Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Bacon

Homemade Bacon

Shortly after getting our smoker, we came to a very important realization - now we can make bacon!

Much like making homemade pancetta, bacon begins with pork belly. This time we got some from our local butcher, but we've also had success finding it in Asian markets.

Pork Belly

Once you have a suitable chunk of belly, the first step in the bacon-making process is to cure the meat. We did a cure based on the savory bacon recipe from Charcuterie.

The basic dry cure is simply kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt (in a ratio of 2:1:1/8th by weight). To that we added cracked black peppercorns, crumbled bay leaves and smashed garlic, plus just a touch of extra brown sugar. For this size belly (3 lb.) it only takes about a 1/4 cup of the mixture sprinkled all over to do the trick:

Pork Belly at the start of curing

After a week in the refrigerator, the curing was finished and it was time to put it on the smoker:

Bacon on the smoker

We smoked it with apple wood to an internal temperature just under 140. It took about 5 1/2 hours. With bacon - just like Andouille - pink salt in the cure helps keep the meat safe during the long, low-temperature cooking session. Here it is hot off the smoker:

Bacon

An extra bonus when making your own bacon is the skin - we saved it to add smoky flavor to future soups and stews. Cutting off the skin is easier to do when it is still warm.

Cutting the skin off of the bacon

Hand sliced, thick cut bacon. It would be easier to do if we had a commercial meat slicer, but there is something nice about cutting carefully through the slab to create each unique strip.

Bacon

And the payoff - the first BLT:

BLT Sandwich

We are definitely converts - we won't be buying bacon again...

36 comments:

  1. Dude......must bring bacon camping....MMMMMMMM bacon.

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  2. Hello. I have been an avid reader of your site since the summer, and i must say you guys are hardcore, making your own bacon! my my my that looks scrumptious. i love your posts, and i myself would also like to take a food roadtrip around the us sometime....keep up the good work!

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  3. mothermayi - thanks for stopping by! The best thing about making bacon is how easy it is. Pancetta is even easier, since you don't need a smoker.

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  4. Outfreakingstanding

    Your photos of the bacon are excellent. I can almost smell the bacon from them.

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  5. Thanks, koko. We've already gone through the first slab of bacon and had to make some more...

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  6. I first read your blog from the link on chowhound about pancetta, and i can tell that is not what the pork belly we bought last december turned into, because we didn't stick to the process and ended up with some rolled braised pork belly. Still very good, but not pancetta, so i have to try again. Then, i saw your headcheese, testa di coppa, was it? We made that last December using our Romanian recipe, and it came out amazing, but we make this only for Christmas, so i'll have some proof in 3 months.
    Now you guys come with this bacon and you are killing me. I regret living in an apartment, first floor, in a small building where definitely i cannot get a smoker, therefore give up until i get to move. Until then, i'll stop by from time to time to drool big time here, or maybe i'll come visit?!?!?!
    P.S. (sorry for such a long post) are we the only californians eating/ craving/ enjoying pork so much, except the other compatriots of mine? happy to see we are not alone.

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  7. Hi Roxana - you are in luck! You can absolutely make bacon without a smoker.

    Think like you are making pancetta (ie: do the curing) but without hanging it. Then you cook it under as low heat as possible in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 150.

    The "fresh bacon" recipe in Charcuterie works this way.

    You won't get the smokiness, but I bet it is still pretty good...

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  8. Thanks for the tip and i am ordering the book now, so i plan to try this out soon.

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  9. Can I use the belly of the neighbor`s Dog,instead of Pork??
    From:Mr.Yang

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  10. I wouldn't advise it, Mr. Yang. Probably not fatty enough...

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  11. I stumbled across your blog while looking for ideas to build my own brick or stone smoker. Very nice, I'm going to try makin bacon at home like this VERY soon!
    Marty

    http://junkerjunk.blogspot.com

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  12. Hi Marty - definitely give it a go. We've made several batches now, and they have all been fantastic. We're out again, though, so we need to make some more...

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  13. Am butching a hog monday and plan on making bacon and pancetta. I can't wait

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  14. Gary, butchering a hog sounds like great fun to me - I'm jealous!

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  15. This is superb stuff....I think I have all the relevant equipment. I will be making bacon and pancetta this weekend.

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  16. Hey Mike, I made my first bacon today. Started it last week and smoked it on my Bradley this aftern0on. I made a couple of mistakes as I used all of the mix I made which was about 1lb of salt etc. So my product is possibly a tad saltier than it should be but I suspect it would have been worse if I hadn't decided to introduce some good Quebec maple syrup into my mix last week. I hand cut it tonight and fried off four pieces for my wife and son to taste. They were both impressed though my wife pointed out it was a tad salty. I guess I will have to poach the slices prior to frying them off; but I ma still happy. Plus I have the skin cut up for future use and the end pieces that I couldn't slice I have cut up for lardons.
    I was ready to make sausage today too; but couldn't find the fatback; but realized after reading Charcuterie this evening that a sufficiently fatty piece of shoulder would work. So I am off to the Chinese market tomorrow and hopefully sausage for grilling Monday. By the way I have all the equipment; but not the magic fridge yet unfortunately.

    I wanted to sher some pikkies; but cant seem to paste anything into this comment

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  17. http://picasaweb.google.com/grazor.ray/RecentlyUpdated02?authkey=Gv1sRgCMiYgJevjYS30gE&feat=directlink

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  18. Hi Grazor - it turns out that blogger will not let you cut and paste unless you are logged into your profile before you start commenting.

    Your pics look great - congrats on your first batch! The salt will be easy to adjust on your next run.

    Regarding fat for sausage - you definitely can be ok if you have a nice, fatty shoulder. We almost always add some extra fat, though. Lately, we've been using pork belly to add fat into the mix.

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  19. Well I purchased two pieces of butt with good fat content this morning from my local Chinese market and chose to just cut them and marinate them with fresh sage, most of the ingredients you suggested in your recipe plus some left over ancho peppers in sauce. Tomorrow I will open my new electric grinder and that will be my only project.
    Will touch base on the result. Took some initial pikkies.
    Got my BGE on the go at 285F with three racks of ribs for dinner later. Gonna serve that up with a warm fingerling potato and green been salad with a nice dressing. In the meantime watching the Deutsche play-off and enjoying nice bottle of red :)

    Thanks for the inspiration! I feel slightly crazed and very happy trying all this new stuff.

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  20. Mike, when adding the pork belly to your sausage mix, do you use the skin as well?
    I like that approach actually it makes it a lot easier for me all round.

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  21. We cut the skin off - it would add a strange texture to the sausage.

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  22. Well Mike I believe that I ended up with a result today, appropriately Labour Day :)
    I purchased about 3.5lbs of pork butt with good fat content yesterday. I cut the meat into finger strips and seasoned it with all the ingredients from the Italian sausage recipe you had shared here on your blog. To that I added chopped adobe peppers in sauce and some fresh sage from my garden. I mixed all the ingredients and then placed it in a ziplock in the fridge overnight.
    Today I took the mixture and ground it with my new Waring Pro sausage grinder and stuffer. Panicked initially when i found out that the instructions suggested that I should have had my hog casings already set up to receive this mix. On further reading it also suggested that I could grind my mixture first and stuff later.

    Anyway I have attached a link to Picassa of my adventures in sausage making. I am quite pleased and the taste of the two patties I fried off left me with a slight smirk.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/grazor.ray/SausageMakingInTwoParts?feat=directlink

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  23. Glad to hear that the sausage-making went well. From your pics, it looks like it came out great!

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  24. Oh....my.....i just drooled on my keyboard, because i was licking my screen.

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  25. I've been making bacon using the pork belly from Iowa Meat Farms, but my most recent batch was from 99Ranch. The difference is striking. The meat is slightly thicker, there's a bit higher meat to fat ratio, and the cut is bigger (which makes slicing strips of bacon off that much easier). And the taste... oh the taste... Yum.

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  26. Bbq Dude - we've been getting most of our bellies from Ranch 99 as well. We get it there mostly out of convenience, since they almost always have it available. With Siesel's, we needed to call ahead to make sure they had extra since they primarily buy it for making their own bacon.

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  27. Ok. We have you figured out. Obviously you are cardiologists. And you are trying to drum up business. This was BY FAR the best bacon we have ever put in our mouths. My husband and I have made Pancetta before, but this is the first time we have made bacon. My brother-in-law got us a Traeger (smoker/BBQ) for Christmas a couple of years ago and we have been experimenting ever since. I found your blog while looking for a different pancetta recipe, and once I saw the bacon recipe I was in love!!!! We thick cut our bacon slices and BBQ'd it to serve with a steak and blue cheese/herb butter. OH MY!! All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! If you are ever in Canada and you smell some awesome bacon - it will be us. You have a standing invitation!

