|Check out this peppery, smoky, sizzling greatness!|
We've dabbled over the years at smoking salmon, chicken, and turkey, and in the more complicated and sophisticated realm of curing pancetta and curing and smoking our own bacon. I finally invested in this amazing cookbook:
I'm so in love with this cookbook. If you are enamored (as am I) with the art of salting, curing, aging, smoking, preserving food, this cookbook is your Bible, a must-have.
Although I like to consider home-curing and home-smoking bacon and other delectables to be so 2011, so avant garde, I remember my daddy talking about his youth, when slaughtering a pig was a routine part of survival in rural life. They would hang the various pork cuts in the smokehouse to cure, and they dropped pieces of the pork skin into hot oil, creating the treasured delicacy "cracklings," like what we call pork rinds or chicharonnes.
There's a Biblical passage in Ecclesiastes that says, "There is nothing new under the sun." No words could be more appropriate. When we smoke our own bacon, we're not reinventing the wheel, folks; we're simply getting back to our roots.
Yummo, look at all this beautiful pork belly just waiting to fulfill its bacon destiny!
I was lucky enough to find large, bone-in pork belly portions. And as a bonus I got to practice my meat fabrication skills. I think that's the culinary school term for having a lot of fun butchering meat, meat fabrication. I removed the rib sections from the pork bellies, reserving the ribs for another use, which I'll detail in a later post.
You only need a couple of specialized items to make your own bacon. You need pink salt, a special salt made for curing and preserving (look for sources online) and it's best to use a food scale for accuracy in weighing your ingredients (you can find very inexpensive food scales -- I found this one at Wal-Mart for around $20).
Basic Dry Cure For Bacon
1 pound/450 grams kosher salt
8 ounces/225 grams sugar
2 ounces/50 grams pink salt
One 3- to 5-pound slab pork belly, skin on
Basic Dry Cure for dredging
Trim the belly so that its edges are neat and square. Spread the dry cure on a baking sheet. Press all sides of the belly onto the cure to give it a thick uniform coating.
Place the belly in a 2-gallon ziploc bag. Refrigerate for 7 days, flipping the bag over to redistribute the liquid that will accumulate every other day.
After 7 days, check the belly for firmness. If it feels firm at the thickest point, it's cured. If it still feels squishy, refirigerate it for up to 2 more days, checking it every day.
Remove the belly from the cure, rinse thorougly, and pat dry with paper towels. Let the bacon rest in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
We made one slab of regular bacon and one slab of pepper bacon. For the pepper bacon, we pressed cracked black peppercorns into one of the pork belly slabs after rinsing.
Prepare the fire in your smoker and smoke the bacon with wood of your choice, such as apple wood, at a very low heat until bacon reaches 150 degrees.
The easiest time to remove the skin is while the bacon is still warm from the smoker. Be sure to save the smoky skin to flavor a pot of beans.
Both the regular and the pepper bacon are good, but the pepper bacon is probably the best bacon I've ever tasted.