I have compiled the home-made bacon posts in to this one page making it a bit easier to follow. The page is divided into three parts Curing, Hanging and Smoking.
Part 1 - Curing
Ever since reading Michael Ruhlman's post on home curing Pancetta I had an overwhelming urge to make my own bacon, and with the purchase of a BBQ and now having the ability to smoke stuff, it had to be done.
So I set about finding some pink salt also known as Prague Powder #1 (it's a mix of salt and sodium nitrite), I had little luck trying to find a store or supplier handy in NZ, and was about to ring the local butcher when I finally thought of TradeMe, lo and behold success!
The pink salt turned up and I had a pork belly ready to turn in to bacon, so I turned to Ruhlman's website to get the recipe for the curing mix. By now I had read up a bit on Sodium Nitrite and the latest Cooking Issues radio show didn't help at easing my mind about using an ingredient that is essentially toxic.
So with that paranoia swirling around my head I thoroughly checked the recipe. The Sodium Nitrite levels were greater than 200ppm (parts per million), damn the FDA recommends having a level of less than 200ppm for human consumption. Was I to trust a very famous chef or the FDA? Thank god for twitter! One tweet later a tweet back "we're altering all pink salt recipes: measure it at 0.25% of weight of meat for 156 pp". A bit of maths later I had my mix recipe.
450 grams of Kosher Salt
225 grams of Sugar
35 grams of Pink Salt
Mix it in a jar and store in a dry place, make sure to mark it as Curing Salt as you don't want to accidentally consume it. I recommend storing it out of the kitchen to avoid this.
Weigh the piece of pork that will be cured and measure out 5% by weight of the Curing mix.
To flavour the pork, I coarsely ground some black pepper, juniper berries and bay leaves. I then mixed in quarter of a cup of Muscovado sugar and the weighed curing mix.
I found a zip lock bag an easy way to evenly distribute the mix.
Spread the mix evenly over the pork and place in a zip lock bag. Place in the fridge for 7 days, making sure to redistribute the mix around the meat each day, and flip over.
Part 2 - Hanging
The pork has been curing for 7 days in the fridge, so I pulled it out and thoroughly rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels. The meat has firmed up and darkened in colour.
A small hole is made in the corner so some kitchen string can be looped through to hang it. It will hang for about a week (I've hung it up under the stairs as the temperature seems to be pretty stable at about 10°C).
So next weekend the smoker will be lit and bacon will be made, but it seems such a waste to just do bacon, so I plan on getting a ham on to brine in the middle of the week to add to the smoker, along with a bunch of garlic, and a tray of salt.
Note: You should check the hanging meat daily, and if any spots of mold appear don't panic, just wipe the mold off the meat with a paper towel dipped in vinegar.
Part 3 - Smoking
It was finally time to smoke the pork that has been hanging under the stairs, and only hours away from munching down on my very own home made bacon.
Smoking the bacon is really easy, get the smoker smoking and up to temperature. The smoking temperature should ideally be between 75°C-85°C. Any hotter than 85°C the meat will shrink, loose too much moisture and will be cooking.
When the smoker is ready put in the pork and leave it for about 90 minutes, the internal temperature of the pork when it's done should be 65°C.
Straight from the smoker, looking delicious.
While it's still warm, remove the skin. The skin can be used to make stocks and is excellent to cook beans with.
A few "test" slices taken off the freshly smoked bacon.
Fried quickly in a smoking hot pan.
Had to use so much willpower not to devour the entire lot.
I found making bacon surprisingly easy, and has definitely put me off store bought bacon. So I'll soon be starting the process again so I have a ready supply of bacon. And I am giving serious though to making my own ham, pastrami, pancetta etc.
All sliced up, portioned and vacuum sealed, it should last about 3 weeks in the fridge or 4 months in the freezer.