Bacon!!! Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, BACON!!! Is there anything in this world better than bacon? The smell of it, the sound of it, the texture of it, the taste! Bacon is quite possibly one of the best things on this planet…and the pig itself, is just a magical animal. Think about it…it takes vegetables and grain…and turns it into bacon! well, the base of bacon any way. Here, I’ll show you how to turn it into that amazingly delicious treat called BACON!!!
First step is to make your cure for your bacon. Now you can vary your cure from sweet to savory and anything in between. But no matter what, you’ll need to have equal parts brown sugar and kosher salt. Now when I say equal parts, I mean by weight. 1 Cup of Kosher Salt may not weigh the same as another due to density and flake size.
3 lb Kosher Salt
3 lb Dark Brown Sugar
To mix the salt and sugar, you’re going to take them and rub them both between your hands. Because of the moisture content of the dark brown sugar, rubbing it this way helps to break it up while mixing it with the salt.
Personally, I like to add 2 T thyme leaves, 1 T garlic, 2 t cayenne, 1 T chili powder, 2 t ground cinnamon, and 2 t ground ginger. It isn’t necessary to add these to have amazing homemade bacon. This is just what I like in mine and have gotten pretty good reviews from outside sources. You can play around with sweeter ingredients like maple extract or more savory ingredients like chili powder, garlic, and ground mustard. But before you do any of these, I suggest you master the basics first!
After you’ve made your rub, you’re going to want to weigh the pork belly before adding anything to it. Make note of this weight for later use…I’ll explain why in a moment. Take the bacon and place it in a container large enough to work with. Take the cure and sprinkle an even layer over the belly and rub it in thoroughly. Add a little more and make sure that all of it is completely covered.
Flip the belly over and do the same with the other side. Don’t forget to get the sides and ends as well! Once it’s completely coated, you’re going to wrap it tightly, and place it in the refrigerator.
This is very important…make sure you flip your beautiful bacon to be, once a day. Because of the cure, a lot of liquid is going to be drawn out of the belly causing a sort of wet brine. Flipping it once daily insures even curing.
Remember when i told you to weigh the belly and make note of the weight for later use? Here’s why. After making several batches of bacon, you’re going to be able to tell by touch, when the bacon has cured enough. Until that point, we turn to weight loss to tell us.
Remove the belly from the cure container and weigh it. once it’s lost between 18-20%, it’s ready to be smoked. If it hasn’t lost that amount yet, then return it to the curing container and add a little more cure to it. Return it to the refrigerator and check again in a day or two.
Once your belly has lost between 18-20% of it’s start weight, it’s time for the smoking! Rinse your belly of the excess cure, and pat it dry with a paper towel. It’s not necessary to get all of the cure off, but you want to make sure most of it is removed, other wise your finished bacon will be overly salty.
Now to prepare the smoker…
First thing you’re going to want to do is soak your wood chips. Depending on the kind of smoker, you may need more or you may need less than 2C worth of wood chips. I like to use a 1:1:1 combination of sugar maple, apple and cherry woods. The sugar maple adds great color, and sweetness, while the fruit woods add a slightly fruity flavor. Take your chips, put them in a container, and cover them in just enough boiling water to cover. Let them soak for about an hour before you intend to use them in your smoker.
While your chips are soaking, get your smoker started. I like to smoke my bacon low and slow at about 168. It may take a little longer, but the wait is well worth it for that deep smoky flavor. Smoke your bacon to be for about 4-7 hours depending on how thick and how smokey you want your bacon. This belly came off of that 306lb hog i butchered in a previous post and was HUGE! So i took it and cut each belly in half.
On a side note, I find that days that are cloudy and dreary, the food tends to take on smoke faster and heavier. I LOVE smoking foods on rainy days!
Be sure to flip the meat about two thirds of the way through the total cooking time so that the fat takes on color as well.
After you’ve smoked your beautiful bacon, put it in the fridge and allow it to cool completely before slicing.
Cook it in a pan, or in the oven or how ever you like. I love mine done on the grill…adds an extra level of earthy goodness.
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