There are many of us who know and love bacon. Of course there are the few who don’t like it, but we are not going to talk about them. I think even though a lot of people know what bacon is and what it looks like they have never considered making it themselves. Because I don’t really purchase meat from the store, I typically purchase my bacon from Yonder Way Farm but theirs comes completely uncured and unsalted, in fact it’s simply fresh pork belly. Which technically makes it not actual bacon due to the fact that bacon is a cured and preserved meat.
I was completely fine with that for a while because their pork is the best and so incredibly flavorful that it doesn’t really need to be cured. Alas my cravings for salty, piquant porky goodness began to arise so I sought to make my own.
As some might not know, there are different types of bacon. The most commonly known in the United States is the one that I’m doing for this recipe which is made with pork belly but it can also be made with other cuts like loin, fatback, ankle, jowl, the list goes on and on. Each of course differing slightly in the use of ingredients but all of them have a general “bacony-ness” about them.
The wonderful thing about home cured bacon is that you have complete control over the ingredients that go in it. You don’t have to freak out about using sugar, nitrates or nitrites in your bacon if you choose not to have it because it’s not completely necessary, although I don’t really worry about nitrates in bacon. I did choose to use a more natural source of nitrates which was celery powder because I didn’t want to use the pink salt due to the fact that they dye it pink, although you do use it in very minimal quantities so it’s also because I’m slightly stubborn.
Mainly you don’t have to worry whether or not the ingredients are Paleo of if they’re contaminated with gluten or unsavory ingredients because it’s all coming from you’re own home. Most old fashioned bacon that was made before it started being mass produced was cured with a simple mixture of salt and sometimes sugar. Now what tickles me is when someone says that they don’t want any preservatives in their bacon what so ever which is slightly an odd request because salt acts as a preservative in the making of bacon. In fact bacon is a preserved food. The whole reason that bacon was ever invented was to preserve it prior to having refrigerators.
The most important thing to do when making your bacon is to make sure you use quality pork belly from a trusted source. I know many of my readers are pretty aware of where their meat comes from and have very high quality sources but it’s still an important thing to remember. Because Jason was out of pork belly I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get any for a while. That is until I went to Revival Market to meet up with my friend Charissa for lunch. Revival market it one of the only places I will eat out at because all of their meat is pastured/grassfed. Once we had eaten I grabbed a pork belly on the way out because the thought of homemeade bacon began swimming in my head again.
Pork is a fairly potent source of glutamate which is what gives the meat it’s umami flavor. Now take that umami packed meat but then cure it in a combination of salt and sugar. Now you have created another; even more potent layer of umami on top of that making it twice as immersive in flavor.You know what I’m talking about; that tongue tingling salted porkiness, that alluring aroma of cured pork fat rendering in the pan. This is exactly why most people love bacon, and most vegetarians don’t even want to think about it. It truly is a one of a kind flavor that is just so powerful that it’s made irresistible to many who know the taste. And now, you know how to make it yourself.
Of course I will include the obligatory shot of bacon frying in it’s own beautiful shimmering layer of fat.
- 4 lb fresh pork belly
- 45 grams coarse sea salt (3½ tablespoons)
- Optional: 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 cloves of garlic smashed and left in skin
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- Optional: 1½ teaspoons celery juice powder(I used this celery juice powder) you could also use pink salt if you wish
- hickory wood chips if smoking
- Rinse and pat dry pork belly. In a small bowl combine salt, optional sugar, and optional celery juice powder or optional pink salt and mix well. Place the pork belly in a 2 gallon zip lock bag and coat all over and thoroughly rub with mixture. Bruise the rosemary sprigs and place all over pork belly along with garlic. Place the cure rubbed pork belly in the fridge for 7 days.
- Once the pork belly has cured rinse it off thoroughly with water.
- Soak wood 4 cups of wood chips in water for 30 mintutes. Fill 1-2 smoker boxes with ½ cup of soaked chips and a small handful of dry chips and reserve the rest of the soaked chips for later use. Remove one of the sides of the grates of the grill so that you can place the smoker boxes directly on the heating element. Preheat one side of the grill to medium heat keeping the opposite side completely off until the smoker boxes begin to smoke then reduce the heat to low, place the pork belly on the wire rack onto the unlit side and close the lid (see the image in my post for how I set mine up). Try to stabilize the heat at around 200 degrees and smoke the pork belly for 3½-4 hours adding more soaked chipped every 45 minutes or so; until the internal temperature of the pork belly registers 150 degrees. If you want more smoke without having to increase the temperature just add a small handful of dry woodchips along with the soaked.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place the pork belly on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Roast the bacon until the internal temperature of the pork belly registers 150 degrees.
- Allow to cool completely then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight to harden the fat. With a sharp and long knife slice the bacon into desired thickness and store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for 6-12 months.
- Congratulations you have made your very own bacon.
For the use of celery juice powder or pink salt: This is also optional but I chose to use celery juice powder and explained why in this post. If you don’t want to use the celery juice powder or the pink salt don’t worry because it’s completely optional. The only difference is that your bacon might turn brown or grey after it is cured and lack the distinct piquant cured taste. If you want to learn more about the use of nitrates in cured meats and why I do not fear them Chris Kresser and Michael Ruhlman both have great articles on it.
If you have a different weight of pork belly than specified: Michael Ruhlman Recommends you get the weight of the pork belly in grams and then multiply by .025 and the result of that is the amount of salt you should use in grams. This method only works if you have a food scale at home though.
If you own a smoker: I do not have a smoker so I didn’t try making it with one but I would imagine if you do and wanted to smoke it like that you would simply smoke it at 200 degrees away from the fire to avoid any flare ups until the pork belly internal temperature registers 150 degrees.
Things to do with your homemade bacon:
Fry it and eat it. Savor every bite.
Bacon Guacamole Sammies – Nom Nom Paleo
Bourbon and Cider Braised Bacon – The Domestic Man
Bacon Wrapped Beef Franks with Spicy Relish – Civilized Caveman
Salted Caramel Bacon Bark – Spunky Coconut
Bacon Jam – Zenbelly
Infamous Bacon Cookies – Primal Palate
Maple and Candied Bacon Blonde Brownies – Urban Poser