International Bacon Day (IBD). Wow, finally a festival to truly celebrate. Thank goodness for porcine goodness and the love of my wife, for finding truly awe-inspiring ways to fill in spare time. It began like this. Wake up early. Sensory level overload. The week has consisted of waiting for the perfectly smoked pork to be ready for eating. Celia has this great method of curing and smoking pork to make perfect bacon. Why? Well you try to buy bacon where we live and you will be disappointed. In fact I would be surprised if we ever have to buy bacon again. Buying pigs is more likely. Breakfast. Homemade crumpets, homemade bacon, flat whites. Can it get any better? Sometimes it really does pay to take time to weigh up what you have. Regardless, first celebratory IBD, and I’m well happy.
Well it has been a while since I lasted posted about my bacon making endeavours. There is now a final product and it is pretty damn good. I am really surprised at how easy it was to do, once I had sorted out the process. I don’t have a smoker so what appealed to me about the recipe used, is that it makes it easy for you to make a smoker out of your wok. No excuses then!
I made up the smoking mix of rice, sugar, tea, cinnamon, star anise and Sichuan pepper and packaged it nice and neatly in some aluminium foil. This was placed in the bottom of the wok with a rack over that. The cured bacon was then placed on the rack.
At this point I realised I didn’t have a lid to fit my wok, so I tightly wrapped the top of the wok in aluminium foil, making sure there were no gaps for the smoke to escape from. I then turned the gas to med-high for 5 minutes followed by 1 hour on medium-low. After that time the bacon was left, covered, in the wok for another hour. Once cooled in the fridge the bacon was ready for the taste test.
The bacon sliced easily and hit the pan with a sizzle. It didn’t take long for the bacon to crisp up nicely; what a smell and so much fat! A piece of thick white toast, a little salt and vinegar and voila, my first homemade tea-smoked bacon sandwich. It was delicious, however I am trying to make it last longer than the weekend. I already have the next piece of pork curing in the fridge, this time a piece of loin, so am going to try some back bacon next. Will let you know how I get on.
So last week I started the process of making bacon. I bought about 1.5kg of pork belly from the friendly people at the market outside school. It cost me 29 元 (which is about the price of a glass of beer). This allowed me to start the first process of bacon-making, that being the curing of it. I made a mixture of salt, brown sugar, pepper, crushed bay leaves and fennel seeds and then lovingly rubbed half of it into the pork. This is important as you want the curing rub to cover everything and get into every little crevice. This helps draw moisture out of the pork and imparts some flavour. Once that was done, it was into a zip-lock bag and into the fridge. A couple of days later, the bag had a good amount of juice in it, so I drained it off and rubbed the remaining curing mixture into the pork. All up the pork has been curing in the fridge for the past 7 days. It is firm to the touch, no squishy bits, which is what you want. Tomorrow I will take it out and get ready for the final part, tea-smoking. As I have already cut the piece of pork belly into two manageable pieces I am wondering whether I should just smoke one half or do both? Decisions…
Where we are living, in rural Jiangsu province, there are no delectable western delights to be had. Not even the western fast food outlets that are spreading everywhere in China. For that you have to travel to the nearest city Xuzhou, 2 hours away. However if we want to purchase western goods such as butter, cheese, milk and of course bacon we have to travel to the capital of Jiangsu, Nanjing, about 4 hours away. While not having all these western delights has been good for the waistline, there comes a time when the need for a bacon sandwich or the like becomes an addiction.
So this is where my ventures into making my own bacon started. A month or two ago, I tried a wet cure of some pork belly I purchased at the local market; however I found that it was really salty and didn’t have that lovely smoky flavour that comes with more traditional bacon.
Browsing the web this afternoon I came across this recipe more along the lines of what I was looking for. Firstly, I am able to access most of the ingredients here in little old Suining, and secondly I can fashion a wok-styled stove top smoker for the smoking process using tea instead of woodchips. So the plan now is to get the curing process underway this weekend. I don’t think I will follow the curing recipe to the letter as I am not using pink salt, as it is poisonous, and instead use brown sugar, salt, some fennel seeds and bay leaves. Once that is done I can start playing with the smoking. Will update, with photos, of how it is all coming along.
How about you? Have you cured your own bacon before? What about smoking, any suggestions or advice for a newbie?