The Shed, my friends, is open once more. Sad though we were to close over the festive period, there was one upside: The Shed makes the ideal environment for curing bits of pig.
Making your own bacon is so gratifyingly simple, I'm shocked and appalled it isn't strictly advised - particular denominations of faith schools aside - on every home economics syllabus in the land. I had this long, inspirational ranty call to action half-drunkenly bashed into a word document about how easy and empowering it is to Make Stuff, but it was probably a load of rubbish, and anyway it disappeared.
This isn't quite the Best Bacon Eva, but it's pretty close to very decent stuff from your local butcher, and far and above anything you can buy in a supermarket. Slicing is the tricksy bit, so either ask nicely next time you're buying produce from your friendly neighbourhood butcher, or make do with gratuitously fat slices. Shame, eh?
I didn't use saltpetre or nitrites and everything worked out pretty well, though I'd be eager to hear any advice people might have on this aspect. The recipe below is a basic common-or-garden cure which will show off decent quality pork very ably. I'm planning to experiment with various flavourful additions - maple, honey, spices etc - and again, would welcome any tips and recipes.
You will need
Whole pork loin or belly (the latter makes streaky), cut into two or three lumps
800g sea salt (no need for Malden)
250g light brown sugar
1tbsp ground black peppercorns (optional)
A large non-reactive container (big plastic boxes, the kind in which boyfriends keep records, are good)
A cold place
With a skewer, pierce the skin of the pork several times to help the cure penetrate. Put the pork into the container. Mix together the dry ingredients, and work 1/3 of this mixture into the pork. Cover the container, place in a cold, dry place and leave. After a day, drain off any liquid, and coat the pork in more of the cure. Repeat this process the following day. Leave the pork for 3 more days turning half way through, before rinsing off the salt, and patting the meat dry with kitchen towel. Wrap the meat in clean muslin, before hanging in a cool dry place for a minimum of two weeks.
Slice and eat! I had my cured porky chunks vac-packed after the hanging time, though apparently the pork will keep well in the muslin so long as it's in a cool, dry atmosphere.