Or should I just say, bring home the belly pork and make your own bacon. After reading Carl Skadian's interesting article on making your own bacon(Sunday Times,3 August 2008), I started on my hunt for Insta Cure #1, the crucial curing ingredient for making the bacon.
According to the article, Insta Cure #1 or pink salt, "preserves color,keeps rancid flavors away and most importantly, prevents many bacteria, particularly those which cause botulism poisoning, from growing."
I was able to get a colleague returning home from the US to bring me a pack of this curing salt in late November. Next was the hunt for the Kosher salt. I visited four supermarkets across the island and most of them were out of stock for this item. I finally managed to track it down at the new Cold Storage at East Coast Mall a couple of days before Christmas. As the meat needs a week to cure, I made double the proportion in the hope that I could share the bounty with my siblings.
The Pink Salt, what a sweet color!
Insta Cure #1 and Kosher Salt
The instructions were simple enough, rub the curing mix into the meat, put into a ziplog and chill for seven days, rinse off all salt, pat dry and roast in the oven (for lack of a smoker).
The Dry Cure, a mixture of Insta Cure #1, Sugar and Kosher Salt
After mixing up the dry curing mix, I split the meat into two portions and salted them differently. One would be a plain basic bacon. The other half, I added smashed garlics, black peppercorns and thyme.
Bagged separately into ziplogs and into an airtight box, I started on my seven days wait for the magic to take place.
The Bacon that never was. (Top) Garlic-Thyme-Black Pepper, (Bottom)Plain Bacon
After the long wait, I approach the salted belly pork with much excitment thinking that I will have my own homemade bacon in about two hours. All was fine with the garlic bacon but when I opened the ziplog on the plain bacon, I detected a faint offtish smell. I wasn't sure if my nose was confused with the garlic-thyme bacon earlier and proceeded to rinse both portions of bacon and placed them on the same plate ready for the roasting (big mistake).
In goes the meat at a slow 95 deg C oven. As the heat started to hit the meat, I had this whiff of that offtish smell again. This time I asked my son and hubby down to the kitchen. Without telling them anything I just asked them to take in a deep breath and asked if they smelt anything "nice". They confirmed my worst fear that they too detected a strange smell. Without hesitation, I pulled out all the four pieces of the bacon-wannabes and threw them away before anyone of us would die from food poisoning. Gosh! My heart cried out for the S$44.50 worth of meat going down the rubbish chute. The only funny part I felt was I that I was like a murderer disposing bits of body parts in a plastic bag. LOL!
I gave the oven a good wipe down both inside and out with kitchen bleach and then set the oven at the maximum temperature for about half hour to make sure I bake any bacteria to death. Don't want to take any risk there.
Post Mortem: I recapped each step of the preparation process to figure out what when wrong. My conclusion is that two days before New Year, my fridge was stocked to the the brim with food for a party. Perhaps the fridge was just not cold enough with all the food, wine and drinks jostling to keep cool. The meat could have turned bad at that point. I have written to Carl to see if he can shed any light.
I have not given up on this home made bacon but it will have to wait till after the Chinese New Year, when I have more space in the fridge. Just like my repeated attempts in making Chinese Sausages or Lup Cheong, I will not give up. Next time however, I will not be greedy. I will start with a single portion of belly port to see how it goes before attempting a bigger quantity.
Until then, someone has to continue to bring home the bacon (excuse the pun).
PostScript (4 Feb 09): Carl is baffled too! However he did mentioned that I should turn the meat over every other day to ensure the meat is evenly coated and that the curing mix must be well rubbed in. He has kindly provided me with a Savoury Bacon recipe which I will be trying out very soon. Thanks Carl.