Irish Mild Cured Bacon was invented by Mr. William Oake of Ulster sometime in the late 1820s/ early 1830s. Mild cured bacon was the first technical development away from traditional dry cured bacon that was practiced for millennia. It was replaced by the modern high injected, industrial bacon following World War 1. The use of needles to inject brine into the meat tissues was incorporated into the system very early on. Needle injection itself was invented in c. 1850, also in Ireland.
Brine was prepared and sterilised. Meat was soaked in liquid brine for 7 days. After brine soaking, it was rested for up to three weeks and smoked. Smoking was done for between 24 and 48 hours.
The simple brine make-up was:
10 lb salt (54%)
8 lb of dark brown sugar (43%)
1/2 lb of saltpeter (2.7%)
Total brine: 18 1/2 lb. (100%)
Dilute it in water, but it must be able to float an egg.
Recreating a legend
In 2019, I joined a unique company in Johannesburg. They gave me the opportunity to recreate Mild Cured Bacon and we are making it available to a carefully selection of retail outlets and catering clients.
Irish Mild Cured bacon is an excellent example of traditional methods, natural ingredients and a pure meat product, unadulterated by modern influences.
Recreating a Legend
The first step was very successfully tested wit the expert help of Carlo and Stephen at Van Wyngaardt on 16, 17 and 18 May 2019. The four week period was reduced to three days for testing purposes but the process steps were retained. The results were spectacular.
The brine composition was retained with the exception of the salt and saltpeter quantily which is reduced to much lower levels. Sugar levels are also reduced to prevent burning in the pan due to excessive caramelisation. Ascorbate, a natural product, is added to comply with legislative requirements.
The next phase is to adjust the time closer to the original. As it is, what we created is EXCEEDINGLY good meat!
Superior in Every Way
Newspapers started tracking the price of Mild Cured Bacon from 1842. It shows the place it occupied as superior to any other system and its legendary status. Mild Curing was finally abandoned after the First World War when it was replaced by quick curing, high volume, high injection modern bacon processing methods. It is safe to say that following the war, apart from small artisan operations, it, by and large, disappeared until our recreation!
Here are a few quotes about it followed by the actual article or advertisement.
Mild Cured Irish Hams and Bacon – “The best ever sold”
Widely advertised and “Mild Cure” used as the key product feature.
Often repeated – adverts like this appeared countless times.
Mild Cured Bacon – “Greatly praised by purchasers”.
Mild Cured Bacon – “met by good sales.” In comparison, “scarcely any business has been done” in competing, “inferior” products.
“Choice Mild Cured Bacon”.
“Brisk demand” for “mild cured meat”.
“Bacon market dull .., except for choice. . . mild cured bacon“.
“Bacon market flat, . . . but “mild cured is much sought after.”
The grandeur and magnitude of producing these legendary foods cannot be overstated. Being involved in the project is an honour. Modern demands of “lower prices” has chipped away at the heart of what made bacon from the late 1800s EXCEEDINGLY great! We are delivering on a vision to put EXCEEDINGLY good-ness back into meat!