It was pointed out to me that while I am firmly located in the UK, the interweb is not. Many of my Facebook friends are States-side and so is much of the latest research into curing science, which I am constantly reading. (University of Utah seems to do tons!)

So anyway, here is a basic recipe and rules of thumb to get you started but converted into USA measures, which are the same as our old Imperial measures for our purposes (it all goes wrong when you start dealing in hundred-weights or more)

This is for bacon, and NOT ham.

The salt can be varied up or down very slightly as you learn your own tastes, and the sugar can be varied quite a lot, or replaced with different kinds of sugar: Muscovado for example. The following is the basic formula which is safe and aught to produce a good result even though you’ve never done it before.

Prague powder 1 is salt with 6.25% sodium nitrite. Prague Powder 2 is the same but also contains saltpetre which will more slowly become sodium nitrite as the meat matures... you want this to happen if you are maturing the meat, but it’s probably best avoided if you plan to eat the product as soon as you can. Prague powder is pink for safety reasons (so you don’t use it as table salt!) and is available in the USA over the internet.

For 1 lb pork

Salt and Prague Powder

To 1 lb of pork (in this case, belly or back) you will need 0.38 oz of prague powder and top it up with 0.2 oz ordinary salt. 0.1 oz salt would be very mild and 0.3 oz salt would be pretty salty especially if you plan to air-dry it. Keep the prague powder constant in all cases.

Sugar

0.25 oz Demerara sugar tends to be about right, especially to begin with. If you want to use a liquid sugar such as treacle (molasses) then assume 50% of its weight is water. I.e. use twice the weight as this recipe says for a similar sweetness. It is best drizzled on after the salt in this case. It will spread itself soon enough J

Spices

Start with dried, powdered spice, taking very great care of anything super-strong such as cloves or juniper berry. To start with, use a maximum of 0.2 oz of spices IN TOTAL. Once you’ve a feel for it, you can start to increase the levels if you wish.

Basic conversion of dried herbs and spices to fresh is that you should treble the weight if using fresh.

If you can be bothered, the best method is to start with whole spices and gently toast them in an un-oiled pan over a medium heat to release the oils before grinding them by hand in a pestle and mortar.

If you find a recipe you love and will want to use again, you can pre-mix it and store it in a sealed air-tight container away from sunlight. Simply weigh the amount that the total ingredients per XXX of pork for the piece that you are intending to cure.When using a pre-made cure like this, ensure the ingredients are well mixed.. and I do mean MIXED, not shaken (shaking will cause different sizes of particle to rise/fall in relation to each other, and they’ll separate rather than mix.

Method

Apply 10% of your mixed cure to the skin-side of the pork even if the skin has been removed. This side should always be face-down while curing. Apply the rest evenly to the pork being sure to rub it into any cuts, holes etc.

You can wrap this tightly in plastic wrap if your fridge has other ingredients that will taint the flavour (or be tainted by it) or just in a sealed tub that isn’t much bigger than the piece of pork will do fine.

Allow 5 full days for belly, or 7 days for back bacon.

If intending to do several pieces at the same time, they can be stacked on top of each other. In this case, they should be re-stacked so that the bottom piece becomes the top one, and vice-versa. Do this half-way through the total curing time.

Slightly more advanced.

The above method is a convenient way that works well in big industry or in the bottom of your home fridge.

However, whilst this is technically a dry cure, it is still very wet. A true dry cure allows the pork juices to run away from the meat as the salt draws it out.

You will need something upon which to place the pork (a plastic chopping board for example) which can be raised at one end only so that it is on a very slight slope. OR place some wooden or plastic batons in the bottom of the tub to raise the pork up of the bottom so that it is lifted clear of the juices that form.

Having practiced the above method a few times, you will have begun to get your eye-in and be able to judge how much salt/spice mix to put on the pork.

For this method, the trick is to apply a similar but greater amount. Er on the side of too much. It is often better to use larger grains of salt which allow the juices to drain between them. We rely not so much on the exact amount of salt being applied (but you always want enough to be present while not wasting it) but instead we know the correct amount of time in which to cure and in which the salt will penetrate the meat.

It is therefore crucial that the pork is turned at the right time (if stacking several on top of each other) and that they are removed from the cure at the right time as given above.

Good luck, and if you are uncertain, post a question up on my forum atwww.baconwizard.co.uk (you may need to wait a couple of days for an answer.

B.Wiz J

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