I smoked homemade bacon. This has been on the bucket list since around 2007 when I first saw this blog post (later posted as a LotD in 2010 after the reboot). I also sourced some advice from this article in the LA Times.
Unfortunately the neighborhood butcher shop is a thing of the past and pork belly is an uncommon enough cut that you might have to hunt around to find it. They are used in some Asian recipes so if you've got an Asian market with a meat section you might get some fresh meat there. I wound up going to Stoysich's House of Sausage near 132nd and West Center. Unfortunately their pork belly was frozen and priced at $6/lb. I bought a 5 lb pork belly and hauled it home to thaw in the fridge. Shouldn't this stuff be dirt cheap? I could probably drive an hour into Iowa from here and find the pig
farmer rancher who raised the animal.
I started curing the meat on a Saturday night. Although I didn't write down the exact combinations or keep track of what bag got what cure there were three different cures for three 1.5 lb cuts of meat:
- 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1 tbsp mustard
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1 tbsp mustard, ground pepper
Each bag was sealed with the air forced out and put in the fridge to cure. I really wanted to try forming a pellicle by leaving the meat out uncovered in the fridge for a day but I was talked out of it. Roughly once a day I took the bags out to knead the cure around and flip the bag over. Initially the salt was not dissolving in the cure but by Tuesday the meat started pulling in the cure and sucking in salt. Wednesday afternoon I filled a chimney about 3/4 of the way full with charcoal and filled the Weber bullet smoker. After an hour I only had internal bacon temperatures around 130 degrees and the smoker air temperature had dropped to 200. I did a second chimney of charcoal and left it there for ~2 hours as I had somewhere to be. Upon returning home I figured I hit the mark and pulled it out. In the future I'll use a whole sleeve of new charcoal at the start which I suspect will let me hit smoker air temperatures at around 230 or 240 degrees and only require a single, hour-long smoking session.
The bacon came out piping hot and smelled fantastic. Here's what the non-fatty underside looked like when it came out (click to expand):
Here's the fatty top side and the sliced, finished product. You still need to fry it! The fat slices you see there were cut when it was still hot. If you chill the bacon you can get regular/thin slices much easier.
The final result was delicious. Rich, tasty, salty bacon. The smoke taste didn't really come out although that could be expected as I didn't form any pellicle. The batches with maple syrup came out very sweet so I will probably leave out the syrup in the future. I just don't like sweet bacon. I will certainly be smoking some more bacon in the future and I plan on doing so as soon as this Thanksgiving.