Homemade Bacon Experiments – Part 1 – Curing

April 24, 2013 12Comments by Bacon, Pork
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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.

Apple Cinnamon Bacon
Apple Cinnamon Bacon

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:

  1. Honey and Sriracha
  2. Cocoa chili, chipotle powder, cayenne pepper
  3. Tikka masala
  4. Adobo
  5. 5 spice / Red chili flakes
  6. Double Pepper: Black pepper and chili powder
  7. Apple slices, apple cider, turbinado sugar, cinnamon
  8. 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.

Honey Sriracha
Honey Sriracha

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.

Vacuum Sealed
Vacuum Sealed

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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Comments

  • Van Patrick
    April 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Awesome post man…now stop making me salivate and share the spoils or start the post about the smoking already. LOL.

    1. Salar
      April 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks! The second post will be up asap!

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  • Burlydog
    May 1, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Nice post. It’s tough to find folks talking about their bacon experiments. Googling “bacon recipe” doesn’t come anywhere near what you’ve got going on here. Looking forward to the next post!

    1. Salar
      May 1, 2013 at 4:20 am

      Thanks – I noticed the same thing. I plan on trying quite a few different types of bacon methods / recipes, so there will be plenty more posts! Check out my facebook page if you want to be sure to catch them when they come out. Also – check out this site: http://frombellytobacon.com/ – I like it a lot, and it has a bunch of different bacon recipes as well.

  • Chef Andy
    May 2, 2013 at 2:34 am

    I make all kinds of bacon too. I really like the sriracha honey idea, I use that as a base for some great chicken wings!

    I did a wet cured Asian bacon with soy sauce, fresh ginger, lemon grass, sriracha, and chinese chilis, but once that is gone I’m going to try honey sriracha.

    I’m curing a Cinco De Mayo bacon for the Mexican festivities this weekend. I used cilantro, jalapeno puree, poblano puree and fresh lime zest. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I am really intrigued by the berkshire pork jowl. I have been looking for pork jowl for quite some time, but I can’t seem to source it anywhere locally. I love the site and love the name, I’ll check back often!

    1. Salar
      May 2, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Chef Andy – those wings sound good! The 2 bacon types you described sound great, and I’ll be checking out your site for more info. Looking forward to sharing more bacon experiments with ya.

  • Protopigeon
    May 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Nice post thanks! I’ll definitely try some of your combinations. I’ve been home curing bacon for a while – much as you have. My favourite is maple syrup, a bit of honey, black pepper and crushed juniper berries. I then cold smoke it over applewood for about 10 hours, and finish it off in the oven until it’s 150F in the middle. I will never buy bacon from a supermarket again :)

    1. Salar
      May 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks! I really need to try out a cold smoke… next batch for sure.

  • Rob O
    October 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Terrific post but I have a question. You say 5-10 days for the cure. That’s a wide range. How do you know when the piece is cured enough? Is it color or texture or what? What do you look for?? Thanks!

    1. salar
      November 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Sorry for the late reply! I look for the slam to be somewhat firm when I touch it – it’s hard to say exactly as it’s pretty subjective. If you cure your bacon and then cut into and notice a kind of grey spot in the middle, that’s part of the meat that the cure didn’t get to – so if you notice that, then it needed more time. It’s not ruined, it just won’t last as long and should be cooked pretty quickly. With average sized bellies, I’ve never had a problem with a 5 day cure.

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