I have been watching and reading this blog for a little while now, and tried a few of the recipes, with much success. Agreeing with the Sultana, I dislike the bacon that is found on most grocery shelves, and wanted to try making it myself.
I contacted a local butcher that I have had past dealings with, and requested the main ingredient. My local butcher, Country Meat Cuts on Simcoe County Road 56 in Utopia, happily ordered in 6 lbs. of pork belly for my baconing needs.
What? Dairy Queen had it right! BACON can so be used as a verb!
With two pork bellies in hand I proceeded to rub them with the Bone Dust seasoning. I was fairly confused when I began to rub them, however, as there was still a thick layer of skin on one side. It took a little googling, but I discovered that when using a high heat process, like I was, it is preferred to keep the skin, a.k.a. rind, on. This protects the fat from melting away. It can also be used for Cracklings later. Thus, armed with knowledge, I set the bellies to cure in the fridge.
I decided to make maple-flavored bacon first. So I soaked a board and maple chips for the tube smoker. When the pork bellies were sufficiently cured (of what I am not sure, they didn’t look sick) I selected one and threw it on the grill. Two hours later I had a sizzling mass of fragrant meat.
I monitored the bacon as it was smoking. The maple chips in the tube, beautifully releasing a wonderful sweet smoke. Also, remembering my lessons from the article, Much Alder About Planking, I made sure that my plank did not catch fire.
Smoke good, fire bad.
Much to my surprise and delight, the bacon was done faster than the recipe said, as per the meat thermometer. I noticed that the meat itself had shrunk in length and width, but grown in height. Must be a bacon thing. My done maple bacon was promptly transferred indoors to cool and smell good.
I was a little disappointed in the lack of sweetness that the maple bacon had. It was still full of a smokey bacon-y, maple-y taste. But not that of the sugary sweetness one would get from a pound found in the grocery store. I am thinking that durring curing next time I would like to try using brown sugar, or maple syrup to add that little something more.
The second round went perfectly. Lots of cedar smoke, the pork belly was cured for an extra couple of hours as it had to wait for its maple-flavored brother to finish smoking. Again there was strange shrinking and expanding of the meat. It rather reminded me of one of those t-shirts you buy and wash that suddenly is wider than it is long.
This bacon was amazing. I used more Bone Dust on it, than the maple bacon. The difference was a salty and smoky flavor. My friend and I got a little of the drippings on our fingers when transferring the second bacon to the kitchen. We were amazed at the flavor! I still am at a loss for words after a couple of days!
I was a little concerned when we began to slice the bacon for cooking. It looked like a very fatty, cooked piece of pork. When fried, like bacon should be, it looks a little more like it should. But taste-wise, nothing can beat it. I fear this may be one of those things where you can never go back.
That very night, the bacon was used to top some hamburgers. The following day, it was eaten for breakfast with eggs and toast. Then again for dinner in some baked potatoes. Also, I was able to reuse the cedar plank to make a roast of beef. The beef was infused with a little bit of the bacon flavor after soaking up the drippings from my baconing adventure.
And then there is the grease left over from cooking. It is not something that can just be tossed, it should be kept if possible. With home made bacon there are no burned bits littering the grease so collect it in an old can for safe disposal. Or you can use it melted to add to an injector sauce, or if you don’t have enough drippings from your roast to make a proper gravy.
I wonder what I am going to make with my bacon tonight. I will update later and let you know if it can be successfully frozen.
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