Friday, August 8, 2014

Make your own bacon at home!

I have an unhealthy love of bacon. I mean that in both the physical and psychological connotations. I love crappy bacon thats served in free breakfast buffets in Hotels. I love artisanal Red Waddle pork bacon that I have only seen at The Conscious Carnivore. But above all other bacons I love Neuski's Bacon.

I even love Croatian Bacon, which they call Hamburger.

The butcher really called this Hamburger
Neuski's is a Wisconsin gem up in Wittenberg WI. A few years ago I took a ride up there as a birthday treat and bought a bunch of bacon and a ham. It is the most heavily smoked bacon I have ever tasted. It's so smoky and strongly flavored I don't eat it alone or even with eggs. It's too good to waste on eggs! (It's also too expensive, 12 oz costs between $7.50 and $12.00 at the store!)

Lets talk a little about how to make your own bacon at home!
What is bacon? Bacon is pork belly which has been brined and cold smoked.

A basic brine for one 6-8lb pork belly would be

1 Gallon of water
1 Lb of Salt
1 C of packed brown sugar.
+ anything else you would like to flavor your bacon - burbon, honey, cinnamon, chili peppers etc.

Completely submerge the pork belly (it can be cut down into 3-4 pieces to fit better into your brining container) and keep it refrigerated for 24 hours to allow all of the sugar, salt, and flavor to permeate through the entire slab of pork belly.

After the brine is finished completely dry the pork belly with paper towels to make sure the smoke penetrates the meat well and the flavor stays inside.

The trick to cold smoking is that it has to happen... COLD! If you are smoking one pork belly it can be done in a large weber grill. Fill a loaf pan with 5 cups fruit wood/hard wood sawdust and place it off to one side of the grill. Light 5 charcoal briquettes well in the rest of the grill. Once they are all turning gray drop them into the loaf pan evenly. Once the sawdust starts to smolder, you can add the top grate and place your pork belly on it, but not directly over the loaf pan. Place each piece of pork belly around the grill with enough space for the smoke to penetrate from the sides as well.

You'll have to periodically stir the sawdust and add more to ensure that it all burns well. About every 1 - 1.5 hours is a good amount of time. The grill should maintain a temperature between 80F and 120F degrees. A good oven thermometer or spike thermometer can be very helpful here! You will have to remove the grate with the pork belly each time unless you have a grill with a side access port. Be sure you have somewhere to land before you pick it up!

After about 3 hours you will have to turn the pork belly to even out the smoking. If there ever is not enough smoke coming out of the vents, be sure to stir the sawdust or add another piece of charcoal. The bacon should be done smoking after about 6 hours.

Make sure you chill the bacon down to refrigerator temperatures before attempting to slice it. This will make it much much easier!

This homemade bacon doesn't have any nitrates or pink salt, so it won't keep as well as store bought bacon. Cook what you want and freeze what you don't!

I suggest baking it in an oven at 375F for about a half hour until it's done. You've never had bacon as tender as this!

Personally I love Cinnamon bacon, add a tablespoon of cinnamon to your brine and double your sugar to 2 cups. Or you can add a cup of bourbon to your brine for Bourbon bacon!


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