The multi-prizewinning Natura raw bacon is the result of a painstaking and patient ageing process which lends it a delicate, wood-smoked taste.
Tour de Suisse: producing bacon in Solothurn
The municipality of Flüh in the canton of Solothurn is a special place. It’s located at the foot of the Jura mountains, just a few kilometres from the French border, surrounded by the canton of Basel-Country. An enclave, 30 kilometres away from Solothurn, the canton’s capital. But only a stone’s throw away from the city of Basel.
This special place is where Ernst Maurer makes his multi-award-winning bacon. He’s been putting his heart and soul into the business for over 40 years. Each slab of bacon is hand-checked by him multiple times. As soon as the bacon slabs are delivered, Ernst Maurer thoroughly examines them. «Meanwhile, we’ve got the hang of this. Our suppliers know I only accept top-quality goods. If something’s not up to standards, I get in touch with the meat producer. That does the trick. After all, they all know Mister Maurer only accepts premium quality.»
Next, the bacon is salted. The slabs each weigh several kilogrammes and are rubbed in a sea salt mixture before being stored. The recipe is top secret. What we do know is that it contains several spices and sugar for the colour. The salt draws moisture out of the meat and adds flavour before the slabs continue their journey to the smokehouse.
But first, Ernst Maurer hangs the bacon onto a frame. The slabs look like clothes on a washing line – a washing line on a mobile trolley. «Each slab of bacon passes through my hands at least four times: when it first arrives, when it’s salted, when it’s smoked and when it’s wrapped. We’re talking 300 slabs a day. For the past 40 years. Your body definitely feels it after a while. I don’t need a membership at the gym, that’s for sure,» Ernst Maurer says with a chuckle. But the hard graft has also taken its toll. Ernst Maurer’s joints have started to play up and no longer let him spend too much time in the cold room that’s kept at eight degrees.
The meat is smoked at 38 degrees. The firewood is just smouldering, not burning. This is because high temperatures would melt the fat in the slabs. My eyes sting as soon as Ernst Maurer opens the door to the smokehouse. My throat feels scratchy. «I’m used to it now, but you’d better step aside to avoid smoke poisoning.» I’m happy to flee to the storage room – a paradise for cured meat lovers. This is where three months of work is hanging. Bacon, coppa, ham...
The bacon now gets to rest for three months. During this time, it loses a lot of weight, becomes harder and tastier. «I don’t do half measures. Some of my competitors make do with under a month of maturing. But it shows in the taste. It’s no coincidence that I’ve received over 150 awards. This is what I’m passionate about,» Ernst Maurer says in a tone I’ve only ever heard in overambitious athletes. «Right, time for me to get back to work. Feel free to taste a few things in the shop,» Maurer adds before disappearing.
Straight from the shop or from Galaxus
Since 2017, Maurer has been selling selected regional specialities and meat products from his smokehouse-cum-shop. It’s where customers can get entire slabs of bacon or ham. At this stage, I smell like a slab of smoked bacon myself, and I’m ravenous. A bacon platter will hit the spot now. Even if it’s only 9 a.m. By the way: Galaxus now has Ernst Maurer’s farmer’s bacon (Bauernspeck) and smoked ham (Landrauchschinken) in its range. It’s pre-cut and part of the Natura line.