Friday, February 18, 2011

Makin' Bacon

Homemade bacon... why? how? Simple answers: incredibly good, way easier than you think, keep reading for the details!

The toughest part of making bacon is getting your hands on the pink salt needed for the curing process. I ordered my $2 package of salt from Butcher & Packer,
agreed to pay an outrageous $7.50 in shipping, and then waited impatiently while they sat on the order for 6 days. After a week, I followed up with an email requesting shipping info, and then they shipped my salt. Sorry B&P, I am planning on making lots more charcuterie and you will not be getting any more of my business.  Belatedly, I figured out that I could have ordered it from Amazon and gotten free shipping. Ouch! Amazon is my go-to, but for sodium nitrate?

Making bacon is the February Charcutepalooza Challenge. The day I signed up for the Challenge, I ordered the salt and  Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. What an amazing book! I am not sure where all Charcutepalooza will go this year, but this book offers endless possibilities. Make my own Mortadella? Can't wait.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a big slab of locally-sourced but frozen pork belly from Earth Fare. My friend R who has a catering business offered me a couple of the 2-gallon zip-lock bags that Ruhlman recommends, but I wound up cutting my 8 pound chunk of pork belly into three pieces (one 2 pound piece and two 3 pound pieces) so I was able to fit each into a regular 1-gallon zip-lock.

First, I mixed up a cure for the bacon:

Ruhlman's Basic Cure

  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 2 ounces pink salt

Whisk together the salts and the sugar.

For one of the 3-pound pieces of pork belly, I used a sweeter cure by adding 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar to 1/4 cup of the salt mixture. Dredge the pork belly in the cure and bag it in a zip-lock, squeezing out the extra air.For the other 3-pound slab, I made a savory cure by adding 3 crushed bay leaves, 5 smashed cloves of garlic, and a tablespoons of crushed black peppercorns to 1/4 cup of the salt mixture. Dredge the pork belly in the cure and bag it in a zip-lock, squeezing out the extra air.The two bags were refrigerated for a week. Each day, the bags were flipped to redistribute the cure. After 7 days, the pork bellys were removed from the bags and rinsed. It was an unseasonably warm day, so I fired up the smoker, using what we had on hand -- 3-4 pounds of mesquite-flavored charcoal along with some hickory chunks and chips and smoked the bacon on a very low heat -- around 125 degrees -- for about 7 hours. It made for some seriously yummy bacon!

Sweet bacon:

Savory bacon:

I've planned dinners featuring the savory bacon for tomorrow night, and the sweeter bacon for the next. Can't wait to cook, eat and share!


hippieingeeksclothing said...

Your pork belly is gorgeous! Can't wait to see what you cook up. I'm brining a second tomorrow in hopes of succes.

Mme. Dakar said...

I did wonder what on earth you were going to do with pork belly? But I figured it was one of those things I'd rather order in a restaurant than fool with myself. But bacon is a different proposition altogether.

TC said...

My local Acadamy Started carrying the Pink Salt. If you have one you can check there for Pink Salt.

Lynn said...

That is good to know even though our closest Academy is about 2 hours away!

Joel said...

Beautiful pics. I make bacon too. Do yourself a favor and cut out the pink salt. People have been making bacon for thousands of years without nitrates. It does nothing for the flavor and is very unhealthy. You can even buy some organic brands without it. Just cook it quickly or freeze it.