Although in days gone by curing would have been something done by a lot of people it seems to have fallen out of favour . This is a shame as it's very simple to do, great for saving money and also really satisfying seeing your base ingredients transform to something quite different - the grey flesh of your pork replaced with the pink bacon. A couple of years ago I decided to give it a go and hopefully I can encourage others to do the same.
I'm by no means an expert but I do know that the important ingredient is some form of nitrate or nitrite, you can cure just using salt but if you want the pink of bacon or the rosey red of salt beef (and why wouldn't you?) then you're going to have to add some. Yuu can use saltpetre but I use a product called cure #1 (which I buy here), this is your active curing ingredient along with a few others things which means instead of weighing out 0.5gr of saltpetre for every kg of meat you get to weigh out 3.2gr of cure #1. Still not the easiest thing to weigh but an improvement nonetheless, it's also a nice pink colour so you don't confuse it with salt. Along with the cure all you need is salt and sugar, the salt adding to the curing effect and the sugar for flavour.
Ingredients, for every kg of meat
3.2gr cure #1
25gr rock salt
All you do is mix these together and rub all over the outside of the meat. Make sure it's massaged everywhere, in any crevices etc., and then stick the lump of meat in a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge. The rule of thumb is for every 13mm (1/2") of thickness you need a day of curing time plus another two days at the end. For the loin of pork I used I went for a week in total. Within a few hours the salt will cause liquid to leach out of the meat, dissolving the cure mixture, and so every day I turn the meat over, massagin the liquid around it. After the curing time is up, take the meat out, give it a good wash under the cold tap, dry it with kitchen roll and then stick it back in the fridge on a plate (uncovered) to dry for a day. 8 days after you began you're ready.
Normally I've used granulated white sugar and been pleased with the result. This time I went for a soft, dark sugar though which gave a nice treacley taste to the finished product along with a caramel coloured fat. As this went well I'm going to extend my exeprimentation and try some maples syrup and some treacle, a couple of things I've seen on bacon labels before. As mentioned, this time I used boneless pork loin but belly works equally as well, one thing to bear in mind is unless you have a meat slicer (I don't) then skinless meat will be a lot easier to cut.
This same base cure can be used with other meats, most notably brisket of beef for salt beef. When I've done this in the past I also add black peppercorns, bay leaves and crushed juniper berries for flavour. Another thing I've cured is lamb neck fillet, duck breast and also racks of pork ribs, all working really well. I think you'd could pretty much cure anything really if you're one to play around.
Anyway, back to the bacon and what better way to let its flavour shine through and a simple bacon sandwich. As much as I love different breads I'm happy to go along with Nigel Slater on this one, agreeing that there's something special about cheap sliced white bread (and ketchup) for a bacon sandwich. Whether he'd cook his bacon on a ridged griddle though I don't know.
Right at the start I said this was a great way to save money and here's why. I used a 1.25kg lump of boneless pork loin which at £3.99 a kg (on sale) cost £5, add 50p for the curing ingredients and you're looking £5.50 for over a kilo of dry cured bacon. For me this was 24 thick rashers and a pair of 2cm thick bacon loin chops. A bargain.