Sunday, February 9, 2014
Home curing, home smoking, making your own sausages - it's all the rage at the moment. You can't turn on the TV, open a blog or a cook book without coming across an article about doing it yourself. I am no exception.
Since moving to France I have made jam, compote and granola for the 42rvh breakfast table, made tomato sauce and pickled vegetables and cured my own olives - all from the excess of local production at the end of each growing season. I have also successfully cured salmon using wild fennel picked from the countryside where I walk my dog.
But I have never tried curing meat - until now, and it is a lot easier than you probably think it is. It came about due to various circumstances falling into place - a fabulous book on 'doing it yourself' which my lovely wife, Debrah, bought for my last birthday, an offer on pork belly at a local supermarket which resulted in 2kg of pork for only €12 and a bit of time on my hands in the off-season.
I cut the belly into 4 manageable pieces of half a kilo each. We roasted one that evening for dinner, I froze one for later, I minced one to use in meatballs and I decided to have a go at making bacon with the last one.
The beauty of curing a relatively small piece of meat is that you can do the whole thing quite easily in a domestic fridge with little or no mess and no difficulty and the only other ingredients you need are salt, sugar and herbs. I used a standard domestic freezer bag with a resealable top into which the meat would fit quite snugly. I added my salt, sugar and chopped herb mix, sealed the top and rubbed the mixture all over the pork in the bag. I then put it in a shallow bowl and popped it in the fridge.
Over the course of a week I turned it over every day and what started as a dry cure mix became a wet cure as the salt did it's job of drawing the moisture out of the meat.
After a week the curing is done. Take the meat out of the bag and wash it thoroughly, then pat dry. Make a hole in one corner with a skewer and with kitchen string make a loop to hang the meat, then hang it in a cool, airy place for a couple of days to firm up before wrapping it in greaseproof paper to store in the fridge for up to a month.
I was thrilled with the outcome. Next, I need to make a smoker!
For 500g of meat I used 110g of sea salt, 70g of brown sugar and 5 sprigs of rosemary.
Profesional curers use nitrates in the mix which helps to keep the pink colour in the meat but it is not essential. It is available online from good suppliers.
Slice as thinly as possible and fry as bacon or cut into cubes and use as lardons.