Well according to Steven Lamb of River Cottage fame apparently not but we were at a smoking and curing night so I guess he would say that. Last week we spent an evening with friends at River Cottage entitled “An Evening with Steven Lamb” to accompany the River Cottage Handbook: No 13 Meat Curing and Smoking. In just over an hour we covered turning a humble piece of pork belly into a slab of streaky bacon using a very simple rough method where even weighing scales were seen as unnecessary to the precision of creating mouth-watering pancetta. All of this was nicely fuelled with little tip bits of cured and dried meats all washed down with a local English white wine from the Lyme Bay Winery before sitting down to our four course meal.
Steven educated us on what real bacon was, not that we needed much educating ourselvesas anyone who has tasted our bacon would know, but he explained that how the product sold in supermarkets is only bacon by name starting of as something the size of your hand but ends up no bigger than your thumb the second it sees a frying pan. A bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean. He talked us through making bresaola, a cured piece of top side, pastrami which did seem a lot more involved and a quick introduction to hot and cold smoking.
So, the long and the short of it is home curing as easy as they say, well I think I would have to say yes it is but you don’t realise how simple it is until you jump in and give it ago. There are many websites and resources online dedicated to the cause so I won’t go into the details here. But just stick to the simple rules of 3% salt to meat ratio by weight i.e. for 1kg of meat you would use 30g of salt.
We have cured our own pork belly at Smallicombe but tend to leave turning our pork into Bacon to Coles of Ottery simply because they are so good at it. So what else have we tried; well inspired by our night out I thought it was time to dust off the sausage stuffer and get on with some salami making. For any purist reading I will change that to a cured sausage of my own making. So how did I do it, it was quite simple I firstly cleaned and soaked some hog casings then to 1.5kg of coarsely minced pork I added 45g of salt 1 tsp of ground black pepper, 2 cloves of garlic (ground with the salt and pepper) and about 125ml of port. The mixture was thoroughly mixed and then stuffed into the casings, tied either end and then labelled with the date and weight. They are now hanging in the hallway drying a bit before I find them somewhere nice and safe outside to hang. The weight is important as you need to know when the sausage has lost 30% of its weight as it is then safe to eat. It would seem it was that easy, next it is bresaola I just need to reserve some of our beef when we get some in December.
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