This is the oldest method of curing. Traditionally farmhouses would adopt their own, distinct recipe, apply the ingredients to meat and hang it in the inglenook above the fireplace. Dry-cured bacon was also a key ingredient in the rations sent aboard ship for long-distance sea journeys.
Today, traditional dry-curing still involves a time-consuming process that requires each cut of pork to be hand-rubbed with a sea salt-based mix (to ensure a delicate flavour) and then cured for at least five days (depending on the size of the pork). The meat is then matured and air-dried for up to 20 days before finally being ready to eat. The dry-curing process expels water from the pork, which means that the bacon shrinks less while cooking and should not exude any 'white bits' in the pan.
This method creates a product perfect for the traditional cooked breakfast or the iconic bacon sarnie!
Traditional Wiltshire Cure
The original and most famous of the 'wet cures', the Traditional Wiltshire Cure dates back to the 1840's, when the Harris family in Wiltshire, the country's most prominent bacon producing county, developed what at the time was considered to be a revolutionary cure. In the 21st century, the process still involves the side of pork with its bone-in and ring-on being immersed into a special recipe brine for up to two days. In accordance with the traditional Wiltshire method, the bacon is given a fortnight to mature, and time - after salt - is the most important ingredient.
This cure produces bacon that works well as a recipe component, as its slight saltiness helps to draw out the flavours of the other ingredients without dominating them.
This involves the addition of maple syrup to the curing mixture - either as part of the external rub, as in the case of a dry cure, or as an added ingredient to the brine in the wet-cured version. The rich syrup is then drawn into the meat during the curing process of up to five days, giving the bacon its distinctive sweet caramelised flavour. The cured bacon is then often smoked to add an increased depth of flavour.
This creates a bacon that is an indulgent, mouth-watering treat and makes it more suitable as the centrepiece of a meal, rather than as an ingredient, where it could swamp other flavours.
Sugars of varying kinds, such as muscovado, demerara or molasses, are the dominant feature of sweet-cure bacon. Spices such as juniper are also sometimes added for extra flavour. The curing process follows the same key principles as for the basic dry or wet cure, but the addition of sugar as the leading feature of the cure results in mouth-watering, moreish bacon with a flavoursome aroma and smoky, syrupy notes.
A popular bacon, Sweet Cure will help to elevate any meal.
Smoking is not a cure in itself. Rather, it is the smoking process that occurs after the bacon has been cured to give an added flavour hit. While smoking can now involve coating bacon in a 'smoke flavour' liquid to gain the authentic flavour, quality smoked bacon is usually produced in the more traditional fashion of smoking over wood chippings. Of these there are many variations, such as cherry, applewood, beech and hickory, to name but a few. One of the most popular is oak-smoked.
Streaky bacon comes from pork belly. It can be quite fatty, with the layers of fat running parallel to the rind and meat. A popular cut, it is tasty and best grilled.
Middle bacon, from the side of the pig, after streaky and back bacon, is an economical buy, a great breakfast favourite, and a great choice for those who like streaky and back bacon as what you get is some of each!
Back bacon comes from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It is a very lean, meaty cut of bacon, with less fat compared to other cuts. It has a ham-like texture. Most bacon consumed in the UK is back bacon.
Collar bacon is taken from just below the neck of a pig, and can be sliced into rashers too
For more information about bacon including recipes and facts please visit the Love Pork website.