Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 12, 2011

Making Bacon

First off, you need some uncured pork belly. Generally speaking, at the most common market weight for hogs to go to the butcher, you’ll have about 6 lbs on the half hog. You can get uncured pork belly with a hog share from a CSA. You can get uncured pork belly by establishing a standing relationship with a heritage breed, pastured pork provider at a local farmers market. It’s just possible you could acquire some uncured pork belly from a larger natural foods market with a good meat counter if you make advance arrangement to special order the object of desire.

After you’ve got the pork belly in possession, the process of turning it into bacon is ludicrously simple, although it takes a few weeks altogether. You will need space in your fridge for as much of the pork belly as you’re intent on curing. You may do so in a non-reactive 9″ X 13″ pan (like Pyrex or enamel on tin, not aluminum). You may start in a zipper locked bag if you’re not philosophically unhinged by the idea of your meat fats in constant contact with plastic.

Unsmoked Homecured Bacon

For 2 lbs of pork belly:

1/2 cup kosher or pickling salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 TBSP cracked black peppercorns

OR

1 1/2 TBSP of this quatre épice blend: 1 TBSP freshly ground black pepper, 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 1/2 tsp clove, 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and/or mace

Stir your curing ingredients together in a flat, shallow dish (like a 9″ X 13″). Place your two pound slab of pork belly in the dish and work the cure into every iota of exposed flesh and fat. Cover the pork belly thoroughly and heavily with the cure. Place the belly slab in a zipper lock one gallon sized bag, or in a 9″ X 13″ which you will then cover tightly. Once a day for a week, turn the bacon in the cure and rub the cure all over the bacon as you do so. Drain off the water each day.

At the end of a week, the center of the bacon slab at the thickest part should be firm and fairly unyielding to the touch. If it isn’t, give it another few days of turning and rubbing with the cure and draining off the liquid it yields. When the pork belly is cured, rinse it off thoroughly and pat it dry. Now it goes back into the fridge, only loosely covered, so that air may circulate around it. Let it air cure for another two to three weeks, turning it occasionally–like every three days or so. It will continue to shrink and become denser.

When you’re ready for the bacon, and it’s ready for you, slice it and fry it and eat it way faster than you thought was possible. This bacon is good for about two to three weeks after you start eating it. It will last longer (like for months and months) if you use a teaspoon of pink curing salt in phase one, but then it will be full of nitrates as well.

You can cure a jowl the exact same way, on the exact same timeline as the jowls come to market at about two pounds. If you choose to make guanciale (the jowl equivalent of bacon), remember to remove the glands which are a duller color than the fat and flattish round disks towards the edge of the flesh side of your project.

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