It is easier than you may think to cure pork, churn cream into butter, bake rolls and make ketchup – and it is a great way to teach kids about where food comes from
It was the prospect of the long summer holidays stretching out ahead that sparked the idea of the Fully Homemade Bacon Bap. "We'll make the whole thing," I told my kids, aged four and six, "even the butter." This produced coos of wonder. "Where do we get butter from?" I asked. "Cows," said Alex confirming that my children are budding foodies with a firm grasp of sourcing. "And bacon?" "Cows!" OK, room for improvement.
My children are growing up in a world where the food they eat is reshaped, wrapped in plastic and stacked on shelves. A DIY food project, I figured, would give us a chance to talk about the realities – with the promise of a tasty bacon bap at the end. We bought pork belly from the butcher and talked about pigs. ''Which bit of the pig is that?" They both pat their stomachs. These casual references to the fact we are eating animal parts avoids a dreaded reveal in the future. We made a "dry cure" using smoked sea salt, brown sugar and bay leaves. And while it was curing in the fridge, we peeked each day and got excited. This gave us time to make the ketchup, bread and butter.
There are few more magical things you will ever do than make butter. It requires a bit of stamina, and help from adults, but is incredibly exciting for kids – shaking, rattling and rolling a cream-filled jam jar when, suddenly, after 15 minutes, it feels different … something is lumping about. Is there truly a pat of butter in my jar? Yes, there really is!
Making bread with kids is a delight too – it has everything you need for the perfect children's recipe: a few simple ingredients, a lot of bashing and a bit of magical rising. Kneading is the best bit – it's basically play-dough.
The ketchup part is comfortingly easy. Alex, the eldest, picked out pungent vine tomatoes. Most homemade ketchups fit into two categories: the posh and the naff. The posh ones are full of ingredients that need to be slow-cooked. The naff ones use tomato puree – pointless if you're aiming for ingredient education. I devised a simple version that sticks to the basics but can be whipped up quickly. The ketchup was second only to the butter in terms of child-wonderment. They really were impressed with themselves for making a reasonable approximation of the kitchen favourite.
So, there we go, the Fully Homemade Bacon Bap, with plenty of food talk along the way. The kids can now reliably tell me what is in bread and which animals give us butter and bacon; they can see a link between the unlikely looking green things dangling off our tomato plants and the squeezy bottle we plonk on the table. We've talked about it all being made from things we produce and grow in our own country. We've talked about how we shouldn't waste it, because of all the effort that goes into making it. We may never, ever do this again – because after all, our local butcher sells much better bacon and I'm never giving up Heinz – but just making a stonking good bacon bap is enough for now.
1.3kg piece of pork belly
30g light brown muscovado sugar
A few bay leaves, chopped
Pat dry your pork belly. Mix the other ingredients together and rub about a third over the pork. Put in a plastic tub, cover and refrigerate. For the next two days, drain off any liquid that has gathered and rub on more of the cure. On the third or fourth day, drain the liquid and give the pork a good wash under the tap. Dry it well, then wrap it in a tea towel and let it dry out a bit longer. Put it in the freezer until firm but not frozen. Cut into rashers, then fry or grill.
500g strong white bread flour
1 scant tsp salt
15g fresh yeast
5 tbsp oil
Mix the yeast into 300ml of warm water and stir. Combine with the flour and oil to form dough. Knead it well – rip off pieces for the kids to play with, and swap for new bits so it all gets a proper kneading. Let it rise for an hour in an oiled bowl, covered with a damp tea towel.Give another gentle knead. Divide into 12 rolls and arrange in a traybake tin. Let them rise again for half an hour. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark six. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped.
500ml double cream
Shake in a jar for a full 15 minutes (it needn't be continuous).
450g tomatoes, cut into rough quarters
1 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
½ tsp celery salt
2 tbsp cider vinegar
Put everything in a pan and simmer until the tomatoes are very mushy. Push it through a sieve and discard the skins and seeds. Return to the pan and boil to reduce to a thick, ketchup-like consistency. Allow to cool.
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