Product of the week: bacon

Categories: Product stories, Product of the week

Two of Borough’s butchers share their secrets on making—and cooking—the perfect bacon

It’s hard to find someone who eats meat who doesn’t love bacon—in fact, the same can be said for a fair few who don’t. There is something about the salty, savoury flavour and crunch of those crispy edges that is irresistible. Most of us will agree that bacon is one of the best things to come from the butcher but like many crafts, it has a simple process at its heart. “There are several different types bacon: loin, belly, streaky, and middle,” says Jozef, who is in charge of producing the succulent bacon the Ginger Pig has been delighting customers with for years. “Whatever the type, the most important thing is, you have to begin with really good quality pork—that is where the flavour comes from.”

The pork joints arrive fresh from the farm with the bone still in. Once deboned and ready for curing, the team apply a mix of dry curing salt and brown sugar. “We don’t use all that much cure—somewhere between two to three grams per kilo of pork. It is there to enhance, not mask, the pork’s flavour. We rub this on the meat and then dry cure it for a week, turning the joints over every other day. When we are happy with the level of cure, the salt mixture is washed off and the joint is then air dried for two weeks.”

At this point, some are sold as unsmoked bacon; the rest have a few more steps to undergo. Joints can be single, double or triple smoked, depending on the end flavour Jozef and the team are looking for. They can also take things in different flavour directions, as with their treacle bacon. “For that, we start by using curing salt without sugar, then we rub black treacle over the joints and air dry for at least two weeks. It is delicious.”

Crispy edges
When it comes to cooking, Jozef says, “if you use a great quality bacon made from high quality pork”—in the case of the Ginger Pig, that means outdoor bred tamworth and berkshires—“it does not really matter what you do with it.” His personal preference is to cook it in an oven on a low heat for 15 minutes, then whack the heat to high for the last two to three minutes. “That gives you crispy edges and lovely succulent meat.”

Dom from Northfield Farm—which sources mostly outdoor-bred British lop from neighbouring farmers up in Leicestershire—agrees. “If you start with really good bacon, you won’t go far wrong. The pork will do most of the work for you.” But he suggests breaking out of the habit of buying your favourite type of bacon all the time. “Firstly, the fact that different types of bacon come from different parts of the animal means the meat has different properties. Then there are different curing mixtures and methods. There are lots of different textures and flavours to explore.”

HIs favourite is collar bacon, “which comes from the shoulder of the pig and is one of the fattiest areas of the animal,” he explains. “Also, because it comes from a hard-working area, you get a rich meaty flavour—a bit more savoury than other bacon. It is densely marbled and does not really have an ‘eye’. That fat really helps bring out the flavour.” Northfield Farm has been selling it as long as they have been here at Borough Market. “I call it the Velvet Underground of bacon: it has a bit of a cult following,” he says with a laugh. “Not everyone knows about it, but those who do really love it.” When it comes to cooking, Dom favours a screaming hot frying pan. “That way you get nice crispy edges, succulent meat and you don’t render out all of that delicious fat.”