DIY Basic Bacon
Making your own bacon at home is simpler than you might think. Finding a fresh pork belly used to be difficult, but now most specialty shops and stores like Whole Foods Market carry them or can order them for you. Also check with your pork producers at the local farmers’ market. You can really custom-tailor your bacon to your likes with savory, sweet, and heat. Use these recipes as a starting point and then have some fun. Just keep the salt ratios intact. I thank Michael Ruhlman at least once a week for his wonderful book Charcuterie, which has taken this European tradition and introduced it to American cookery. Had it not been for Michael, I would never have started making my own bacon. But I’m here to tell you that once you’ve done it, you will be hard pressed to ever pick up another pound of processed store-bought bacon again. There really is that much difference. I encourage you to try this recipe. I think you’ll become a convert like me—great bacon is best made at home.
Servings
4-5pounds
Servings
4-5pounds
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the pork belly on a cutting board and trim the edges to square it up nicely. Throw any pieces that you’ve cut off into a freezer bag and freeze for another use.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pepper, salts, juniper berries, nutmeg, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Rub this mixture on all sides of the belly. Place it in a 2 1/2-gallon ziptop plastic bag. Pour any remaining spice mixture into the bag and give it all one last rub. Seal the bag, forcing out as much air as possible. Place the belly flat on a shelf in the refrigerator for 4 days.
  3. Open the bag and rub the spices back into the pork. Close the bag, again, forcing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate for 3 days.
  4. Press on the pork belly—it should be somewhat firm, but not solid; to be ready for smoking, it should still give but be much firmer than it was at the start of this process. If it’s still a little mushy, put it back in the refrigerator for another couple of days.
  5. Remove the belly from the bag and completely rinse off all of the cure under cold running water. Pat the belly completely dry.
  6. Some suggest placing the belly, unwrapped, back in the refrigerator to dry out and develop what’s called a pellicle, a tacky surface that allows a meat to absorb more smoke. For making bacon, I find this step unnecessary.
  7. Light a fire in the smoker. Set the temperature for 200–250°. Add the belly and wood chunks. Smoke the belly for 1 1/2–2 hours, until the internal temperature is 150° F. Guess what? You now have bacon. Let the bacon cool a bit and then go ahead and slice off a piece and cook it in a heavy skillet over low heat, turning often. The bacon will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer.
Recipe Notes

From BACON: a Savor the South® cookbook by Fred Thompson. Copyright © 2016 by Fred Thompson. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.org

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