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Got 7 days? Make bacon!

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recipe: smoked bacon; (click on image to see larger view and more photos)

I’ve retrieved the other bacon photos out of the camera and as promised, here is a post telling exactly what T did to make the most wonderful bacon and the most fabulous lardons with the trimmings from squaring off the meat for easier slicing.

bacon Mmmmm… bacon! Who knew that it would be so simple to make bacon at home?

In a recent SAVEUR magazine (issue #113) article entitled “Urban Harvest”, Eugenia Bone outlined just how incredibly easy it is to make bacon at home.

After curing it for seven days, Ms. Bone suggests cooking the bacon in the oven. But we love smoked bacon, so T decided to cook our bacon in the barbecue – with smoking wood chips. For the first batch of bacon, we left the cap on (as per the SAVEUR instructions) while it was smoking. It was absolutely delicious but all the smoky flavour went into the cap instead of the bacon itself.

In fact, it was so delicious, even without the smoke, that we kept trimming more and more pieces off to make sure it was nicely squared off. Here’s how the conversation went:

T: I can’t believe that the SAVEUR article says to trim the meat before cooking it! Mmm, taste this, it’s fabulous!

E: That IS good! Hmm… you’d better trim that piece that sticking out a mm.

T: You’re right. It will be much easier to slice then.

E: That’s not quite straight.

T: You’re right again. There. That’s better.

E: There’s not much left, is there?

T: No. In fact, there’s not much point in putting this away.

E: Now YOU’RE right. We’d better eat it now. We wouldn’t want such a small piece to get lost in the fridge.

bacon For the next and all subsequent batches of bacon, we took the cap off about half-way through the smoking process. It was even more delicious because the smoky flavour permeated the bacon.

Here is what T did to make bacon at home:

Home Made Bacon
based on the recipe for Home-Cured Bacon in SAVEUR magazine #113

  • 2½ lb (~1kg) skin-on pork belly
  • 2½ Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1½ Tbsp brown sugar (demerara)
  • 1 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves

Preparation

  1. Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry. Put it into a large plastic bag.
  2. Put the spices into a coffee spice grinder to coarsely grind them (just one or two buzzes of the grinder) Don’t worry if some of the spices remain whole. Sprinkle half the herbs and spices over top and rub in. Turn the meat over and add the rest of the herbs and spices. Close up the bag and place it in a pyrex bowl. Refrigerate.
  3. Once a day, for seven days, turn the bag over and redistribute the spices. There may be some brine that accumulates. This is expected as the salt draws liquid away from the pork.
  4. The meat should be firm to the touch at the end of seven days. Remove from the bag and rinse off under cold running water. Pat dry and place on a shallow sided tray.
  5. Soak wood chips (we used hickory chips) and place in a container on the barbecue – over the heat. As soon as the chips are smoking, turn the barbecue down to minimum (you will have to play with your barbecue to find out what is best for you). Put the meat on the side of the barbecue that is OFF. (ie: the meat is cooking over indirect heat)
  6. Smoke for about an hour until the cap (skin) seems loose. Cut the cap away and continue to smoke for another hour to hour and a half – until the internal temperature is 150F. Use an instant read meat thermometer. We let the bacon smoke til the internal temperature was closer to 160F – just to be sure.
  7. Allow the bacon to cool completely. Square off the pieces – use the non-uniform pieces as lardons. Wrap the bacon in wax paper and refrigerate til well chilled. Slice thinly and fry as needed.

bacon Apparently the bacon will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The spices are just suggestions. The only essential spice is the salt. Use whatever strikes your fancy. Ms. Bone used garlic and thyme in her bacon.

If you do not have a barbecue, you can also cook the bacon in a slow oven: 200F. It won’t be smokey, but it will undoubtedly be equally delicious.

T is in the process of curing a piece of butt roast to make a ham. It should be ready to smoke in time for Thanksgiving Day this weekend. I hope we can find a good looking winter squash to go with it. Perhaps we’ll have cauliflower au gratin, or scalloped potatoes too. Now that’s the way to give thanks!

 

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  • CAM

    Trimming. Yes, I like this method! I laughed out loud.

  • MrsBrown

    I badly want a bacon sandwich.

