How English Bacon Is Made | Regional Eats

Claudia Romeo: Depending on where you are in the world, you will find a different version of bacon. In the US, you’ll have a savory piece of pork belly that’s been cured and smoked. As an Italian, my go-to bacon is pancetta, dry-cured dices of pork belly.

Here in England, your bacon will be a leaner, but still juicy cut of meat from the back of the pig cured to perfection. Today, we’re in South Cerney, Gloucestershire, and we are at The Butts Farm, a farm that specializes in rare breeds.

What we’re going to see today is bacon made from Gloucestershire Old Spots. They’re one of the oldest breeds here in the UK, and they’re renowned for having a tender, marbled meat. So what better way to taste it than in the form of bacon? Thank you.

Hello, friend. Compared to more commercial pigs that feed on high protein and cereal, an Old Spot follows a low-protein diet, complemented with grass, worms, and whatever they can munch away at here at the farm.

The Gloucestershire Old Spots also have a lot of fat on them naturally. That’s good. You don’t have to eat the fat, but when you cook it, you’ve got the fat running through the meat, which gives you the flavor.

Claudia: All right. Carl: This is what we’re gonna be working with. Claudia: Yep. This section is cut from the top of the leg to the fourth rib and, on the other side, the first flat bone across the thigh and the leg.

Carl pierces the skin a few times to allow the salt to get right into the center of the bacon. He tells me that the best bacon is one that is cured within the first week after slaughtering the pig. This is to avoid tough skin, which the curing would make even tougher and would take all the moisture out of the meat.

Drawing most of the moisture out is, however, our way to go with our dry cure today. Carl uses fine sea salt, which he prefers as it gets right into the meat much quicker than coarse salt. Carl: So you want to get all the cure mix into the center.

With it not having the nitrates in, it does take that little bit longer to cure. You want the salt to have contact first, ’cause that will just give you the right way to cure. Claudia: Oh, wow, that’s quite a lot of salt.

Carl: It is. So. [Claudia chuckles] Claudia: So, how many kilos is that? Carl: That’s 5. For this much, you’d probably only need 2, 2 1/2 kilos of salt. But it cures better if you just get that caked in salt.

Claudia: All right. Carl: It doesn’t really absorb more of it. It just seals. Just get nice and covered. So, that provides the base of the cure. So that will instantly start drawing out the moisture, changing that product from pork into the bacon product.

Claudia: Carl leaves a little bit of salt for later in the curing process. After a few days, the meat will be repacked with salt to drain the excess moisture that has come out. The next ingredient to be added is unrefined brown sugar.

Just like salt, sugar will draw out moisture, but it will also add a light sweetness to the meat and get rid of the sharpness of the salt. Just like salt, a bit of sugar is saved for later. The cure continues with pink and black peppercorns, bay leaves, and juniper berries.

The berries will bring lightness and sweetness with the sugar to the edge of the bacon. Carl: And lots of color, which is good. It’d be nice to have a big pestle and mortar. Claudia: Yeah. So you’re just gonna crush them like this? Carl: Yes, gently.

Just to get some of the powder out of the peppercorns. Claudia: Oh. Carl: And the juniper berries are still, they’re still slightly wet, ’cause they’re a berry. As we break them, there’s just a little moisture still.

It’s a little bit like making your gin and having the botanicals. [Claudia laughs] It is like that, you can pick savory and strong flavors in your botanicals. I’ve seen people do rosemary bacon and things like that.

Claudia: Oh! Mm. Carl: Just trying to infuse different flavors in. Claudia: Yeah, you can just personalize it, just a little bit. Carl: I think so. I mean, yeah, I wouldn’t want to see people experiment too — Claudia: Too much.

Carl: Well, it’s up to them, I guess, if — but yeah, bay leaves act almost like it’s that stability for the flavor. So you just give them a little bit of a crush, because they’re fresh. Claudia: Wow.

Yeah, they’re a very nice green. Carl: They’re not like the dry ones. You just give those a little rip. Nice having them grown Claudia: Ooh, nice smell. Carl: in the garden by one of our ladies in the office.

I asked her for some bay leaves, she brought me half of her tree. So this is very good. [Claudia laughs] Claudia: That looks fantastic already. After 14 days and after removing the bones, this is the end result of our curing process.

Carl: So, you’ve got the back bacon. And this is where it went from the shoulder. That’s where we came in from the leg. So, we generally take the back bacon off with a little tail. So a small amount of the streaky remains on the back bacon.

Claudia: Yeah. Carl: Just because that’s the shape we normally use. Plus it gives that little bit of fat to cook with. Claudia: Yeah, for sure. Carl: So you just separate that. Down like that. And that will give you your streaky in your back bacon.

Claudia: Ooh. Butchers refer to dry-cured, unsmoked bacon like this here as green bacon or green bac. This is nothing scary, and it’s completely natural. It’s just the salt slightly overcuring the edges of the bacon.

A little trim, and our Gloucestershire Old Spots bacon is ready to be revealed. Carl: If we then look at the center of the bacon, that’s when you’ve got that — Claudia: Oh, nice. Carl: Beautiful cure.

