece of meat and calculate the amount of cure you need…

If you have accurate scales:

For our 1930gm (1.93kg) example, that’s:
Salt 22gm x 1.93kg = 42.5gm
Sugar 8gm x 1.93kg = 15.4gm
Cure #1 – 2.4gm x 1.93kg = 4.6gm
Sodium ascorbate 0.4gm x 1.93kg = 0.77gm

You can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

If you don’t have accurate scales:

Make up a batch of cure:
Salt 220gm
Sugar 80gm
Cure #1 – 24gm
Sodium ascorbate 4gm (optional)

Now, ensuring it’s well mixed (you could grind it in a clean coffee grinder, if you have one, to make sure) use 33gm per kg meat. So in this case that would be 33gm x 1.93kg = 63.69gm (64gm to make it easier to weigh).

You can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

For easy calculation for all weights of meat use one of my online calculators:

For My Favourite Bacon – the moderately salted bacon that’s featured above.
Or, alternatively, this very Mild Bacon
Or, make up your own cure – this calculator will help you to do it safely: Bacon Cure Calculator

These and others can also be accessed via my Cured Meat Calculators page

Applying the Cure Mix to the Meat

The amount of cure mix may seem a lot less than you expected. Don’t add more, that’s how it’s meant to be.

Sprinkle about 80% – 90% of the cure mix onto the flesh side of the meat and rub well in, getting into all the folds and crevices. Don’t forget the ends. The remainder is sprinkled onto the skin/fat side and rubbed in well.

Now put the meat, along with any cure that fell off whilst you were rubbing it in, into a food grade bag, or wrap it well in cling film. In fact it’s easier to put the meat into the bag and then rub the cure into it! Put it into the fridge; on a tray’s best, just in case it leaks. Every day or two turn it over and give it a bit of a rub; you can do this ‘through’ the bag without opening it. Don’t worry if liquid comes out of the meat. It often, but not always, does. Just leave it all in the bag.

How Long Do I Leave It For?

The standard advice is to cure the meat for 1 day for each ½ inch (13mm) of thickness, plus two days. So for a piece of supermarket belly like ours, about 1½ (39mm) inches deep, that’s going to be 3 days + 2 days = 5 days total.
Don’t lose sleep about the curing times. Unlike older curing methods, this type of cure is not time-critical, it won’t be too salty if you leave it longer than the calculated time so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If in doubt leave it a little longer.
You may notice, because you’re bound to take a peek, that it doesn’t appear to have changed colour. That’s normal. The outside colour is deceiving. If you’ve followed the instructions it’ll be lovely red bacon when you cut into it.

Wash and Dry

At the end of the curing time, rinse the bacon in cold water, then dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. It then needs to dry out a bit before use. It’s best hung in the fridge, but this can sometimes be difficult. If you can’t hang it, put it where the air can get around it; maybe on the fridge shelf with something underneath to catch any drips. Leave it for at least a couple of days to dry; I tend to leave it longer as I prefer it well dried. When your impatience gets the better of you, slice it, cook it, and enjoy!

Storing Your Bacon

This is not ‘old-style traditional bacon’ that can be hung in the rafters all winter. Keep it in the fridge for up to a few weeks, or for longer storage freeze it whole, or in slices, for 1 to 2 months. If you Vac-Pac it, you can keep it longer but it must be kept under 5°C or frozen.

My Favourite Bacon

I recently posted a bacon tutorial that I wrote originally for a sausage making forum. The recipe used was an amalgamation of a few already posted by myself and others and as such, was a compromise. Whilst it makes very nice bacon, it is a little sweet for me. The recipe I use most regularly differs in that it’s saltier and has less sugar. The method and other instructions are exactly the same as in the bacon and dry curing tutorial.

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