By Chef Edith Singian / Photography by Cryss Arrieta
Ahhhh… bacon! Thick slabs caramelized with a smoky, sugar cure. If there was heaven on earth, it would be in my kitchen when bacon is sizzling on the pan. The curing of meat is an ancient practice of preserving food. Cato the Censor recorded a method of salt-curing ham that dates back to 200 B.C. During the 14th century in England, it was indeed a sign of poverty to be without bacon. Until the middle of the 19th century bacon and ham could only be cured during winter. The modern curing industry began when refrigeration of curing cellars was introduced in 1877 that allowed curing be done throughout the year.
Curing refers to various food preservation and flavoring processes by adding a combination of salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar. Many curing processes also involve smoking and cooking. There are several methods to cure meat and other foods like cheese and fish. Smoke-curing is generally done in two ways. The cold-smoking method requires low temperature ranging from 70˚ to 90̊˚F, and can take up to a month depending on the kind of food. Hot smoking, partially or completely cooks the food by treating it at temperature from 100˚ to 190˚F. Pickled foods are soaked in flavored acid-based brines. Corned products (such as corned beef) are also soaked in brine (usually water, salt and various seasonings). Salt-cured foods have been dried, and packed in salt preparations. Cheese curing can be done by several methods including injecting or spraying the cheese with specific bacteria or by wrapping the cheese in flavored materials.
The process of preserving meat consists of drying the meat and impregnating it with high concentration of salt and curing salt. Curing salt is 93.75% sodium chloride (table salt), 6.25% sodium nitrate (saltpeter), to prevent botulism. Saltpeter is dyed pink to differentiate from other salts. There is lot of controversy on the use of saltpeter and possible health problems, but at this time, there is NO known substitute for curing meat. Currently, the most common curing salt is Prague powder. Commercially mixed curing preparations contain ingredients to improve color and retard rancidity. Sugar is sometimes added for flavor and helps keep the meat soft by counteracting the hardening effects of curing salt. Curing ingredients also include vinegar (mostly acetic acid), peppercorns (the essential oil has a preservative effect), beer, wines and spirits (alcohol being the preserving agent) and wood smoke.
Hamon ng Bulakan
- 1 kg marbled pork belly (liempo), trimmed of skin and bones
Dry Cure Mixture: Mix
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp prague powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup pale pilsen beer
- 1 clove
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Sea salt, to taste
1 Pierce the pork belly using a fork. Massage the Dry Cure Mixture all over. Cure in the refrigerator for 3 days. Rinse well and drain.
2 Cook cured pork belly in pineapple juice, beer, clove, brown sugar and salt. Correct seasoning. Boil until almost tender about 30 minutes only.
Sprinkle refined sugar on the skin-side and 4 sides of ham. Use a super hot iron ‘siense’ to glaze the ham. It would flambé. Or, use a Chef’s torch to attain a caramel glaze