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.

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  1. hi,

    call me dense if you will but your recipe is so simple to follow and appreciated except for 1 point. The half an hour preparing the bacon for smoking, do you mean wash it for half an hour or keep drying it for half an hour 🙂

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi John

    Here is the website

    How much salt do you use in your curing process? Smoked pheasant sounds tempting. How do you do that?

  3. I just came across this website while looking for receipes for smoking pheasant. I have smoked meats for several years here in the US, mostly barbecue (pork ribs/shoulders/picnics and beef briskets). A few years ago I decided to try my hand at curing and smoking my own bacon to get away from the high salt content and the sodium nitrate/nitrate of the commercially available product. I too feel that the bacon I make is far superior to what is available in the supermarket. I have both dry cured it with a combination of salt and plain sugar, and brine cured it with solution containing salt and sugar or maple syrup. I always keep the salt to a minimum. I read the comment about the Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon posted by Charley and have tried Googling “Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon” but I have only been returned to this post. Could you post the website for me. Thanks!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    It’s delicious but bad for the waistline and heart so has to be hidden in the fridge!

    Hi Richard

    What a shame that you have no chimney. An outdoor smoker would be a good investment.

    I like the idea of using the seaweed. Thanks for the tip. A lot of people cure their own in the USA and spices are often added to the mix.

    We are just at the beginning of a fascinating adventure!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    The dry cure bacon seems to use such a lot of salt but I’m keen to try making it soon.

    If you have a suitable chimney you could have a lot of fun your own bacon. It’s the cheapest way to get superb bacon.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    We have searched and searched for good bacon and usually drawn a blank.

    If I had realised how easy it is to cure your own I would have started doing it years ago!

    Hi Dan

    Yes I will post the recipe (very simple) next week when I have tried two more batches.

    I’m going to have a go at smoking without muslin when I have swept the chimney!

    Hi Charley

    Thank you so much for giving me the link to Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon. Great to hear that someone is producing the proper stuff.

  5. Charley

    I loved reading about the bacon. I am originally from just down the road from you in Sawbridgeworth but I now work as a journalist in Wiltshire… home of the famous cured hams and bacon.
    You might like to look at the website of a local farmer who has been producing traditional Wiltshire Cure hams and bacon for years. I wrote an article on him the other day and he is so passionate about the different methods of curing and smoking his pork. It’s called Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon. There are some good recipes on there, enjoy!

  6. So, are you going to post the recipe then?!?

    Also, have you tried smoking your bacon without wrapping it in muslin?

  7. Kate(uk)

    Well done! I’m very envious of your chimney! Bacon is so disappointing, even the fancy pants stuff that is supposed to be properly cured just isn’t up to it…is it my imagination or is shop bacon really no better these days, despite renewed interest in decently produced food, than, say, five years ago? And as for the lardons that are just chopped up thin slices of rashers…

  8. magic cochin

    Home cured bacon – you’ve seem to have a hit there! It’s difficult to track down good bacon. The farm shop has just started stocking a ‘dry cure’ which is streets ahead of their standard sort (which is miles better than bog standard super market stuff). My mother moans about today’s bacon – but then her mother used to keep pigs and cure her own bacon.


  9. Richard

    I am deeply jealous… Living in a modern house we don’t have much opportunity for home smoking (though I guess I could always get an outdoor smoker).

    Re the brine… I’ve had this idea for a while about using seaweed (the Jananese kind) with bacon – it’s where MSG naturally occurs and could be used as a salt-substitute as well as adding a little additional flavour. Like I say, just an idea! Could you add anything else to the brine such as bay or cloves?

  10. Ohhhhh Well done Fiona!!!!!! You definately have me salivating here.

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