Sunday, 4 January 2015

Our Second Batch of Bacon

Our first batch of bacon seemed to miraculously disappear.  Many of our friends and family wanted to try it, so we ended up distributing most of it.  But we also just couldn’t stop eating it ourselves (much to the detriment of our gallbladders.) 

Our first bacon experiment also yielded some interesting discoveries.  The flavour of the batch certainly wasn't perfect and it was very salty when compared to store bought bacon.  So we were keen to fix up the salt quantities in our second batch.

We also found that drying out the bacon, uncovered in a fridge yielded better results than letting it sit in a plastic bag, as was mentioned in Tim Hayward's book Food DIY (but this would still be a good approach if you don't have space in your fridge).  

It’s all about the salt

Our first attempt at bacon was delicious but (if we’re being honest) extremely salty. 

The recipes that we had looked at in our research seemed to ask for about 500g of salt per kilo and we were precise in our measurements.  So why did the bacon end up retaining so much salt? 

Was it the type or brand of salt?  We used Saxa brand rock sea salt, which we ground up using a spice grinder.  It isn’t the most expensive brand of salt, but would pricier and better quality salt yield different results?  A lot of the recipes online ask for kosher salt, which is apparently less intense than regular sea salt, and comes in flakes rather than rocks (a bit like Maldon sea salt).  Unfortunately kosher salt isn’t easy to find in Australia.

Or the coarseness of the grind?  Does salt penetrate the meat to a larger extent if the salt is finely ground?  It certainly dissolves into a brine quicker, so perhaps this means that the brine covers a greater part of the meat. 

Or simply the quantity?  There were a range of recipes online which didn’t ask for as much salt as we had used in our first batch.  In our first batch we had used 500g per 1kg of meat and as we made 1.5kg of meat this equated to 750 grams.  We decided that this may have been excessive, so moving forward we decided to reduce the salt by about a third.  So we decided to use 500g of salt regardless of the meat quantities.  In the end, we had 2kg of pork loin and 2kg of pork belly, and in each bag we included 500g of salt.


For our first batch, we used sage, juniper, maple syrup and brown sugar as the main flavourings.  This time we thought that we would try using honey instead.  

I had an old jar of honey that needed to be used as it was starting to crystalise in its jar (I heated the honey briefly in the microwave so it would be pourable).  

To this we added some cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, thyme and rosemary and chilli flakes.  The honey was much thicker than the maple syrup and left a thick coating on the pork.  

Bacon Results

While this second batch of bacon turned out to be less salty than our first, we are still yet to determine the perfect level of salt.  We are planning on halving the salt levels for our next batch, or experimenting with another type of salt.

The honey imparted some interesting flavours into the bacon.  It was slightly more sweet than the first batch and appeared to caramelise more readily than the maple syrup.   However, a consequence of this was that the bacon tended to char easily if not cooked with care.  

The most noticeable flavour we added was the cinnamon.  When cooking the bacon, the toasted cinnamon makes it smell like cinnamon scrolls! It’s really quite delicious, but probably less versatile to use in things like pasta, particularly with ingredients that don’t quite go with cinnamon. 

So it's back to the drawing board for us!  We'll post about Bacon 3.0 in the coming weeks.  

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