It’s hard to explain how incredibly excited I was to try my hand at making my own bacon. It’s both olde tymey and delicious. Two descriptions I really happen to like. And it’s really easy to make. Like, so easy I’m not entirely sure why it’s not more common to make your own. It’s not any more complicated than something like marinating meat before cooking it, which people do all the time. I guess the worst part about it is slicing it when you want to eat it, but that’s not even hardly a pain.
And the seasoning possibilities are endless! I stuck to this Saveur recipe (which I was referred to by a post on Robb Wolf’s site) since I’d never done it before and figured I’d let the experts tell me what to do. But I can envision now, spicy chipotle bacon, sage and a touch of cinnamon bacon, BBQ spiced bacon, various kinds of wood smoked bacon… woo! Don’t worry, baconophobes, I don’t eat a stupid amount. It’s tempting, knowing that there are big ol’ slabs of it laying around in your fridge and freezer, but I really like to eat bacon like a treat. I think it’s a vestige of old habits. But I rather like keeping it like a treat, even if I’m not afraid of it anymore. Plus, as far as salt is concerned, it never scared me much, especially after reading Salt: A World History. Not terribly scientific of me, but meh.
So, hopefully finding pork belly won’t be too much of a problem for you. I have this little meat market that I go to to get food for my little kitties. They have lots of organs and stuff. I like to think of the market as real olde tymey (see, I told you I like that), but Joe says it’s probably the same supplier as regular grocery stores. I don’t think so. I think he’s being a cynic. Of course, if I weren’t scared of being an obnoxious customer, I’d just ask them where they get their meat. I don’t know, I just can’t get myself to ask. Or anonymously call. So weird. Anyway, that’s where I got my pork belly. A whole belly is about 8 pounds and they happily cut it in half for us so we have 4 pounds of bacon to contend with. It was $3.69/pound, which is decently less than what you can get at the store, even for crappy bacon. If you don’t have a dedicated meat market, you could probably call regular grocery stores ahead of time and I bet they could make it happen.
note: The recipe calls for skin-on pork belly. I didn’t get this, but I didn’t think to specify when I bought it. Not sure if it’s harder to get or just the same. Also, I thought I would try putting less salt on, as ours was a bit too salty for me. The whole curing thing is a little mysterious to me (like in an all-science-is-mysterious kind of way), so hopefully less salt doesn’t let it go rotten in the fridge.
4 pound slab of skin-on (optional) pork belly, cut lengthwise into two pieces to facilitate storage in Ziploc bags
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh or dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 bay leaves
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1. Trim pork belly to square off its edges. Rinse, pat dry, and place on a large cutting board.
2. In a spice grinder, grind the salt and spices. In a small bowl, mix the spices with the garlic.
3. Rub the spice mix all over the pork. Transfer the pork and any loose spices to big Ziploc bags, shaking around to distribute the spices. Refrigerate for one week, flipping the bag every other day. (Some brine will develop in the bags – this is normal. Salt draws water from the pork.)
4. After the 7 days are up, remove the now slightly firm bacon from the bag. Wash off the seasonings. Pat dry.
5. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Place bacon in a large 9 X 13 baking pan and roast until lightly browned and a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 150 degree, about 2 hours.
6. If you got skin-on pork belly, cut off the skin. Otherwise, you’re ready to slice some up and start frying! To store it, pat it dry and place some in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer and the rest in the fridge in either plastic wrap or another large Ziploc.
Holy moly you’ve got bacon! Lots of bacon! I really want to try smoking next. We still haven’t gotten a smoker basket for our grill, so we better get on that. But I can only imagine how utterly delicious homemade, home-smoked bacon is. I also can’t stop thinking about other cured meat adventures.