Technically, you can cure bacon just by using salt. But adding a subtle blend of aromatic spices deepens the flavour. Here’s Anda’s favorite curing blend.
• 2⅓ cups Maldon or other good quality salt
• 2½ cups sticky brown sugar
• 3¾ tsp each cayenne pepper and ground allspice
• 2¼ tsp ground ginger
• 1¾ tsp ground pepper
• 1 bay leaf, blitzed to a powder in a spice grinder
2 Season the pork
Cut a 2.25kg pork belly in half and set the halves on a large baking tray or roasting pan. In a large bowl, combine the aforementioned curing mix ingredients. Add the pork belly pieces to the bowl and liberally rub them with the salt mixture. Place each half into its own resealable plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and seal.
3 Cure the Pig
Refrigerate the seasoned pork for 2 days. Then open the bags, pour out the liquid, squeeze out the air, and reseal. Now put them back in the fridge, but flip them over so the other side of the belly is now on the bottom. Refrigerate the bacon for 2 more days. During this period the meat will change colour from pink to dull reddish-brown. It’ll also toughen to the touch as it cures.
Curing the bacon helps preserve it and seasons the meat from the inside out.
4 Roast the Meat
Remove the pork from the bags, rinse off the salt mixture, and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Place the pork pieces in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, and preferably on a flat roasting rack for more even cooking. Cook until the pork is firm to the touch and reaches an internal temperature of 63°C, about 3 hours.
Take it outside
For even more depth of flavour, you can smoke the bacon instead of roasting it.
5 Finish the bacon
Let the bacon rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Pull the skin away from the meat and discard. Wrap each piece of bacon in plastic wrap and place it into a resealable plastic bag. Stash one in the freezer for later use (it’ll keep for 3 months there) and refrigerate the other to enjoy for up to 2 weeks.
Since your bacon is in a slab rather than presliced, you can cut it into small chunks to fry and add to a Cobb salad. For a quick summer pasta, sauté the bacon with thinly sliced leeks until the meat is crispy, then finish with thawed frozen peas and a drizzle of cream. Or you can slice it thick to pan-sear for the best BLT you’ve ever eaten
Everything’s better with bacon. But how do you make bacon better?
It’s simple, get your meat from a reputable butcher , “Commercial farmers are pumping livestock with growth hormone to speed up what should be a natural process, as well as fattening them up with grain because it happens a lot quicker than with grass,” says Andy Fenner butcher at Meat Merchants in Cape Town. With the supermarket stuff, it’s impossible to know what quality you’re getting, so rather start with good meat from a butcher and cure it yourself. This easy home-curing method takes time, not effort: steep pork belly in salt and spices for a few days, and finish it with a slow roast.
What You’ll Need
Large rimmed baking tray
2 large resealable plastic bags
Flat roasting rack