You all know by now that I am a huge fan of pork, such a noble beast, snout to tail, it’s all delicious.  I’ve always loved bacon, salami (salumi), and recently have tried my hand at some simple fresh sausages such as bratwurst. I’ve built a smoke house, and am ready to embark on my next porcine (I just like the word) adventure!

Armed with my copy of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, I’ve decided to start simple with homemade bacon.

Curing meats requires Nitrites or Nitrates, it is responsible for the red color and taste common to bacon or ham. More importantly, it inhibits bacteria growth, particularly that responsible for botulism. Before you have a fit about the evils of nitrates, it is likely you consume more nitrates in your vegetables than in your cured meat, but that is a discussion for another time.

With the magic Sodium Nitrite in hand, I made their basic cure:
1 lb kosher salt
8 oz sugar
2 oz pink salt

I did weigh it all out. Let’s not wing it on a first try. Mix it all together.
Basic Cure

Can you see the light pink color? Keep this out of reach of the kids! Improperly used this can be toxic.

I have two hunks of pork belly, let’s do one sweet, and one more savory.

Combine in a 2 gallon zip bag 1 hunk of pork, 1/4 cup of the basic cure, plus some more brown sugar in the sweet one:
Sweet bacon
In the savory one add cracked black pepper, crushed garlic , and some crumbled bay leaves.Savory bacon

Press out the air, and massage the dry rub all over the pork belly. Into the fridge it goes for 7 days. I’ll be paying a visit to check on the progress every day. After a few days much of the water will come out of the meat and fat and form a brine that continues to cure the bacon.

in the cure

After a week it is ready to come out.
end of cure

Take the belly out of the bags – rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. place on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet. This goes back into the Fridge to form a pellicle.
forming the pellicle

A pellicle is a thin tacky skin that forms on the surface of the meat. It will help smoke adhere to the belly.

I can roast it tomorrow at low temp for 90 minutes, or can I wait and smoke it. It’s cured so it won’t go bad, in fact I could air dry it and make it into pancetta.

Finally the day arrived!

Roasted for three hours at 200
out of oven

Took the skin off – a hack job to be sure, I expect to get better as I practice.
Skin removed

Slice off a a few pieces to taste test.
fry it up

Firstly, it doesn’t shrink as much as commercial bacon. It also gives off a lot more fat. But how is it?
Crispy outside, hammy flavor, chewy interior, subtle, rich fatty deliciousness. Unlike anything I’ve ever had. So different from “regular bacon” that they don’t even seem related.

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!