Fellow BBQ enthusiast David Somerville (@BBQDryRubs) runs a site called BBQ Dry Rubs, with lots of tips and tools, and best of all a free e-book entitled A Beginner’s Guide to Making Sausage, Bacon, and Jerky. Well, this seemed like a pretty important thing to have in my arsenal, so I downloaded it and have been trying out some of his recipes. Most recently I tried making my own bacon, so I wanted to report on that to let you know how it turned out.
David’s recipe for the dry cure is fairly straightforward, and I have seen similar (or identical) recipes elsewhere. But up north of the border in Canada, one of the ingredients (Cure#1, or pink salt), is harder to come by. However, one of my local grocers, Highland Farms, carries a product called ReadyCure at the meat counter, and they also carry pork bellies, so I’m all set.
ReadyCure is only 1% nitrite, so the recipe has to be adjusted from David’s book. So to maintain the proportions, here is what I used:
- 200 g Kosher salt
- 250 g sugar in the raw
- 300 g ReadyCure (1% nitrite)
But that makes a LOT of cure, so I reduced it by 5
- 40 g Kosher salt
- 50 g sugar in the raw
- 60 g ReadyCure (1% nitrite)
This dry cure should be used at about 50g / Kg of pork belly.
When I was in line at the meat counter there was a delightful older woman from the islands who seemed to know a thing or two about making bacon, and made sure I got a slab that was suitable. It was pretty big (about 3 kg), and as this was my first attempt I had them cut it in half. Here’s the slab:
It came with the skin on, so I hat to remove that and re-weigh the meat. I also cut it in half to make it easier to work with (and fit it into the ziplock bag!).
I measured out the cure, in this case 70g for 1.4 kg of pork, and using gloves, rubbed it in thoroughly all over. Also, for fun, I added about a tablespoon of bourbon and rubbed that in thoroughly as well. Hey, why not. Then I bagged it up, placed it in the fridge, and flipped it every day for a week.
When the week was up, I fired up the smoker to 220, and using 2 parts apple and 1 part hickory, smoked it for about 90 minutes until the internal temperature just hit 150.
When it hit the desire temperature, I let the hunks cool to room temp and then refrigerated, and sliced them by hand (I don’t have a meat slicer. Yet.)
Even though this was my first attempt, I have to say that this bacon was delicious – way tastier than store bought bacon. The real smoke certainly gave it an aroma and flavour missing in store-bought, but even the texture was different. There was not much hint of the bourbon, so if I try that again, I will be a little more liberal with the booze.
Now, if you were observant, in the smoker image above you will see three pieces. The slab in the top image was sliced in two, but there was an extra meaty pieced attached to one end that made that part of the slab considerably thicker, so I sliced it off, and after smoking I chopped that into little cubes of pancetta, which are delicious on, well, just about everything.
As I write this, I am already curing my second batch – a larger piece, one that is more square a bit more lean. This is definitely something I will continue doing.
As I bid you happy grilling, I leave you with one last picture: