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.
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:
After a week in the refrigerator, the curing was finished and it was time to put it 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:
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.
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.
And the payoff - the first BLT:
We are definitely converts - we won't be buying bacon again...