Nice flavor going through. Claudia: There’s a bit of marbling as well. Carl: Yes. Well, you’ve got the really nice native breeds. And the finish is really good on Judy’s pigs. It just starts to build up just a little bit of fat in the muscle, which then for cooking makes it amazing.

Claudia: Wow. Yeah. Carl: Just like it would a rib eye steak. The fat will always disintegrate first, because it reacts to heat and reduces. So it just breaks the meat into parts, so your bacon is then quite tender, which is quite a nice way to do things.

Claudia: And so that’s a speciality of Gloucestershire Old Spots. Carl: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Claudia: ‘Cause you can find that. Carl: Yeah. Well, you get your pork chops and there’s not just fat on the outside, you’ve got actually a nice bit of taste and the flavor going through it, which is really good.

Claudia: Wow. OK. Carl: So, yeah. So that’s our traditionally dry-cured nitrate-free bacon. So, my first question is, why did you put this in the oven rather than frying it? Judy: Well, because it’s got so much of its own lovely fat, and we love fat around here.

We love food around here, but we love fat as well. Claudia: Especially. Especially. You don’t need to fry it in oil or butter, and you wouldn’t even need to turn it over, which is why really suits cooking in the oven.

[rooster crows] Especially me as a farmer, you know, the animals can get up to whatever, and, you know, I bang it in the oven, and I’ve got 20, 30 minutes to go and sort out any crisis that might be on the farm.

And there you go, it’s ready without having to do anything. Claudia: OK. And this is the most, like, traditional way around here too? Judy: It is the most traditional way. The tradition is that you cook your bacon, you fry your eggs in the fat, and then you do your fried bread in the fat from the bacon.

All right, so the bacon is the base for everything. Is the base for everything, exactly. And that is your traditional breakfast. Claudia: All right, let’s have a taste then. Judy: Oh, let’s have a go, shall we? How lovely.

Claudia: Just like that. So, why is it that back bacon is more popular in here? I think really, probably because you’ve got more meat-to-fat ratio. Yeah? You know, you’ve got all that lovely eye muscle, it’s called, there.

The eye muscle you can relate to a pork chop on maybe loin, and then the nice bit of crispy fat, but the — Claudia: That’s great. Judy: If you don’t love fat quite as much as I do, then maybe you have got a bit more meat there.

Yeah, but I like the taste of the meat as well. Judy: Exactly. Exactly. Claudia: Yeah. And this is a great compromise between the two. I love it, yeah. Judy: Yeah. I mean, it tastes of pork, doesn’t it? It shouts pork.

Claudia: Yeah. You know what you’re eating. And you’ll notice also that we’re eating the rind. It’s edible. And that’s just because it’s what’s called supple first, and it’s really just cured in a traditional way.

And you can eat all of it. Claudia: Yeah. Right? It’s not chewy. Claudia: No, no, not at all. I just, I really like the fact that you can taste the fat, but there’s also a bit of that, as Carl was saying, a little bit of that juniper berries.

Judy: Oh, definitely. Yeah. Claudia: So they add something to the taste. Yeah. Judy: The one flavor complements the other. You’re not getting a dominant flavor there at all, are you? Claudia: That’s lovely.

Yeah. Judy: Lovely, yeah. It’s really good, isn’t it? Really good. Yum. Josephine! It’s over here, darling. And this here is Dolly Pig. Princess Joan. Claudia: Oh, she’s a princess. Judy: That’s her title.

Good boy, Joe. Come on. Come on, piggy wigs! He is such a poser. Oh, that’s it. Ecstasy. [Claudia laughing] This is a pig in ecstasy. Isn’t it so sweet? Just love ’em. [Music] depending on where you are in the world you will find a different version of bacon in the u.

