Inspired by this post on NW Edible Life, I decided the time had come to put my bacon where my mouth is, so to speak, and dive in to the process of home bacon creation. Having procured the requisite pink salt from Amazon and a 1.5 lb side of pork belly from the local Asian grocery store, I set about making a home cured slab of bacon, and it’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever had.
I didn’t want to start with a huge amount of pork side for two reasons. The first is that I didn’t want to waste a bunch of meat if I messed up, and the second is that I wanted to try making it using my stovetop smoker, which accommodates a much smaller cut of meat than the backyard variety most folks use. This also resulted in some slight differences in the final product, which I’ll explain below.
I started with this guy (1.5 lbs):
First thing was to remove the skin. Using a VERY sharp, honed knife, it wasn’t terribly difficult. Just do it really slowly.
Then, I mixed up the curing mixture from the NW Edible site’s page (link above) being VERY CAREFUL to adjust the amounts for my smaller cut of belly, especially the pink salt. Don’t want to overdo that stuff, now.
By the way, pink salt is sodium nitrate. There’s a lot of nonsense out there about nitrates and nitrites being awful for you, but it’s mostly just nonsense.
I rubbed it in really well:
Then it was simply a matter of sticking it in a zip-sealed plastic bag in the fridge for ten days. I turned it every day or so. When the the days were up, I removed the meat, rinsed it off, and patted it dry, and out it in the stovetop smoker.
A stovetop smoker is AWESOME, and if you don’t have one, you should get one (or find a wife who is savvy enough to realize you need one and buy it for you). This is the one I have, and here’s the cured belly, ready for smoking:
Basically, it’s a sealed metal container into which you insert a couple of tablespoons of wood shavings (I used hickory the first time, and apple the second). The low heat ignites the wood shavings, which slowly smolder and smoke whatever you’re cooking.
The thing about stovetop smokers is that they’re hot smokers, which means the meat cooks a little while it smokes. Since this is bacon we’re talking about, we don’t want it too cook too much or dry out, so I set it on medium-low and turned the meat a few times while I smoked it. I also added a second load of wood shavings when the first had burned down. You want to leave it in until the internal temperature is about 150 degrees. The smoking process took about two hours.
Here’s the result:
Theoretically, you could eat it now, or even toss it into the smoker one last time for a finish (which I may try next time). But, why not fry it up like you’re supposed to?
I can’t explain the difference between eating this bacon and eating the store-bought stuff– it’s like the difference between hearing an original song you love and a decent cover version. I highly encourage anyone who likes bacon to give this a shot!
P.S. I know my food photography leaves something to be desired, but I have an awful, awful camera. If anyone wants to buy me a new one, you’re welcome to do so!