When I first started blogging I was a little bit lonely because I didn’t yet have any cyber-friends and the only person commenting on (and reading) my blog was my long-suffering husband. I thought there must be some other bloggers out there so I googled things like ‘Australia’s best bloggers’ and, ‘Top Sydney bloggers’ and the same blog name kept showing up. I decided to visit Not Quite Nigella and after reading her post, left her a comment. Before the close of business she’d visited me and left a comment on my little space. I had a cyber-contact!
Years ago I had a friend who was modelling and it was around the time Elle Macpherson was continually on the cover of the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. I congratulated my friend on how well she was going with her modelling and she just shrugged and said, ‘I’m just a model, not an uber-model like Elle’.
And I think that’s how we can sometimes feel when we work in the same field as someone who has achieved so much more success. When I was invited to a lunch where I would be meeting Lorraine for the first time, I thought, ‘I’m going to tell her how much I admire her for all she’s achieved in a very new industry’, but before I could even do that, she gave me a hug and said, ‘I really love your writing’. She out-ubered me and got in first with a compliment. And that’s exactly how Lorraine is. She’s very warm and friendly and genuinely interested in all her readers and followers.
Lorraine’s blog is full of variety so you can never predict what post will be in your in-box first thing every morning. There’s travel to luxury destinations mixed with travel to remote parts of the world, there’s comforting home cooking mixed with quirky, strange and surprising creations like the armadillo road kill cake, there’s reviews of five-star restaurants frequented by the rich and fabulous mixed with fish and chips from the local suburban store. And then there’s the stories of vegan cabbage-loving in-laws mixing with Lorraine’s quiet and conservative parents all enjoying time spent with Lorraine’s famous friends, Queen Viv, Buxom Wench and Miss America. And it’s all woven together around food.
At the beginning of this year, Lorraine shared a post where she made bacon. I was intrigued. It had never occurred to me that I could make my own bacon. I really wanted to give it a try and this series has forced me to once again, get out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Making bacon isn’t difficult but it’s not something you can whip up in an afternoon. The process begins more than a week before you’ll see your first slice of bacon. In an obscure way, it reminded me of making Christmas cakes where first you soak the fruit for a period of days, then you make the cake, then you let it mature, then you finely decorate it. Making bacon involves processes just like Christmas cakes!
When I went to buy the pork belly, my butcher sold it to me with the rib bones still in place. He told me that years ago all bacon was made that way but today, the ribs are too highly-prized and so are removed and sold. He told me the bones would be easy to remove after the smoking process and that all the meat around them would form part of the bacon.
The belly he sold me had had the rind scored. I think it would be better to buy a belly where the rind had been left alone as that would make it easier to cut neat, thin slices once the bacon is ready to enjoy.
In Lorraine’s post, she lists three different methods for smoking the bacon being in the barbecue, in a wok-type container on the stove and placing it on a tray in the oven. I’m currently minus a barbecue, my pork belly was too long for my wok and so I had no choice but to smoke mine in the oven which I think is the least authentic of the smoking methods.
I was a bit nervous with the smoking process and had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t cooking the bacon, I was smoking it. It seemed very strange to have the oven on such a low temperature and I really wasn’t too sure how hot the oven was. It would have been a good idea to have bought one of those internal thermometers but I realised that too late.
I’ve enjoyed ‘makin’ bacon’ and hope you will give it a try one day too. This seriously will be the best bacon you’ll ever eat.
- 1.5 - 1.7kg pork belly, rind on or off
- 100gms (6 tbspns) salt
- 75gms (2/3 cup) brown sugar or 75mls maple syrup (1/3 cup)
- 4 bay leaves, torn
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Liquid smoke
- 2 cups hickory sawdust chips (if smoking in a bbq or wok)
- ⅔ cup uncooked rice (if smoking in a bbq or wok)
- Mix all the spice rub ingredients together. Massage the spices into both sides of the pork belly and wrap in cling wrap and then place in a large ziplock bag.
- Place the pork belly sitting flat in the fridge. The bacon will release liquid so make sure the zip lock is shut tight or place on a tray. Turn over once a day for 7-10 days.
- On the day you want to smoke it, remove it from the fridge and take it out of the bag. Wash the salt and spices off well and then soak it in water for two hours to draw out more of the salt.
- Pat dry with paper towels and place on a rack in the fridge uncovered just until you are ready.
- Oven Method:
- Preheat oven to 93C/200F oven and brush the pork belly lightly with liquid smoke. Place on a baking dish and cook for 75-90 minutes or longer until the internal temperature reaches 60C/140F.
- Remove from oven and cool. To make it easier to cut, place in fridge until it firms up. Then using the sharpest knife you have, slice into rashers.
- BBQ Method:
- Light coals using briquettes. Open the vents and once the coals are glowing and covered in grey ash, place the sawdust and rice in a foil or metal container in the coals.
- Wok Method:
- Place the foil on the bottom of the wok or pot. Scatter the sawdust and rice at the bottom. You can make a little tray out of foil. Heat the sawdust until fragrant and you get some smoke - this can take some time but soon enough, you'll smell the hickory coming through.
- Place the pork belly on the rack ensuring that the pork doesn't touch the sawdust and that there is airflow around the pork belly. Put the lid on and turn the heat down to low. The idea is to not cook the bacon but just to smoke it and the rice helps knock back the heat a bit. Do not remove the lid no matter how tempting. The outside might change colour but if you keep it low while still smoking then the inside should be pink still.
- After 1.5 hours check on the internal temperature. You need it to reach 60C/140F and when it does YOU HAVE BACON!
To follow Lorraine, you can find her at Not Quite Nigella and you can also follow her on Instagram.
Tomorrow it’s the last day in the series and we’re celebrating with a sparkle!