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  • Rob

    Cured bacon? This isn’t cured bacon, it’s just salty pork. To properly (safely) cure bacon you need a curing agent such as tenderquick or prague powder #1.

    tenderquick?? prague powder #1??? I have no idea what those are. And as for whether our bacon is cured or just salty pork, I do believe you are incorrect, Rob. As it happens, it’s not particularly salty. However, if you still want to mislabel it, do go right on ahead. Just rest assured that whatever it’s called, it’s awfully good. -Elizabeth

  • tph

    LOL. And when bacon was being produced 100 years or so ago, from which Safeway Store do you suppose they purchased their Tenderquick or Prague Powder #1 ???

  • ejm

    Yes, this trimming method seems like a good one at the time, CAM. The only problem with it is that things don’t seem to keep at all well for more than one day (ie: they disappear entirely).

    So do I, MrsBrown; so do I. Too bad about the excessive trimming. I’m now going to have to wait til tomorrow or the next day for a ham sandwich… :-)

    T, you have made me curious to know just how long tenderquick and prague powder #1 have been available. I just googled up “tenderquick” and see that it is a Morton’s salt product that contains “high grade […] salt, the main preserving agent; sugar, both sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, curing agents that also contribute to development of color and flavor; and propylene glycol to keep the mixture uniform.” with a note to “Always keep meat refrigerated (36° to 40°F) while curing“. I see from The Morton Salt Timeline that the company was formed in 1910 but it doesn’t mention when tenderquick was introduced.

    Prague powder #1 (no idea when this was invented, but my guess is sometime around the beginning of the 20th century) is a little scarier to me because it contains a dye AND sodium nitrite. The Sausage Source website has listed the ingredients:

    All Purpose Cure & Brine (Prague Powder #1) […] Ingredients: salt, sodium nitrite (6.25%), FD&C red #3 (0.00099%) with not more than 1% sodium carbonate added to prevent caking.

    According to Wikipedia, Sodium Nitrite is partially to fix colour and partially to prevent the growth of botulism:

    Sodium nitrite, with chemical formula NaNO2, is used as a color fixative and preservative in meats and fish. […] As a food additive, it serves a dual purpose in the food industry since it both alters the color of preserved fish and meats and also prevents growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which causes botulism. […] While this chemical will prevent the growth of bacteria, it can be toxic for mammals. (LD50 in rats is 180 mg/kg.) For this reason, sodium nitrite sold as a food additive is dyed bright pink to avoid mistaking it for something else. […] Various dangers of using this as a food additive have been suggested and researched by scientists. A principal concern is the formation of carcinogenic N-nitrosamines by the reaction of sodium nitrite with amino acids in the presence of heat in an acidic environment.

    Wikipedia: Sodium Nitrite

    Judging from what I just skimmed about nitrites and safety, I’m thinking that we can safely omit the nitrites. As long as we use enough kosher salt in the cure, keep our curing and cured meat refrigerated, cook it to the required internal temperature and continue to use our trimming method to ensure that there is none left to store in the fridge, we can be pretty much assured that it’s safe to eat our home-cured meat.

    ============
    edit: Aha! From practicallyedible.com:

    Prague Powder is a commercially-sold salt mixture used in preserving meat. It is a generic term, not a trademarked name. […] US Patent No. 1,950,459 for Prague Powder was awarded to a Karl Max Seifert, who assigned it in 1934 to The Griffith Laboratories of Chicago, Illinois, who then marketed the product.

  • Bill Creighton

    I am a retd. sausage maker and USDA food inspector and just wanted to say that you do for safety sake , need a cure in your ingredients for making bacon.. I use mortons tender quick alot of the time..They also have a brn sugar salt and cure mix for dry curing which is good. The bellie I used was sliced 3/16″ while frozen, then thawed and dry cure rubbed on, I really put it on, and put more after 2 days in the frig., It turned out it was too salty after 4 days and it called for 7 days, any way I took it out and washed all spice off and cooked a small piece, way to salty so I used the old pkg house trick of boiling it for 5 minutes, and re-smoking it, this removed most of the salt and it had a good smoky flavor,,some times people will pour a jar of honey on the bellie and after absorbing have a honey taste to it.. the way you are doing it will work, it just doesen’t last for a long while being un-cured..Bill C