The Cottage Smallholder

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Cottage Smallholder wet cured and smoked bacon recipe

streaky baconOne thing that lightens the darkest day is our home cured bacon. When I took a small hamper of food to my mum the small package that I was really pleased with was our bacon.

Her grill is different from ours. She had to wait a good twenty minutes before it was cooked, compared to our ten minutes. But the smell of slow cooked bacon is the heart of any good breakfast, so by the time I had warmed the plates and rustled up some scrambled egg my mum was in the starting stalls and eager to go. She tasted a small forkful and looked up.
“I haven’t tasted anything this good since before the war.”

WW2 ended over 60 years ago. That first sampling was three weeks ago and things have improved bacon wise since then. I have finally settled on the perfect ingredients for my wet cure.

Although we have produced sublime bacon that doesn’t need to be soaked to get rid of the saltiness, always practice extreme caution when preserving any meat.

Basically there are two types of cure – wet and dry cure. Smoking also cures the bacon. You can also apply a rub prior to smoking or even warm the joint and apply the rub. The machinations are endless.

Wet cure involves soaking your bacon in a saline solution with possible additions of herbs/sugar/treacle/honey. The dry cure generally seems to take a bit longer and involves rubbing the joint with salt and herbs/sugar/treacle/honey daily for two to three weeks. Looking at the amount of salt recommended for both types of curing, I was determined to find a way of curing our bacon with less salt and relying on the smoking to complete the process.

We are lucky to have an inglenook fireplace but this is not the typical 6’x4′ inglenook orifice. The couple that sold me the cottage had a modern chimney built inside the original inglenook. This chimney starts where the fire hood ends. This ensures a perfect draw and there’s a decent amount of space between fire basket and chimney (just under four feet). We only burn wood on this fire and the ash beneath the fire basket is minimally cleared so as to enable a small fire to keep burning for a long time.

There’s a trick to smoking. A combination of very dry hardwood and a sizeable damp hardwood log on top. I thought I’d cracked the process until last Saturday when I battled with the fire. Ideally you get the fire going and then pop on the damp log. This will simultaneously smoke and dampen the flames of the wood beneath. Then you hang up your joints of meat.

Last Saturday I hung up the joints before lighting the fire, worried about the flames cooking (hot smoking) the bacon and so damped the fire down far too quickly. The smoke needs to be a continuous waft, so thin that it can be impossible to see it without a torch. This needs time and patience to achieve.

The smoke has a hardening effect on the bacon. If it feels soft when you remove it then it probably needs more smoking time. To check the level of curing, I slice each joint in the middle. If it looks like bacon it is done in my book. If it looks like raw meat I hang it up for another 4 – 6 hour stint. and check again. Some bacon has taken 24 hours to cure.

Always make sure that the rind is against the wall of the chimney and the meat is well exposed to the smoke.

It’s important to choose the right wood to smoke your bacon. Apparently pine is out as it makes the bacon taste acrid. We’ve been using ash, which seems fine. Other recommended wood is apple and birch. I’m hoping that the fallen poplar (an unexpected wind swept gift from next door) will make good smoke.

We have found that this bacon keeps well in the fridge (avoid plastic boxes or cling film – wrap it loosely in greaseproof paper) for a week or so and freezes well. If you are going to try this method at home keep on smelling the bacon joints at every stage. If the meat smells bad, always chuck it out.

I am just telling you what we have done rather than giving you chapter and verse about a foolproof method. We have chucked nothing out so far and are still walking and talking but I am aware that we are using a quicker two step process than any method that I have seen before.

Our wet cure is not enough to cure your bacon 100%. It’s just the first step. The smoking process is an essential final part that can take anything from 6 to 24 hours. Real seat of the pants stuff for someone with the right chimney and a passion for chomping great bacon.

One final tip for smoking. Initially we used preserving muslin with variable results. Generally the smoke cure took much longer. Then Fred Fitzpatrick offered me some butcher’s muslin. Much thicker than our stuff. Like a vast stockinet stocking, dinosaur width. Initially suspicious, I tried it anyway. Perfect. Clearly this has been designed for smoking. Well worth a test flight if you can locate some. Fred Fitzpatrick’s, Exning Road, Newmarket, may be able to help you and he only sells free range chicken so you can visit or telephone with impunity. He also supplies good British pork, locally sourced.

We have tested our rashers on a large swathe of eager recipients. Great feedback so far, even when they just open the greaseproof paper and smell the smoke that lingers on the bacon. Amazing stuff.

