The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Besotted by home cured smoked bacon

home cured loinI was at Fred Fitzpatrick’s butchers shop. I’d brought them each a present of my home cured bacon. John picked up the two slim packs and placed them gently beside the till.
“I think I’ll have mine with my Easter Egg.”
It was Easter Saturday and I had finally made bacon that I was proud of. Not too salty, sweet edged with black treacle and a deep smokiness from hanging over a smouldering log for twelve hours in our inglenook fireplace.

We are now hooked on home cured bacon. Our wet cured recipe only takes 2-3 days to soak and 6-12 hours to smoke if you have a good chimney. It uses far less salt than the dry cured bacon and makes great present to give away as it is guaranteed to be welcomed by just about everyone. I had no idea that most ‘smoked bacon’ is dipped in a smoke flavour fluid. In the days when we bought bacon, we always avoided the smoked bacon as it tasted so harsh.

I am so lucky that I have good butchers to help me with my journey into the world of curing and smoking. Fred breezed in from the back of the shop.
“Do you want me to order you a roll of muslin from the butchers’ suppliers? It’s not expensive.”
I felt the eyes of the queue rotate as one. Was I making curtains?

I am also lucky to have a partner in arms on the steep curing, smoking cliff face. The Chicken Lady’s joints hang beside ours with differing results. Even if we halve the joint and beetle away to cure it in our own special way, The Chicken Lady’s joints always need at least another 12 hours smoking time before the change from pork to cured bacon. I reckon that it’s all down to the strength of the wet brine solution. Smoking eventually cures the bacon too.

Chez Cottage Smallholder we have experimented and refined the amount of salt in our saline solution. Now I make it the night before I slip the joints into the tub. It takes time to get the solution just right, adding the salt little by little until the egg (in its shell) just floats 0.5 cm above the water. I tried adding another half mug full of salt. The egg didn’t shift up, even a millimetre. Saturation point had been reached. So when you are preparing to cure bacon, think of the game Grandmother’s Footsteps. Little by little usually wins in the end.

Trying to get this right when I’m making breakfast, feeding Danny, the dogs, chickens and finding my clean socks in the monolithic clean pile as I rush to get off to work is a mistake. Taking a bit of time with this initial stage produces bacon will not need to be soaked to get rid of the saltiness. I can also reach up into the chimney in the morning, slice and grill a few pieces. Within a matter of minutes we’re eating the freshest and best bacon that we’ve ever tasted.

TCL and I have jettisoned the saltpetre and our bacon still looks pink. Although ours doesn’t have the bright pinkness of supermarket bacon when cooked.

If you add something sweet to the saline solution, the flavour of the bacon improves to Olympic gold standard. I’ve tried sugar and dark treacle and the latter wins hands down every time.

Last weekend’s loin of pork (back bacon) was superb. I have a half breast of pork (to make streaky) and a pork hock (to make a ham hock) wet curing in the fridge as I write. I want to try these two before I post up the recipe for our wet cure solution next week.

This is the most exciting self sufficiency project that I have tried to date. These are slices of gold for bartering.

The proudest moment of all was when my Mum tasted our bacon, grilled in her Cambridge kitchen and accompanied by scrambled eggs from our flock, plucked from the nesting box that morning.
“Why this is just like pre war bacon (WW2). I’m not going to buy Prince Charles’ bacon any more. I much prefer yours.”

She didn’t even mention the eggs.

N.B. Update April 14th 2008. We now have perfected our recipe and method click here for our latest home cured bacon recipe.

  Leave a reply


  1. hi fiona,

    I want to communicate with you re- the bacon slicer, can u please e-mail me privately so we can open a dialogue ? 🙂


  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Tony

    I’m going to write a new post on the updated recipe and all. 36 – 44 hours is now the best curing time.

    Someone told me that butcher’s muslin is available in the internet so will post the link too.

    BTW duck breasts cured for the same time, in the solution and smoked are wonderful too.

  3. magic and thanks for getting back to me. Yup picked up on the change of saline solution from an earlier post and I added the black treacle. Now waiting for the dealine LOL. Asked my butcher about muslin and he seemed to thinkhe would only be able to get the elasticated stuff from his supplier, but he’s gonna get back to me on it.


  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Tony

    Things have moved on since this post. My wet cure solution is now 2 pints of water to 150g of salt and two heaped teaspoons of black treacle. Cured in the fridge for 3 days. Taken out of the fridge an hour or so before smoking. Rinsed and wrapped in a clean, absorbant tea towel. Just before smoking rub a teaspoonful of treacle into the joint.

    It’s also really important to use butchers muslin, makes an enormous difference as it seems to attract the smoke.

    Result – wonderful bacon that is good for about a week to ten days in the fridge.

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