My first 'commercial' bacon

Air dried cured Meat Techniques

My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby exeterfoodie » Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:59 pm

Hi guys,

So I have just finished my first attempt at making what I would call 'commercial' bacon to please the Mrs and children who will eat, but arent made about, my old school air dried pancetta!

Its made from two loins off one of our pretty-much-organic Welsh white baconers. I am lucky enough to have a descent vacpac machine and a good meat slicer to help with processing.

My method was:
- A cure of just 5% by weight of the organic cure from Weschenfelder.
- Rubbed the cure all over and then vac packed and left in the fridge for ten days.
- Massage the bag almost every day.
- Rinsed off the bacon and let it dry in the fridge for 24hrs.
- Slice at 4mm thickness and vac pack in half dozen packs before freezing.
- Did a couple of presentation packs for family with gold card insert, also from Weschenfelder.

Here is a photo:
Image

I just fried off couple of slices and I am generally happy with it, tender, not too salty etc. I do have the following questions though:

- It may be just me but I find it a little bland. How much difference would smoking the same recipe make? I have a hot smoker but not a cold smoker. I could have a go at making one but want to know its worth it first!
- I like the idea of maple or light brown sugar in the cures for more flavour. Wouldnt just adding maple to this recipe water down the cure? Can you add some brown sugar to a ready made cure or not?
- The rind, but hopefully not the fat, will be an issue for the Mrs. Do you guys leave it on or remove first?
- What thickness would typically and thick cut back normally be? I found it hard to cut intact slices at 3mm and felt it was too thick at 5mm?
- Do others freeze or partially meat before slicing? I had it very cold but it seemed to warm up quickly.

Thanks,

Dean.
"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon."

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby NCPaul » Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:25 pm

I have come to love cold smoked bacon and usually do it for 8 hrs. three days in a row resting the bacon in the fridge uncovered between smoking sessions. If you wish to try different sugars I would suggest starting with cure # 1 and building your own blend of salt and sugar. If you add sugar to an existing cure you may end up with something that tastes more ham than bacon. I remove the rind from the bacon to help with the smoke penetration but only use a small portion of the cure blend on that side. One other way to increase the flavor is to allow the bacon to age uncovered in the fridge to reduce the moisture and allow the taste to mature.
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby exeterfoodie » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:49 am

Hi Paul, thanks for the input.

How long should the bacon be left uncovered in the fridge to dry/mature safely? What's normal, best and the most? Although it looked like bacon, I was surprised that the meat wasn't firmer, darker and drier after curing, but then I am used to the old school saltbox and hang methods!

How does a bacon cure/method differ from one for ham and gammon? That is on my list for next week.

I have an old metal dustbin, I might need to build some kind of smoker...

Dean.
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby NCPaul » Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:26 pm

I like three days but seven is BriCan's recommendation. To me bacon is more salt forward in taste.
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby wheels » Fri Jul 29, 2016 2:48 pm

For me, three's OK, seven's better, and up to a couple of weeks is fine.

As you're preparing your own animals, I'd cut the loin (or get the loin cut) slightly longer - but that's 'picking hairs'.

I wouldn't even consider hot smoking when the best cold smoker costs <£40. However, I'd get the recipe how you'd like it first rather than use smoking to mask the issue. The problem with a ready-made cure is that it's more difficult to tailor to your preferences, but at 5% usage this one must have a fair rake of ingredients already. If it's not salty I'd guess that it's got a lot of sugar to balance the salt. I'd consider using a scratch made cure to enable you to tailor it to our tastes.

All that said, the bacon, and it's presentation, look fantastic.

Phil
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:27 am

exeterfoodie wrote:Hi guys,

So I have just finished my first attempt at making what I would call 'commercial' bacon to please the Mrs and children who will eat, but arent made about, my old school air dried pancetta!

Its made from two loins off one of our pretty-much-organic Welsh white baconers. I am lucky enough to have a descent vacpac machine and a good meat slicer to help with processing.

My method was:
- A cure of just 5% by weight of the organic cure from Weschenfelder.


Need to learn the EQ method of curing where you weigh out the salt (I typically use 2% salt as I like/prefer a low salt bacon) and cure #1 at 0.25%

- Rubbed the cure all over and then vac packed and left in the fridge for ten days.
- Massage the bag almost every day.


