Making English Bacon

One day while working in the heart of Texas barbecue country some English colleagues were lamenting the lack of proper bacon in the grocery stores. After some initial confusion because the store we all used had some very good bacon on offer from a local smokehouse, it turned out that we had a different definition of bacon. Per their definition, the bacon available at the store was “streaky bacon” from the pork belly whereas “bacon” without a qualifier is made from the pork loin, and bacon in England is rarely smoked. Tired of the complaints and with no commercial source at hand, I found out how to make it and my initial attempt was deemed close enough to the original that I was encouraged to keep making it by my colleagues.

To start with you will need a pork loin. If possible, avoid those “injected with up to x% of a solution…..” because those take longer and give worse results than those that have not been injected. Try and get a uniform section of no less than 2 lbs.

Next you will need a curing mixture. This is made from regular table salt, black pepper, and sugar mixed in the ratio of 16:1:1 (e.g. to every pound of salt add one ounce each of pepper and sugar).

Finally you will need a container large enough to hold the pork and a plastic or stainless steel rack to hold the pork off the bottom of the container.

Step 1: Rinse the pork off under running water and dry thoroughly.
Step 2: Thoroughly coat the pork in the curing mixture until no more mixture will stick to it.
Step 3: Place the pork on the rack in the container, cover, and place in the refrigerator.
Step 4: Wait 24 hours. During this time the salt will begin to pull excess fluid from the pork, which will collect in the bottom of the container.
Step 5: Remove the pork from the container and drain the accumulated fluid. I usually rinse the container out after draining.
Step 6: Add more curing mixture to the pork, again until no more mixture will stick.
Step 7: Return the pork to the refrigerator and wait another 24 hours.
Step 8: Repeat…

After around 2 ½ or 3 days the bacon is usually done, but if you have a very thick piece of pork or one that was injected with a solution it may take another day or two.

It is easiest to check that the bacon is ready by rinsing it in fresh water until all of the curing mixture has been removed and then dry it off, though I usually just scrape most of the curing mix off with the back of a knife. The exterior should be firm and slightly damp or dry to the touch. Cut off one end approximately 3/4 inch thick and look across the slice – it will not be as dry in the middle as on the edges, but there should not be any “raw” areas.

Due to the larger surface areas exposed to the curing mix, the ends will be very salty and are best cut off in a large slice (hence the ¾ inch recommendation above) and used like salt pork. The remainder can be sliced as desired – 1/8 inch is a good starting point – and grilled or fried. Bacon is supposed to be salty, but if it is too salty for your taste it can be soaked in water for a while before cooking to remove some of the excess salt.

Note that this is a flavoring cure rather than a true preservative cure, so the resulting bacon should be stored in the refrigerator and used promptly.

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