Curing bacon at home (Long Ashton method)

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Appears in

The Complete Book of Home Preserving

The Complete Book of Home Preserving

By Mary Norwak

Published 1978

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Success depends on: (1) the condition of the pig; (2) care at the slaughter period; (3) temperature; (4) cutting and curing method; (5) drying and storage; (6) utilization.


  • 16 pints/8 litres water
  • 5 lb/2.5 kg salt
  • 1½ oz/40 g saltpetre


1 Condition of the pig

A carcase weight of 130–150lb/60–70kg is recommended. The pig should be well finished. Firm fat is produced by feeding cereal or potatoes; swill gives a soft fat which does not cure well.

2 Slaughter

The pig should be kept without food for up to 24 hours before slaughter but must be given a plentiful supply of drinking water. It should be quiet and rested and not agitated.

Slaughtering is a skilled operation and thorough bleeding is important for good curing. Dehairing at home is usually performed by singeing, followed by scrubbing. The pig is hoist for evisceration and then left for 24 hours.

3 Temperature

The carcase is subject to deterioration and this must be controlled by low temperature throughout the slaughter and curing process. The ideal is 35–40°F/2–4°C and therefore home curing should be confined to the winter months unless adequate refrigerator space is available. A thermometer is essential.

4 Cutting and curing

Satisfactory cutting can be undertaken at home if a simplified plan is used. It is essential to have a large, firm table approximately 5ft by 2ft 6in/1.5m by 75cm, a tenon saw, a boning knife, a larger (steak) knife, a steel and scales to weigh from 1oz–28lb/25g–12kg. For curing, a suitable trough will be required and also a large basin or tub for brining. Curing ingredients are basically salt and saltpetre with the possible addition of sugar, treacle, beer, spices, etc. If the shoulder or ham is not well bled it can be cleansed in brine made as follows:

A forehock should be left in the brine for 30 minutes, a ham for 1 hour. Veins should be squeezed into the brine. The meat must be kept submerged with a weighted board. At the end of the time remove the joints and leave them to drain skin side up. The cleansing brine can be converted into a pickling brine by the addition of 4 pints/2 litres of water.

There are various cures but a good standard one is:

one tenth of the weight of the meat in salt

one fiftieth of the weight of the salt in saltpetre

If sugar is added use one twentieth of the weight of the salt but it is generally better to add sugar later:

e.g. weight of meat 20 lb/10 kg
weight of salt 2 lb/1 kg
weight of saltpetre ½ oz/15 g
weight of sugar 1½ oz/40 g

Mix the ingredients carefully and divide into 3 portions. Rub the first third of the mixture into the skin side of the joints, being careful to use sufficient cure on thick joints and not too much on long thin pieces.

In a cool, pest-proof room, make a 2in/5cm bed of salt on a suitable size tray or trough. Place the joints on this bed, flesh side up, and sprinkle over the second third of the curing mixture, packing it round bones. Sprinkle more plain salt over it (the meat can with advantage be buried in salt).

After 5 days open the pack, replace any spent salt, repack and sprinkle last third of curing mixture over. At this stage sugar, treacle, spices, etc. can be added. Cover with salt.

Curing time to give meat to last the year:

Days in salt per 1 in/2.5cm of thickness of meat


1st Side

2nd Side













Spare rib and Blade bone or Collar

Eat fresh




As the joints are removed from cure they are washed in cold running water and drained thoroughly.

5 Drying and storage

The joints should be hung in a current of air out of sunlight at an even temperature of 60–65°F/16–18°C for from 5 days for bellies to 3 weeks for ham. When dry, the surface will have a frosty appearance. The dried joints must then be stored in a cool dry place, protected from flies and vermin. An easy method is to pepper the joints, wrap in greaseproof paper, overwrap with a carefully sealed butter-muslin bag or pillow case and hang in a cool place. Alternatively the dried joints can be stored in galvanized bins filled with wood ash or corn.

6 Utilization

The following table shows in which order the meat should be utilized:

Graduated Cure

Order in which meat is eaten over a period of 12 months

Weeks from Killing

Meat or Joint

Strength of Cure

Use as


Trimmings and offal


Fresh sausage

Trimmings and offal


Small goods



Roast fillet



Grilled fillet

Spare ribs 1st side



Blade bone 1st side


Roast pork


Trimmings and offal


Cooked products

Forehock 1st side


Salt pork (hot and cold)


Belly 1st side

Lightly cured



Loin 1st side

Medium cured




Medium cured



Forehock 2nd side Collar 2nd side

Well cured

Boiled ham or bacon – grilled


Knuckle end of ham 1st side

Fillet end of ham 1st side

Well cured

Boiled ham or bacon – grilled


Loin 2nd side

Well cured



Belly 2nd side

Well cured



Ham 2nd side

Well cured

Boiled ham

Joints should be washed in tepid water to remove any bloom and then soaked. Soaking in cold water is necessary before cooking for home cured meat and for hard cures this is very important. Soaking time varies from 4 hours for thin, mild cured bellies to 48 hours for hard cured hams. When long soaking is necessary, the water should be changed every 10–12 hours, otherwise the salt will be reabsorbed.

To cook, put the soaked joint into a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and keep at a steady simmer for the following times:

Weight of joint lb/kg

Cooking time (hrs)









Take pan off heat and leave meat for half an hour before removing.

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