Sunday, 11 November 2012

Black Bacon

Something terrible happened last weekend: I had some bacon and I didn't like it. This came as a bit of a shock because I love bacon - possibly even more than the internets love bacon. It's a well known fact that talking about how awesome bacon is makes up a third of all the material on the internet (the other two-thirds being naked ladies and pictures of kittens).

Technically one-third of the internet
To put this in context I'd been out with my brother and a couple of mates on Friday night. I woke up feeling a bit rough on Saturday and to ease our hangovers my brother made a round of bacon sandwiches. Now, in the hungover haze I do remember him saying as he handed me the plate that, "the bacon isn't the best". I think it was The Man's Value, Basic, Smart Price baconTM. Even so, my mouth (and hangover) was looking forward to some salty bacon deliciousness. Oh how wrong I was - my first bite led to an explosion of, well, watery, tasteless, nothingness. As the internet puts it, "Son, I am disappoint".


I know why this is of course. Ever since I started dabbling in charcuterie I've been making my own bacon. It went into overdrive slightly when I got the smoker up and running, but has returned to more sensible levels of production recently. During this time it seems that I've become a bacon snob. I've been using Phil Young's recipe posted on his excellent blog here. This has become my favourite bacon too, it has a nice balance of flavours and isn't too sweet. I've found that I like it best made with demerrera or dark brown sugar, then smoked for 10-12 hours with the ProQ. Of the woods I've tried (cherry, oak and maple) I like the taste of maple best, closely followed by oak. I'm going to try apple and hickory too as they come highly recommended. As an aside I've been getting my wood dust from Hot Smoked and found them to be very good.

This time I thought I'd try making some black bacon - bacon made with treacle - after I'd read about it in Maynard's book . I took the recipe linked above and added a tablespoon of black treacle. I put everything in a ziplock bag and let the pork cure for a week, giving it a massage and a turn everyday. The result is a darkly coloured black bacon joint. With my old friend my electric meat slicer I got over 30 slices of bacon - not bad for £6!

Black bacon

The bacon is pretty tasty, the black treacle taste is very delicate. If anything I'd say the bacon is slightly too sweet for my taste. Clearly some optimising is required: I think I'll reduce the sugar, or remove it completely, as the treacle does add some sweetness of its own. As it is it's a very passable sweetcure bacon.

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