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Author Topic: Making bacon!  (Read 21358 times)


  • Joined Jun 2009
Making bacon!
« on: November 23, 2010, 08:04:21 pm »
We had a couple of pigs butchered a few months back and popped pretty much everything in the freezer.

As they were berkshires, we were told that they made better pork than bacon.

HOWEVER, we fancy trying to make some bacon if we can.

So here's my question:

joints have been in the freezer for about 4 months. . can we take them out and defrost them and then make then into bacon without killing ourselves from some horrible disease?

and if we can, advice welcomed please!


  • Joined Sep 2010
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2010, 08:14:50 pm »
Defrost your joint and I'm pretty sure you are ok to make bacon. Not sure about being able to refreeze it afterwards though, I would think not.

Suggest you make in small batches so that you can get through it without the need to store other than short term in the fridge.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 08:57:50 am by OhLaLa »


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2010, 10:31:35 pm »
Yes, thawed meat is absolutely fine, it'll probably cure quicker, too. We do it that way all the time, otherwise there'd be an awful lot of bacon the first month or so and then 11 months of culinary hardship!  ;)


  • Joined Jun 2009
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2010, 09:20:55 am »

Eve how do you make it into bacon please?
oh and what part do you use?

sorry to be a thicko!  first timer and all that jazz!


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2010, 10:42:15 am »
Don't worry, it took me aaaages to find it all out!

Use belly, it has the best meat / fat ratio. Loin is drier, you need the fat running through the meat to moisten it. We get our butcher to cut all bellies up in fridge-sized portions, and we have a few flat plastic boxes with also fit between the shelves of our ordinary (domestic) fridge.
Weigh the meat, and if you're like me, write the weight down on a piece of paper  :D

What you need:
There's no need to buy special nitrites / nitrates, or (heavens forbid!) liquid smoke - yuck, yuck, yuck! You just need a lot of salt. Buy big packs if you can, just avoid the really cheap harsh tasting stuff. Fine salt is better than coarse as it penetrates the meat better. One day I'll get 'round to getting kosher salt, which is apparently best of all, but One Day hasn't quite arrived yet...  :)
I'll tell you about amounts needed in a minute...
You also need a flat plastic box which will fit in your fridge or frost-free garage or a similar place. Never use metal tins or boxes.

How it works:
The meat will be cured by the salt and. Once cured, the nasties will be out of the meat so it will last for ages.
It works by the salt drawing all the meat juices out and thereby drawing all the microbes etc out. You know it's cured when no more juices run out of the meat. Then you're left with meat with lots of salt in it, which will, of course, taste far too salty. Even our ancestors didn't eat it that salty.
There are 2 ways to combat this salty taste, and both are used for each piece of meat:
- add sugar to the salt (again, amounts follow later) to take the harsh edge off
- soak the meat in cold fresh water for 1 hour, tip the water out and put fresh water in the box again and leave for another hour.
The latter sounds strange as you've just spent several days or even a week getting all the moisture content out of the meat, so why bring it all back in? Well, we know for sure that it works, and the way I look at it is that the salt pushed the meat juices out (so inc bacteria, microbes or whatever you want to call the bits that will make meat go rotten), and that the soaking only brings clean water in. Chemistry experts will be able to explain it (and probably prove me wrong  :D), but hey, we know it works.

What to do next:
Well, once it's cured you can safely eat it, even in its raw state. It tastes nicer fried, though  :yum:
If it still tastes too salty to your liking, you can blanch your slices or lardons for 30-45 seconds before frying. You could also not bother with the 1 or 2 hour soaking mentioned above, and always blanch each slice before frying, but I can't be bothered with that.  :)
You will find that after a year of eating your own bacon, even the most expensive bacon you can buy in supermarkets will taste insipid. But by then you'll have pigs again to make your next lot from!  ;)

To smoke or not to smoke:
You could also smoke the bacon once it's been cured with the salt, and the smoke particles will cure the meat for a second time, giving it a superbly long shelf life and great taste. Once the meat's been cured by the salt, leave it uncovered in the fridge for 2 days, it's supposed to start feeling slightly sticky and should 'take' the smoke better.
Either hot smoke it (we use apple wood in a £60 smoker we bought from Amazon - no need to spend hundreds of pounds on a smoker!) until the temperature of the meat reaches... uuuh... 65F it was, I believe, which takes easily 3-4 hours. Make sure the temperature in the smoker doesn't go above about 90C (sorry about mixing up F and C, it's stuck in my memory like that - I can look up the exact measurements tonight).
Or cold smoke it - for this it goes in the same smoker (or you can use a barbeque), and we have this little £25 cold smoker thingy-what'sit from Mark's BBQ's (I think, working from memory here) in which you put wood dust, light it using an ordinary tea light just so that the wood dust smokes, and leave it to do its thing for 10 hours. It works a treat! Otherwise you have to make a fire somewhere, then install a duct to cool the smoke and transfer it to wherever you've put the meat. Google for a few hours and you'll see some ingenious contraptions. I took the easy way out with that little cold smoker thingy (to use a professional term).  ;)
Whichever method you choose, have the fattiest side of the bacon upwards, so that when it melts a bit it moistens the meat underneath.

