Homemade Bacon February 24, 2013 12:04 1 Comment

Great bacon starts with great pork belly.  If you've got a friend who raises a few hogs each year, you're in luck!  For the rest of us, your local butcher is a good bet.

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Start by skinning and trimming your pork belly. This belly is a bit thin, but had great flavour!

 Step one: cure the pork belly.  I only have one photo to represent a few tasks, so let's explain what's going on here.  You start with whole pork belly and trim off the skin if applicable.  Then you rub or pack the meat in a cure consisting of salt, sugar, and pink salt #1 (aka prague powder or insta-cure).  It's a good idea to pre-mix this for uniform distribution in a 8:4:1 ratio (i.e. 8 grams salt for every gram of pink salt).  Pink salt contains sodium nitrite which inhibits bacterial growth and develops flavour, but is harmful in large quantities, so measure carefully. For the bacon pictured, we packed the pork belly in a tupperware full of this cure and refrigerated it for a week until it was firm.  You can also just rub it (generously!) with the mixed cure and refridgerate sealed in a ziploc, but I've had less consistent results this way.  Regardless of how you apply the cure, flip the bacon every few days and rinse it thoroughly afterward.

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Preparing to smoke the cured belly

 Step two: smoke 'em if you got 'em.  This is super easy if you have a smoker box such as a Little Chief (pictured).  If this is not feasible (i.e. if you live in an apartment) you can approximate the flavour with liquid smoke or a splash of scotch or bourbon (Credit to the folks at Save On Meats for that last trick).  In one batch that turned out well I used a splash of hot sauce made with smoked peppers.

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the loaded smoke generator

 The smoke generator of the little chief is dead simple - it's a little pan you fill with wood chips.  We used the ones they sell that are pre-treated not to ignite, but I think you can also just use any hardwood chips and soak 'em (update: confirmed. soak your chips for at least 30 min and drain well).  This was a mix of hickory and alder.

 2012-10-21 17.59.38plugged in and ready to go!

 The little chief in action.  Sorry, that's all the photos I have!  We smoked this batch through an evening and overnight, which resulted in a very strong smoke flavour that was delicious in small quantities.  Next time we'll probably cut it to a few hours.  Mmmm!

Update: we now sell a homemade bacon kit, which includes prague powder #1, liquid smoke, and detailed instructions to make your first homemade bacon a smokin' success.