Introduction: Epic Bacon Feast
Let's be honest, bacon is the best. It's perfect for any time of day or any meal. A perfect pairing to eggs and grits for breakfast, so crispy and salty on your BLT at lunch, add it to a salad or wrap it around some filet mignon at dinner and then crumble it over ice cream with some salted caramel sauce for a dessert treat.
For this instructable, I'll show you how I made my own bacon from scratch, and then added it to my version of an Italian culinary traditional masterpiece, known as porchetta.
Step 1: Makin' the Bacon
Let's get started. Making your own homemade bacon is not difficult but takes some time. I started by going to my local grocery store and asking the butcher for a couple slabs of pork belly. When I got home I trimmed the belly so that they were square (so when you slice it you have equal sized slices). Most of the time, the piece of pork belly you get from the store will have the skin on. You can try to cut it off prior to applying the cure, but from experience, I'll tell you its easier to cut once the smoking process is complete. Next I made the cure. I use Brown Sugar, Salt, and Real Maple Syrup on most of my batches. I've used BBQ rubs, and a pastrami cure as well. They came out pretty good too. Let's say we have a slab of pork belly that is about 2lb. I used 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of maple syrup for my cure. Mix them together into a paste and apply cure all over the pork belly. After the pork belly is coated with the cure place it in a ziplock bag getting as much of the air out as possible. Place it in the fridge and flip it over every day for 7-10 days. Flipping it over ensure an even cure throughout the meat.
After 7-10 days remove the cured pork belly from the fridge. Take the pork belly out of the bag and rinse off the excess cure and dry the meat with a towel or paper towel. Use a sharp knife (if the skin is still on) to pierce a few holes along the top of the meat about 1 inch from the edge. These will give you a means to hang the bacon in the smoker. You can buy a bacon hanger online, but for the first few batches I weaved stainless steel wire through the meat and tied them off to hang the bacon in my smoker. I used a combination of hickory and apple wood to infuse flavor into the meat. I then smoked the bacon for 4 hours with the heat not exceeding 100 degrees. you're not trying to cook the bacon, you are just infusing it with delicious smoked flavor.
When the 4 hours are up, remove the bacon and let it cool. Once cooled you can slice it and use it right away. I fried my first batch and the whole family really enjoyed it.
Step 2: Bacon to the Max
Okay, let's take bacon to the next level. I decided to get culinary creative for the holidays. I wanted to make the most epic, eye catching, mouth watering masterpiece that would wow the whole family. I had a batch of recently homemade bacon in the fridge and a couple pork tenderloins in the freezer, so I started thinking of how I could make "bacon wrapped pork tenderloin" bigger and better. Lightbulb! Porchetta!
Porchetta is a traditional Italian food. There are many variations on how to make it. This is how I made mine:
1- 6lb pork belly, skin on
1- 2-3lb pork tenderloin
3 tbsp. fennel seeds
2tbst crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. minced fresh sage
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves
1/2 orange, seeded, thinly sliced
1-2 lb bacon
1/2 lb panchetta
The first step is to lay the pork belly out and place the pork tenderloin across the shorter of the length or width in the center. Then roll the belly around the tenderloin and make sure the ends meet. If there is any overhang trim the belly until the edges meet. Then place the loin to the side. Now you will want to use a sharp knife to make hash marks (grid pattern) about 1/3-1/2 inch deep into the pork belly (skin side down). This helps the roast cook evenly.
Toast the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium heat for about a minute, they should become very fragrant. Let them cool. Once cool, use a spice mill or pestle and mortar to grind the spices. Once ground place in a bowl and add the sage, rosemary and garlic.
Now flip the belly over and use a knife to poke dozens of 1/8 inch deep holes through the skin. Flip the belly back over and use the bumpy side of a meat mallet to pound (tenderize) the meat for 2-3 minutes. Flip the belly over again (meat side up) and apply (generously) salt to it and the tenderloin. Rub both the loin and the belly with the spice mixture as well. Place on a wire rack and place in the fridge, uncovered for a day to allow for the skin to dry out. I placed a baking sheet under it to catch any moisture from making a mess in the fridge.
Remove the roast from the fridge and wrap the loin in bacon, then top it will pancetta slices, and then the orange slices. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Wrap the belly around the loin and tie off with butcher's twine. When the oven was up to temp, I placed a baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drippings from the roast. I placed the roast on the next lowest tier of oven racks. I roasted it like this for 40 minutes, turning once about halfway through.
In the meantime, I set up my grill for indirect grilling, and soaked some hickory chunks. At the end of the 40 minutes I transferred the roast to the center of the grill (in the center of the 2 charcoal piles). I added a couple chunks of hickory just to give it a slight smoky flavor. After about 1.5 hours my instant read thermometer read 145 degrees F and I removed the roast from the grill and let it rest for 30-40 minutes. I used a serrated knife to pierce through the tough skin and cut 1/2 inch slices. That was no doubt, the best pork tenderloin I'd ever eaten. And despite the high fat content of the pork belly, it was really good too. The skin was crispy and smoky, perfect meal. And I got all the Ooos and Ahhs when I cut in and revealed the beautiful cross section of this masterpiece.