Bacon

Last week I found a couple of slabs of pork belly at MaineSource and decided to try making bacon. Naturally there are dozens of recipes for bacon online all of which claim to be the best. I opted for a simple brown sugar and salt cure with pink salt, a source sodium nitrite that prevents the growth of bacteria responsible for botulism. (You can order pink salt from www.sausagemaker.com) Since I cured the meat in the refrigerator and hot-smoked it the preservative was probably unnecessary but I chose to err on the side of caution.

A note about smoking: traditionally bacon is cold smoked at a temperature under 100°, hence the need for nitrite. Since I do not have a cold smoker I simply used my electric smoker with the lid ajar to keep the temperature down somewhat. Hickory is common for bacon but I used applewood which is popular in New England.

Ingredients

  • pork belly, at least 5 pounds
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pink salt

Method

Remove the rind (or have your butcher do it for you) and set it aside for making pork rinds. Rinse and dry the meat. Mix together the cure ingredients and rub generously on all sides. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or place in a large freezer bag. Refrigerate for 3 days, turning each day. Liquid will accumulate; do not remove it.

At the end of the curing period, remove the bacon from its wrapping and rinse well. Pat dry and left stand to come to room temperature. Meanwhile soak wood chips in water and prepare the smoker. Smoke the bacon for 2½ to 3 hours.

Store, tightly wrapped in refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for later use.

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