The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to home cure streaky bacon. Making bacon at home

salt water and eggFred measured the white powder out carefully.
“You do know that it’s generally illegal to supply this now?”
I didn’t but I nodded anyway as he tried to unglue the furred up spout of the salt carton. Impatient, he sliced the entire top off with his knife. Stunning Three Musketeers swordsmanship. He added the salt to the bag and shook the crystals together. He was mixing sodium nitrate (saltpetre) with salt as I was going to make my own salt pork for the very first time.

“You could make salt pork but you could also make a bomb!”
“Oh really?” I was intrigued.
“Yes. You had better not tell Danny what’s in this little bag!”

Saltpetre used to be available from a chemist’s shop. Now it is only available from butchers’ suppliers. A good butcher’s shop like Fred Fitzpatrick’s (Exning Road, Newmarket) would be able to order it for you and work out the right mix of saltpetre to salt.

I had no idea that belly of pork is in fact untreated streaky bacon. When I saw the amount of salt and saltpetre that Fred had given me to salt the pork I was horrified. It filled a quarter of a 2 litre casserole dish.
“You need to get the salt and water mix just right. Float an egg (in its shell) in it – there should be roughly half a centimetre of the egg above the surface. If it’s floating too proud, add more water.”
“How long do I soak it for?”
“A joint that size (600g) will take 2 days. Then wrap it in muslin and hang it in the chimney over a slow log fire in your inglenook for an evening to smoke it.”

The romance of the idea was captivating and distracted me from all thoughts of saltpetre and bombs in a trice.

Apparently it is very hard to buy salt pork in a joint these days. Fred explained that most butchers are supplied with ready cut streaky.
“But Mike bought some in Saffron Walden.”
“Ah, yes. That would be So and So’s ( I didn’t catch the name). Probably the only place that you would get it in this region.”

Mike had cooked a dish to die for. And with all the salt we probably will.

Boston baked beans tantalised me for hours as it simmered in his slow cooker.
“Beans in America are not like your UK beans. There’s a whole range of them, sweet, spicy, with meat and so on. Did you know that the slow cooker was invented to make baked beans?”
Before I left that evening I begged him to leave me a taste for the morning. He was making coleslaw and briefly looked up as he sliced.
“Sure and I’ll leave you same slaw too.”

Mike wasn’t home when I arrived the next day but had sent a text with the location of the beans and the coleslaw. I grabbed 2 teaspoons and rushed down to the fridge in the cellar. I allowed myself a teaspoonful of each as I knew that I could polish off his supper in a matter of seconds. The combination was truly amazing.

I will be cooking this at the weekend and will post the recipe next week.

Fred described the old fashioned English farmhouse way to cure my joint. I have found some useful bacon curing links:

As I write this the cottage is filled with the scent of smokey bacon – the log fire has done it work. Thanks Fred.
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. Now that is real interesting..trying different eggs in my brine tonight and checking them against my salt thermometer…would you beleive it!! some float at twenty percent and some need more salt to get them to lift…mmmm… maybe the chicken lady could check this big deal but I guess if you want it consistent, I made a piece of hardwood about 8″ long and cut a notch where it settled at twenty percent to give to a friend for a reference…just a thought and when you drop it it dosen’t break..I am enjoying this as the uk is an old country with traditions and in new zealand it is hard to chat with anyone with the same interests,,,cheers des

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Des

      Thanks for dropping by. I no longer use the egg method and have developed this low salt cure
      The bacon doesn’t keep in the fridge for as long (a week for ordinary belly of pork and a couple of weeks for organic free range belly). It also needs to be cold smoked as part of the cure.

      Why no give that a go?

  2. you know this is great! I have been making my own bacon in kinloch new zealand (WILD PIGS MOSTLY)for a few years now and getting reports from hunting mates that while it is great it is a bit salty…some old farm books say float a potatoe…this is what i have been doing…but a friend gave me a salt thermometer and it registers at egg as you describe floating at 1/2 centermeter (5mm) shows 21%…THIS SOUNDS GREAT…TELL FRED I COULD KISS HIM !!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi The Chicken Lady

    Fred made up the salt/saltpetre mix for me and gave me the instructions about the egg floating in the water to get the right salt to water ratio.

    I bought a loin at the weekend which I am curing with just salt and some sugar. It is going to have a treacle rub just before smoking. I’m rather regretting not taking some saltpetre at the weekend as I like the pink colour!

    I am planning to go to Fred’s before I go to work tomorrow (he opens at 7.30 and closes early at around 3.30 ish – might be worth ringing him to check so as not to be disappointed). I’ll start the curing tomorrow evening so will be smoking on Saturday night if you want to smoke your bacon in our chimney. Lift off at 6 o’clock.

    Once Steve’s tasted the butter he’ll never look back!

  4. The Chicken Lady.

    I will be attempting the bacon making tomorrow I will make my first visit to Fred,s whilst picking up the boy from school, and buy a joint of Belly pork. Roughly how much salt did you use and can you use ordinary salt or sea salt, I am extremely excited about it Steve less so i,ve seen him raise his eyebrows several times, I won,t mention butter making yet.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Hank

    You have a wonderful site, got quite immersed in it yesterday morning. The bacon is under the grill as I write this!

    Hi Joanna

    Yes, you are right, I was horrified by the amount of salt!

    I’ll be reviewing the results soon.

    Hi Maggie

    It was easy and fun! If it works well I’m going to try doing some back bacon.

    Hi Toffeeapple

    I didn’t like having to get up the chimney much!

  6. Toffeeapple

    Gosh, you are a brave soul! I’d love to hear how it turns out.

  7. I was fascinated to read this. I have always wanted to have a go at salting my own bacon, but was never quite brave enough. I will enjoy following the progress of yours. Sadly I no longer keep pigs, but you never know, I might get a porker again in the future (espeically if I can be brave enough to make some bacon!)

  8. This is one of those things that’s good to do, because then you understand the food you eat (all that salt) … making butter’s another (all that cream). You don’t need the saltpeter, because it’s there to keep the bacon pink – I discovered that when I first made that lovely cold spiced beef that used to be traditional at Christmas. I’ve just followed your link to HFW, and he says it’s for colour.

    I’ll be very interested to hear how it tastes, and how pink it is – the beef turns a little grey in the middle without saltpeter, but it’s so delicious you don’t really notice (I haven’t made it for years, must put that right). I should think it would be the same with the bacon.

    Fiona, you’ll be doing a whole ham next 😉


  9. Funny you should be doing this now. I am in full charcuterie mode these days, now that hunting is over for the season. I’ll be picking up my belly Saturday for pancetta, plus some jowls for guanciale. To tide me over, I’m making lonzino from a pretty slab of pork loin.
    Let us know how your bacon emerges!

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