As LT says, the change in our lives would have been unimaginable even a year ago. But clearly, I’m back to the old Z. Bonkers, he says (and then sniggers like a schoolboy), but in a good way.
A few weeks ago, I suggested we try our hand at home-cured bacon. What gave me the idea was, initially, our visit to the depths of Suffolk on my birthday, when I bought my wedding outfit – and LT bought my hat – and, on the way back, we called in at the splendid place that cures its own fabulous bacon and charges through the nose for it.
I have bemoaned the loss of good bacon from otherwise good butchers for the last thirty or so years. It’s nearly all bought in ready-packeted and gives off a load of water when cooked.
I thought you couldn’t buy saltpetre any longer, but you can. So I did. 100g for about £3 – you only need a little, half a teaspoon for 5lbs of meat. And then I looked up lots of methods and rather compromised, as you do – anyway, I mixed salt, saltpetre, sugar, peppercorns, herbs and garlic and rubbed it in to the belly pork that I’d boned. And put it in the fridge and rubbed the mixture over again daily for five days. Then, we hung it up on a meat hook in the attic – we only left it a couple of days because I was impatient to try it.
I went to feed the bantams and they’d laid four eggs, bless them. I took some slices of egg-and-breadcrumbed, fried aubergine out of the freezer. LT, who has a meat slicer, had chilled the bacon in the freezer for an hour or so and cut some rashers. And then we cooked them.
We were apprehensive, darlings – or is that too big a word? Perhaps. We were resigned, inwardly, to it being salty pork and not actual bacon, but really didn’t want that to be the case. But for a start, no water was given off in the cooking of the bacon. When I cook bacon from the butcher, even dry cured, I have some paper towel at hand to mop up the liquid. There wasn’t a drop, even though it had only hung for two days.
I baked the aubergine slices in the oven – this is a fabulous way to freeze them, I’m very grateful to my internet friend for the method – and fried the eggs. LT had the first bite. And he was encouraging. I tried a mouthful. I was happy. It was bacon. Green – that is, unsmoked – bacon, the real stuff. It tasted of the herbs and spices and the cured pork, but it really wasn’t just pork.
This is clearly going to be our next Thing. A bit more experimentation is called for, but the basic method is fine. We think that brine would be good – this is going to be such fun. And then we’re planning to learn about smoking it. That’ll be even more fun.