Real Bacon

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I am firmly opposed to factory farming of animals, especially in the case of pigs, and only want to eat meat from animals that were treated decently and fed well. Pork like this is hard to find, but recently I came into a large fortune: a slab of pork belly from a farmer who runs a great small pig operation. Naturally I decided to make Real Bacon.

As it turns out, making bacon is child’s play. There are a lot of ways to approach the curing step, but I chose brine because it’s so simple. Dissolve a cup of salt in each gallon of cold water, and make enough gallons to cover the pork belly completely in a vessel that will fit in your refrigerator. If you want, you can buy curing salt that contains nitrates to preserve red color in the meat, but I don’t see much point in this when you are going to fry the meat brown anyway. Put a plate on top of the meat to keep it totally submerged, cover the vessel, and refrigerate for a week.

7 days or so later, take the meat out, dry the surface, and set it on a rack in the refrigerator to dry more thoroughly overnight. Cold-smoke by your favorite method. We have a smoker, but it you don’t, there are all sorts of contraptions that let you cold-smoke on your grill or even on the stovetop if the piece of meat is small enough. Just be sure that the temp can be kept under 150 degrees at all times.  I used a combination of cherry and pecan chips. Applewood is also delicious on pork. I don’t recommend mesquite, which is just too strong. Smoke a couple of hours. Monitor the internal temp of the meat. If it reaches close to 120 at the thickest part, stop. Cool the meat, cut it into pieces of a suitable size for your household, and fry it or freeze it.

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Our lunch today was generous slabs of real bacon, eggs from my hens fried in bacon fat, green chile, and a garnish of avocado sprinkled with chipotle. After a lunch like this, we are full until 8 or 9pm. A snack in the late evening is plenty. This is real food.

There are all kinds of ways to get creative with the formula. Dry-salt with herbs, add other ingredients to the brine, whatever. There are lots of good cookbooks on charcuterie, so read one if you’re interested. But I’m glad that for my first try, I stuck to simple brine, rich smoke, and real pig .

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I’m glad you’re doing this yourself. We used to when we just raised pigs for us, but it is illegal to sell meat without it being butchered in an inspected facility so send it all away now. It is far better to make your own.

    For one, it cannot have the usda certified organic label after our raising it certified organic for many reason ( leaves the organic facility, cure is not organic, etc.). Two, the mixture used in place of nitrite (some celery seed mix) has been compared in studies and actually has more nitrites once processed. See this article for more info: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/03/eating-bacon.aspx#!

    Funny enough, our butcher had never had a request for nitrite free bacon until we came along, and was quite reluctant to try. When he did, he failed miserably, and actually had to throw away several hundred pounds of meat because the temperature got to high and it was considered unsanitary. We were thankfully reimbursed for the lost product, but the waste was really terrible.

    We sell standard nitrite and nitrite free bacon then, and also offer uncured pork belly and sliced, uncured pork belly. Not many customers for that though. I might just direct those interested in curing it themselves to this post. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. Also, have you ever tried or heard of buckboard bacon? It’s shoulder roast cured, smoked, and sliced like bacon. I of course prefer shouoder as shoulder smothered in sweet peppers, onions and celery slow raosted, but it has less fat, which pleases the low fat lovers (despicable how many people look over our grassfed steaks and pastured pork and complain out loud how they will have to cut all that off! Even more surprising is how they often take offense when I explain the grassfed beef fat in particular is a very different chemistry than what they are used to such as conjugated loinoleic acid, etc.).

    Reply

  3. Posted by wooddogs3 on July 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I am the exact opposite of a low-fat person, and consider the fat of healthy pigs and cows raised outdoors to be a mainstay of my diet. The fat of a good grassfed steak is pure treasure, and the idea of cutting it away is awful to me. Wish I lived next door to such people and could take it off their hands!
    I had never heard of buckboard bacon. I like to smoke the shoulders and eat them as pulled pork. But I will eat nearly any part of a pig cured nearly any way!
    I’m planning to do a post or two on uncured pork belly, since I lucked into a lot of it. It’s a favorite cut in China and there are divine Chinese recipes for it.
    I continue to be agog at all the wonderful foods that your family produces. You may live forever!

    Reply

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