A Quick Guide to Bacon - Part 3

A Quick Guide to Bacon Part 3 - The Different Cuts of Bacon

Bacon, and all its flavour and cut variations, is a wonderfully versatile product that can bring a whole range of new taste sensations to both contemporary and traditional recipes; here are the most traditional cuts.

The Cuts

Rashers (slices) differ depending on the cut from which they are prepared


  • 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 favourite, it is tasty and best grilled.

  • Middle bacon, from the side of the animal. After streaky and back bacon, is an economical buy and a great breakfast favourite.
  • 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.

Joints 

  • Collar bacon is taken from just below the neck of a pig, and can be sliced in to rashers. Have you tried ours yet? Dry Sweet Cured and Smoked, a real taste sensation!
  • Hock, from the ankle joint between the ham and the foot. It is great for casseroles, soups, pies and mincing.
  • Gammon, from the hind leg. Traditionally wet cured, is a lean meaty cut and a prime joint for boiling, braising or roasting. Gammon rashers or steaks are also cut from here, which are excellent grilled or fried.

It is time we all savoured our bacon, and celebrated the humble bacon for all its glory! Call in the shop, take one of our different types of bacon home and let us know what you think!

Check again for recipes, and don’t forget to share your photos tagging us to be featured!

Hugh


A Quick Guide to Bacon - Part 2

A Quick Guide to Bacon Part 2 - Wet & Sweet Cured and Smoked Bacon

From fairly humble beginnings, when pigs were kept by almost every household, the bacon has developed to become a must have, versatile, comfort food that is also a profound treat for the senses.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of our Quick Guide to Bacon, here is part two!

Wet Cured

Wet Cure dates back to the 1840s,  when a traditional bacon producing family in the UK developed what, at the time, was considered to be a revolutionary cure in an age without electric refrigeration.

Now, in the 21st century, the process still involves the side of pork with its bone-in and rind-on being immersed into a special recipe brine for up to two days… but the cold storages are little more high tech nowadays!

With the traditional wet cured method, the bacon is given a fortnight to mature, and time – after salt – is the most important ingredient. Wet cured bacon usually have a subtle, slightly salty flavour, a characteristic meaty texture and work really well in recipes as its gentle saltiness helps to highlight the flavours of the other ingredients without dominating them.

Sweet Cured

Maple Cured

As the name suggests, Maple Curing involves the addition of maple syrup to the curing mixture – as part of the external rub of a dry cure or as an added ingredient to the brine in the wet cured version.

The syrup is then absorbed by the meat during the curing process, of usually five to seven days, giving the bacon its distinguishing sweet caramelised flavour. The maple cured bacon is then often smoked for an increased depth of flavour.

Its unique, smokey, woody and sweet flavour makes Maple cured bacon more suitable as the centrepiece of the meal, rather than as an ingredient, where it could swamp other flavours. Perfect for an indulgent brunch or a five star bacon sandwich.

Sugar Cured

Different sugars such as Muscovado, Demerara or Molasses are the most well known of Sweet Cures for bacon but spices such as bay, juniper, peppercorn are becoming very popular additions for extra flavour and as signatures for different brands.

The curing process is much the same as for the basic dry or wet cure, but the addition of sugar as the predominant ingredient results in a finger licking bacon with a distinctive aroma and smoky, sweet notes.

Sweet Cured bacons will elevate any meal, from roasts to pastas and salads to pizzas.

Smoked Bacon

Smokin’ is not a curing process, it is the step that occurs after the bacon has been cured, to give an added depth of flavour.

Even though nowadays smoking can mean coating the bacon in a ‘smoke flavour’ liquid to gain the authentic flavour, quality smoked bacon – such as ours – is still produced in the traditional way, by smoking the meat over wood chippings.

Oak is still one of the most popular types of wood as it gives the bacon a rich aroma yet mellow flavour, with a predominantly smoky, slightly salty aftertaste. Cherry, Applewood, Hickory and our favourite Beechwood are also very well known wood variations, each with its own characteristic flavours.

Succulent and flavoursome, Smoked Bacons have an earthy notes that complements a mix of ingredients in a variety of recipes without overpowering them. Great for sandwiches and dinners, Smoked Bacons are a real family favourite.

In the next blog, we’ll be exploring the different cuts of bacon and best uses for each but if you can’t wait, call in the shop, take one of our different types of bacon home and let us know what you think!

