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Bacon revisited March 5, 2010

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Food.

You may recall last year when I tried making bacon at home for the first time.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t right exactly.

About the beginning of the year, Toys bought me some curing salt.  Also known as pink salt.  And I tried again.  And it was way better.  But still not quite what I was looking for.  Even though it was fabulous with Fettuccine Alfredo.

So last weekend I tried again.
The basic cure is simple.  Pink salt, kosher salt and sugar.  Mix together and put into something airtight until you need it.
It really is pink, isn’t it?

Now, this time I wanted more.  I’ve had a bag of maple sugar knocking around the house for more years than I care to think about.  And what is better in bacon than a hint of maple?

Toys had kindly gotten me another pork belly while she was at the Public Market last weekend.  Isn’t she great?

So, once the counter was temporarily clear on Sunday morning, I started.
About a quarter cup of the cure mixture goes into a non-reactive pan big enough to fit your pork belly.  Along with this goes half a cup of maple sugar.  According to Charcuterie. you can either use maple sugar or syrup.  We didn’t have a whole lot of syrup in the house, and I’d much rather have the driest cure possible.  Most commercial bacon is cured in a brine.  Really good country bacon is dry cured.  I’m just saying.

Coat your pork belly on all sides with the cure.  Be thorough.  It’s important.  Now, the book says to put the pork belly into a big zip top bag to cure in the refrigerator for seven days.  That’s all well and good.  But Toys came up with a brilliant idea.  To keep the cure in close contact with the meat, why not put it in a vacuum seal bag?  Awesome!  So, I did.
Even though it’s vacuum sealed, I put the whole package into a container in the fridge on the off chance of leaks.  You should turn the bag over once a day for seven days.  Okay, fine.

Next Sunday, I will perform the last couple steps.  The pork belly will come out of its bag and get rinsed and completely dried.  Then into a 200 degree oven until a thermometer reads 150 degrees.  That will take between two and three hours, depending on how big you pork belly is.

Once up to to temperature, you remove the skin that should have been on your pork belly all this time.  Then let it cool, and wrap for the fridge.

If this is wonderful, and I’m reasonably confident that it should be, there will be one more step I’ll want to try.  Instead of roasting in a low oven, it’s very easy to maintain a low temperature in my smoker rig.  Because maple-y, smokey bacon would be worth a little extra work.  Or maybe I’ll cheat, and just add a little liquid smoke to the cure.  We’ll see.

Oh, and I’ve even arranged to borrow a commercial slicer that belongs to a friend of mine on Monday morning.  Slab bacon is wonderful for seasoning.  It can be a little trying to deal with for eating.  Without a little help.

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