Saturday, July 2, 2011

I'm NEVER Buying Bacon Again!

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For my birthday last month I bought myself the perfect present: Half a hog! I have purchased locker pork before but I usually have the processor make me ham, bacon and sausage from it. He does an awesome job of curing and smoking his customers' pork but I decided this time around to have him just cut it up for me and do all the curing, smoking and sausage making myself.

I have been making sausage for almost 3 years now but last year I tried my hand at curing and smoking my own ham. The butcher at our local grocery store ordered an 22 pound pork leg and sawed it to a butt and shank portion. For Easter I cured and smoked my first ham and it came out wonderful and I was sold on curing my own ham from then on out.

So, now I'm trying my hand at curing and smoking my own slab of bacon. The piece of pork belly that I'm working with came from the processor with skin removed and it weighs 5 pounds. The recipe choice is 10.5's Maple Cured Bacon from the Bradley Recipe Site.
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Here's the ingredients needed:
  • 2 oz. Kosher salt (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp. Cure #1 (aka pink salt, InstaCure #1, Prague Powder #1)
  • 1/4 C. Maple sugar or packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. Maple syrup
  • 5 lb. fresh pork belly
    (Makes enough for a 5 lb. belly)
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The prep was actually pretty easy. I mixed together the dry ingredients (salt, sugar, cure)
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Then added the maple syrup to the dry ingredients to make a paste which was spread all over the piece of pork belly.
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After the paste is applied, it goes into a 2 gallon ZipLoc bag (I love these big ones!) Squeeze out as much air as you can out of the bag to insure good contact with the meat. Place it in the frig to cure for 5 to 7 days, turning once a day.
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After curing, the pork belly needs to be rinsed to remove excess cure. It was placed on an inverted smoker rack sitting on a cookie sheet then returned to the frig to air-dry over night. The next morning it was removed from the frig and allowed to rest on the kitchen counter for an hour and a half.
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Into my preheated Bradley Smoker it goes. I smoked it with 2 hours of maple smoke at 130F with the vent opened half way. After the first 2 hours, I increased the temperature to 150-160F until the meat hit an internal temperature of 140F.
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It came out just beautiful!
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I planned on getting it sliced at the meat processors (since I don't own a meat slicer) but I did take a slice to fry up a sample for the family to try. It tasted as good as it looked, too.
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After taking it to get it sliced. (Picture at the top) I vacuum-sealed four pounds of it.

I cannot tell you enough how easy and rewarding it was to make my own bacon. It took less time and labor than a batch of jerky takes. Go for it! And do let us know how it comes out.




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