I have been making bacon for a number of years, but never thought about selling it, mainly because there are so many bacons out there in stores that sell for less than the price of pork bellies alone. That, and because everything we make here is by hand with no funky chemicals or added water, our bacon will cost twice the amount regular bacon would. But when you think about it, it’s still really not that much.
Turns out I was wrong; we can hardly keep up with the demand for our bacon! As most of you will know, we make molasses black pepper, garlic juniper and our old fashioned dry smoked bacon. You can come up with your own flavours, maybe coffee cured bacon or spicy chocolate bacon. I will give you the basic recipe to work from and the technique and all you will have to do is experiment with flavour combinations.
I would also like to talk about how commercial bacon is made and some of the differences you will find when making your own. Most bacon you will find is made by mixing a brine of water, salt, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, sugar, sodium nitrite, artificial colour, flavour extracts, polysorbate 80, glycerine, nitrite and smoke flavour. The belly is then injected with this brine and placed into what is called a vacuum tumbler with some more of the brine. This device looks something like a cement mixer with a pump that sucks the air out of the chamber creating a strong vacuum. The chamber starts to turn, tumbling the meat, thereby massaging the liquid into the muscle.
With this process you can actually get a piece of meat to absorb over 80% of its weight in water! This is where phosphates come in. When phosphate is added to the brine it will allow the muscle tissue to retain that added water when cooked at low heat. This is why you will often see a puddle of water in your pan when frying your bacon. That sponge like texture you often get in ham is also a classic example of what a vacuum tumbler does to meat. Even those chicken wings you get in the frozen food isle are treated the same way. Just look at the ingredient list and you will see water as the second ingredient. The simple truth is that you really do get what you pay for. If a cooked ham costs less than the raw meat it was made with there’s a reason for it.
Now, making bacon at home is a far easier process than what I described above. You simply rub a mixture of salt, sugar and your choice of spices together. Rub this mix into your pork belly, and then place it in a glass baking dish and cover. You let this sit for about 10 days, flipping over half way through. Remove from the dish and rinse with cold water for 10 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel and then place in your kitchen oven or smoke house at 170oF until the internal temperature reads 150oF. Remove, place in fridge and allow to cool overnight, then slice and fry!
That’s it! By applying the salt and sugar directly to the pork rather than using brine you will draw out the water that is naturally in the meat, creating a puddle of brine in the dish it is left in. So, instead of adding water, you have removed some. This will reduce the weight of your pork belly by 15 – 20%. Like dry-aged beef you will not only get a porkier flavour but you will also have a more tender texture.
Nitrite is a whole other story. You can purchase it at Loblaws in the butcher section under the name ‘sure cure’ or ‘super cure’. It is your choice whether or not to add this to your bacon. However, It will improve the colour and extend the shelf life dramatically.
Smoking is another step that is not always necessary. While it is true that traditional bacon is smoked, we are not setting out to make traditional bacon. We use smoke as a flavour rather than a preservative. And if you think about it, when was the last time you really noticed that your bacon tasted smoky? All of our bacon is smoked in a real smoke house that uses real burning wood to smoke. We dislike liquid smoke very much and can tell you first hand that liquid smoke and real smoke are nothing alike. Having said that, a solid recipe with good flavour has no need for smoke at all – If you don’t have a real smoker there’s really no need to fake it, just finish it in your kitchen oven.
Recipe for basic bacon
Use this recipe for a basic bacon or as a base and then add flavours to it.
- 1 pork Belly
- 2 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Mix salt and sugar
- Cover pork with mixture and place in glass baking dish or large Ziploc bag
- Refrigerate for 10 days, flipping after 5
- Remove and rinse under cold water, allow to soak for 2hrs
- Cook in oven or smoke house at 170oF to internal temp of 150oF
- Allow to cool, slice and fry
Your home made bacon
- Brown Sugar
Most other bacon
- sodium phosphate
- sodium erythorbate
- sodium nitrite
- artificial colour
- flavour extracts
- polysorbate 80
- smoke flavour
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