Did somebody say bacon???? Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon. Yessiree, homemade bacon!!!! Interested??? Then read on.
Who doesn’t like bacon? Allegedly, bacon possesses six ingredient types of umami, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response. Also, for those food scientists out there, the chain lards on bacon supposedly give foods a high flavor profile. Hence, it is a one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute. I’ve been eating it since I was a small child thanks to Oscar Mayer who first introduced packages of pre-sliced bacon in supermarkets in 1924. This started the bacon boom in the US much to the pleasure and profitability of Oscar Mayer. Of course, the bacon boom really didn’t start until the 1980s with the advent of the Atkins diet which focused on high protein foods. Social media also fueled the mania with the emergence of food porn blogs. Nowadays, you see bacon virtually everywhere and in a variety of foods, i.e. bacon bubble gum, bacon salt, maple, bacon donuts, baconnaise, chicken fried bacon, bacon ice cream, and chocolate covered bacon. Then, you find bacon band-aids, sizzling bacon flavored rolling papers, bacon air freshener and even a bacon alarm clock that wakes people up with the smell of cooking bacon. It’s really amazing to see what has happened to a traditional meat eaten since the time of the Romans and which once was considered more of a breakfast food than anything else.
I have have been wanting to cure my own bacon for several years now. It’s really not that difficult. You can cure it either through the use of a wet cure or a dry cure. It just takes time and refrigerator space both of which are not always available, especially at the same time. So, it’s no wonder I had not gotten around to it until the Holiday Season.
Now, we have a friend who always makes us laugh. Everything is his favorite so we take him jars of various things we prepare. His wife is real sweet and likes to go to the salvage store with the Baby Lady. We really enjoy their company and see them when we visit my Dad in Corsicana. About 2 years ago Joe came over to Dad’s during breakfast when I had some freshly cured gravlax we were serving with a nice bagel, cream cheese, shallots and capers. Since he was there, we fixed him a plate. He raved about it and, like everything else, it was his favorite. So, last year I made him an entire side of gravlax for Christmas. This year, we didn’t know what to give Joe & Shirley for Christmas. It was then I made an executive decision and decided I had put off making bacon long enough and Joe & Shirley would have homemade bacon for Christmas. Bacon it was and was it ever good. 🙂 This was Joe’s thank you note:
I HAVE EATEN BACON & I HAVE EATEN BACON, BUT I HAVE NEVER EATEN BACON AND TYPED A THANK YOU NOTE IN CAPITAL LETTERS BEFORE. I was so in awe of your bacon that I did not notice I had the cap lock key engaged. This is the first morning Shirley & I have had your gift for breakfast. Usually, I eat two pieces of bacon and Shirley eats one. I cook it and give Shirley the smallest piece and I get the two largest pieces. I did that this morning and after she tasted her piece, she looked over at my two large pieces and inquired why she did not get near as much as I did. That is the only part of your gift of bacon that I did not like. Now I have to share equally. I do have a plan though. Tomorrow I am going to put some of the salt that you gave us on Shirley’s bacon and maybe she will think that she does not like it as much as she thought.
He’s a pretty funny guy but this bacon really is spot on. This is what we did.
- sea salt
- 100% pure maple syrup
- 3.5 to 4.0 lb slab of pork belly
That is it. I told you this is easy. It’s so easy I didn’t even bother with the normal ingredient photo.
Start by washing the pork belly in cold running water.
Put the pork belly in a non reactive container skin side up. I use a yellow plastic container I bought the Baby Lady several years ago from the Sharper Image. They are great for keeping foods in the fridge and they have a slotted rack on the bottom to allow for drainage. As you will see, this is the perfect container for curing bacon.
Liberally sprinkle with sea salt and rub into the skin. Remember, you are dry curing a meat and the salt is needed to prevent spoilage. So, don’t skimp on the salt at this stage. You will need 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sea salt to do both sides.
Now, pour some maple syrup over the top of the pork belly
and smear it around for an even coating.
Now, flip it over and repeat the process.
Now, cover it and place it in the fridge for 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the curing pork belly from the fridge. You will notice the salt will have mostly disappeared into the meat and that liquid is collecting at the bottom of the container. Pour off the liquid in the bottom of the container. The belly should feel a little firmer than when you put it in and the skin will have become leathery. Sorry guys, no photos of this stage. I added about 2 Tbsp more sea salt, a little more maple syrup, covered it and put it back in the fridge for another 24 hours. Once again, remove from the fridge and pour off the liquid in the bottom. At this stage, for fear of over salting, I stopped salting the belly. The belly went back in the fridge again for another 24 hours. I repeated this process for 5 days (5 days total curing time from the very beginning to the end salting 2 of those days). On the 5th day, I cranked up the smoker in the backyard with some pecan wood. I let it get to 225 F and put the pork belly in the smoker for 2 hours.
Looks pretty good, eh? Were not done but close. After 2 hours, remove the pork bellies from the smoker and allow them to cool. They will have a wonderful smokiness to them. When cool enough to work with, peel the brown skin off of the top. All you need to do is get a paper towel to get a grip and pull it off. It will peel quite easily. If you like pork skins, dry these and fry them in oil and you will have mind blowing pork skins.
Now, set your slicer to whatever thickness you desire and slice away.
Now that you have sliced the bacon, you have to test it. So, we made BLT sandwiches. They are the perfect vehicle to showcase the beautiful homemade bacon.