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  28. Glad your bacon turned out well - we're always happy to welcome someone new into the homemade bacon club!

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  29. Hi Mike,

    I'm in Australia. I found your bacon recipe and am doing my fist batch now. It's been in the fridge for a week tomorrow.

    Just wondering a couple of things. Do you cook it at 140 degrees freinheight or celicus? Same for internal temp F or C? Do you smoke it continously as it cooks or smoke it for part of the time? I was going to use hickory soaked in apple juice (cant get apple chips at the moment) have you used hickory for bacon before?

    I've ordered the Charcuterie book too. Sorry to bombard you with questions, I'm so excited and dont want to stuff it up.

    Kind regards, Roz....

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  30. Hi rozj - All of our temperatures are in Fahrenheit (sorry about not being clear). Try to keep the cooker from getting hot too fast, but the temperature can go up as high as 180-200F. Just pull the bacon when it hits 140F internal.

    We apply the smoke continuously, but it's most important early, when the meat is cool. I'm sure hickory will be fine instead of apple. I like several wood types for smoking meats and often mix them - hickory, apple, pecan and alder are my favorites. I've never soaked chips in juice before. You may want to be careful there since the sugars in the juice will burn quickly.

    Let us know how it goes. It sounds like you're on your way to some terrific bacon and talking about it is making me hungry!

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  31. Hi Sherry,

    It went great. I smoked it for about 4 hours at 200 - 210 F. That was lowest I could get my smoker down to. Didnt try soaking the hickory in apple juice as the wood I used doesnt need pre soaking.

    Mine is a little darker than your photos esp on the outer edges. My butcher said to let it cool, then put it in the fridge overnight and bring it up to him and he'll slice it for me. BONUS!!!!

    Thank you so much for your guidence I wish you could taste it too :O( If you are ever in Australia you are always welcome here!

    Thank you for my new addicition!

    Roz xxxx

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  32. Hi Roz, Thanks for the update. Sounds like everything went perfectly - yay! What a nice thing to have a friendly, helpful butcher too. We just had homemade bacon with breakfast this morning - as addictions go, it's a good one. :-)

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  33. Hi Sherry,

    Just thought I'd pop by and say Hi! I'm upto my fourth batch of bacon in a month! Told you I was addicted! :) Trying my first batch of Chilli Bacon and my first batch of Pancetta.

    I've decided to put both pancetta recipes together and roll and dry in my normal fridge (till I can save up and get my own curing fridge).

    It's summer here in Australia so our humidity is getting upto 95% so I didnt want to hang it. To be safe I'm using the fridge. I was going to go Tessa style but had to try rolling it (for fun),saw it rolled up and went hmmmmm. I'll let you know how I go.

    Is there anyway I can send you photos? I'm so proud and it's thanks to this website and Charcuterie bible! :)

    Roz xxxxx

    PS Happy Valetines Day

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  34. Hi Roz, Four batches of bacon in one month - that's hardcore! :-) I certainly understand it though, since we usually do two slabs at a time (3 pounds each) and we always seem to be running out. Yes, please let us know how the pancetta goes. I'd imagine a rolled pancetta will take up less space in the fridge, but may take longer to dry. If you'd like to share your bacon photos you can send some via email -- our address is on our "About Menu In Progress" page. I look forward to seeing the pics. :-) Thanks for stopping by and Happy Valentines Day to you too!

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  35. Hey guys - once again you've inspired me to take another leap (it was BBQ pork in the past) - I'm getting a big green egg for Christmas and bacon will be on the list of first things to try.
    What is the significance of the skin (aside from its the pig's skin)? Can it come off prior to the cure or smoke? Or is it just easier to pull off after cooking? Thanks in advance for what you guys do - keep it up!

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  36. Hi Toast, I've always done the whole process with the skin on. From what I've read, you can take the skin off first, but people seem to think it's easier to handle if you leave it on until after it's smoked. Let us know which method you use -- I'm betting you'll love it either way! Congrats on the big green egg. You've got some tasty food in your future... :-)

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