I took charge of my Bradley smoker with a healthy mixture of excitement and trepidation, writes Sandra Tate ….
Not least since the preparatory reading I had done was as confusing as it was helpful. Naturally I yearn to be slicing my first side of perfectly smoked salmon, or sliding a smoked oyster into the interior of a fillet steak, but best to learn how to crawl before taking an expensive gallop. So, pork belly strips seemed to be a good starting point, very inexpensive, but also extremely versatile if successful.
At only 2cm thick, the belly strips were going to cure easily, nice and uniform, no thick areas. I used a 3:1 mix of salt to light brown sugar and lay the pieces over it and covered with it. Covered and refrigerated overnight it produced plenty of liquid and had turned from pale pink pork to red-brown bacon colour (a delight to the beginner in itself!) and was firm to the touch.
I rinsed and soaked it for a few minutes, patted it dry and cut a few thin slices to try out on the discerning son. Dry fried it coloured beautifully, produced no liquid whatsoever, and tasted shockingly good. For a beginner this is a great confidence builder and I strongly recommend that you try it. What I managed to save from my son went back to the fridge for a couple of days where it dried a little further before I went on to cold smoke it. Problem number one; the smoker fairly quickly rose to 30°C, too warm for cold smoking. The cold smoke adaptor is essential, even in cold weather. That sorted, I gave the bacon but a short 30 minutes smoking time (personal preference for lightly smoked food) and this time the bacon went on to be cut into lardon*.
With bacon retailing at roughly 3 times the price of pork belly I might make overnight bacon a regular
habit. As you can see from my photograph, breakfast was a tasty treat. Again I dry fried it, producing crispy lardon and enough bacon fat to fry a thick slice of my own homemade bread to golden. Add creamy scrambled eggs and presto! one very happy husband.
*A bacon-slicer? I prefer a rustic slice myself, and lardon are so versatile for salads, stews, omelettes, tarts etc, why go to that expense?
Bradley Smoked Bacon & Eggs (Serves 2)
50g lightly smoked bacon, cut into lardon
4 free range eggs
1tbsp crème fraîche
2 slices crusty bread
1 Dry fry the lardon to golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Return the pan to the stove and fry the bread slices to golden in the remaining bacon fat. Sit the slices on warmed plates. 2 Wipe clean the pan and return it to the stove. Over medium heat, melt the butter and crème fraîche to bubblng. Break in the eggs, add a little salt and pepper, and beat loosely with a fork to a creamy scramble (do not overcook it to dry curds!). 3 Divide the scramble over the bread and scatter liberally with crispy lardon. Serve immediately.