How to make Bacon.

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How to make Bacon.

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:16 am

Bacon, apparently is quite a big deal for Burners. I'd go so far as to say it's a big deal to most humans who live in the civilized world. And like most things that are a big deal in this globalized consumer culture, it has been commodified and mass produced to the point a which we have a product that hardly even resembles the glorious, greasy pork belly confection of the old days...

Back when the hog was respected and cared for, it was treated with the dignity a hog deserves in life, and in death. I wont go into details here, but suffice to say the majority of bacon being produced in the world today is in all reality, a disgrace to the word bacon.

I can't speak for any one else, but I am not OK with this. I respect and adore bacon (and the hog) far too much to spend my life (and my burn) eating Hormel, Bar-S, or whatever shwaggy off-brand 'bacon' product they sell at the local grocery store. More people are realizing this now than ever and the market for specialty and gourmet cured meats is expanding. But like most things gourmet and artisan, the costs can be quite prohibitive to the average consumer. So what can those of us who live on a budget and yet give a shit about the quality of bacon we eat do? Make it ourselves!!

I offer the eplaya community this, my Bacon recipe. Start with:

One 4-5 lb slab of quality pork belly (you can use other boneless cuts as well with results just as delicious, like the loin or shoulder)

Basic Dry cure: two parts salt to one part sugar by weight. You will need approx 1/4 Cup for a 4 lb belly

Trim belly so that edges are neat and square. In a large baking sheet or other such container large enough to accommodate the belly, spread the dry cure and press all sides of the belly into the cure to give it a thick uniform coating over the entire surface.

Place the belly in a large (1 or 2 gallon) Zip-Loc bag or a covered non-reactive container.The belly will release a good amount of liquid as it cures, its essential that the cure/liquid remains in contact with the belly. Place in refrigerator for 7 days and turn the belly over every other day or so to redistribute the cure on the meat. After 7 days test for firmness. If the belly feels firm at it's thickest point it is ready for the smoker. Pork Belly can vary greatly in thickness, belly from a factory-raised hog will be thinner than a belly from a farm raised hog, always preferable. Thicker belly may need an additional day or two in the fridge until it firms up..

Remove Belly from the cure, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. The belly can now be roasted in the oven or smoked.

In the oven:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Put belly in a roasting pan, preferably on a rack for even cooking, roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, about 2 hours our so. Once it has reached 150, remove from oven and let cool to room temp. Wrap well and refrigerate. You now have Bacon.

In the smoker:
It is best to smoke the belly low and slow, much like you would ribs. I usually use a weber kettle style grill with indirect heat, and hardwood charcoal with a small handful of applewood chips thrown on the coals every 1/2 hour or so and repleneshing the coals as needed for about 4-6 hours, depending on the thickness of the belly and how smoky I want it. The longer you smoke it, the smokier the bacon will be. Electric smokers work fine if set to 170 degrees. Once it has reached the desired level of smokiness remove from smoker, cool to room temp, wrap tightly and refrigerated. You now have smoked bacon.

Be sure cut off little bits and try them as the bacon roasts or smokes...

Enjoy!
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:37 am

And now for variations!!

The basic dry cure above is just that, basic. The possibilities are pretty much endless with bacon. For maple bacon add 1/4 C maple syrup to the dry cure. For peppery bacon add 2 Tbsp ground, crushed or cracked black pepper, 5 minced cloves of garlic and a few crumbled bay leaves. For spicy cajun style bacon add 1-2 tsp cayenne powder, 1 Tbsp paprika and 1 Tbsp fresh or dried thyme leaves. Mexican bacon: chile powder, cumin and oregano. Sage, orange peel and brown sugar is also a delightful combination.

One of the biggest success's I've had was adding 2 oz of fine bourbon to maple syrup before mixing with the cure. I then soaked the applewood chips in bourbon overnight before smoking the bacon. Bourbon Bacon!! And then I use this bacon to make my Bacon Bourbon, and then that bacon bourbon goes into the next batch of bourbon bacon and on and on and on...