How much salt, sugar etc you need and what do you do with it:
We tend to use 50g of salt per kilo of meat, which is quite a lot. You can then add anything from 10g to 30g of sugar, but personally I don't like it sweet (and I hate the taste of molasses). You can add lots of pepper, juniper berries, thyme... the list is endles depending on your taste. Google for ideas and then experiment until you find your favourite cure.  :yum:
Some people use less salt, that's ok as long as the meat is fully cured (see below).
Rub the cure all over the meat, pushing it in every nook and crannie. Then put it in a plastic box, put the lid on and leave it in the fridge. Some people use ziplock bags instead of boxes.
Meat juices will start leaking out of the meat. We're not talking pints, here, just quite a few tablespoons or even a cup full, depending on quality and size of the meat.
Some say to leave the liquid in the box / bag, others say to tip it out. We tip it out as then it's easier to see how much liquid leaches out each day and to know when it's finished curing i.e. when no more moisture comes out. If the meat remains dry for a day, it's ready.
It will take at least 4 days, sometimes even a week. My own bacon a few days ago seemed to cure very quickly, so I covered it with salt again and yes, quite a bit of liquid started leaching out again for one more day so I must have put too little cure on it (hence why I said to write down the weight of the meat ;D). The cured meat should feel quite firm inside at its thickest point, not too squashy.

How to store it:
If you have a chimney that's used, you can hang it in there. We just keep it in the fridge, as I would imagine most people do.  ;)
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says to wrap the cured bacon in anything but plastic. I'm not sure about that, as we used to keep it wrapped in clingfilm and it always lasted really well. Then reading HFW's suggestion a few weeks ago I put the bacon in greaseproof paper, but it dried out. So we'll be going back to cling film. Mind you, it never lasts more than a few weeks in our house, anyway, that might make a difference!  :yum:

Make sure everything you use and touch is scrupulously clean, and if you have clean / disposable rubber gloves then use those too (plus that saves you from getting salt from under your fingernails). Work in a cold place, too.

Oh dear, it's half past ten already,  :o I really need to get to work - I'll read this again tonight and might add a few things, gotta run now!  :wave:


  • Joined Oct 2007
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2010, 12:36:19 pm »
You can freeze it once its bacon.   (according to our Dept. H & Vetinaire)


  • Joined Jun 2010
  • East Sussex
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 11:36:13 pm »
Eve...excellent post and thank you for sharing...i'm now looking forward to making bacon as you have explained the process so very well...especially for us 'bacon virgins'!!lol  :)
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines; sail away from the safe harbour; catch the trade winds in your sails. -  Mark Twain


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Leafy Surrey
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2010, 11:14:47 am »
I froze my belly pieces, thawed them and then re froze, sliced, after making the bacon.  i think curing counts as "cooking" in freezing terms, so it's safe to eat (well I haven't died yet anyway)


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2010, 05:21:58 pm »
I should have added that with cold smoking it doesn't matter how high the temperature of the meat becomes during the cold smoking process (as opposed to hot smoking), as it's the duration of the smoking that counts - cold smoke if for long enough and there will be enough smoke particles in the meat to kill any nasties that survived the salt curing. Many, many hours...

Finally, the River Cottage Cookbook is good for bacon and salami's (not the Meatbook, that one only refers back to the Cookbook), and Charcuterie from Ruhlman & Polceyn, which is my favourite. 

Enjoy!  :wave:


  • Guest
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2010, 05:59:32 pm »
We took the easy (but more expensive) way out and got the butcher to do it  ;D
But I REALLY fancy having a go now, just thinking about all the flavour possibilities :yum:


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2010, 07:16:50 pm »
just thinking about all the flavour possibilities

I'm thinking of a herb-crusted air dried ham, at the moment... I bet it would work...  :yum:


  • Guest
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2010, 08:44:20 pm »
just thinking about all the flavour possibilities

I'm thinking of a herb-crusted air dried ham, at the moment... I bet it would work...  :yum:

Oh stop it ! You're making me hungry ! I'm away for a roll and bacon  ;) My own, of course - no more shop bought muck for me  ;D (well, until this lot runs out  :'()


  • Joined Jun 2009
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2010, 12:00:57 pm »
thank you so much for this - especially eve!  it is so fabulously detailed, even a divvy like me can understand it!

I have started the process today & my only question is, the belly has been tied by the butcher, should i be untying it to rub the salt in or will rubbing it all around be enough?

also i am stuck with what to add to the salt as i dont know what we'll like, will it just be ok if i add nothing this time round do you think?



  • Joined Oct 2007
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2010, 03:35:28 pm »
Egglady, no you do need to unroll the belly.  You need to rub salt in to as large a part of the bacon as possible, including all the edges, nooks and crannies.

I add sugar to my cure.  About 25% sugar to the total amount of salt. 

Although Eve's cure sounded great.


  • Joined Jun 2009
Re: Making bacon!
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2010, 04:55:21 pm »
hilarysmum, any particular kind of sugar?  brown/white?


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