Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bacon is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!

Who doesn't love bacon? I know a guy who's wife is a vegetarian except for bacon. It's that good. You know what's better? Homemade bacon! It's so simple and delicious that after the first time I made it I swore I'd never buy store bought bacon again.

How simple? Well, I'm here to show you.

First start with a 3-5 pound pork belly. I like the belly I'm going to cure to be at least 1 inch thick. Mine is a Berkshire belly that I bought from Becker Lane Farms. These guys are certified organic and raise their animals humanely, feeding their pigs certified organic feed and give them plenty of pasture time. Not only are these practices good for the environment but they also deliver some really tasty meat!

OK enough about organic already! Let's get to the bacon!

I'm doing a brown sugar and maple cure. I enjoy the sweetness this cure adds to the bacon.

So I start with a ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of kosher salt (I love irony!), a quarter cup or real maple syrup, and of course, the star of the show, our Becker Lane Berkshire pork belly.

I began by combining the brown sugar and the salt, then mixing in the maple syrup. The cure looks like this

After that I just spread the cure all over the belly

Then just pop the belly into a well sealed bag. You can use a 2 gallon zip lock bag, but since I didn't have one I just used a turkey bag and made sure to squeeze out most of the air and tied a good knot to seal the bag.

Notice that I've left some room in there. Over the next week this baby is going to release a good amount of liquid. That's the cure at work. The salt pulls the water from the protein and that's how the meat is preserved.

Now all I have to do is pop it into the refrigerator and turn it over once a day to redistribute the cure and the juices.

You also may have noticed that I didn't use any pink salt. Pink salt is a nitrite salt. It's typically used in curing but, as I learned this week, it isn't really essential. I found this out while at The Butcher and the Larder, a great new butcher shop here in Chicago. Rob told me if I do it this way and don't like the results he'll give me another belly. Somehow I don't think Rob will have to pay up on that bet.

So, with the idea that simple is better, I left it out.

Next Saturday I'll pop this baby into the smoker for an hour and a half or so over apple wood and that's it.

Easy to make, simple ingredients, and really delicious.

You should try it!


  1. Homemade corned beef is another easy to make treat. Better than anything you can buy, and ridiculously simple to make.

  2. John & Joe got me hooked on the home made bacon a while back. I haven't experimented with the various sugars & salts yet (been lovin' the basic stuff = 3-parts salt, 2-parts sugar, 1-part pink (curing) salt) and the rest is like described above: coat, bag, flip for a week, rinse, smoke, enjoy!

    I smoked with Apple wood the 1st time, but the next time I was foolishly out of Apple & had to use Cherry - even better! Next time, I'm gonna use some Maple.

    Here's stupid tip I saw on The Food Network that the wife just loves...since we're now getting bacon in 2-3 pound blocks, it is even more useful. Chill the bacon after smoking to firm it up for more uniform slicing and slice to whatever thickness you prefer. Lay out a long sheet of cling (Saran) wrap and put a slice on one end. Fold over and put the next slice on the stack, separated by the cling wrap and repeat with all the slices. Freeze in a zip-lock, etc. Now, when you want 2 slices for that salad or 4 for the sandwich or a pound for a country breakfast, you can unroll & peel off exactly how much you want to use without thawing the entire package..

    Oh! At the beginning, you square off the belly to make more uniform slices - cure & smoke those cut off scraps! I chop 'em up and put them in Puerto Rican Rice, Pinto Beans w/serano peppers & onions and bacon/cheddar cornbread...

    Enjoy and try not to listed to your own artieris hardening!


  3. Jim - I'd be interested in that corned beef if there was a killer pastrami recipe running around I could take advantage of the snow day!