I’ve been making my own bacon for over a year now, and have made probably over 50 pounds of it in total. I started with a basic cure from the book Charcuterie, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in creating their own cured meats or sausages.
I have a pretty good handle on the basic process behind curing and smoking bacon, and I’ve started experimenting with variations in the technique: cure ingredients, curing time, smoke, and cut. After over a dozen different experiments, I’ve learned that even if a flavour combination isn’t the greatest, it’s hard to ruin a piece of homemade bacon. But, there are some flavour combinations that stand out, and as I do these trials, I record which ones worked so I can keep refining them to the point where I can get some good consistent results.
I just finished slicing, testing, and packing up 8 different types of homemade bacon. The kitchen smells amazing, and the dogs sat and watched me for most of the time. Those poor dogs with their super sensitive noses must have been going crazy.
The process started last week, when I picked up a couple of whole pork bellies on sale. I trimmed them and squared them up roughly, cutting off the uneven edges and making the whole piece about the width of a standard slice of bacon. I then cut them into pieces that were about two pounds each. I set aside 7 of the pieces and froze the rest, and also trimmed up a Berkshire pork jowl that I picked up a while ago from The Boar & Chick Farm.
Each piece had all sides coated with the standard cure mix. The cure recipe I use from Charcuterie is:
- 1 pound/450 grams kosher salt
- 8 ounces/225 grams sugar
- 2 ounces/50 grams pink salt / prague powder #1
These 3 ingredients get mixed together, and keep indefinitely in an airtight container.
For each two pound piece, I used about 2 tablespoons of the cure, sprinkled and rubbed on all sides of the belly. After adding the cure, I experimented with adding additional flavours – listed below:
- Honey and Sriracha
- Cocoa chili, chipotle powder, cayenne pepper
- Tikka masala
- 5 spice / Red chili flakes
- Double Pepper: Black pepper and chili powder
- Apple slices, apple cider, turbinado sugar, cinnamon
- Jowl – black pepper, dried bay leaf, fresh garlic
I looked at what spices and ingredients I had kicking around, and came up with these on the spot. The only one I’d done similar before was double pepper, so this time I tried adding some chili powder to it. I didn’t really record the amounts used here, as I’m just trying rough flavours. Any of these that I end up refining will have a lot more detail and attention paid to them.
Once all the cure and flavouring is on, the next step is to seal it up. I use a vacuum sealer for this, but it’s not necessary. You could use a large ziploc bag, or a non-reactive container.
Now that the cure is on the meat, it’s time to wait and let it do its work. The dry-cure covered belly pieces will need to sit in the fridge curing for 5-10 days. I find that with thinner pork bellies, 5 days is more than enough. Any longer than that, and you’ll probably have to soak the bellies before smoking them or they’ll just end up being too salty.
After the cure is done, you’ll need to smoke and slice the bacon. I’ll cover the rest of the process in my next post, along with some notes on how these turned out. Thanks for checking this out!
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