No….neither can I.
Back in the heady days of Charcutepalooza, I missed the bacon making challenge as I was a few weeks late to the game. Ever since, I've been dying to try my hand at it and see how much better bacon could be when crafted at home, from scratch. As luck would have it I had two critical pieces of the bacon making puzzle fall into my lap over the past months. First, my parents bought me a cool, fire-engine red Brinkmann Electric Smoker for Christmas (thanks, M&D!), then my friend Alicia turned me on to a great new artisanal butcher shop in Somerville called M.F. Dulock. Everything looked so good at Dulock that it took all my will not to buy out the entire shop! I was a good boy and bought only the pork belly and a handful of delicious lamb rib chops for dinner that night. But in the words of our country's most famous philandering Governor, I've no doubt that…."I'll be back".
These two things along with a great recipe from I book I already owned, Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing was all I needed to get into the bacon making business. At it's simplest, making bacon just requires curing a slab of fresh pork belly for about a week in the fridge with a simple dry cure (recipe below). Once fully cured, you can rinse and dry the belly, cut off it's skin and you're good to go. I took the extra step (though hardly any more work) of smoking the bacon after it was cured to produce a more robustly flavored final product. For those of you that want to try your hand at making bacon and don't have a smoker, try this cure only method and finish it by roasted it in an oven with NO smoking chips and let me know what you think. If you own a smoker (or want to McGyver one in your outdoor grill), by all means go for the whole experience.
I recently used half of my slab of bacon as crispy lardons in a terrific lentil-sausage cassoulet that I'll post here next week. The rest of the belly will likely be sliced and cooked up some weekend morning with some eggs and pancakes. I can't wait!
This stuff is swoon-worthy, you really should give it a try.
Cheers – Steve
for the dry cure:
- 1 pound kosher salt
- 8 ounces granulated or brown sugar
- 2 ounces Curing Salts - Pink Salt
- 3 to 5 pound fresh pork belly, skin on
- wood chips for smoking (we used apple wood)
- Trim the belly so it's edges are nice and square and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Combine the salts and sugar to make the dry cure, then measure out about 1/4 cup of the mix and pour it over the pork belly. Reserve the rest of the cure for future use.
- Rub the cure all over the pork belly, then seal it up in a 2 gallon Ziplok bag making sure to squeeze out any air before sealing. Place the bag holding the belly in a baking dish (in case of a leak) and place it in your fridge for 7 days, flipping the bag every other day.
- After 7 days check the belly for firmness, if it feels firm at it's thickest point it's done, if not, put ot back in the fridge for another 2 days and test again until it is fully cured.
- Remove the belly from the cure, rinse it and dry it with paper towels. If you are going to smoke your bacon, proceed by following the directions of your particular smoker, using your choice of wood chips to flavor the belly. If you won't be smoking the meat, proceed as these instructions direct.
- Heat the oven to 200℉. Put the belly in a roasting pan, preferably on top of a rack to encourage even cooking, and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 150℉ at it's thickest point. This should take about 2 hours, but start checking the temp around 1 1/2 hours.
- Pull the belly from the oven and let cool slightly, then cut away the rind, or skin while the fat is still warm. Once the slab is cool, wrap it well and toss it into the fridge. It will keep for 1-2 weeks refrigerated, or up to 3 months frozen.
- To serve, slice it into strips and pan fry them, or cut into lardons and saute them for inclusion in salads, a pasta carbonara, or just to eat as finger food!