The curing of meats might initially seem like one of those food products best left to professionals — but in this artisanal-everything era, anything’s possible.
Including homemade bacon.
Now, curing meat at home may at first seem if not impossible then at least difficult and time-consuming — when we’ve visited production facilities for artisanal bacon or hams, they’ve always been 300-year-old caves built into a hillside in Andalusia.
But according to kettlebell instructor and Breaking Muscle columnist Tim Harrison — aka the Girevik Chef — it’s easier than you think. “It is often considered to be a bit of a ‘dark art,’” says Harrison. “But we have been doing it for so long that we now know the numbers. Just stick to them.”
We asked him for some tips on what it takes to get your DIY operation up and running.
On the advantages of home-curing…
“It’s always comforting to know exactly what goes into one’s food. The best way to secure this comfort is to prepare it yourself. The truth is, not even I know what half of the unpronounceable rubbish is that goes into commercially produced ‘cured meats.’ [You can] cure it at home with as few ingredients as — well, just salt.”
On whether home-cured meats are a “healthier” choice, in light of recent links between processed meats and health problems (like cancer)…
“I consider cured meat to be a very acceptable luxury. The Paleo contingent swear that bacon is the divine ambrosia. I’m a little less evangelical, opting more regularly for eggs. But it is a source of concentrated protein, and what self-respecting gym rat doesn’t want that? Cured meat may be high in salt and generally fatty — in fact, it is horrible if it is too lean. But it beats the hell out of anything in a cardboard box. A step in the right direction.”
On what you’ll need to get started…
“You don’t really need much — a set of scales and a tray will do. But the easiest way to give it a go is to find a friendly butcher, weigh out 100g [3.5 ounces] salt and mix it with some of your favorite herbs. Buy a 2kg [4.5 lb] piece of belly pork (5% salt to weight of meat) and ask the butcher to throw your salt into a vacuum bag with the pork and seal.”
On the stunning simplicity of the actual execution…
Take the vacuum-packed pork home and keep it in the fridge for 12 days (3 days per 500g [1.1 lb.]), turning daily. Then remove from the pack, rinse, pat dry, slice, fry and eat. If any survives day one, keep it in fridge.”
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