Cottage Smallholder wet cure smoked bacon recipe


  • Half a loin (back bacon) or half a belly of pork (streaky bacon)
  • 2 pints of water
  • 300g – 400g of cooking salt
  • 2 large heaped tsp of black treacle


  • 1 tsp of black treacle for the pre smoke rub
  • A length of butcher’s muslin


Wet Cure:

  1. Dilute the salt in the water. This can take some time so it’s often better to do this a few hours before. Add the treacle and stir well. Put the joint into the solution (skin side up) and weigh it down to guarantee total submersion. Return to the fridge and leave the joint for 2 days (belly of pork) or 3 days (loin).
  2. Prior to smoking rinse the joint well under cold running water and pat dry wth clean tea towels

The smoking:

  1. Rinse and dry the joint with a sterilised tea towel (iron the tea towel to sterilise it) for half an hour.
  2. Rub a heaped tsp of black treacle all over the joint well. Love that joint for a good five minutes. The caramalise edges will reap dividends when you cook it.
  3. Wrap in butcher’s muslin and hang over a softly smoking fire for at least twelve hours.

Read the above post if you haven’t already for extra directions and tips.

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  1. TroutyPedro

    Are you still doing the curing? What have you learned since?
    I smoke trout after curing for 6 hrs in 50% salt 50% demerara sugar whizzed together to combine, hang in the fridge overnight. Dress with ground black pepper and fennel seeds and smoke for 8 to 10 hours with a ProQ smoker generator which lasts about 10 hrs with fine sawdust and hanging by the gill cover in an old fridge not on. Then hung in another fridge overnight before slicing. Works well. Tried belly pork but too salty and hard to cut. Put off want to get going again

    • James Isgoed Williams

      Have you done salmon yet? I’ve done a few but think my cure is wrong.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Julian

    Thanks for your input, much appreciated!

    Hi Ian

    Sorry, we wet cure our bacon and smoke it in our inglenook. Never tried dry cures. Why not look at the above comment.

    HFW also has recipes for dry cured bacon that doesn’t need to be smoked.

  3. Hi.
    I have Gloucester Old Sport Pigs. Free Range. I need a cure (dry) that I can use treacle with, but i have no facility to smoke or any knowledge how to smoke. Any ideas?

  4. Hi,

    I have been doing the following dry cure for a few years….

    Dry cure…

    2/3 salt to 1/3 soft brown sugar, a few cracked black pepper corns

    Rub the dry cure into the belly of pork and place in a wooden box rind upwards (holes drilled in the bottom of the box for drainage). Weigh down the pork with weights to help remove moisture.

    Every 24 hours, generously re-rub new dry cure over the surface of the belly of pork. After 72 hours, 3 dry cure rubs, take out the pork and rinse under cold water, pat dry. Cure any longer and the bacon will be too salty. Place in the fridge to dry for 2 days.

    Then smoke for 24-36 hours using oak sawdust… I use an old double door filing cupboard. I have drilled holes in the bottom to draw the air. The smoke makes it own way out of the cupboard through the gaps in the doors. A serving bowl heap of sawdust will burn for about 8 hours and generate very little heat. I light it using a gas blowtorch, sometimes with a little charcoal.

    I find bacon cured like this will keep in the fridge for 6 – 8 weeks when loosely wrapped in greaseproof paper.


  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dan

    Yes you are right. I’ve been cutting down the salt little by little each week and have finally settled on 15og to 2 pints of water.

    Thanks for pointing this out!

  6. Hi Fiona, do you mean pints of water or litres? 300g-400g of salt to two pints of water sounds like quite a lot to me. Admittedly I haven’t done the calculations but still….

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    This project has been so worthwhile. We are lucky to have a good chimney.

    A friend is going to try smoking bacon in a chiminera – I am intrigued to see how she gets on!

    Hi Sally

    Breakfast has always been my favourite meal!

    My mum fell in the garden a few weeks ago and broke her shoulder. So life hard for her at the moment. It is healing but at 88 years old, takes a long time.

  8. I can smell it too. You’ve done it again! (Make me homesick, that is – pancetta is good, don’t get me wrong – but there’s nothing on earth like a ‘full English’ and yours is right up there. I can even taste it.

    It would brighten even a bright day. Hope your mum is well, Very best wishes.

  9. Ohhhh Fiona, I can smell the bacon cooking all the to here!!!! Heaven!

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