The Big Gay Al's Food Adventures
Two of my favourite things are Gin and Bacon, and following a previous less successful attempt, I decided to try again at combining the two. While Bacon Flavour Gin sounds rather repulsive, I was able to easily imagine gin flavours working well with bacon. After all, gin itself is really a flavourless liquid, it is the botanicals that give it it’s distinctive flavour, most prominently Juniper. The other botanicals vary by brand are are often part of secret recipes handed down through generations. The current gin craze however has meant much more information is readily available regarding the flavours used, and many people add botanicals to their gin to infuse further.
The exotic flavours of juniper, star anise, pepper, lime, cardamon have been used with meats in the UK for a long time, and these combined with an otherwise rather bland pork joint seemed a great opportunity.
Grind the juniper, pink peppercorns, cardamon, star anise and the lime zest with a pestle and mortar or in a spice grinder. Add to the salt, curing salts, sugar and then add the gin and combine to form a thick chunky paste. Smear this paste all over the pork, ensuring that it is well covered all over. I usually do this inside a large ziplock bag which I then seal and can massage the meat without having to open the bag.
At this stage, refrigerate and turn/massage the meat in the bag daily. You should find liquid gathering in the bag as the salt draws it out of the pork. Some recipes will tell you to remove this juice, however I leave it in the bag as this contains the flavours we are trying to infuse into the pork. You should be able to feel the pork joint get harder, almost as if it were cooking. this is the curing process taking place.
The cure takes about 2 days to penetrate 1 inch into the meat, so the thicker the joint the longer you need to keep it in the cure mix, making sure to turn and massage the meat daily. For a typical pork loin joint I find 7 days is about right. At this stage remove the pork loin and rinse it thoroughly in running cold water.
The next stage is to air dry the bacon. Having rinsed the bacon, pat it dry with paper towel and place in a dish on a rack. I use a spare clean grill pan and rack from the oven. Now place this back in the fridge in a colder section towards the bottom, but not in a drawer as you want clear air flow around the joint. Initially the surface of the joint will feel tacky and a little sticky. You should find that this goes with a few days air drying in the fridge – for a piece around 1/2 kg in weight I would usually dry for at least 3 days and up to a week.
Now your bacon should be ready!