A few months ago I was reading around the internet and discovered that there’s a whole subculture of people who are taking “homemade” to a whole new level: making their own bacon. I have always wanted to know about how some of the foods we take for granted are made so I decided to embark on my own bacon making experiment. The process of making bacon is quite simple: take a pork belly, add salt, sugar and sodium nitrite, stash in the fridge for 7 days, rinse, then smoke the belly until it hits 150 degrees inside, cool and slice into rashers and fry up into awesomeness.
My first attempt, probably back last October, was a complete failure. First, the pork belly did not look very good. I had bought it from a local butcher and had asked him to remove the skin. What I received was a mutilated mess with parts that were barely a quarter inch thick. I also used a Foodsaver vacuum bag and it sprung a leak halfway through the curing process which made the belly not cure correctly.
The second attempt I tried a different recipe and bought the pork belly from a regional grocery store called Shoppers Food Warehouse. I did not put the belly in a bag at all, but rather on a plastic rack in the fridge. It came out fine, but I did not use “pink salt”, also known as curing salt or prague powder #1, so I’m paranoid that it’s got botulism spores. I did eat some and haven’t died yet, so it’s probably good. I still have some in the freezer, even.
My third attempt was perfect. I used a recipe from http://www.ruhlman.com, using a normal 2 gallon ziplock back and I finally tracked down pink salt at, of all places, William Sonoma. I went through that bacon quick, giving out half-pound packs for christmas and eating it as often as I could. I used a 6lb belly and it lasted maybe a week.
I’ve started on my fourth belly and this time I remembered to take pictures during the process.
So, here we go! Continue reading