Nothing beats a couple of rashers of top quality bacon to improve your meal, the flavour compounds are truly irresistible, with that unique combination of sweet, smoke, meat and nutty crunch, starting with the smell and finishing with a satisfying mouthful. It’s known as a Gateway to Meat for wavering vegetarians (I know a few who sneak a rasher or two every now and again to satisfy some primordial bacon urge). Bacon and eggs sets you up for the day, while a lunchtime BLT or club sandwich is truly magnificent. Bacon is used as an ingredient in countless recipes, giving little salty morsels of taste to salads, soups and stews, or as a wrap-around asparagus, halloumi or sausages as Christmas pigs-in-blankets.
Our bacon comes from Sandridge Farmhouse in Wiltshire. It’s one of the few types of meat we sell that doesn’t come from Hampshire or Sussex. The reason is that Wiltshire is the traditional home for curing, from the days when pigs were imported from Ireland and were driven along the main road to London in the eighteenth century. Calne became a natural resting place, and some of the town’s butchers would buy pigs and transform them into bacon, sausages, cuts, and pies. The Wiltshire Cure was developed by the Harris family and is a wet brine that results in bacon and ham that is less salty than dry cure.
Bacon producers (including Harris) became more and more commercial, with taste becoming less important. The meat was injected with water to add weight (still common practice). The Keen family at Sandridge Farmhouse started with the desire to keep the traditions of the original Wiltshire cure. They rear their own pigs, the whole sides of pork are then cured in brine baths for 72 hours. The cured pork is finally rested in cold rooms for 4-5 days “After salt, time is our most important ingredient” says Roger Keen. Water is never injected, so your bacon will not shrink by 50% when you cook it.
From there, bacon and ham joints are prepared or smoked over oak and beech chips sourced from the local sawmill. We stock back and streaky bacon, either green (unsmoked) or the smoked golden rind, and we also have slipper joints and whole hams, either on or off the bone. We stock these at Christmas, but if you are cooking for a gathering, then you can feed a crowd with the finest quality ham for about £2 per portion. Just give us a bit of notice and we’ll get larger ham joints in.
England has a wonderful tradition of ham and bacon, just as the Spanish have their air-dried Serrano and the Italian’s their Parma. It’s vital to keep these artisan food producers and their traditional ways going, as the taste of good bacon and ham is hard to beat. Supermarkets can import pork from abroad, cure it over here and call it British, but if you really want to know where your bacon comes from, buy from Sandridge – they deliver it directly to the farm shop every Tuesday.