The thought of curing my own bacon carried with it a certain savour. Unfortunately I have to admit that as bacon the end result of my 10 days of curing a pork belly didn’t seem quite right.
If we were to call it ‘cured pork belly’ I think we could agree it was in fact an excellent result, with tasty slices of this salty, sweet, fatty meat adding depth of flavour to a range of dishes (though they are as yet to make it further than fried and eaten unaccompanied).
But bacon? Not really, no. Not unless you’re an American.
As a friend sojourning in the States noted recently:
You wouldn’t believe it because of all the hype you hear on TV but American bacon is shit. Absolute shit. It’s thin like double thickness prosciutto and full of water. Then when you cook it it shrivels up into tiny dry strips. Like hard dry beef jerky. I can’t believe how bad it is compared to the “bacon is awesome” hype. It has absolutely nothing on Aussie bacon.
It turns out that what Americans call bacon is indeed primarily cured porked belly. Since I dry-cured a pork belly, what I have is closer to American bacon than Australian or British bacon, which use the loin of the pig and is therefore a leaner cut.
It’s heavily salted, so needs to be soaked in water for up to an hour before cooking, changing the water a few times. I haven’t made an exact science of it, so this batch of thick slices was still a bit salty when fried up:
Not pictured: leaves of oil-soaked paper.
Slicing it thick helped a lot, bringing it within the domain of more familiar Aussie middle bacon rashers. Still not ‘bacon’ as we’re used to it, but extremely tasty, the star anise in the cure making the taste reminiscent of Chinese crispy roast pork belly.
I’m encouraged to now try the same procedure, sans star anise, with a slab of pork loin. Hopefully with something more akin to the familiar Aussie bacon rasher, I’ll be better able to judge the end result in terms of flavour, quality, and of course cost.