The bacon trend seems to be everywhere these days with it showing up in everything from chocolate bars to doughnuts to a rather dubious sounding martini. And why not? The flavor pairs well with savory and sweet preparations and appeals to the American love of salty meat.
It’s easy enough to just go to the store and grab a packet of bacon. But when we sampled some home made bacon at the ForageSF Underground Market, one question began to persistently ricochet around our head.
Exactly how hard is it to make your own bacon? As it turns out, not hard at all. It’s just a matter of time commitment.
After some online research we settled on Michael Rhulman’s straightforward and manageable process. The basic cure recipe yields more than you will need for one application, but is flexible enough to customize for future uses. Finding tinted curing mix (TCM) on the web was quite easy. It’s good to have on hand if you’re planning on making other cured meats like sausages. We opted to add brown sugar to our mix instead of white sugar to add a little different flavor. Some dried thyme and ground pepper rounded it out nicely.
We preordered our pork belly from Falleti’s on Buchanan Street although any specialty butcher should be able to help you. Tell the butcher that you are making bacon and you do not want a smoked belly.
As the recipe says, our process took about a week and the dedicated shelf space in the fridge was the biggest issue we had. Once we had slow roasted the bacon, we sliced off a few pieces and fried them up to test. We noticed that unlike commercially prepared bacon, very little water and fat were released during frying, which made us question how much we have been paying for added water in the past. For this reason, keep an eye on the bacon as it cooks because it goes from brown to burned very quickly.
The resulting flavor was very salty but not overpowering. Yet the meat was crispy and pleasantly chewy and the added herbs and pepper really made it quite pleasant. We sautéed them off for a fried egg salad one day and the next sliced up some lardons for a bacon and potato frittata. We also plan on using the trimmed fat for sautéing mire poix for stews.
This article also appears at http://www.examiner.com/food-in-san-francisco/make-your-own-bacon
RECIPE Cut and pasted directly from http://ruhlman.com/2010/10/home-cured-bacon-2/
Home-Cured Bacon (adapted from Charcuterie)
—Order five pounds of fresh pork belly from your grocery store, the pork guy at your farmers market, or from a local butcher shop.
—Buy a box of 2-gallon zip-top bags if you don’t have a container big enough to hold the belly.
—Mix the following together in a small bowl:
2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (I use this DQ Cure from Butcher-Packer, $2)
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
—Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).
—After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
—Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).
—Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!
Notes: If you don’t have five pounds of belly, either guesstimate salt based on the above or, if you have a scale, multiply the weight of the belly in ounces or grams by .025 and that’s how many ounces or grams of salt you should use.
If for any reason you find your bacon to be too salty to eat (it happens, especially if you measure your salt by sight, which I sometimes do), simply blanch the bacon and dump the water before sautéing it.
Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony.
If you have a smoker or a grill, you can smoke the bacon (strictly speaking, it needs to have the pink salt in the cure if you’re going to smoke because, in rare instances, botulism bacteria from spores on the garlic could grow; pink salt eliminates this possibility; but I never worry about this, you’re going to cook it again in any case).
You can also, instead of roasting it or smoking, hang it to dry, in the manner of pancetta.
There are plenty of reasons not to cure bacon: fear should not be among them.