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Hywel

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Hywel last won the day on March 11

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  1. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Thank you. Good rinsing/resting tip. And thanks for the heads-up about Lidl! Thanks! Going there tomorrow as it happens. Let's hope the Bridgend branch has them!
  2. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Hi, Sorry for the tardy reply. Thanks for the input and suggestions. This was a few weeks ago now. After a bit of prodding and sniffing I decided that it was indeed 'off' and the experiment had run its course, so I binned it. Not a great day, that. Lessons learned: - the cures were too fancy. Going to perfect simpler recipes first. - one recipe at a time, at least for now - better fit of bag around meat. I used what I had last time (huge bags) without a vac pac. Possibly too much air. - 10 to 14 days in the bag pushes me out of my comfort zone. Can it really still be ok after that much time? (This is just a personal psychological barrier I need to overcome!) Anyway, following the advice of the forum I purchased one of Wade's cures (thank you, Wade). Unfortunately I've been working away a lot and haven't had a chance to try it yet (I prefer to be home for the whole 10-14 days plus hanging/smoking time and that's just not been possible). However... I did have enough time for a back to basics, rough and ready kitchen cupboard River Cottage recipe (Wade's package hadn't arrived when I started) and I wanted to get back on the horse immediately after my previous disaster. Recipe was 25% salt, 12.5% dark brown soft sugar (it was that or white granulated, the only thing I had in the cupboard) and 1.25% black pepper. I reduced the sugar content: it seemed too much. For 1.5kg ish of meat there was around 500g of cure mix in total. 20% to be rubbed into the meat on day 1 and the meat put in a pyrex or similar covered dish in fridge. No vac pac. Brine poured away and another 20% cure reapplied daily until it runs out on day 5. Rinse and hang on day 6. I then smoked it for about 30ish hours (in two sessions 24 hours apart). I did not add any Cure #1 following an earlier comment of Wade's about the alchemy of ensuring even application and safe dosage using this method. I know it's not the method suggested on this forum but as I said, I wanted to go again quickly, was tight for time and hadn't received Wade's kit yet. Forgive me! My observations of this method as follows: - the meat lost A LOT of moisture. At the end of 6 days it was as stiff as a board. Not necessarily a bad thing. I like the 'dryness' of it. - no dubious smells or textures. Passes the 'sniff test' in a way the last batch definitely did not. - taste test: happy with the sweetness. Despite reducing the amount of sugar suggested by the recipe it is still very much a sweet cure. I dread to think how much sweeter (in a bad way) it would have been with the full dose. - OMG it's salty! Very much on the edge of what I can tolerate. You couldn't eat it in a bacon sandwich but it's fine as an ingredient in recipes. - good level of smokiness coming through. I'll smoke future pieces of bacon using the same wood blend and time. - it's a nice pink colour when raw but when cooked goes to a (frankly unappetising) grey/brown. Doesn't affect flavour but doesn't look great. -overall flavour profile: good sweetness, good smokiness, saltier than a salt mine (so consume in moderation). So there you go. It's now in small packs in the freezer, to be defrosted for specific lardon-requiring recipes. Couple of pics attached. I think I have a run of a solid few weeks at home end of May/June so hope to break open Wade's cure and give that a go then. I think I'll try it with a loin when the time comes, tbc. Thanks again for all the help and advice. Comments welcome! Hywel
  3. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Hi Ice. That's a welcome 2 cents. Thank you. Yes, a more basic cure would be sensible. And I love the elegance of the sous vide method! Never thought of that! I imagine that works really well! Good tip. Thanks!