I rub 3/4 of the salt/cure on the meat side and the other 1/4 on the fat/rind side, if you pull a full vacuum there is no need to massage/turn the bag at all :)

- Rinsed off the bacon and let it dry in the fridge for 24hrs.


After rinsing off (lightly and sometimes not at all) I hang at room temperature 20C overnight or until dry enough

I just fried off couple of slices and I am generally happy with it, tender, not too salty etc. I do have the following questions though:

- It may be just me but I find it a little bland. How much difference would smoking the same recipe make? I have a hot smoker but not a cold smoker.


As Wheels has rightly pointed out you need to get things set the way you like (flavour) it -- then use the cold smoking to enhance what you have started -- Hot smoking bacon ... < sobs uncontrollably >

I could have a go at making one but want to know its worth it first!


Yes it's worth it as well as being cheep :)

- I like the idea of maple or light brown sugar in the cures for more flavour.


I wrote a piece on Maple bacon -- it's on hear somewhere

Wouldnt just adding maple to this recipe water down the cure? Can you add some brown sugar to a ready made cure or not?


Doing the EQ cure and adding maple will not water the recipe down .... believe me, I make too much of the stuff :)

- The rind, but hopefully not the fat, will be an issue for the Mrs. Do you guys leave it on or remove first?


Normally I leave the rind on no matter what I am making if I am cold smoking as after the ageing/maturing process I remove the rind and save for the soup pot

- What thickness would typically and thick cut back normally be? I found it hard to cut intact slices at 3mm and felt it was too thick at 5mm?


What ever the thickness is good for the family :)

- Do others freeze or partially meat before slicing? I had it very cold but it seemed to warm up quickly.


Freeze until very firm or just about frozen
But what do I know
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:36 am

NCPaul wrote:I have come to love cold smoked bacon and usually do it for 8 hrs. three days in a row resting the bacon in the fridge uncovered between smoking sessions.


Need to talk you into the 72 hour cold smoking schedule ;) -- you do realize that you can hang at room temperature between smoking unless your temperature is over 38C

I remove the rind from the bacon to help with the smoke penetration


The 72 hour cold smoking schedule will help with the smoke penetration, light and not heavy ;)

One other way to increase the flavor is to allow the bacon to age uncovered in the fridge to reduce the moisture and allow the taste to mature.


Again you can do this at room temperature, see above :)
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:57 am

exeterfoodie wrote:Hi Paul, thanks for the input.

How long should the bacon be left uncovered in the fridge to dry/mature safely?


As I mentioned to NCPaul, if your temperature within your house is no higher than 28C (Ideally 25C) there is no problem so long as you have cured right -- I do it all the time -- 12 to 24 hours to dry for cold smoking -- resting between cold smokes the same as above -- ageing maturing same as above (I do no less than 7 days on this)
What's normal, best and the most? Although it looked like bacon, I was surprised that the meat wasn't firmer, darker and drier after curing, but then I am used to the old school saltbox and hang methods!


I cannot give you what would/is classed the norm as I can only tell you what I do -- and no it's not shooting from the hip ... I happen to do this for a living -- For what it's worth if you have space within the house that has a decent gentle airflow (not a draft/gale force wind) and your temperature is 23C just about constant then hang your fresh cured bacon there and hang for no less than 7 days -- on a average the weight loss will be 15% ... I have done 20% but found it a tad too dry -- Colour will be a darkish red

How does a bacon cure/method differ from one for ham and gammon? That is on my list for next week.


Bacon, ham and Gammon are in fact the same thing. -- The whole animal can and is cured as Gammon, ham is from the leg and the rest is bacon :)

I have an old metal dustbin, I might need to build some kind of smoker...


I use the plastic ones as my curing tub :) -- As for a cold smoker I used a bakers rack covered with a plastic proofing cover -- best thing since sliced bread :)
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:01 am

NCPaul wrote:I like three days but seven is BriCan's recommendation.


3 days is the minimum .. I like the 7 plus days as I (and my customers) are after the deeper flavour profile -- most people I have talked into doing it this way have thanked me :)

To me bacon is more salt forward in taste.


