Dry Cured Meat FAQ for Beginners

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Dry Cured Meat FAQ for Beginners

Postby wheels » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:57 pm

Beginners Guide to Dry Cured Bacon

It is recommended that new members read the 'Beginner's Guide to Curing Equipment, Ingredients, and Terms' prior to using this guide.

What does it cover?

After reading this guide you should know how to dry cure bacon.

What's not covered?

Dry curing air-dried pancetta style bacon is not covered in this guide.

Let's Make Bacon!

Specialist equipment and ingredients

Most of the equipment and ingredients needed will be found in the home kitchen.

Two methods are given: one for scales accurate to 0.1gm, and the other for standard digital kitchen scales with an accuracy of 2gm or better.

You will also need cure #1.

Cleaning/Hygiene

Pay attention to hygiene; keep everything clean and safe. Ensure work surfaces and cutting boards are clean. You may wish to use plastic gloves when handling curing salts.

Choice, Size and Source of Meat

Your meat can be from the supermarket, local butcher, or direct from the farm-shop or farm. You can cure as much or as little as you want. Remember though, the better the meat: the better the bacon. For this reason, many people choose rare-breed or free-range meat. However, for a first project, a joint from the supermarket is fine. If something goes wrong it won't have cost you the earth!

You'll need:

For Streaky Bacon: a boned joint of belly pork
For Back Bacon: a boned joint of loin of pork

In the supermarket both of these are likely to be rolled and tied with string. Remove any string and unroll the meat.

It should be noted that the rashers from these joints are smaller than those of commercial bacon as smaller pigs are used.

The Dry Cure

For this guide we will pretend we are dry curing a piece of meat weighing 1930gm (1.93kg/4.24lb).

For each 1kg of meat we need:

18.5gm Salt
10gm Sugar
2.5gm Cure #1

The sugar can be one of your choosing white, brown or Demerara. The darker the sugar: the stronger the flavour. A mixture of white and Demerara, or light brown sugar, makes tasty mild bacon.

Weigh your piece of meat and calculate the amount of cure you need.

If you have scales accurate to 0.1gm:
For our 1930gm (1.93kg) example, that's:

Salt 18.5gm x 1.93kg = 35.7gm
Sugar 10gm x 1.93kg = 19.3gm
Cure #1 - 2.5gm x 1.93kg = 4.8gm

To save having to calculate each item every time you cure a piece of meat, a spreadsheet is available that will do the calculation for you. Please click the link below using your right hand mouse button and then select 'Save Target As' from the list to download it. The calculator is in Microsoft Excel format.

Download Dry Cure Bacon Calculator

After weighing you can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

If you have digital kitchen scales:

Make up a batch of cure:
Salt 185gm
Sugar 100gm
Cure #1 - 25gm

Now, ensuring it's well mixed (you could grind it in a clean coffee grinder, if you have one, to make sure) use 31gm per kg meat. So in this case that would be 31gm x 1.93kg = 59.83gm (60gm to make it easier to weigh).

To save having to calculate each item every time you cure a piece of meat, a spreadsheet is available that will do the calculation for you. Please click the link below using your right hand mouse button and then select 'Save Target As' from the list to download it. The calculator is in Microsoft Excel format. (The amount you need is shown as 'total'[)

Download Dry Cure Bacon Calculator

After weighing you can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

Applying the Cure Mix to the Meat

The amount of cure mix may seem a lot less than you expected. Don't add more, that's how it's meant to be.

Sprinkle about 80% - 90% of the cure mix onto the flesh side of the meat and rub well in, getting into all the folds and crevices. Don't forget the ends. The remainder is sprinkled onto the skin/fat side and rubbed in well.

Now put the meat, along with any cure that fell off whilst you were rubbing it in, into a food grade bag, or wrap it well in cling film, and put it in the fridge. On a tray's best, just in case it leaks. Every day or two turn it over and give it a bit of a rub; you can do this 'through' the bag without opening it. Don't worry if liquid comes out of the meat. It often, but not always, does. Just leave it all in the bag.

How Long Do I Leave It For?

The standard advice is to cure the meat for 1 day for each ½ inch (13mm) of thickness, plus two days. So for a piece of supermarket belly like ours, about 1½ (39mm) inches deep, that's going to be 3 days + 2 days = 5 days total.

Don't lose sleep about the curing times. Unlike older curing methods, this type of cure is not time critical, it won't be too salty if you leave it longer than the calculated time, so it's always best to err on the side of caution. If in doubt leave it a little longer.

You may notice, because you're bound to take a peek, that it doesn't appear to have changed colour. That's normal. The outside colour is deceiving. If you followed the instructions it'll be lovely red bacon when you cut into it.

Wash and Dry

At the end of the curing time rinse the bacon in cold water and dry it with a clean cloth or paper kitchen towel. It then needs to dry out a bit before use. It's best hung in the fridge, but this can sometimes be difficult. If you can't hang it, try and place it in the fridge where the air can get all around it, maybe on the fridge shelf, with something underneath to catch any drips. Leave it for a couple of days to dry, then slice, cook, and enjoy!

Storing Your Bacon

This is not 'old style traditional bacon' that can be hung in the rafters all winter; that needed a couple of days soaking before use to remove the excess salt. Keep it in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks or freeze whole, or in slices, for 1 to 2 months. If you Vac-Pac it, you can keep it longer but it must be kept it under 5C or frozen.
Last edited by wheels on Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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