Bacon - where it all began....
My path of Charcuterie creation began with a news article about how easy it is to make home made bacon. And so, as they say, I tried it and liked it. I've been making my own bacon for over 5 years and plan on doing it for many more. Below is my go to recipe adapted from many sources. I start with a full pork belly which I trim off the skin and excessive fat. Some people keep the skin on, but I prefer a lean meaty bacon. If your pork belly comes with the ribs still on it, cut them off and save them for a great dinner of ribs and coleslaw. You might ask what to do with a whole pork belly worth of bacon. I freeze individual packs of sliced bacon for later use. Also you can consider inviting friends over for a "Bacon Happy Hour". A group of my friends and I go to a bar/tavern in New Orleans during French Quarter Fest for their bacon happy hour. Cocktails are served with baskets of delicious bacon. It sure beats pretzels.
5-6 lbs slab fresh pork belly (I get mine at Costco already trimmed, our local Asian market has them with ribs and skin still attached)
1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 Cup ground black pepper
1 tbsp of Morton's Quick Cure for each pound of slab pork belly
2 tbsp course ground juniper berries
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
10 or so - large garlic cloves smashed with the blade of a knife (include the garlic skins)
1 tbsp thyme
3 Bay leaves per curing bag
Maple syrup as needed during smoking
Ground Black Pepper as needed to cover top of bacon after curing
1. Trim the pork belly as desired, if you like lots of bacon fat, keep it, otherwise trim some off.
2. Weigh your pork belly so you know how much Morton's Quick Cure to add to the rub
3. Create a rub by mixing all ingredients except for the garlic cloves and bay leaves in a small bowl
4. Cut up the pork belly into pieces of about 1.5 pounds each
5. Divide the rub evenly and rub it on each piece of pork covering the pork completely
6. Place the pork pieces in separate Ziploc bags. Divide the garlic cloves among the bags and crumble 3 bay leaves into each bag. If you have any extra rub divide it into each bag.
7. Remove as much air from the bag and seal it. Place the bags in a refrigerator for 7 days.
8. Flip each bag over once per day during the 7 days.
9. At the end of 7 days you are ready to smoke the bacon.
1. I setup my bullet smoker to about 210 degrees and use hickory wood for smoking
2. Open each curing bag and smell the bacon slab inside, if it smells spoiled or rancid, throw it away. (I have never had this happen, but I have read that it can occur)
3. Remove the slab from the bag and rinse off all the rub under cold water and use a paper towel to pat it dry.
4. Coat the top of each slab of bacon with black pepper
5. Drizzle maple syrup on the top of each slab and use a brush to evenly spread it.
6. Smoke your slabs for 2.5 - 3 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees. Baste the bacon as it cooks once per hour with maple syrup.
7. Slice the bacon into strips of desired width. For many years I did this by hand. Now I use an electric meat slicer. If you do it by hand, be careful because the bacon is slippery. For the ends of each slab, I would cube it into chunks rather than risk slicing my hand. The chunks are used for baked beans or other recipes that call for cut up bacon.