One of my favorite television episodes of all time is from the Simpsons, titled Lisa the Vegetarian. Upon hearing the news, Homer asks Lisa if this means she will no longer eat bacon, declaring that it comes from a magical animal. That might be a bit much, but there's no denying that bacon does have a special place in our society.
For those who love bacon, this is a great recipe that turns ordinary pork belly into that mythical delicious food. Curing your own bacon actually is much healthier than buying it from the store for several main reasons:
- You don't need any preservatives
- You can buy organic or local meat for the curing
- It tastes much better than any store bought variety
With that, I present the five relatively easy steps toward making homemade bacon. You can eat it yourself or if you're feeling charitable, give it to someone as a gift. I guarantee they will remember it more fondly than any greeting card ever could. (That's right Hallmark, you've finally met your match.)
While you can technically use just curing salt alone, using a combination of different spices really make the flavor of the meat stand out. These are the ingredients I used. Get a large mixing bowl and combine the following:
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp All-spice
- 2 tsp. ground pepper (I used fresh ground)
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
Generously rub the seasoning mix all over the pork belly. You cannot over-season the pork belly so use as much of the seasoning rub as you feel comfortable with, then add a little more. Trust me.
Place the seasoned pork belly inside a Ziploc plastic bag. Squeeze out all the air and seal the bag shut before placing it in the fridge. Make sure you know which side of the bacon you have on the bottom because you will be flipping it in 3 days.
3 days of curing
After 3 days of curing, the meat will be slightly darker. open the Ziploc bag and dump out the juice in the bag. Flip the meat over, place back in the bag and again squeeze out the excess air before resealing it and placing it back in the fridge for another 3 days.
6 days of curing
By the sixth day, the color of the meat has darkened a lot. This is normal. Take the meat out of the Ziploc bag. Wash off all the excess seasoning rub and pat dry with paper towels.
Place the bacon in a roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Once the oven it ready, place the bacon inside. Depending on how thick the cuts of bacon are, as well as how much meat you're roasting (you're looking at 8 lbs of bacon in this picture) you will need to cook the meat anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
Once the bacon has reached an internal temperate of 150°F, take it out of the oven and let it cool for at least an hour. Take half of the bacon and place it in another Ziploc freezer bag. This goes in the freezer and will keep for about 2 months. The other half of the bacon will be put in the fridge and keeps for about 2 or 3 weeks.
Cooking the bacon
If you are hand cutting slices of bacon, they're going to be much thicker than any store bought version. Because of that, I like to cook my bacon in a cast iron skillet because you can still get crispy bacon even if it's half an inch thick.
Once the bacon is cooked, it's time to enjoy. I suggest a few slices of the meat in between some freshly baked bread, field greens, sliced steak tomatoes and pesto mayo for the best BLT you have ever tasted.