And don’t forget to share your photos and tag us!

Hugh


A Quick Guide to Bacon - Part 1

A Quick Guide to Bacon

We all love bacon. There is nothing quite like the intoxicating smell of it in the morning, it’s pure comfort and delight.

Traditionally, cured bacon preserved the pork meat through harsh winters, when food was scarce and fridges were not available; nowadays we still carry on that tradition throughout the year with a few added ingredients.

The intense flavours and handiness the bacon provides, from roast gammon to bacon sandwich, one of nation’s favourite foods is at the very heart of Irish families and food culture for centuries.

Today, there are many different flavours and curing types, from the more traditional dry-cured bacon, to sweet or maple cured, wood-smoked, and even unusual flavours like vodka and whisky are being used.

But many butchers, like myself, still use traditional curing methods inherited from the previous generations, and that will be passed along to the future ones.

The different bacon curing processes

But first, what is curing?

Curing is a modern twist to the ancient process of salting the meat, a method of preservation used for centuries to keep families fed through the winter months.

Today, bacon can be either ‘Dry Cured’, with a salt based mixture, or ‘Wet Cured’, through immersion in a liquid brine, and almost all are available smoked or unsmoked and in different cuts.

From the traditional Dry Cure through to all the Smoked and Flavour variations, the choice of good quality Irish bacon available today is impressive and delicious, providing a fantastic range of tastes and textures to bring to each meal.

And where do you start?

Well, when it comes to choosing the right cure for the right meal, the choices can be daunting so, here we will try to enlighten you with our guide to bacon cures.

We’ll start with the two most recognised methods of curing, Dry Cure and Wet Cure.

In this post, we’ll be exploring the Dry Curing process

This is the oldest of the two and was traditionally adopted in farmhouses around the country, with each creating their own, distinct recipe.

Dry cured bacon was also a key ingredient in the rations sent aboard ships for long distance sea journeys.

Today, whilst individual recipes are varied and often carefully guarded secrets, traditional dry-curing still involves the time-consuming process which requires each cut of pork to be hand rubbed with a salt based mix to ensure a delicate flavour and then cured for at least five days (depending on the size of pork).

The meat is then matured and air-dried for up to 6 weeks before finally being ready to eat.

The dry curing process removes the water from the pork, which means that the bacon shrinks less when cooking and shouldn’t release any ‘white bits’ in the pan.

The gentle flavours of Dry Cured Bacon is ideal for use in the beloved Irish breakfast and bacon sandwiches and it’s ‘bacon as it used to taste’.

Next, we’ll be talking about Wet Cure, Smokin’ and different Cuts… but if this already made you craving a good fry, call in the shop, take one of our different types of bacon home and let us know what you think!

And don’t forget to share your photos and tag us!

Hugh


Dry Aged Steaks and Wine Pairing

Dry Aged Steaks and Wine Pairing

All you need to know about Dry Aged Steaks and Wine

At Hugh Maguire Butchers we Dry Age our own Hereford T-bones, Sirloins and Ribeyes, in-store, using our Pink Salt Dry Ageing Chamber.

But what is Dry Aged beef?

Dry aged beef is meat that has been placed on a rack to dry for several weeks; only the higher grades of meat, such as strip loins, rib eyes, T-bones and sirloins, can be dry aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly distributed fat content.

The process of dry-ageing also promotes growth of certain fungal species on the external surface of the meat. This forms an external “crust” on the meat’s surface, which is trimmed off when the beef is prepared for cooking. These fungal species complement the natural enzymes in the meat by helping to tenderise and increase the flavour of the beef.

What does all this means?

Well, as the meat dry ages, moisture evaporates from the muscle which concentrates the natural meat flavour and, at the same time, helps to tenderise (the natural enzymes help break down the connective tissue) the steak.

Our Pink Salt Dry Age Fridge sucks the moisture out of the air so the meat can safely dry naturally, allowing for the increased flavours to seriously amaze our customers, without bacterial growth that can often be associated with naturally dry aged meat. And whilst naturally dry aged meats can be aged safely up to 40 days or so, Salt Ageing not only breaks through that barrier but also delivers a beautifully intense flavour you will just love.

The showpiece steak to try here at Hugh Maguire Butchers is a 28 day dry aged rib-eye.

Why?

Because 28 day typically is a good sweet spot for many to enjoy as it’s developing a nutty, gamey, almost blue cheese like character which true steak lovers really appreciate and this is a very important consideration when pairing steaks and wine. 

