Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Easy Home Made Bacon - Plain, Old Fashioned, or Sweet Maple Cure.

Who doesn't love bacon? OK, apart from the obvious... but bacon just makes everything better, right?

Have you ever thought about having a go at making it yourself?

Then looked around and felt a bit overawed by the different recipes and methods?

Me too. So, after seeing someone I knew making some rather mouth-watering bacon and egg muffins from their own home made bacon, I was inspired to make the leap, do plenty of research (as is my wont) and have a go at making my own. It's actually surprisingly easy to make your own delicious bacon, and you don't need any special equipment to be able to make it - although there is the odd gadget that makes life easier, such as a meat slicer! So don't be afraid to give it a go - my step-by-step guide is further below!

My friend kindly shared the recipe they'd used with me, which was an American one using cup measurements. I'm happy using those in general, but when using things like salt, sugar and sodium nitrate, the mathematician in me feels much happier using weights (as crystals can vary in size, therefore one kind of salt is not of an equal weight to another by volume), and of course using something like sodium nitrate you need to weigh it out extremely accurately, as it can be toxic if too much is used, and if you don't use enough, you negate its powers of preventing pathogens occurring in your bacon. I strongly recommend using digital scales to ensure accuracy.

My bacon and tomato buttie... for bacony heaven, add some tomato wedges to the pan
at the end until a little camarelised, and put a smear of ketchup on the bread. Mmmm!!

It is your choice whether you choose to use a sodium nitrate product - using it ensures a higher level of food safety by preventing things like botulism, and maintains the pink colour of meat in the bacon which most of us are used to. If you don't use it, your bacon will have the normal grey colour of pork when cooked, which is purely an aesthetic detail, but you will not have quite the same bacteria killing properties in your cure. However, this blog is purely about making bacon, rather than further debating whether to use sodium nitrate or not and I can only vouch for the safety of preparing bacon using my method if you use the core ingredients as suggested in the appropriate measures.

I used Prague Powder #1 in my cure, which is pretty widely available.

I also used the following recommended formula for it in a dry cure which I scaled up to the weights of pork belly I had.

Pork                            100.00%        1,000.0g
Salt                                 2.75%             27.5g
Prague Powder #1       0.25%               2.5g
Sugar (optional)           2.00%             20.0g

Aromatics (e.g. herbs, spices) - to taste

I bought a piece of pork belly which was approximately 6 pounds (around 2.75 kilos, at a cost of about £12). The butcher took off the skin for me, and cut the belly into two equal pieces (one had a couple of small ribs in it, but bones can be removed after curing and smoking, before or while slicing). After removing the skin (frozen for making into crackling / chiccarones at a later date) I was left with two pieces weighing  about 1.25 kilos each (around 2 pounds, 9 ounces). This means that you'll end up with the equivalent of ten 250g packs of bacon, at just over £1.20 each.

If you just want to start off doing one smaller piece of belly, then try and get one weighing 1.25 kilos without the skin (or about 1.4-1.5 kilos with skin)

I decided to do one piece with a cure including maple syrup (as an addition, to make a sweeter cure), and the other with brown sugar, bay leaves and juniper berries (you can omit the bay, pepper and juniper berries if you just want plain bacon).

Ingredients for bacon cured two ways

Ask your butcher for a piece of pork belly about 6 pounds / 2.75 kilos, and get him to remove the skin for you,  and cut the belly into two equal pieces. You can freeze the skin for later use (i.e. crackling, scratchings, chiccarones etc.) This way, the pork belly pieces are a suitable size to fit inside most ziplock, resealable, or vacuum bags whilst curing (or you can use a non-reactive, food safe container, if you prefer).

If you use different weights of pork, you must scale the ingredients up or down appropriately (this is most important for the Prague Powder #1 which must be 0.25% of the total pork weight, no more).

Plain, or Juniper and Bay cured bacon
If you just want plain bacon, omit the juniper, bay and pepper - the sugar is optional too. Any aromatics you add to the cure are only going to flavour the surface of the meat.
  • 1.25kg piece pork belly (skin removed)
  • 35g salt (I used food grade PDV salt as recommended by the River Cottage, which is cheaper to buy in bulk if you're going to cure your own meats)
  • 3g Prague Powder #1
  • 25g brown sugar (e.g. demerrera)
  • 3 bay leaves, chopped up
  • 10 juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Sweetcure Maple cured bacon
  • 1.25kg piece pork belly (skin removed)
  • 35g salt (I used food grade PDV salt)
  • 3g Prague Powder #1
  • 25g brown sugar (e.g. demarrera)
  • 50ml maple syrup (use pure, without other added sweeteners)


1. Mix the dry ingredients. In both cases, I put all of the dry ingredients into a spice grinder to grind to a relatively fine powder which means that everything is mixed really well, and it is easier to distribute evenly over the pork. You could achieve a similar effect using a pestle and mortar. If you don't want the bay and juniper flavours to be too pronounced, just chop / crush as above and only grind the other ingredients. Measure the thickest part of your pork belly to work out the curing time (you can do this by just laying it on a chopping board, and putting it on the edge of your counter and holding a ruler next to the highest part of it). Curing time is one day per 1/2 inch (13mm) of thickness, PLUS one day (round thickness up rather than down!). Mine were just over 2.5 inches at their thickest points, so I cured them for 7 days (rounded up to 3 inches, therefore 6 days plus one extra) - I think 7 days will probably be the average for most people.

