You have to make bacon from scratch! I decided to “make bacon” after I tried some a friend had made. It is easy to do, and it turned out great. Everyone in the family loved it. If you are scared off by the fact that the whole process takes about 1 1/2 weeks, don’t be. Once you gather the ingredients and Ziploc bags, the initial prep is only about 15 minutes. Then, over the following 7 to 9 days, you spend only a few minutes each day “massaging the bacon.” (Get your minds out of the gutter people!) When that process is done, you smoke the bacon for only about 2 hours. This recipe, which comes from Amazingribs.com, is truly that. Amazing!
1 pound of unsliced pork belly
1 1/2 teaspoons Morton’s kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Prague Powder #1
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup distilled water
Gallon Ziploc Bags
Note: These instructions have to be followed exactly. First, the nitrite in the curing salt–the Prague Powder #1–kills botulism spores in the meat. Diluting it with too much liquid will make it less effective and won’t kill botulism spores that could be present in the meat. Botulism will kill you, someone you love, or heck, even your enemy. Second, note that this recipe calls for the use of Morton’s kosher salt. Do not use table salt or another brand of kosher salt (e.g., Diamond). Using salt other than Morton’s kosher salt will not give you the same amount of salt, as the salt granules are different sizes.
Now, let’s start makin’ some bacon!
The first thing you have to do is buy some pork belly. The pork belly I bought was 4.63 pounds.
When buying pork belly, the only thing you have to make sure of is that there is no skin on the pork belly. Skin will turn tough when the bacon is cooked, and it will prevent the cure from penetrating the meat properly.
Here, I trimmed some of the fat off and cut the pork belly into 4 even pieces.
After buying your pork belly, put the Prague Powder #1, Morton’s kosher salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, black pepper, and distilled water into Ziploc bags. (I used 4 separate 4-gallon Ziploc bags, as I had 4 pieces of pork belly.) Then, seal the bags, mash the ingredients, and slosh the mixture around until all the solids are dissolved.
After you have your curing mixture, add the pork belly to each bag, force as much air out of the bag as possible, zip the bag closed, and massage the meat to make sure that the cure covers every surface of the pork belly.
Then, put the bags in a pan (there may be leaking) and put the pan in the back of your refrigerator.
Next, you have to wait. The pork bellies need to cure for at least 7 days. (A couple of extra days won’t make a difference. And, if your pork belly is thicker than 1 1/2 inches, you should cure it for 2 extra days.) Every day, massage the pork belly, while it is still in the bag, to redistribute the cure and turn the bags over before placing them back in the refrigerator. Once this several-day curing process is complete, take the pork bellies out of the bags and rinse them under cold water to remove excess salt. (While rinsing is important, do not dry the pork bellies off. The meat will absorb more smoke if it is wet.)
Now, the really fun part.
I previously made a post on how to use your Weber Grill as a smoker. You can do that, use a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, or smoke the pork belly with whatever smoker you may already own. Regardless of what device you use, you need to get the temperature to 225 degrees. Once you attain that temperature, add the pork bellies. Smoke the bellies at 225 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. This will take about 2 hours.
Let the pork bellies cool, and then refrigerate them until you are ready to cook the bacon. (The pork bellies will slice easier when they are cold.) The pork bellies can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 weeks, or you can freeze them for up to 3 months.
Before cooking the bacon, you have to slice it. I used an electric knife. (Although this worked well, I wish I had a slicer, and if I continue to cure meats, I may invest in one.)
My favorite method for cooking bacon is to set the oven to 400 degrees and cook until the bacon’s consistency, i.e., limpy, crispy, is to your liking. This can take between 15 to 20 minutes. If you like your bacon crispier, pour out the rendered bacon fat after 12 minutes.
Note: The bacon you make from scratch will never be as crispy as store-bought bacon.