Can you explain please :)
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:11 am

wheels wrote:For me, three's OK, seven's better, and up to a couple of weeks is fine.

As you're preparing your own animals, I'd cut the loin (or get the loin cut) slightly longer - but that's 'picking hairs'.


I get my extra loins custom cut at no less than 10 centimeters from the eye of the loin

I wouldn't even consider hot smoking when the best cold smoker costs <£40.


I have four of these -- best money I ever spent :)

However, I'd get the recipe how you'd like it first rather than use smoking to mask the issue.


Totally agree with this
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby NCPaul » Sat Jul 30, 2016 11:55 pm

To me bacon is more salt forward in taste.


Can you explain please :)

I taste salt in bacon more than I do in ham even at the same levels. How do you describe the taste difference between bacon and ham BriCan?
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby ped » Sun Jul 31, 2016 7:52 am

Evaporation of water perhaps, thus making the salt content more concentrated?
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:27 pm

NCPaul wrote:I taste salt in bacon more than I do in ham even at the same levels. How do you describe the taste difference between bacon and ham BriCan?


To me there is no difference, I taste the meat (in this case the pork) along with the spices which if done right are secondary

What makes the difference is the salt % --- I am at (or below depending on what I am doing) 2% salt
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby BriCan » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:27 pm

ped wrote:Evaporation of water perhaps, thus making the salt content more concentrated?


Then there is too much salt being used :)
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Re: My first 'commercial' bacon

Postby exeterfoodie » Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:39 pm

Wow, thanks for all the great feedback and suggestions guys. Sorry, I have been away with work for a few days!

I am replying to everything in one go. Sorry for the overload…

I just checked the details of the Weschenfelder Organic cure, it is definitely recommended as 5% usage and it is composed of:
66.75% Sea salt, 33% Organic sugar, 0.25% Sodium Nitrite (E250).

So if my maths are right and I am using it at 5% (I feel this overwhelming temptation to use more salt after years of burying meat in salt on a slab!) my cure effectively is the following % values by weight:
3.33% Sea salt, 1.65% Sugar, 0.0125% Sodium Nitrite (E250).

How does that compare with other people’s cures and preferences? My research suggests that is way less nitrite than is usually recommended. Isn’t it meant to be 0.25% of the meat weight as Nitrite? The cure itself seems to be only at that level? Confused.

I am not a die-hard organic type but I do like the fact the cure uses sea salt and organic sugar. My guess is that this is a much lower level of Nitrite than usual to comply with organic rules? If so I may just buy a cheaper, straight, non-organic cure so that I use less. I can add my own organic sugar! Where is the cheapest place to buy small packs of the cure? How well does it keep.

Yes, with the next pig we will cut the back with a little more belly for a longer rasher of bacon.
I definitely want to dry the bacon a little more next time after curing. It didn’t seem to lose all that much weight / firm up as much as I expected. I will also chill/part freeze it before slicing. That being said there was a lot of fluid to drain off in the bags! It’s worth mentioning that this was meat was previously frozen, this time (now that I know how easy it is) I will aim to use fresh meat on butchery day!

Although I have attempts at all sorts of salty meat (salami/pancetta/prosciutto) hanging around the house/shed I have a nervousness about hanging this type of (wetter) product at room temperature with such seemingly low salt levels. Is it safe? Has anyone a link to guidance on time v temperature for this? Next time I will aim for 3-7 days drying in the fridge unless I can reassure myself a bit more!

I have just ordered one of those cold smoke generator swirl thingies. I will use it in the bottom of a metal dustbin I have. How much airflow is needed? Its air tight at the moment. Do I want none, a little or quite a bit? I might build a little roof and add a temperature dial and some racks for fun.

To use up the last whole leg in the freezer and the majority of the cure I now have three more vac packs in the fridge which I hope to make into some nice ham and possibly gammon steaks. Same cure and % but the biggest lump has some added demerara, the medium lump a bottle of maple syrup and the smaller pieces just as they are. How long are you guys curing for in this way and how important is the length of time? Do you dry the ham also? What are the options for cooking? I can probably sous vide it.

So many questions I know, sorry! Just the Charcuterie book and my River Cottage curing book both don’t have the answers or level of detail I need!

Thanks in advance,

Dean.
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