True steak and wine lovers can also use this as an opportunity to be adventurous and try some interesting wines/grape varieties but a few factors will definitely influence the pairing:

  1. Dry aged steaks allow for full-bodied, unabashedly intense flavours
  2. Steer clear of low tannin reds and low acid whites. Generous tannins and acidity swiftly cut through the steak’s fat – so important for the ageing process
  3. Consider steak temperature and sauce – a heavy red wine jus won’t work with a lighter pinot noir and also, the more you cook a steak, the more you render out the fat, which will affect the pairing
  4. When in doubt, order a dry riesling – dry rieslings work really well with all steaks.

A few suggestions from our friends at O’Briens Ashbourne:

  1. Torres Ibericos Crianza (Spain) – Plenty of blackberry fruit on the nose mixed with cocoa and cedar from oak ageing.
  2. Katnook 10 Acres Malbec (Australia) – Smooth but full-bodied with rich layers of juicy plum, black cherry, hints of chocolate and spices.
  3. Carta Roja Gran Reserva (Spain) – 100% Monastrell grape. 24 months in American oak barrels. Intense bramble and plum fruit on the palate.
  4. Integro Negroamaro (Italy) – Full-bodied and concentrated red. Blackberry fruits with a long soft finish.

Now it’s up to you… call in the shop, take one of our dry aged steaks home and let us know what you think! And don’t forget to share your photos and tag us!

Hugh


Barbecuing a Leg of Lamb

Grilling a Leg of Lamb

Not sure about grilling a leg of lamb on the BBQ? Read this!

Bone-in or boneless, butterflied or boned and rolled, a leg of lamb is a wonderfully rich piece of meat that makes not only a great Easter Sunday dinner, but also and incredible family BBQ!

If you are not sure abut grilling a leg of lamb, here are some tips:

1. Don’t be afraid of  trying new seasonings & dry rubs

While marinades are great and mint sauce is the perfect accompaniment for a lamb roast, when the subject is grass-fed Irish Lamb on BBQ, I love a rich, fresh herb rub, with a good hint of spice on my meat… and when it comes to seasoning, the sky is the limit so use your imagination, the ingredients in your cupboard or dig into your herb garden, and have fun!

I love to use a thick garlic and Himalayan salt homemade paste combined with fresh rosemary, red chillies, thyme and mint, all crushed together in a pestle and mortar – and go heavy on the rub, as, specially if you are grilling a whole leg of lamb, the crust is only a small part of the bite… and we know you are all about the flavour!

2. Control your temperature

Lamb is a meat that really shines when it is cooked to medium rare, around 55C!

In order to avoid over cooking, use a grill thermometer with a remote probe, this keeps the BBQ lid down while still maintaining an ever critical eye over the grilling process. Keep the grill at medium heat, around 200 degrees.

3. Bone in, Boned and Rolled or Butterflied?

As a butcher (and, of course, a meat lover), I love to grill all my meats bone-in… there is just so much more flavour to it… not to mention the overall visual appeal of a whole leg of lamb on the grill, with the meat falling off the bone. It’s an epic moment and makes my barbecue!

But of course, while the bone looks great, it makes carving a little more difficult so if the idea is a quicker BBQ or to go from grill to plate in seconds, boneless is the way to go.

Now it’s up to you… call in the shop, take a leg home and let us know what you think! And don’t forget to share your photos and tag us!

Hugh


Everything about Dry Age Beef

Everything you need to know about Dry Age Beef

And how our Pink Salt Dry Age Fridge work!

Dry age beef is meat that has been drying (or hung) for several weeks; only the higher grades of meat, such as strip-loins, ribeyes, T-bones and sirloins, can be dry aged, as the process requires meat with a large and evenly distributed fat content.

The process of dry-ageing usually forms an external “crust” on the meat’s surface (which is trimmed when the steak is cut for you) and promotes growth of certain fungal species on that external surface of the meat.

This happens thanks to a process called autolysis that allows the natural enzymes and amino acids in the meat to break down the collagen and fibres.

Our grass fed beef is specially good for dry ageing because, unlike grain fed cattle, our Irish cows generate increased levels of alpha-linolenic acid, which is in fact an omega 3 unsaturated fat, that adds even further intensity of flavour within the marbling as the beef is aged.

After all, we know you are all about the flavour!

