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4 Feb 2010 - 3:30 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

I’ve been experimenting a lot with pork. With dry curing and ageing of my prosciutto in the picker’s hut. With light curing of fresh pork for an hour and making pasta. With roasts and braises and stews and speck. And now, only a few months later than I originally planned, I’ve finally managed to smoke my own bacon from my own pigs.

First up, the cure. While commercially they use brine and big needles to speed up the curing, I make it easier at home; a dry mix of salt and sugar that is flung at the boned out belly and left to draw out moisture and cure the meat. I like the sweetness of sugar, and soon, if the hive allows, I’ll be able to use honey. The honey from a neighbour, who salvaged a swarm that escaped from my hive, was lightly fragrant and tasted of lemon, though there’s not a lemon tree within cooee. Maybe mine will be similarly lively. Next time I might try brown sugar, too, in a recipe for ham I was given by someone in the north of the state.

But this bacon had a simple cure. No sodium nitrate, no saltpetre. Curing and smoking anything, be it fish or meat or tofu, is a matter of taste. I cured mine for most of a week, by mistake. Two days would’ve been enough. You can feel the cure in the meat, the way it changes texture. A long cure means overtly salty meat but I know I can also use mine to flavour other things. A little bit to go a long way.

Next up the smoker. A wonderful old smoker that has been carted around the world. I used sawdust gathered after chainsawing timber for the cooker. Just good old Tassie oak, as it’s known, a gum tree of some kind; very hard wood that won’t leave a resinous taste. Willows, which litter the creek, would be no good. Neither would the pine that lines the pig paddock.

I make a fire in the base and use the smoker’s own rounded tray to hold the sawdust in it. The smoke is mostly from the fire at first, then the sawdust. I just feel my way along, judging how much heat and how much smoke will be produced. The bacon is cut into three and folded over so it will fit on the racks. It sits on two shelves, one close to the fire, one way up high. It doesn’t take too long for the bottom one, thanks to the heat, to unfurl and melt fat into the fire. The flames start to lick the bacon, dripping more fat into the sawdust tray, which, instead of simply smoking, catches alight. Of course, I was feeding chooks when it happened.

So, to cut a long story short, one piece of bacon has quite a crisp skin. And a blackened skin. One piece is singed on an edge, and the final one, the one I decided to photograph, is deeply tanned from a good dose of smoke. The outside is incredibly complex – bold tasting free-range pork laced with the cure and luscious smoke – though the flavour will mature if I leave it to hang for a week. I don’t understand the science of how it changes, it just does.

Soon, I’ll be able to slice my bacon to have with my bread, with my eggs, with my butter. All I need now are some of my heirloom tomatoes to ripen so I can serve those with it, too.