2. For the plain / juniper and bay bacon, scatter and rub/press on about 75% of the cure onto the meat side, and the rest onto the skin side. For the maple cured bacon, rub the syrup over the (dry) pork belly first (it's useful to do this on a large plate to catch the drips / excess), then scatter the cure over - about 75% of it on the meat side, and the rest on the skin side - and rub it in. I actually got a small helper to scatter on the dry cure for me, while I rubbed it in, as it is a bit of a messy job, especially with the maple syrup!

Juniper and Bay Cure
3. Preferably place your bacon into a vacuum bag, or resealable bag (and scrape in any cure and/or syrup which hasn't stuck to it so that everything is in the bag), remove the air from the bag, and seal. Alternatively you can place into a non-metallic container and cover with cling film, but a bag is the easiest, least messy and most effective option as you need to turn the bacon over every day. Place in the refrigerator, near the bottom where it's coolest. 

Maple Cure
If you're like me, and a bit scatty, write a list of alternate days on one side of it, so you know if you've turned it or not at the end of each day!!

Go by the thickness of your pork bellies at the thickest part, as in instruction 1. for the curing time, and turn over once each day, massaging briefly on the outside of the bag to ensure the cure is evenly spread - you will find the pork gives out a little liquid after the first day. For most people it will probably require 7 days cure.

4. Now your pork has finished curing, you need to drain off the liquid and thoroughly wash off all of the cure with cold water (but don't soak it), then pat dry with paper towels. Put the pork into the (bottom of the) refrigerator on a rack, uncovered, for 1-2 days for the flavours to equalise and to dry out prior to smoking (if you're intending to smoke it - the smoke will adhere to it better if the surface has dried out to a slightly tacky finish). I put the fat side facing down. Be aware of food hygiene when storing uncovered meat (not above cooked meats etc.).

5. Congratulations! You now have bacon which is ready to slice and eat - or to smoke if you would like (which I highly recommend - see the next stage - smoke is also an additional form of preservative, as well as a tasty flavouring!). If you're not going to smoke it, I suggest you slice it then vacuum pack it in appropriate portions and refrigerate until needed - if you want to keep it for more than a couple of weeks, or you haven't got the facilities to vacuum pack it, I suggest you freeze it in portions to be on the safe side. I use a meat slicer to slice my bacon as it gives nice even slices. You can of course just keep it in a chunk, and slice it off as you want it if you prefer, as it should keep for a couple of weeks.

6. If you want to smoke your bacon then I recommend cold smoking it- I tend to do this overnight when it's nice and cool, in the garage - it's best to do this in dry weather, as too much humidity effects the results. For a milder smoky taste, go for about 4 hours, and for what I would say is an average smokiness, go for 8 to 12 hours. Some people even go up to 24 hours, but I found 10 - 12 hours gives it perfect smokiness for our tastes. After smoking, I advise wrapping the bacon, and leaving for a further 1-2 days in the refrigerator for the smoke flavour to permeate the bacon, and then slicing as desired and storing as advised in stage 5 above. For cold smoking, I use a ProQ Cold Smoke Generator which I highly recommend, as they will give out smoke for up to 10 hours (I find mine will keep going for a good 12 hours on a cold day!) which is perfect for smoking your bacon.

Bacon to the left, butter, cheddar, gouda and edam to the right (and after, mackerel)
If you have a lidded barbecue, this is great for smoking your bacon in, I use this one, which is a decent size and perfect for the job, and put the bacon to either side of the smoker so it is not directly above, and you could also put in quick-cured mackerel (4 hours smoking time, my recipe is here), hard cheeses (4-6 hours), butter (4-6 hours), garlic, salt, paprika etc. to smoke at the same time, as I do like to make the most of it (but be careful not to cross contaminate)! Smoked butter is to die for... And I used maple smoke dust to smoke with, although other types of wood dust are good too. If you don't have a lidded barbecue, ProQ do an 'Eco Smoker Box ', which is essentially a large, sturdy cardboard box with a couple of wire racks and a metal tray at the bottom, and space for your smoke generator underneath which is perfect for your first go at cold smoking as it only costs a few pounds and will actually last a good while if you store it appropriately.

So there you go... you now have your own, home-made bacon, and store-bought will never taste quite the same again - enjoy!


Everyone has different tastes. I found this formula gave the perfect saltiness. Remember, if you taste your bacon just after curing or smoking it, that the end pieces are probably going to be quite salty, so slice a couple off first before tasting, and also it does need a day or two for the flavours to equalize. However, if you do find your bacon is too salty, all is not lost, simply soak for an hour in plenty of cold water and try it again. You can even soak overnight in cold water if you really want to reduce the saltiness.

With thanks to Linda, for sending in photos (below) of the bacon she made using my recipe - it looks fantastic!

Please note this blog contains affiliate links, which will not make any difference to the price you pay for products should you purchase via the link, but means I will get a tiny percent of the profit from Amazon, which helps to fund developing recipes to share with you for free on my blog.


  1. This was a fabulous cure Andrea. Many thanks. Tried it out and got some fab results. I added fennel pollen to the mix and got some lovely aniside undertones. Might put a little less sugar next time and soak it for an hour as a little salty.

    1. Thanks for your comment and the photos, Linda - fennel pollen sounds like a really interesting addition to the flavours!


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