So how does our Pink Salt Dry Ageing Fridge work?

The salt blocks, put together to form the back of the fridge, acts as a state-of-the-art natural refrigerator and this ageing process changes beef in two ways.

Firstly, moisture is evaporated from the muscle, creating a greater concentration of beef flavour and taste. Secondly, the beef’s natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.

It’s also worth saying that in our de-humidified, precision temperature controlled Pink Salt Ageing Fridge, the external bacterial bloom is greatly reduced if not removed entirely to ensure that the internal ageing isn’t affected by external factors because the intensity of nitrates delivered by the dry, chilled, saline environment inhibits external bacterial growth, increasing the growth of the right fungi – best of both worlds.

Ok, but what can you expect from meat aged on our Pink Salt Dry Age Fridge?

Well, our Pink Salt Dry Age Fridge sucks the moisture out of the air so the meat can safely dry naturally, allowing for the increased flavours to seriously amaze our customers, without bacterial growth that can often be associated with naturally dry aged meat.

And whilst naturally dry aged meats can be aged safely up to 40 days or so, salt ageing not only breaks through that barrier but also delivers a beautifully intense flavour you will just love.

Now it’s up to you… call in the shop, take some dry aged steaks home and let us know what you think! And don’t forget to share your photos and tag us!

Hugh


Dry Age Steak

Best meat cuts for your BBQ

Best meat cuts for your BBQ

Dry Age Steak

Best meat cuts for your Bank Holiday BBQ: sirloin, pork neck fillets, dry age rib-eye and more!

Looks like the sun is going to make a badly wanted appearance this Bank Holiday weekend so waste no time, take your BBQ out of the shed, give it a good clean and enjoy the long weekend. We have tips for the best grilling experience!

When it comes to feeding hungry crowds on a hot day, serving up flame-loved meats is a must. And while the Irish barbecue is not exactly a fancy feast, after a long winter like the one we just had, it’s worth putting out some special cuts to celebrate!

From pork neck fillets to dry age beef, here’s our guide on how to make the most of your chosen cut of meat.

Best for grill

Striploin, rib-eye, fillet steaks and yes, our ever-popular homemade speciality sausages are the top picks because they’re affordable, easy to barbecue and are packed with flavour.

However, cuts such as flank and rump are as tasty, cook quicker and are great budget-friendly options if you are entertaining a crowd.

To maximise flavour and succulence, try grilling your meat on the bone, especially T-bone or sirloin on the bone. Why? Because the bone helps the flesh retain moisture and texture.

For something extra special we suggest a thick rib-eye on the bone.

Dry age

Dry ageing allows beef to age for up to six weeks in a cool room, exposed directly to the air, so the natural enzymes in the meat allow it to tenderise, darken and shrink, forming a crust that when trimmed, expose a rich red meat inside.

For best results with dry age beef on the grill, go for a nice fat cut about two to three centimetres thick, and to appreciate the full flavour profile, aim for medium-rare, seasoning with just rock salt and pepper.

But whatever you do, don’t leave it on the BBQ for too long, the ageing extracts some of the moisture, so dry-aged meat cooks quicker than other cuts.

Temperature tips

To make the most of your cut of meat, make sure your barbecue is “super hot and super clean” before cooking, even if it means you have to turn down the heat when grilling begins.

It’s also crucial to let meat warm to room temperature before you start cooking it “this relaxes the flesh and allows it to cook more evenly so you have a more tender and juicier meat and less chance of overcooking or drying out the steaks.

Once barbecuing begins, let the meat colour but only to the point when a little juice or blood still comes through when gently pressed. Flip once and let the other side colour, then lift the meat off the heat while it’s still pink in the middle and rest it on a plate, where it will keep cooking as it cools.

You don’t have to keep touching and flipping it, just let it be – but don’t forget about it!

Go slow

But if you fancy trying something really different, how about a beef brisket, beef cheeks or beef short ribs – that you can leave braising in red wine overnight? You can also try pork neck fillet, chops, ribs or diced shoulder of pork, marinated overnight using simple ingredients such as good quality olive oil, garlic and herbs.

Either for the beef or the pork, after marinating, cover with foil in a baking tray or pot, then cook in the oven at low temperature (80ºC to 100ºC max) for 12 hours. The result is an incredibly juicy fall-apart meat, great for a pulled beef or pork sandwiches.

Hope you enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend – share your photos and tag us!