I just made another round of pork belly on my Traeger so thought this was worthy of a re-post.
“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” -Thomas Jefferson
The more people I meet through my sister, especially from my trip to Cyprus awhile back, may object to one of the culinary skills I taught myself over the past few years, but I simply can’t resist. You see, they eat kosher (even the “Gentiles) and well, I don’t. Look, I REALLY like these people. They are some of the most genuine, compassionate, friendly, and probably happy people I have EVER met. They are raising their children in a foreign country, are doing great work for their mission, and quite simply are awesome.
Something tells me that they would actually accomplish more, if they were allowed to consume one of the great ingredients of Western culinary tradition…bacon.
I have purchased all kinds of bacon over the years. From the thin, slimy stuff, to thick-cut, “artisanal” bacon, and now my very own.
Why would I learn to cure pork belly (where good quality bacon should come from) when I can buy bacon at Costco, Whole Foods, or a local butcher? Well…because I can control the actual source of the pig! How many supermarket butchers will be able to tell you where they get their porcine? Doubt they know. Do you think the Costco guys know? Nope. Maybe, just maybe a good quality local butcher will know. If you have one, get to know him by asking LOTS of questions about where is meat comes from. If he says “I don’t know” then you may as well shop at Safeway. If he can tell you “this little farmer from Mt. Vernon or Sandpoint, or something, then you are on to something. Keep him and hold him and love him because in our quest to try and fix our food problems, sourcing food is probably one of the single most important things we can do. We can then know what the animal ate (roughly) and what sort of life it lived before it met the butchers bullet and knife. It is important not for existential reasons, rather, for health reasons and if you are going to eat the meat from the pig, you may as well get as healthy as you can. KNOW YOUR BUTCHER.
But for those of you that want to go just one step further, and learn to make it yourself, frankly, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It take a little time, and very little product that you can’t find in your local store. It is also WAY CHEAPER to buy high quality pork belly from a butcher you trust, and then curing yourself, than buying the slab bacon they sell in their very own display cases. You will be doing everyone, including your taste buds and your wallet, a favor.
So here’s to making bacon and getting one step closer to the way it should be!
Home Cured Bacon
adapted slightly from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book.
1, 3-5 lb pork belly, trimmed (*see note)
1/4 cup dry curing salt (see below)
Dry Salt Cure
1 lb kosher salt
8 oz sugar
2 oz pink salt (about 10 tsp) – you can order this online, its pretty cheap and is what stops botulism so a big deal!
This Dry Salt Cure makes enough for many pork bellies as you can probably tell so make a quick batch and store in a container until you need it again.
For the Belly/Bacon
Liberally salt (dry cure) both sides on a cookie sheet. Place in Ziplock bag and store in fridge for 7 days, flipping and redistributing the salt mixture on each side.
After 7 days, rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
Preheat oven (or smoker!) to 200 degrees and roast on a roasting pan (get some air under there) for about 2 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.
Note: I say “trimmed” because I got a belly once that had all sorts of fat on the undercarriage. Not the kind of fat you want either. Most butchers, if you tell them you are making your own bacon or pork belly, will know, but it is worth triple checking!