Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Makin' Bacon!

Just the thought of bacon gets my mouth watering, so taking the leap into making my own at home was a challenge I have been wanting to take on for a while. When I made an impulse buy and picked up 9lbs of pork belly, I figured there is no time like the present to figure it out.  Doing research on how to make bacon is like searching for advice on weight loss, there are a million ways to do it, and ten more on how the others are wrong.

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to making "curing" bacon.  You can take the traditional route and use a curing salt often referred to as pink salt or prague powder #1 which is a quick cure, but is loaded with nitrates.  This is not the same as store bought "pink salt", you have to buy this at a specialty shop or online.  Or you can go with a "nitrate free" method often referred to as uncured bacon which uses an alternative such as celery salt, which still contains some level of nitrates...

I chose to go with an uncured bacon, and really didn't follow any school of thought on the process other than deciding to hot smoke the bacon vs attempting to cold smoke in Southern California....  I cut the slab into four 2.5lbish chunks and prepped four different rubs.  The first was simply salt, pepper, and paprika. The second followed suit adding cayenne pepper.  To give a little sweet to the savory, I added sugar to the third chunk along with salt, pepper, and paprika.  For the fourth I used all five ingredients to add a little heat to the sweet.

Once I finished adding the rub to the pork belly I used the food saver to vacuum seal the slabs and put them in the fridge to "cure" so to speak for four days.  On Sunday I removed the pork belly from the bags and let them set at room temp for about 30 mins while I fired up the smoker to 225 degrees.  Some of the posts I read had you wash off the coating prior to smoking the meat, which had I used a curing salt I would have, but I decided to leave it on while the meat was on the smoker.

Unlike bacon you buy at the store, this is hot smoked so the bacon is technically cooked to 165 vice cold smoking which is not safe to eat until cooked.  I was concerned that by hot smoking the pork belly it would be either hammy or taste too much like a pork chop, but to the contrary, once it cooled and I sliced it, it fried up just like bacon and tasted quite amazing.

During the slicing process I ended up with chunks of smoked pork belly, which when baked in the oven for 20 mins turned into an indescribably awesome treat!

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