It occurred to me the other day that it has been quite some time since I have made any home-cured bacon. So when I spied a goodly looking 4 pound chunk of pork belly at the Meat House in Guilderland I decided to put on my pork curing shoes and get down to business. Furthermore, as bacon is the house that this blog is built on (read through the 38 posts on the subject here) I thought I would share my doings here.
Here is the fresh belly.
I did a fairly standard 2 part kosher salt to 1 part sugar (raw honey/brown sugar split) with Prague Powder #1. About 2 tsp. of pink salt for this much meat is sufficient. The pork dry cured in the bottom of my fridge for 7 days.
I wanted to do a sort of pressed/rolled, Polish style bacon this time, so when the pork was done curing I pressed it for overnight utilizing a high technology apparatus (haha, see below). This was after soaking the belly in cold water for a bit to draw out some of the excess salt.
The pressing made the belly easier to roll up. I tied it with silicone bands and encased it in a bit of cheesecloth.
Departing from my general bacon making practices here I decided to poach the sucker gently (at around 150-160deg water temp) before smoking. My thought was that this would help the pork maintain its rolled shape during the smoking process. I tied the pork to a rolling pin and suspended it in my big ol' pot.
This all cooked until the pork roll had a center temp of just over 150 degrees. Then I shocked the pork in some cold water to keep it from cooking any more. The rolled belly went under the earlier pictured pork squishing apparatus to press a bit more overnight. Not having any of that meat gelatin stuff I hoped that all the pressing would allow the rolled bacon to be sliced without falling apart.
Finally, I brought the sucker over to a gracious friends house to borrow the use of their cunning little electric smoker thing. I let it go at about 200 for a little over an hour. Here is the beautiful brown bastard after smoking.
I carved off a healthy hunk of the bacon for my friend as tax for use of the smoker and bundled up the rest of my prize to take home. Based on the visual, I was hopeful that this would be a successful experiment in bacon makin'.
Here is the butt end the following day, I thought it looked just peachy.
As I had hoped, the rolly-polly bacon maintained its shape upon slicing.
A couple thinnish rounds got fried up in one of my Griswolds.
Unfortunately, the circle bacon did not maintain its form during the cooking process.
Despite losing its circular integrity in the pan, I was overall pleased with this batch of bacon. The cure was good and mellow, not over salty at all. Due to the rolled form of the meat less surface area was exposed to the smoke. Because of this the smoke flavor was much mellower than normal and this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The light amount of smoke, and the fact that this particular belly was pretty light on the meat and heavy on the fat, left me with an almost pancetta like result. I think the majority of this stuff will go towards seasoning/ingredient use as opposed to slicing and frying. But again, I was pleased.
It is something about the fall that kicks me into a sort of curing/pickling/smoking/preserving frenzy, so I would expect a couple more posts in this vein over the course of the coming months, hope you don't mind...