Tag Archives: Pork

Black Ham

Originally posted in 2009...

What springs to mind if I mention Emmet? Is it a Cornish tourist, or maybe the neighbour of Hyacinth Bouquet in the famous sitcom? Well, to any foodie or meat curer it won’t be either; it’ll be the makers of the famous Suffolk Black Ham that used to hold Royal Warrant, Emmett’s of Peasenhall. They’ve been making ham for over 150 years. Whilst there are other black hams, including the famous Bradenham from Wiltshire, Shropshire Black Ham, and a less well-known one from Derbyshire, Emmett’s seems to have become the one people talk about. It’s featured in the press and used to be rolled out on Delia Smith’s TV programmes at Christmas.

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Pauline’s Ham in a Bag

About a year ago I replied to a comment on Pauline’s Ham and said: “…I have done this cure with a lot less liquid by using a vacuum bag and just putting 100 – 200 ml of brine cure in with the meat (after injecting, of course).” It was my intention, at that time, to write further about this with an explanation and more detail.

Contrary to popular belief, the reason’s not that I’m tight-fisted! There are also some technical reasons why it’s a good idea. They’re not related to injection-curing; it’s the immersion part of the cure that’s the potential cause for concern.

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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.


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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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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