A Quick Guide to Bacon – Part 1

Added October 18, 2018 in

Hugh Maguire Smoking Butcher6576

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 Sweet and 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

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