Make your own bacon. Homemade bacon tastes fantastic!
Today's supermarket bacon is OK. I mean, you can't go too far wrong with bacon; but to really know good bacon you either need to find a great artisan producer, or make your own.
Supermarket bacon is "wet cured" it is submerged in a vat of briny water and artificial smoke and other flavorings are added. Real bacon is dry cured, and exposed to real hardwood smoke. You won't believe how much better it is; and how easy it is to make your own bacon at home. It's one of those things that sounds really hard, and will sure impress people when you tell them they're eating your own home-cured bacon, but is actually really effortless!
You'll need to source a couple of ingredients, but they're probably both found at the same place; you're neighborhood butcher shop. Tell your butcher what you're planning to do, and ask for a piece of pork belly (make sure you don't get salt pork. You want fresh peork belly.). About 5 lbs is a pretty good place to start (don't make less than this or you will regret it later!) and also ask him or her for pink curing salt. Pink salt is a mixture about 6.5% sodium nitrite, and 93.5 percent kosher salt. It is called pink salt as it is dyed pink to prevent accidental use as regular salt. With these two items in hand, you're ready to get started.
Great homemade bacon recipe
- One 5lb slab of pork belly, rind removed. Ask your butcher to take of the rind.
- 1/4 cup of salt
- 1 tsp pink salt
- Generous half cup of maple syrup or honey. (You could also substitute a half cup of brown sugar if you prefer.
That's it, there are only three ingredients needed! Rub the pink salt all over both sides of the bacon and then slather on the salt andmaple syrup or honey as well, trying to get all exposed surfaces coated. Pop the pork belly into a large Ziploc bag, and keep it in the fridge for a week, turning every day. There will be some liquid accumulating in the bag; this is normal, don't remove it.
After a week, take the bacon out of the bag, wash off any salt that remains...and voila, you have bacon.
Now fry a little piece cut out from the center of the belly. It's bacon after all, so it should be salty; but if you think it is too salty, try soaking it in cold water for about an hour. This will leach out some of the salt. Repeat the tasting and if you still think it's too salty, give it another hour in a new batch of water.
You now have great tasting bacon that's ready to enjoy; and you can either now slice it up and watch how fast it disappears from your fridge, or get ready to take it the next level by hardwood smoking it.
The smoking stage will make this bacon even better, but you'll be amazed at how good the bacon already tastes. All the excess water has been removed through the dry curing; so the tastes are concentrated...and you'll never see your homemade bacon shrivel away to nothing in the frying pan.
Commercial bacon is pumped full of water, and when you cook it, all this water is released. Adding water is a great way to make more money when you're selling bacon by the pound, but not such a good way to make delicious bacon.
If you decide you want to smoke the bacon, you'll see that's its pretty easy as well. Take a look at my (link below) hub on smoking for easy to follow instructions...using a backyard BBQ!
There's a great thread on the cooking forum at E-Gullet all about charcuterie, so check out their link below if you want to learn more about home curing.
A great book on homemade bacon, sausages, hams, etc. is Michael Rhulman's Charcuterie. People are raving about this easy to follow text on all sorts of different charcuterie. It taught me a lot, and the bacon recipe above is loosely based on one from the book.
Nice short video of home smoking a side of pork belly on a Weber grill
- E-Gullet Forum-charcuterie thread
This is a great website, that will keep you engrossed for hours. This particular thread has been ongoing for months, so there is lots of information here!
- Here's my hub on easy bacon smoking..using a backyard BBQ