  4. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Hi there, Sorry for the delay getting back. Busy day! Thank you for all the replies. I took another look at the meat (didn't chuck it out immediately this morning) for a proper post mortem when I had more time. Took both out of the bags and rinsed thoroughly. My observations as follows: - the one with maple syrup smelled the worst and felt the most 'tacky'/slimy. Also had the most discolouration. Possibly some of this could have been a by-product of the syrup flavour/texture? - when rinsed the smell was far less pronounced. Could almost convince myself it's just maple-y. But almost certainly background notes of something not quite right, though. - juniper/bay cured one much less dubious. Slight discolouration. Quite pleasant notes of bay/juniper! I've attached photos of the bacon out of bag and rinsed. I'm going to hang them for a couple of days, just to let nature take its course. Figured I'd still learn something watching how they developed over the next couple of days, even if it's to see what bacon going bad looks like and what signs to watch out for next time. Someone asked about how well sealed the bags were. I don't have a vac pac but used the 'straw in the bag to suck out the last bit of air' method. I'd say there was hardly any air in there at all and good all round contact between meat and bag. Certainly no big air pockets. Thanks for all the recommendations for the kits. Will definitely check them out! Thank you!
  5. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Morning. Bacon disaster today. Day 12 of the meat being in the cure. I've been away for work for the week. Was looking forward to seeing how it was getting on, and getting it into the smoker. But I've returned to find discoloured bacon. Opened the bags - it does not smell good. Rats! I'm guessing it's down to uneven application of the cure? It's been turned daily (wife's been doing it while I was away). Also surprised by how dry the inside of the bag is. Not much liquid drawn out of the meat. Oh well. It's a journey. We'll try again! Any comments/pointers about what went wrong welcome. Thank you!
  6. Thanks. Nice to be here. In the top corner of the fridge it's a dehumidifier. My first problem with the fridge as a meat-hanging space was that it was too damp, hence the dehumidifier. The current problem I think I have with it is airflow. I've seen people on forums say that they've wired in computer fans to keep a gentle breeze going. At the moment I'm just opening the door one or twice a day to keep the air fresh. A work in progress. Ha about the fridge in the garden! I think I'd get the same response! At the moment my stuff is in a corner of the garage and I have to carry the smoker out whenever I light it up. Should definitely have made it out of something lighter than OSB! Lesson learned for the mk3...
  7. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Nice bacon! I've just seen the kits in the shop here. They look very handy! I've had a crack today too based on Wade's instructions and measuring out cure and flavourings. A couple of small pieces of belly. Photos attached: calculating, measuring, bacon. Let's see what it's like in a couple of weeks' time! Thanks again everyone for your help!
  8. Hi, New to the forum, having come looking for advice on niggling doubts about bacon cures. I got into smoking and curing with a Weber kettle I was given as a present, which I've mostly used for slow cooking pork and wings and such, and hot smoking salmon. Pork obsession led to curing bacon, which then led in two directions: to cold smoking and wanting to get into charcuterie. I've done several bacons, a disastrous guanciale, reasonable lomo, smoked cheese and cured salmon etc. Got my eye on a Pro Q bullet-type smoker at some point. Not sure I can justify the cost just yet, tho. The Weber kettle makes more than enough for my 'not particularly bothered about pork, actually, dad' family. Couple of pics attached of the current mark 2 smoker (should have thought about weight when I made it) and a gumtree drinks fridge converted into an inkbird-controlled hanging space/curing chamber (sadly empty but soon to be restocked now that I'm armed with some more info, courtesy of this forum). Hi everyone. Nice to be here.
