The general rule of thumb for length of time to cure when bacon curing is 1 day per cm (or half inch, it is a rule of thumb after all) of thickness, plus 2 days. As such a skinny little piece of belly like this doesn't need any more than 5 days and so we're pretty much at the half way point now.
To look at there is no difference but the salt will still be doing its thing, which as well as drawing the liquid from the meat is also drawing liquid from the cells of anything in there we don't want to recreate along with slowing the oxidation process, both of which help the meat to stay edible longer.
When you're curing a piece of pork into bacon there's various things at play and during the early stages the most obvious is the leaching effect of the salt. The same as salting aubergines draws liquid from them salting a piece of pork draws liquid from it, an osmotic effect due to the concentration of salt on the outside versus inside of the meat. After rubbing the cure mixture into the meat it is only a matter of minutes before the surface is damp and at the start of day two there is large quantity of liquid collected in the bag. As part of the daily routine I massage this liquid around the joint, and when I put the bag back in the fridge I make sure the meat is the other way up, so the other side can soak in the cure-filled liquid for the next day.
Last week on Twitter someone mentioned Bacon Connoiseurs' Week was 21-27 March. I've no idea what this means exactly but I'm not one to turn down anything to do with this finest of meat products.
It's been a while since I've cured my own but thought I could use BCW as an excuse to get some going, and blog about it. I'll endeavour to take a snap every day, to see how it progresses, although I'm not sure there'll be much noticeable daily change so we'll see how it goes.
Once you've got cure #1 (a mix of salt and sodium nitrite) then you just need some salt and sugar, it couldn't be more simple. Just rub it in and whack the meat in a bag in the fridge, turning every day or so and giving the cure and any leached out liquid a rub back around the joint. You can also add things to flavour it so this week I'm experimenting with black treacle and some ginger, no idea what it will taste like as I've never used them before but they're both common enough ingredients in bacon cure so it shouldn't be that bad, and hopefully pretty good. We'll find out soon enough.
If it's successful I'll post the recipe at the end of the week, along with some snaps of the finished product.
As a child I was fed pretty well. I got to eat quite a few of the treats I wanted and we had frequent Chinese and Indian takeaways (which I'm sure had a huge effect on my tastes now) but of a normal every day meal everything was cooked from scratch and there was always plenty of vegetables to be eaten. My mum did have a bit of a mince obsession though and so whilst I had plenty of home cooked food, the leaning towards - and by leaning I mean weekly occurrence of - chili, spag bol and lasagna has left me with a bit of dislike of the three of them. Whilst chili con carne and spag bol are never craved I do have the occasional desire for a lasagna still, although it is never the usual bolognaise and bechamel version, and one such occasion was last week.
The Italian sausage (or what Americans call Italian sausage anyway) is a wonderful thing, loaded with fennel seed and garlic, sweet with sugar and hot from chili, it transforms tomatoes into an instant meat-filled sauce, or crumbles into a near-perfect pizza topping, where I like to pair the sausages' fennel seeds with thin slices of the bulb, briefly sauteed in butter and garlic. Whilst you can buy them from Italian delis not everyone has them nearby but luckily the sausage's lack of filler, and propensity to be used removed of their skins, lend themselves to making at home. If you're using them for pasta sauces and pizza too a little goes a long way, so I like to make a batch and freeze in small portions, wrapped in clingfilm and bagged together.
Whilst I didn't have any of the sausage made I did have pork mince and the required herbs and spices, savoy cabbage and some gorgonzola and the idea for this sprang to mind. I'm glad it did as it was gorgeous. The meat sauce was sweet and heavily seasoned - the pork loving the savoury balance of its green bedfellow -and the gorgonzola added richness in spades.
Simply mix it all together
500gr minced pork
1 ts fennel seeds
1/3 ts black peppercorns
1/2 ts chili flakes
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 ts salt
1 ts sugar
Italian Sausage, Savoy Cabbage and Gorgonzola Lasagna
500 gr of Italian sausage
1 tin tomatoes, liquidised
1/2 a savoy cabbage
1 small onion
125ml red wine
12 sheets of lasagna
500 ml of milk
25 gr butter
25 gr flour
2 bay leaves
Handful or two of pecorino or parmesan
Finely chop the onion then fry in a little oil till soft. Add the sausage meat and brown, breaking up with a spoon as you go.
Add the wine, the tomatoes and half a tin of water, bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. topping up with water if it dries out.
Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a few more minutes until wilted. You may want to add some water here too, remember the pasta will soak up quite a bit when baking.
For the white sauce melt the butter, add the flour then cook for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking constantly to get rid of lumps. Chuck in the bay leaves and give it a good grating of nutmeg then simmer for a few minutes till thick. Add the gorgonzola and whisk till smooth.
Now to construct. You're going to do three layers of each so make sure you split accordingly. First off layer one third of the meat mixture then top with four sheets of lasagna then a third of the white sauce. Repeat another two times.
Finish with a handful or two of whatever cheese you chose then bake at 180 for 35 minutes.
Remove and allow to rest for ten minutes before serving. I like to serve with a salad, which is good for cleansing the palate afterwards.