This bacon is great!! It has a nice maple sweetness to it, a fabulous smokiness in the background that is not overpowering and the saltiness from the cure. Wonderful, fabulous bacon. If you have never made your own bacon, you are really missing out. Give this a try. 🙂
33 thoughts on “Maple Cured, Pecan Smoked Bacon”
Of course, you had me at BACON!
Kathryn, you need to give this a try. It is unlike any commercially available bacon AND it is nitrite free. The ONLY preservative is the salt and what little sugar is in the maple syrup. Guaranteed your family will love this.
My entire family adores bacon. I am really willing to try this, too. We have a smoker, too. I like the fact there are no nitrites, too. Although my husband is on a reduced-sodium diet, he does cheat and eats bacon here and again because, well, who wouldn’t? I could never become a vegetarian just because of bacon. Just the smell of it cooking sends my salivary glands into overload.
Richard you are the man.I love it you are making your own bacon now I can say you have got open a restaurant or try for one of those cooking reality shows you very awesome.You have got skillz.Keep up the creative good work.You are a cooking God I amazed by you.You are very blessed with immeasurable talent.
Thanks, Niki, although I don’t think I rate anywhere near God status. I just like to cook and play with my food. 🙂
I love bacon!!
This is awesome!!
Thanks, Adela. This really is so easy to do.
This looks amazing! Great cooking 🙂
Hi, Sunshine. Thanks for the nice compliment. 🙂
No worries! Have a blessed New Years 🙂
Fantastic!!! I haven’t got so excited about trying something new since your tonic water, which is fab BTW. I had a brush with bowel cancer 11 years ago, sodium nitrate being a carcinogen means bacon has been a very occasional treat since. After the holidays when the dust has settled I’ll be makin’ bacon! Thank you !!!
Thanks, Sandra, for the very nice compliment. I love that there are no nitrite or additives or other preservatives in the bacon, only salt. It has a wonderful flavor and is so easy to make. There are also lots of other recipes on the web with different seasonings in the cure. I look forward to reading about what you do. 🙂
That looks damn fine my friend… maybe a small christmas shipment to Oz??
Thanks. 🙂 Sadly, I don’t think this will ship well. Even though it is “preserved” by the salt, it still needs to be refrigerated. We don’t eat a whole lot of bacon so we keep it frozen and thaw it as needed.
Your bacon must be extremely good. I have to say that you have all the best toys when it comes to cooking…I love it.
Thanks, Karen. It is sinfully delicious. As for the kitchen toys, you have to spend your money on something, right???
I totally agree and you have some good ones. 🙂
Really top class stuff Richard. I love the way you bring what have become industrial processes back to basics, demonstrate that we can do this stuff ourselves and get really great results. I am nicely impressed.
Happy New Year to you and yours,
Thanks, Conor, for the very nice words. You really should give this a go. I think you will love it. Happy New Year to you and the family, as well.
Bacon making is my next big cooking project. I can’t wait to try this recipe!
Hi, Anna. You will find that it’s no a very big project at all but it sure is fun and tasty. I am looking forward to your bacon post to see what you come up with. 🙂 I’m sure it will be good.
You don’t have to smoke it afterward, do you? Only because I don’t have a smoker…yet. I’m sure we made some with my friend once and just cured it in sugar and salt and flavorings (coffee works amazingly well!) and then cooked it.
No. You don’t have to smoke it. I just like the extra flavor of the smoke so that is what I did. You can add a variety of different herbs and spices to the cure to fit your own particular tastes or current whim. You can also use a wet cure which is similar to a brine.
Thanks for clearing that up. Maybe I’ll give it a try again sans smoker. Great to see people doing these basic, but beautiful, things at home!
You should definitely give it a try. What is there to lose? The only loss is not trying it because homemade bacon is unlike any bacon you can buy at the market. 🙂
Hi Richard, lovely bacon! As you may know, bacon is not as outrageously popular here as it is in the US. I bet that your bacon would be, though 😉 I’d like to make my own pancetta, which is basically the same thing but Italian. So far not having a curing fridge has put me off that, but with the container Baby Lady got for you a regular fridge seems to do the trick. That opens up some possibilities 🙂 Thanks for another great post!
Thanks, Stefan. I’m surprised you haven’t made pancetta before. You definitely need to try it. You will love it. So will Kees and you already have a slicer. 😉
You have a slicer? Dang. We do have a smoker though so I’m thinking I should try this out. We love bacon! 🙂
Thanks, Virginia. Definitely give this a try.
I bought the slicer when Daniel was in HS. All he ever ate was sandwiches. So, I would cook turkey breasts and roasts and buy entire smoked sausage and large blocks of cheese. We had a small home slicer that I burned up in 9 – 10 months. Determined not to have that happen again, I bought this Berkel 12 inch gravity fed commercial slicer. I got it for a steal and it works like a charm. Now that Daniel has moved, we don’t use it very much. It is rather heavy and bulky to move around but it sure is nice when you need it. 🙂
Good job, Richard. I’ve considered making pancetta but smoked bacon is out of the question. I ditched my smoker after it caught fire. 🙂
Wishing you and Baby Lady a most Happy New Year!
Thanks, John. You should definitely make the pancetta and I don’t blame you for ditching the smoker. Happy New Year to you, too. 🙂