  9. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Hi again. Sorry for the delay. The weekend got in the way, and I wanted to have time to read all your answers properly. Thank you so much for all the info. That is very helpful and reassuring, and definitely gives me more confidence now for the next batch. My pack of cure #1 arrived this weekend too, so I'll be hitting the butcher's tomorrow! Will do some belly and maybe a loin as well if they have a nice piece in. TBC. There's some maple syrup in the back of the cupboard that we've had for ages and doesn't seem to be getting used, so I'll put that in for flavour. Maybe I'll do a sweet maple one, and a not-so-sweet pepper and bay and juniper or something. Planning to smoke it too, but that'll be in a couple of weeks. Noted on the bag vs pyrex methods. Thank you. I do still have some big ziplock bags from previous attempts so will us those. Thanks so much again. I don't feel I'm blundering about blindly now! I will try to remember to take photos and keep you updated on my progress! Hywel
  10. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Thank you so much! That's very helpful indeed. Yes, I had my doubts about the stacked method so won't do that then. One piece at a time it is. Surprised about the 10 days thing. That's really interesting. Thanks. I can see the attraction now of putting it in a bag! A lot less admin over 10 days! A question about the bag method: The very fist time I made bacon was with a recipe that required loads of cure mix (like 500g or something, if memory serves), adding it in daily stages and pouring away any brine every day too. It drew loads of moisture out of the meat and the result was a very pleasingly firm-textured bacon. I've not been able to recreate this texture using the method with 5% cure, which I put down to there being much less cure and not pouring away the brine. What sort of texture/dryness/moisture levels do you find you get in the finished bacon with the vacpac method? Writing the weights down on the bag/label is a good tip. Thank you. I've been keeping notes/calculations on pieces of paper before I start weighing anything but they usually get misplaced before the bacon gets to the eating stage! Putting everything together makes much more sense. I was planning on using Wade's calculator that I saw on a previous post somewhere (the 'Beginners Start Here' or similar post?). I'll also check out the local food heroes one. Thank you. I've seen recipes (e.g. River Cottage I think) where they just use salt and sugar and flavourings with no Cure #. I haven't tried that yet but maybe as I get more confident? Just want to sget the basics down first with safety in mind then go from there. Thanks again for your help. so nice to have somewhere to discuss this stuff!
  11. Hywel

    Bacon for beginners

    Hello. I am relatively new to baconing. I've done a handful of cures over the last year or so, trying to work out the best, safest method from the MANY MANY recipes and differences of opinion on this on the internet. First with saltpeter and salt and sugar from a recipe in the guardian or telegraph or somewhere. The potency of that stuff gave me the willies - never really felt comfortable with it despite using jewellers scales and double, triple checking my maths - so I shifted to Supracure from Weschenfelder, used at their 5%/6% guidance. Still wasn't fully feeling the safety of that (I have young kids who, if possible, I'd like to nurture to adulthood) and as it got damp and (ever so slightly) clumpy I had reservations about measuring it accurately (I guess the moisture levels make it denser, throwing off any weight calculations?). So I've kept going with my research. Which has brought me here. Hallelujah! I've been reading a lot of your posts over the last few days. Thank you Wade, especially, for your very clear advice and guidance. You guys seem to know what you're doing! This feels like a safe place to learn! I ordered some cure no1 from Weschenfelder yesterday and plan to do some streaky when it arrives next week. In advance of that I'm getting all my ducks in a row. So, in the spirit of Wade's "if in doubt, ask" motto, I'd be very grateful for your thoughts on the following please: - Plastic. I'm not a hippie, but I would rather avoid using disposable plastic if possible. Saving the planet one bag at a time, and all that. So I'd prefer not to vac-pac if I can get away with it. In your opinion would I be safe using the big shallow pyrex dish with tupperware lid thing that I have and turning the meat in the brine every day? It's the method I've been using so far and it seems to have worked. - Would I be able to do two separate cuts at the same time in this way, one stacked on top of the other (swappiing/turning daily)? The dish is tall enough to still be coverable (so as not to contaminate the rest of my fridge) and I've seen youtube videos of people doing this. Were they wrong? - Duration. On previous belly/streaky attempts (usually on cuts about 1.5kg) I've been curing for 6 days (turning daily) and hanging afterwards for about the same time. This has been using what I now realise is Supracure's excessive 5% recommendation. If I drop down to 2.5% salt now, as you recommend, will 6-days non-vacpacked be long enough to cure? Do I need to cure for longer if I'm using less salt? High salt levels in my bacon don't really bother me. I have a high tolerance for it (!) and tend not to eat rashers of the stuff in a single sitting anyway so haven't with my previous attempts felt that it was too salty. I mostly use it sparingly as lardons as an ingredient in soups, sauces etc where I can control the salt levels of the overall dish. For this reason (using my bacon as an ingredient) I'm hoping to graduate to guanciale when I've got my streaky game down. But high poison levels in my bacon are another matter. So hoping to nail this safety issue once and for all this time. Not that I've felt unsafe from previous attempts (and they've been very tasty!). Just that there's a tiny .5% nag at the back of my mind that I'd prefer wasn't there. Sorry for the long post but I hope as much info as possible is helpful. Thank you very much in advance for any advice. Diolch, Hywel
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