Of course you can use other kinds of wood chips and experiment with soaking them in different flavorful liquids before smoking the belly. Sometimes in the summer and during hunting season you can find compressed bricks of hazelnut shells for smoking meats, which will impart a delicate nuttiness to the finished bacon.
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby nilasnake » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:53 am

wow! thanks. it's now on my 'to-do' list!
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby moonrise » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:43 am

Yum! I'm gonna try this :mrgreen:

Thanks A-RockLeFrench
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby graidawg » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:31 pm

:mrgreen: Bacon yumminess. of course its the americans that ue belly pork europeans use a different cut producing more attractive bacon
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby MacGlenver » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:52 pm

Thanks, man! Glad to see there's a decent way to do it in the oven (aka without a smoker). May borrow my friends smoker for this one though!
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby theCryptofishist » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:03 pm

graidawg wrote::mrgreen: Bacon yumminess. of course its the americans that ue belly pork europeans use a different cut producing more attractive bacon

So, what happens to "belly pork" in Europe?
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby FIGJAM » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:52 pm

Is'nt it called streaky bacon?
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby moonrise » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:00 pm

IIRC there are three distinct butchering techniques used for beef, pork and poultry. American, British and French. The book titled Larousse Gastronomique has beautiful illustrations of the three different techniques. Google didn't deliver the illustrations but if you can find the book, they're worth a look.

I'll stick with American at first, somehow camping and bacon just seem to go together in the good old USA.

I'd like to try makin' bacon with the British cut and Canadian and some others. Seems like a good winter project, hmmm... :P
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:03 pm

In Italy they cure the belly the same way and instead of smoking it they roll it up allow it to air cure for a few weeks, the result is called pancetta. In France, they call it ventreche, they usually don't cure it as long and they smoke it lightly. In England they make 'bacon' out of all kinds of cuts, shoulders and the loin being the most common, in most of the Commonwealth they refer to bacon made out the loin as bacon and bacon from the belly as American or streaky bacon. Same treatment, different body part. Although many large scale commercial bacon producers will soak the bellies in a brine, or inject them with brine as opposed to dry curing, which will lower the quality of the finished product. Dry curing is generally considered the superior method for bacon preparation.

The process for dry curing and smoking meats is at the most basic level the same: Rub meat in salt. The salt draws out the moisture and penetrates the meat. Bacterias and micro-organisms that destroy food depend on water for survival. Salt will also kill bacteria through the same molecular process that draws moisture out of the meat, it sucks the moisture out of the cells, which kills them. By creating a dry, salty environment inside your meat you make it much less hospitable for nasties, therefore preserving it. Smoking serves to further preserve meats, adding nitrites. Most salamis, prosciuttos, pancettas and air cured meats are also inoculated with beneficial bacteria, which break down and consume sugars found in muscle tissue and fat, and creating lactic acid as waste, which acts as a preservative as well as adds characteristic flavor.

As far as the belly is concerned, there's literally a million different ways you can cure it for a million different things. Try wrapping a cured belly (with the skin on) around a pork loin (stuffed with dried plums reconstituted in port wine or something wonderful) and them smoking/roasting it. it's lovely. The skin seals in all the fat so none escapes during smoking and gets all crispy crunchy like cracklins on the outside, greasy porky goodness on the inside.

One of my favorites is Pork Belly Confit, which is technically a brine and not a dry cure:

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 bay leaves, crumbled
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt

6 pounds pork belly, skin removed and cut into 1-by-3-inch chunks
Dry white wine as needed
Rendered pork or duck fat as needed
Canola oil or rendered pork or duck fat for deep-frying

Directions
1. Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl and stir to distribute the seasonings evenly.

2. Toss the pork with the cure to coat evenly. Pack into a nonreactive container and cover with white wine. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Remove the pork from the cure and pat the pieces dry with paper towels. Place the pork in an ovenproof pot or Dutch oven and cover with the rendered fat. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, then place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the pork is fork-tender, about 2 to 3 hours.

4. Remove the pork from the oven and cool to room temperature in the fat. If you simply can’t wait to eat this succulent bundle when it has finished its confit (we highly recommend chilling all confit, which intensifies the juicy tenderness of the meat), you can pour off and reserve the fat, then return the pan to the stovetop over high heat until the meat is nicely browned. If you have the stamina to wait, refrigerate the pork in the pan it was cooked in or transfer to another container and add the fat; the pork should be completely submerged in fat. Refrigerate until completely chilled, or for up to 2 months.

6. To serve, remove the pork from the refrigerator, preferably a few hours ahead. Remove the pork from the fat and wipe off the excess. In a deep, heavy pot, heat the oil for deep-frying to 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C). Deep-fry the pork belly until crispy and heated through, about 2 minutes if it was at room temperature. Remove and drain on paper towels.
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Re: How to make Bacon.

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:27 am

It's that time! For anyone wanting to home cure their own Bacon for the Thing, right about now and the next week is the time to get those bellies on cure. I did mine last night, going small this year and only doing 25 lbs. I'm excited to see how the batch with grains of paradise, black lemon, Szechuan pepper and star anise turns out...

Abut 5 lbs ended up curing for confit while the other 20 will be different varieties of bacon, some maple, some pepper, some green chile...

For me the excitement of Burning Man season doesn't hit until I start rubbing the pork bellies.. I'm officially excited!
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