Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HOWTO Make Bacon

Side View
Side ViewThe side of a slab of pork
belly is  quite obviously delicious
bacon, only raw.
A few weeks ago I acquired a slab of pork belly from a local Nova Scotian farmer, with the intention of making Bacon from scratch. Plenty of different cuts of meat preserved in different ways can be qualified as bacon; I decided on typical North American pork belly, salt cured and smoked.

Making bacon is pretty easy, if a little time consuming. All you need is:

  • A slab of pork belly
  • Salt (table or kosher. sea salt is too coarse)
  • A smoker
  • Wood

Salt Curing
salt cured the pork belly by covering it in salt and storing it in a glass container for 5 days (actually two containers, the belly was so big I had to cut it to fit into the containers I had available). I coated the pork belly in salt on both sides, then rubbed it in with my hands. Each day after first draining any excess liquid out of the container I repeated the salting.

The curing stage is a good time to add any additional seasonings to the bacon, like brown sugar or maple syrup. For my first batch of bacon I decided to pass.

After the bacon had cured for 5 days (and when I had enough time in the day to watch the smoker), I smoked the bacon. I used my home-made flower pot smoker and cherry wood chips that were soaked in water overnight. The bacon stayed on the smoker for about 8 hours, at 200°F. Since I'd be frying the bacon before eating it, I wasn't concerned about under-cooking it.

Smoking the bacon
After the bacon was smoked, I put it in the fridge for about half an hour to let the meat rest, and to let it firm up before cutting. I cut the bacon with my sharpest cutting knife. A deli slicer would have been nice here. And that's it! The pork belly was now bacon, and ready to be fried and eaten.

It was a good first attempt; the bacon is tender and has a great smoky flavour, but is a bit too salty. The salt and smoke flavour does make it great as an ingredient to other dishes though, like omeletts and soup. Next time I'll try to reduce the salt content, probably by wiping off any excess salt each day, when I drain off the juices.

Frying it up!
If you'd like to see more, you can view the complete photo set on flickr.

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