Back in May, I took a pig butchering demo class at the Brooklyn Kitchen and Meat Hook. It was an awesome experience needless to say ( you can read about it here!).
But the one thing that stayed with me after this class was how (apparently) easy it is to make bacon at home…
Learning new culinary techniques, trying new ingredients, finding new chefs that I admire… basically anything and everything food related, well that’s what excites me most in life. And for anyone who knows me, when I get an idea in my head, there’s little stopping me.
So for months, I’ve had this harebrained idea that I would make bacon at home! God love my roommate, who when I came home one night and said,”I’m gonna cure pork belly in our fridge for bacon” was as equally as gung ho about it! But anyway, here I am munching on some home made bacon! (What can I say? I’m very determined.)
Now, to make bacon at home you’ll need the magic ingredient — pork belly with the skin removed.
I got 2.5 pounds from the Meat Hook which would be a substantial amount of bacon (though recipes I saw were calling for 6 pounds of belly… But 2.5 was perfect for me and my first time makin bacon at home!)
And because how often does one have a slab of pork belly laying around in the house, I decided (before starting my cure) to sample a little bit of pork belly! I braised a bit in Blue Moon beer after rubbing it with a little sugar, salt and spices. It was fatty and delicious and had such good flavor from the braise!
But anyway, back to bacon… After you’ve gotten your pork belly, you’ll need to cure it for 7-10 days in the fridge.
The easiest part of making DIY bacon is definitely this curing process. I used a Michael Symon recipe from his cookbook carnivore (seems fitting) and his cure is pretty standard (though you can add more spices or even maple syrup).
This cure is a mixture of kosher salt (approx. 3 tbsp), brown sugar (approx. 1½ tbsp) and 1 tsp of pink curing salt. I followed my recipe to the T but this cure is what gives your bacon it’s flavor so finding the right ratio of salt to sugar and adding any other flavorings is personal preference.
Pink curing salt or Sodium nitrate is key and prevents bacterial growth while also giving the characteristic pink coloring to cured meats. It’s what enables you to cure pork belly covered in your fridge for a week! (the blog Food Slash Science had a great article on the science behind curing bacon, which I definitely think is the most interesting).
Throughly coat your pork belly on all sides with this curing mixture and then place the belly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place a piece of parchment paper on top with another baking sheet to cover and weigh it down with several cans. Place in your fridge and let it sit for 7-10 days.
The cure is drawing out moisture during this process so you want a lined sheet pan to catch any liquid!
It felt very strange just letting my pork belly cure in the fridge without doing anything to it in this timeframe…. but it turned out fine! (I did periodically check on it).
After roughly 10 days, I took my cured pork belly out, washed off the cure and let it sit in the fridge uncovered overnight.
After you’ve cured your pork belly, you need to smoke it! Now fun fact, I don’t have a smoker…. But through the gracious help of an anonymous benefactor, my pork belly was smoked. I can’t speak to the smoking process (that’s a whole beast in itself that one day, maybe I’ll have the chance to learn more about first hand), but in whatever way it was smoked, by god, my bacon is delicious! It’s smoky and the flavors from the cure were perfect!
Guys, look real bacon that I cured myself! After weeks of planning, 10 days in the cure and then a couple days getitng the smoking process all set, I have real bacon!
I was super, super impressed! I totally understand the appeal of curing your own meat – this ain’t no Oscar Meyer bacon! I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to go back to store bought bacon.
I mean look at that!
I’ll just say that, I realize most people wouldn’t cure their own bacon, but I’m not your average foodie! I’m a little crazy, in a good way of course, when it comes to food.
We had a couple of great meals with this bacon (more on that in a few days), and I’m sad I only cured 2.5 pounds of it. Moral of the story: if you’re going to cure and smoke your own bacon, you might as well do the whole pork belly… cause take it from me, bacon goes fast and you’ll be sad when it’s gone!
- 2.5 pounds pork belly, trimmed
- Dry cure (1 lb kosher salt, 8 oz sugar, 10 teaspoons pink curing salt)
- Put ¼ cup of the dry-cure mix in a bowl.
- Spread about ⅛ cup of the dry-cure mix out on a pan and dredge one side of the belly in it until you have a nice even coating. Pour on the other ⅛ cup of the mix and do the same to the other side and the edges. Rub it in good with your hands. You only want as much cure as will stick on its own.
- After the belly is coated in dry-cure, throw out whatever was left in the in pan.
- Carefully slide the belly into your big ziplock bag and stash the bag in the fridge, preferably resting in a leak-proof container for at least 7 days.
- Every 48 hours or so take the bag out of the fridge and flip it over.
- When the belly is done curing remove it from the bag, rinse it thoroughly in the sink and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Leave the belly sitting in the fridge uncovered for 12-24 hours. Take the bellies out of the fridge and let them start warming up at room temp while you prep your smoker.
- Smoke your bacon and once ready, enjoy!