What's secret to great bacon? Having it handmade by these local artisans

We swap cooking tips with experts in the curing trade

21 June 2020 - 00:02 By Hilary Biller
When it comes to bacon, all our experts agreed that fat equals flavour.
When it comes to bacon, all our experts agreed that fat equals flavour.
Image: 123RF/Elena Veselova

RICHARD BOSMAN

Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats, Cape Town

Bacon has this ability to make people go weak at the knees. It starts with the smell - slightly smoky and slightly sweet - followed by the first bite of crispy bacon, which yields the salty, juicy flavours as the fat ensures maximum flavour and a silky mouth feel. It has tantalising aromas as well as texture and flavour. What more could you ask for in a single food item?

I started out making a range of cured meats in 2009 and received so many requests to start making bacon that we simply had to.

Richard Bosman of Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats.
Richard Bosman of Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats.
Image: Supplied

Pancetta is gaining in popularity in SA, but bacon is still far more widely used.

Good bacon starts with a good piece of pork. We source our pigs from local farms that are certified free-range. Secondly, never add extra water. We dry-cure our bacon and during that process it loses about 20% of the moisture content of the meat and it's this that concentrates the flavours.

Commercially made bacon gives off a milky liquid during cooking because bacon is usually pumped with up to 25% water during the curing process. This added liquid has to boil off before your bacon will caramelise and become crispy.

Streaky bacon is my best because you have to have the fat for the flavour. I like my bacon crispy, but not burnt with all the fat rendered out.

My best way of cooking bacon is to place it in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast it in a preheated oven at 180°C until cooked to your preference.

Not much beats the bacon-an-egg combo - and the following are some of my favourites:

  • Bacon and artichoke pasta;
  • Carbonara pasta with guanciale (a bacon made from pork cheek or jowl);
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon;
  • A BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich; and
  • Perfectly ripe avocado topped with crispy streaky bacon on sourdough bread.
Richard Bosman says their bacon miso caramel sauce is brilliant on pancakes and ice cream.
Richard Bosman says their bacon miso caramel sauce is brilliant on pancakes and ice cream.
Image: Supplied

Bacon works well in both savoury and sweet applications. We make jars of bacon miso caramel sauce, a sweet sauce with a little added depth from the miso and crispy bacon bits. It's great on pancakes, flapjacks and even ice cream.

Bacon on Brie is my wife Justine's business at the OranjezichtFarm Market in Cape Town. During lockdown we decided to offer people a DIY BLT or rooster option they can make at home. The kit includes bacon, eggs, a sauce and a recipe sheet, and can be ordered from our online store. You just have to add the bread.

There's an art to making bacon and other cured meats. I offer courses in Cape Town, Prince Albert, Plettenberg Bay and Gauteng. They focus on charcuterie block work and cover curing meats including bacon, sausages, salami and chorizo. They are extremely popular and make great gifts, too.

Visit richardbosman.co.za to shop online and book courses. Alternatively call 083 277 3494.

TREVOR CONLYN AND WESLEY LEWIS-HARDING

Tresley's Fine Foods, Fouriesburg, Eastern Free Sate

We are absolutely "streaky" guys because of the fat, the fat and the fat. The fat is where the flavour in meat comes from.

It is our considered opinion that bacon should be cooked flat and not just thrown in a pan. It must be cooked flat and evenly.

What do we do with the bacon fat left in the pan? Fry tomato for bacon and eggs in it, fry bread or make croutons, and if we are making food that calls for fried onions, bacon fat is wonderful as an alternative to oil.

Wesley Lewis-Harding of Tresley’s Fine Foods.
Wesley Lewis-Harding of Tresley’s Fine Foods.
Image: Supplied

Making bacon is a long process. You have to love it to do it and it is a passion and that passion makes for good food. There is no shortage in our production of either.

We start with top-quality ingredients. Be fussy about who grew the pigs from which you are using the bellies. The secret lies in what the pig has been fed on, and whether it has been cared for in a humane way. Living where we do affords us the opportunity to have these discussions with our butcher — and we have had one butcher since we started in late 2015.

Our bacon is dry-cured using a combination of sugar and salt and some secret bits in our recipe, rubbed into the belly. The belly is then vacuum packed and placed into our cold room, where it resides for 14 days, lovingly rotated once a day. This reduces the natural water in the meat and adds flavour.

At the end of the curing period it is removed from the vacuum, rinsed, towel-dried and made ready for the smoke house.

Each belly is smoked over apple wood chips. The smoke is removed from the smokehouse and we wait for the internal temperature of the belly to reach a specific point.

Now the belly is removed from the smokehouse and left to cool to room temperature, after which it is once again vacuum packed and placed in the cold room to await slicing and packaging for sale. There is little shrinkage and NO brine in the pan when cooking.

Our first sale and invoice for bacon was generated on February 16 2016. Since then we have sold a little over 2,500kg of bacon. On average we cure and smoke six bellies a week.

There are a multitude of uses for bacon and here are some of our favourite combos:

  • An omelette or a pancake with crispy fried bacon and the cheese of your choice;
  • Salad with bacon and blue cheese; 
  • The good old Caesar salad with crispy fried bacon bits;
  • Pasta Alfredo with bacon substituted for the ham; and
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, pear, bacon and blue cheese soup - it's one of our all-time favourites at this time of the year.
  • PS Don't forget bacon rashers on a braai, too.

For more information, e-mail tresleysfood@gmail.com or call Trevor on 082 611 1181.