Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bringing home the bacon

It's been a long time between drinks, sorry about that.  There's been lots of action in the kitchen though so it's definitely time for an update.  We have sailed through the most beautiful autumn, which was almost like an Indian Summer:  long, calm (often very warm) days, soft rainfall which came at the right time, mild nights and day after day of sunshine.  For farmers this is GOOD.  The mild weather means that crops germinate well and pasture feed is jumping out of the ground.  Needless to say it was far to nice to be sitting inside looking at a screen.
Autumn is a season of such abundance in the garden that it keeps me very busy; not only with produce, but cutting back and raking, raking, raking.  The leaves just keep on coming...
 Now that winter is upon us there is a chance to catch up inside and enjoy the shorter days, roaring fires, woollen jumpers and slipping into the old uggies.  I have been making stock,
and marmalade,
and turned this brace and a half of wild duck into a sensational pie (I'll give you the recipe one day if you're good)..
But the real highlight of the last month is that I have been home-curing my own bacon....yes, BACON.  It was an experiment which may need a little tweaking, but I think it was a worthwhile exercise.  You might well be thinking, why would you bother?  Well, two things really.  The bacon that you buy in the supermarkets in Australia is very ordinary.  It is pumped up with water, cured all sorts of chemicals and is only pink because it has so many nitrates added to it.  Secondly it tasted about a zillion times better when you cure your own.

After some judicious googling I learnt that without nitrates the cured pork would go grey, which will not affect the flavour, but would not look like bacon should.  I also learned that celery juice contains naturally occurring nitrates and can be used to help hold the colour.  I bought a free range Otway Pork belly from the butcher.  He boned it except for one bone that he said would hold it all together and which I then removed at the end.
I then made the cure.  
Juice the celery...
I opted for a dry cure so I didn't add much celery juice.  Next time I might try a wet cure so I can use more juice.  I used the following mix:
1/2 cup celery juice
1/2 cup salt (I used David's Kosher Salt)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tblsp juniper berries
1 tblsp black peppercorns
1 teasp mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic
several sprigs of thyme and lemon thyme, picked
Whizz all this with a hand mixer (the juniper berries kept popping out of the pestle and mortar)
then apply a thick coating to both sides of the pork:
Refrigerate for seven days, after which time it will look like this.
Rinse off the salt, pat dry with kitchen paper and cook in a 100c oven for two hours.  At this point you can smoke it if you are that way inclined.  Cool, trim any bone out then place in the fridge to firm up before slicing:
You can freeze it too, but it may lose a little colour. So give it a go, you won't look back.   Here is a little morsel..
The excellent news is that I fed it to everyone last weekend and so far no-one has died of botulism.
I am also busy working on an new version of my blog.  Will keep you posted.


  1. Fantastic Jen, and your home-cured bacon was delicious!! I was also fortunate enough to savour your duck pie a few weekends back and your rasberry jam. Now just waiting on a bit of home-made butter to put on your home-made bread!!!

  2. Thank you, yes butter is definitely on the cards, just need to find some good local organic cream...