Before I tell you how I made it, let me tell you how I ate it. Right after I pulled the cured and smoked belly off the barbeque, I decided to slice off a piece, cube it, fry the cubes and then... wait for it... put the fried bacon on some bread with a drizzle of maple syrup. It's like happiness on a piece of bread. Salty, sweet, smoky, crispy, fatty... I am 100% sold on making my own bacon.
So why did I decide to make my own bacon? Well, it fits my pattern of interests considering I've made pancetta and guanciale already. It also gives me an opportunity to try smoking. Lastly, I need bacon for my famous Thanksgiving brussels sprouts. Yeah they're famous, and I will be posting the recipe soon.
Here is how the bacon-makin' went.
To imagine what you are about to do, your hand is on top of the skin and the knife is just below the skin. The knife blade is held parallel to the counter (and pork belly). Your hand should be able to feel the knife through the skin - this will help you take off a minimum of fat. Go slowly and check periodically to make sure you aren't taking off too much fat with the skin.
Don't throw away the fat-covered skin! I am using mine in an upcoming braised dish. All you do is put the skin, fat side down, in a hot pan and render the fat out. You can then use the fat to saute whatever your heart desires. Freeze it in a ziploc bag until you need it.
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)
1 tablespoon of coriander seed
2 tablespoons of hot pepper (optional)
|At the start of the curing process|
The day before the smoking, take the pork out of the salt/sugar mix, rinse it and let it sit on a rack in the fridge. This allows the pork belly to develop a pellicle or coating on the outside. The pellicle helps the belly absorb the smoke.
3. Now, it is time for the smoking. I decided to do a hot smoke. Mostly because I am using a BBQ so I don't really have the option of doing a cold smoke. As well, though, I didn't use nitrites in my curing mix. Nitrites kill botulism and I felt uncomfortable holding a piece of pork at a warm temperature for an extended period of time (8-12 hours) without this botulism killing power. The last thing I want to do on Thanksgiving is give my family food poisoning.
|At the end of the curing process|
Verdict: As I mentioned earlier, I did sample the bacon and it was amazing. The smoke flavour from the BBQ is so much better than the injected smoke flavour found in store bought bacon. So much better. It is ultra-luscious and fatty. I don't think I will ever eat store-bought bacon again.
Now I just need to buy a proper smoker.
- Smoking as a method to cure meats came about an accident. I guess that's what happens when you live in a smoke-filled cave with no fridge!
- If you do decide to experiment with cold smoke, you need to properly cure the flesh. And you might want to use nitrites. Just sayin'.
- I love bacon.
Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.