s you will have a savory piece of pork belly that’s been cured and smoked as an italian my go-to bacon is pancetta dry cured dices of pork belly here in england your bacon will be a leaner but still juicy cut of meat from the back of the pig cured to perfection today we’re in south cerny gloucestershire and we’re at the batz farm a farm that specializes in rare breeds what we’re going to see today is bacon made from glossy old spots they’re one of the oldest breeds here in the uk and they’re known for having a tender marble meat so what better way to taste it than in the form of bacon thank you hello friend compared to more commercial pigs that feed on high protein and cereal an old spot follows a low protein diet complemented with grass worms and whatever they can match away at here at the farm the cholesterol spots also have a lot of fat on them naturally that’s good you don’t have to eat the fat but when you cook it you’ve got the fat running through the meat which gives you the flavor this is what we’re going to be working with this section is cut from the top of the leg to the fourth rib and on the other side the first flat bone across the thigh and the leg card pierces the skin a few times to allow the salt to get right into the center of the bacon he tells me that the best bacon is one that is cured within the first week after slaughtering the pig this is to avoid tough skin which the curing will make even tougher and will take all the moisture out of the meat drawing most of the moisture out is however our way to go with our dry cure today carl uses fine sea salt which he prefers as it gets right into the meat much quicker than coarse salt so you want to get all the cure mix into the center when they’re not having the nitrates in it does take that little bit longer to cure you want the salt to have contact first because that will just give you the right the right way to cure oh wow that’s quite a lot of salt it is so so how many kills is that that’s five but for this much you’d probably only need two two and a half kilos of salt but it cures better if you just get that caked insult all right it doesn’t really absorb more of it it just seals just get nice and covered so that provides the base of the cure so that will instantly start drawing out the moisture changing that product from pork into the the bacon product carl leaves a little bit of salt for later in the curing process after few days the meat will be repacked with salt to drain the excess moisture that has come out the next ingredient to be added is unfined brown sugar just like salt sugar will draw out moisture but it will also add a light sweetness to the meat and get rid of the sharpness of the salt just like salt a bit of sugar is safe for later the cure continues with pink and black peppercorns bay leaves and juniper berries the berries will bring lightness and sweetness with the sugar to the edge of the bacon and lots of colour which is good be nice to have a big pestle and mortar and liquid yeah so you’re just going to crush them yes i’m just going to gently just to get some of the powder out of the peppercorns and the juniper berries are still they’re still slightly wet because they’re a berry as we break them there’s just a little moisture still it’s a little bit like doing making your gin and having the botanicals it is like that you can pick you can pick savoury and strong flavors in your botanicals i’ve seen people do rosemary bacon and things like that oh just trying to infuse different flavors in yeah you can you can just personalize it i think so i mean yeah i wouldn’t want to see people experiment too too much well it’s up to them i guess if but yeah bay leaves acts almost like a stability for the flavour oh you just give them a little bit of a crush because they’re fresh they’re yeah they’re very they’re a very nice green i like the dry ones just give those a little rip nice having them grown on a nice smell yeah in the garden by one of our ladies in the office asked if some bay leaves she bought me half of her tree very good that looks fantastic already after 14 days and after removing the bones this is the end result of our curing process so we’ve got the back bacon and this is where it went from the shoulder that’s where we came in from the leg so we generally take the back bacon off with a little tail so a small amount of the streaky remains on the back bacon yeah just because that’s that’s the shape we normally use plus it gives that little bit of fat yeah for sure so you just separate that down like that and that will give you streaky and your back bacon oh butchers refer to dry cured unsmoked bacon like this here as green bacon or green back this is nothing scary and is completely natural it’s just the salt slightly over curing the edges of the bacon a little trim and our gloucestershire all spots bacon is ready to be revealed if we then look at the center of the bacon that’s when you’ve got that oh nice beautiful cure nice flavor going through there’s a bit of marbling as well yeah so where you’ve got the really nice native breeds and the finish is really good on judy’s picks it just starts to build up just a little bit of fat in the mussel which then cooks for cooking makes it amazing just like it would yeah a ribeye steak the fat will always disintegrate first because it reacts to heat and and reduces so it just breaks the meat into part so your bacon is then quite tender which is quite a nice way to do things and so that’s that’s the speciality of like gross yeah yeah definitely you can find out yeah well you get your pork chops and there’s not just fat on the outside you’ve got actually a nice bit of taste and flavor going through it which is really good wow so yeah so that’s a traditionally dry cured free bacon [Music] so my first question is why did you put this in the oven rather than frying it well because it’s got so much of its own lovely fat and we love fat around here we love food ranch here but we love fat as well especially especially you don’t need to fry it in oil or butter and you wouldn’t even need to turn it over which is why really suits cooking in the oven especially me as a farmer you know the animals can get up to a dinner and i bang it in the oven and and i’ve got sort of 20 30 minutes to go and sort out any crisis that might be on the farm and and there you go it’s ready without having to do anything okay and this is the most like traditional way around here too it is the most traditional way the the tradition is that you um cook your bacon you fry your eggs in the fat and then you do your fried bread in the fat from the bacon all right so the bacon is the base for everything exactly and that is your traditional breakfast all right let’s have a taste then oh let’s have a go shall we hi lovely just like that so why is it that bacon is more popular in here i think ready probably because you’ve got more meat to fat ratio yeah you know you’ve got all that that lovely eye muscle it’s called there um the eye muscle you can relate to a pork chop on maybe loin and um and then and then the the nice bit of crispy fat but the that’s great you don’t love fat quite as much as i do um then maybe you have got a bit more meat there yeah but i like i like the taste of the meat as well exactly yeah yeah and this is a great compromise between the two yeah i love it yeah yeah i mean it tastes of pork doesn’t it it shouts pork yeah you know you know what you’re eating yeah and and you’ll notice also that we’re eating the rind it it’s edible um and that that is because it’s what’s called supple first and this really just cured in a traditional way and you can eat all of it yeah right it’s not chewy no no not at all i just i really like the fact that you can taste the fat but there’s also a bit of that as carl was saying a little bit of that um juniper berries definitely yeah yeah yeah so they are something you know yeah the one flavor complements the other you’re not getting a dominant flavor though really good isn’t it really good yum josephine it’s over here darling and this here is dolly pig princess joan oh she’s that’s her title good boy gerald come on come on piggy wiggs he is such a poser oh that’s it ecstasy this is a pig in ecstasy and it’s so sweet just love him

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