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I decided to create this instructable after reading several comments in the Bacon Contest that referred to said meat as "processed" or "over-processed". Makin' Bacon was conducted with the help of my 11 yr old son who is devilishly fond of bacon.

In these steps, I will show that home cured bacon is 1) not a "processed" meat, and 2) is so amazingly delicious the biggest challenge is the patient waiting that is involved; curing takes about a week.

I am listing two recipes; both use "pink salt #1", which is a sodium chloride and sodium nitrite mixture. That said, it is not a requirement to use pink salts to cure bacon, but, your bacon won't taste like "bacon" without it. Still delicious, but the flavor will be different. Also, the nitrites give bacon a pink tint, like you will see in commercial bacon, Canadian bacon (bacon made with pork loin) and hams.

Giving meat a pink tint is not why pink salt is so named. Pink Salt is tinted  so that it is not confused with table salt. Nitrite salts can be poisonous in large doses, so be careful with the stuff and store out of reach of kids and dumb adults.

My wife prefers to not eat the nitrites, but does not turn them down. Your bacon will also not have quite the storage time without the salts. Your choice. One note, if you do not use the salts, then cold smoking becomes a must. The smoke has preservative qualities you'll need, unless eating the whole pork belly within a week.

For this article, I've made two flavors of bacon. One is a basic recipe from Michael Ruhlman; the second is a chipolte/smoked paprika bacon of my own
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Last note is to be aware that the quality of your pork belly will greatly influence the final product. Due to a short turn around time, I have used inferior pork belly in this instructable for demonstration purposes only.
 
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Step 1: Ingredients

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Ingredient List
Each of the below recipes in good for 2-2.5 pounds of pork belly


Basic Home Cured Bacon

1 ounce (1/8 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt

1 teaspoon pink curing salt  #1

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup

3 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife

1 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)

5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)



Chipolte-Smoked Paprika Bacon

1 ounce (1/8 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt

1 teaspoon pink curing salt #1

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

4 tablespoons ground chipolte peppers

2 tablespoons smoked paprika pepper (ground)

5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife



Step 2: Curing

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At this point, I should mention that I remove the rind from the belly before I cure. The rind gets firm and becomes chewy. However, it does taste heavenly when cooked.

For each recipe, mix all the ingredients into a large ziplock bag or a suitable plastic or non-corrosive metal container with a tight lid. coat the entire pork belly in the cure and store for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. Rotate the belly top to bottom each day.

I prefer the ziplock bags. The dead air space in the bag can be removed and it is very easy to rotate in the fridge.

After curing for seven to ten days, remove the belly from the bag/bucket/box, and rinse the cure completely off, then set on a drying rack and return to the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours. This step is preparing for smoking and creates a pelicle, a thin skin of proteins pulled out of the belly by the cure. The pelicle must be dry to allow your belly to properly absorb smoke. The belly will have a sheen to it when ready and will be slightly tacky to the touch.

Step 3: Smoking, Slicing, Cooking

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Once the pelicle has formed, it is time to smoke. For the uninitiated, there are two basic ways to smoke, 1) Cold and 2) Hot. Cold smoking imparts flavor and has preservative qualities. Hot smoking is normally above 200 degrees F, and cooks the meat along with flavoring. Cold smoke is used when making bacon.

There are many, many ways to construct a cold smoker and a google search is a good place to start.. It is basically an enclosure that will allow either indirect hot smoke to be piped (and cooled in the process) to the smoker or smoke from smoldering chips in the smoke box to contact the meat. As shown in the photo, I use my gas grill as an enclosure and a small tin with smoldering chips. A charcoal briquette starter is used  to get the chips alight. Using the smoldering chips method is mechanically very easy to construct, but you must pay close attention to the fire- the chips can easily  get hot enough to ignite, causing your smoke to go from cold to hot and cooking your bacon on the grill (which makes tasty, crispy sandwiches).

Smoking should last 2-4 hours per pound.  Smoking time is a matter of taste and you will find your mark after a few batches.

Once cooled, it's time to slice. I recommend a slicer for ease, but you can make thick slices with a sharp knife.


The whole project can be completed in 7-10 days, resulting in the best bacon money can't buy.


Enjoy!

nfk114 years ago
i voted
aeray4 years ago
I was wondering how long it would take for someone to post this. Good work. I'm building a cold smoker, but it's taking a while because of lack of free time and other projects. Bradley (like in Ruhlman) sells just the smoke generator part of their set-up for quite a low price; you just have to build an enclosure. Check it out
johnny50 (author)  aeray4 years ago
yeah, those are pretty cool, but I'm more of a neanderthal, if i have my druthers. wooden box, fire pit in the ground, plenty of beer to spend idle hours monitoring the fire/smoke.
nfk114 years ago
good instructable