I wanted to let you all know that I am bringing in new talent to Eatin’ on the Cheap. He and I are really close. We’ve known each other for nearly 9 years. He comes with almost 20 years of restaurant experience and a love of taking the culinary long way around. He smokes his own barbeque, rolls his own sushi, and is beginning his journey in curing and smoking his own meat. Ladies and gentleman, the father of my children, the love of my life, Blaine! Take it away, Blaine!
So, my wife has had this blog for a little over two years now, and I’m just a little jealous. You see, I actually started a blog at about the same time to tell stories about raising our twins and to keep our families updated on the funny things they would do. I instantly realized that her idea was better than mine. Whereas I would have to wait for the kids to paint the cat or pee no-handed to have something to blog about, she could blog about every cup of coffee or bologna sandwich she made. She didn’t, of course, instead opting to inform the world wide web about feeding a family well for not a lot of money. Perhaps this is the reason that she has garnered 309 followers and I have abandoned my blog altogether. But no matter… I know her password and can hijack her blog at my will. So with a bruised ego and no further ado, I bid you my glorious Bacon post!
What’s more manly than Bacon? Even Old Spice and spitting in the dirt must take a back seat to the porcine pleasure of salty, sweet, smokey, sultry Bacon. (Bacon will be capitalized throughout this entire post out of sheer respect. You got a problem with that?) It’s that old world staple that transcends the ages. If Bacon were a woman, it would be Marilyn Monroe. There should be posters of Bacon on the wall of every man cave in America, preferably standing over a steam grate trying to hold on to it’s dress. Bacon is that sexy. So for reasons that even I don’t fully understand, I am attempting to make my own.
The first step in the process is to procure some pork belly. This is not as easy as it seems. Your local grocer does not carry it. If you have a good butcher, I’m sure he will be glad to help. I don’t. It can be ordered online, but the shipping will kill you. International markets are a good source, but the hour long drive through Atlanta traffic with kids in tow didn’t seem like a good idea to me, especially since the DVD player is on the fritz. So I went to our local farmer’s market and talked to a man about a pig.
He seemed amused at the notion that I would attempt to make my own Bacon. After all, for $7 a pound, I could just buy some of his Bacon, but alas, this was not my goal. This idiot-savant psuedo-foodie wanted to cure and smoke a pork belly from start to finish, and enjoy the fruits of his Bacon. It seems that I was not the first to inquire about pork belly, but I was the first to pull the trigger. So with a little trepidation in his overalls and a 10 day waiting period, he agreed to sell me my pork belly for $5 a pound. A week later I got a phone call. It seemed that the good ole boy had tried out a new processor, one without the facilities for curing and smoking Bacon, and he wondered if I might just be interested in taking a couple of sides of pork belly to practice on. They weren’t full sides, so he would cut me a deal. And that’s how I ended up with 6 pounds of pork belly for just $12. Cheaper. Than. Bacon.
Step 1. The cure.
I will be making Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon as outlined in the very excellent book “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I will be cutting the recipe in half since my belly is roughly half the size of what is called for, and it already has the skin removed. Since my digital kitchen scale has not arrived in the mail yet, I will be using rudimentary measurements. Cross your fingers for me…
3 lb pork belly
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp pink salt (curing salt with nitrites, sometimes called Instacure #1)
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
If needed, square up your pork belly.
Combine salt, sugar, and pink salt and mix to evenly distribute. Add the syrup and stir to combine.
Rub the cure mixture over the entire surface of the belly.
Place the belly in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 7 days, turning the belly every 2 days.
The salt will draw moisture out of the belly creating a brine. It is important that the meat keep in contact with this liquid throughout the curing process. And that’s how you cure Bacon. See you in a week when we’re ready for the smoke!