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. 🙂