I know I could never be a vegetarian for one simple reason. I love a bacon sarnie FAR too much. The smell of bacon cooking completely distracts me from all else, and is guaranteed to have me drooling. So when this afternoons demonstration included learning how to cure our own pork to make bacon I was very excited.
There is a history of eating pig in Ireland going back to c. 2000 BC, porcine bones were found in the “waste burial” in Newgrange. Throughout history pigmeat has been prominent in the Irish diet. In Waterford in 1382, it was agreed that any pig found “wandering” could be slaughtered by the designated “pig Warden”. From the 18th Century pork and bacon became important exports. With the principle routes of exports being Limerick, Waterford and Cork. Waterford, in 1860, produced nearly two thirds the amount of Irish Bacon imported into London. Munster was such a stronghold for pig rearing, as they were fed the buttermilk left over from the dairy production in the region. And in 1820 Henry Denny began his business in Waterford.
On a family basis , the pigs were slaughtered traditionally twice a year, April and October. It was a big undertaking, with all of the pig being used for various dishes, even the blood which was collected to make blood pudding. The salting and brining of the meat took days, and was a continuous job. Approximately 4lbs of salt was rubbed into each flank.
We looked at both a dry- cure and a wet cure today, and I look forward to trying both. Mind you, I’ve a serious yearning for a sandwich right now, so the curing might have to wait….