The saying goes “if you don’t like bacon, then you are wrong”. So if you love bacon as much as I do, then you will definitely make your own dry cured bacon at home. For me, streaky bacon (bacon made from pork belly) is the best as it has a great amount of fat to make it really crispy. I can also promise you that home made bacon is far superior to the commercial crap that you can buy in the shops, even if they say it is “free range” or “organic”. There are a number of reasons for this, one being you can purchase the best quality pork belly in order to make the bacon, but you can also control the amount of salt and sugar added.
The process of salt curing makes use of osmosis for the “brine” or “salt” rub to penetrate the meat. Most commercial bacons are very salty because too much salt used (partly because this “speeds” up the process). But it really does not. Osmosis takes place naturally and if you are using a dry rub, it will take at least 7 days to penetrate to the core of the meat (5cm thick). If you want to make back bacon then we use a wet brine as the meat is generally thicker, and it also takes less time.
But, for making streaky bacon, you will always use a dry cure.
Sodium Nitrate (Pink Salt/ Prague Powder)
I am not going to get into the philosophical debate of the use of nitrates/ nitrites. There is a very particular reason for using nitrates, and that is NOT as a preservative. SALT is the preservative. Nitrate is used, particularly of you are going to smoke the bacon, because in smoked meats there is a very (very) slight chance of getting botulism. Nitrates prevent botulism, so I always use them when I am going to smoke meat.
BUT, when it comes to bacon, nitrates are almost a requirement because that tangy flavour, as well as the pinky colour of bacon, is derived from the nitrates.
Many people like the idea of “Green” Bacon, which essentially means bacon made without nitrates.
If you are going to smoke your bacon then USE nitrates. Any con of using nitrate is not outweighed by the chance of getting botulism. If you really want to make green back then follow the recipe below without Pink Salt (sodium nitrate – NaNO3 ), BUT then do not smoke it!
RECIPE TIP: In this recipe I make a big batch of the dry cure, which I then store in a jar in a dark cupboard for future use.
RECIPE TIP 2: Follow my recipe for perfect crispy bacon.