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Homemade Bacon

2011 February 15
by Dan

We made homemade bacon!  Seriously — homemade bacon.  As we noted in last month’s duck prosciutto post, we are participating in Charcutepalooza, which is a year-long effort by a collection of approximately 200 food bloggers to attempt and document a monthly charcuterie challenge.  This month’s endeavor was salt cure — bacon for the “Apprentice Challenge” and pancetta or quanciale for the (more advanced) “Charcutiere Challenge.”  The greatest part of this whole experiment?  It was foolishly simple, and the end result is so delicious that we are wondering why we have never done this before.  We may never buy the plastic wrapped stuff at the grocery store again.  Many thanks to the folks who put together Charcutepalooza — such a great way to inspire us and others to step out of our cooking comfort zones.  And now, on with the bacon! DSC_0152.JPG

Homemade bacon starts with pork belly.  We bought our pork belly from Rudolph’s Market, an old-school, fantastic butcher here in Dallas.  In addition to beautiful meats, Rudolph’s has an amazing collection of house-made sausages.  When the Charcutepalooza challenges turn to sausages, we may turn to Rudolph’s for some advice, even if they do spell pork belly with an “ie.”  It’s kind of cute actually.
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We started with six pounds of “pork bellie” —  the pieces pictured above and one very large piece not shown in this photo.   To cure our bacon we used pink curing salt, ground black pepper, a mixture of crushed garlic and bay leaves, and Kosher salt.   The pink salt can be a bit difficult to find.  We followed Michael Ruhlman’s recommendation and bought ours online at Butcher & Packer.

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Mix all the curing ingredients together.

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Then liberally coat the pork belly with the salt cure mixture.

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Once the pork is nicely coated in pink salt and garlic goodness, place it in a 2 gallon sealable plastic bag.  Here we have six pounds of pork ready to cure in the refrigerator for a week.  Every day or so, I would turn the bag over or redistribute the curing pork in the bag to keep it as evenly covered with the salt cure as possible.  Probably overkill, but I have to say I was pretty excited about making bacon and didn’t mind checking it out each day during the curing process.

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After a week in the fridge, the pork had released a small amount of liquid, which is the result of the salt pulling moisture from the meat.   (Note, we received no promotional consideration from Hefty for this post.  But these 2 gallon bags are really handy to have around.  You may not need such a large resealable bag often, but when you do, these are great.)

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The pork should be well rinsed at this point to remove any remaining salt cure from the outside.  After a good rinse under cold water, we dried the near-bacon with paper towels.  Most recipes at this stage call for the bacon to be either hot smoked for a few hours or cooked over low heat in an oven.  We decided on a mixture of the two methods — starting first with an hour or so of smoking, then finishing in the oven.

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It was a rare snow day in Dallas, which meant that firing up the smoker was even more fun.

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The bacon smoked over hickory chips for approximately an hour (with the lid on, obviously.)

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After smoking, we placed the bacon over wire racks on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees.  We cooked the bacon until it reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 2 hours.

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Our first look at homemade bacon.

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This was the day before the Super Bowl, so naturally I was supporting the team.  The bacon turned out to be a much better success than the game, sadly.

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We portioned the bacon into usable sizes and vacuum sealed the portions to use/freeze.

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A very happy FoodieLawyer, appreciating the majesty and wonder that is homemade bacon.  You may be wondering, what are you going to do with this bacon?  Well, friends, what AREN’T we going to do with it!  We are huuuuuuuge bacon fans, and we use it in a number of our recipes.  (Any advice that bacon is too unhealthy to eat should be ignored.  In moderation, it’s fine, and considering how delicious it is, a little bacon in your life is well worth it.)

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Our first use of our bacon was to fry some up for “Coaches Breakfast,” which we discovered at one of our favorite hotels in Houston.  It consists of an English muffin or toast with cream cheese, bacon and tomato — essentially a breakfast version of a BLT (without the L.)  It’s a fantastic pairing of flavors and textures.

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I had made a sourdough boulette the day before, so we used that to make the best toast ever.  And the bacon?  What can I say — a subtle amount of smokiness over a rich, unmistakably bacon flavor.  Absolutely delicious.

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Our next use of our homemade bacon was with brussels sprouts.  We previously posted a brussels sprouts recipe using pancetta.  Good, but this bacon took the dish to a whole new level.

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Using “lardons” of bacon (essentially thick pieces) added so much more flavor to the brussels sprouts — amazing.  We will try to always have lardons on hand to use in this recipe.

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Our final (for this post anyway) use of the new bacon was in a tomato vodka sauce.  This is another recipe in which we previously used pancetta, but from now on will use homemade bacon if we have it on hand.  (After we tried this, Kelly’s only suggestion was to cut the bacon into smaller pieces.)

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Homemade bacon in vodka sauce resulted in one of our new favorite pasta dishes.  The bacon added a greater depth of flavor than pancetta — absolutely delicious!

Overall, we are extremely happy with how the bacon turned out, and we will definitely make it again.  We plan to try to always have some in the fridge and/or freezer, ready to use in many different recipes, or just eat with some eggs for breakfast.  Once you find a good source for the pork belly (or “bellie) and the pink salt, the rest could not be easier!

17 Responses leave one →
  1. Paula permalink
    February 15, 2011

    Yumm!!! Too cool.

  2. February 15, 2011

    Delicious! Bravo! Save that bacon fat, y’all. ;o)

  3. February 16, 2011

    Wow, you’ve got a great set of cooking toys to help you perfect this whole bacon thing! The sprouts and the pasta dishes are two of my favorites, but that sandwich is just perfect bacon simplicity. Just curious as to why you did part smoker/part oven? I don’t have a smoker, so I am just wondering.

    • February 17, 2011

      Hi Christine,
      We did part smoker and part oven because we wanted to see how it would taste with a little smoky flavor, but didn’t want it to be really really smoky tasting (thought it might be less versatile if it was too smoky). But we certainly don’t think smoking is necessary for making good bacon!

      And if Dan’s supply of cooking toys gets much larger, we’re going to have to look into turning our garage into a second pantry…

  4. February 21, 2011

    I enjoyed this adventure into bacon. I am considering this also. As I get closer to retirement, I have started working on hobbies. My wife says I need hobbies for the Home, especially since I am always looking for the smoker. However, is Morton’s Tender Quick a substitute for the pink cure? A friend of mine and I have started making assorted sausages and have success at it. Thanks for the bacon blog. Hal

    • February 23, 2011

      Hi Hal! Glad you enjoyed the post! Definitely give it a shot – homemade bacon is so easy! We’re not sure whether you can substitute Morton’s Tender Quick for pink salt. Michael Ruhlman’s book “Charcuterie” is where we got the recipe and instructions, and it doesn’t mention any substitutes. But I bet Ruhlman would be happy to answer an email question about it — since he literally co-wrote the book on curing meats! You should be able to contact him via his website: ruhlman.com. Let us know how the bacon turns out if you make it!

      p.s. Dan is impressed that you make your own sausages! That’s high on his list of upcoming charcuterie projects…

  5. February 23, 2011

    I love the versatility of bacon! Wow, those are gorgeous Brussels sprouts. Looking forward to your next post!

    • February 24, 2011

      Thanks! We checked out your site and your recipes using your homemade pancetta — they look interesting and delicious! Isn’t Charcutepalooza fun!?!

  6. February 24, 2011

    I absolutely cannot wait to make the above. Just so busy right now. I digress. I went to the “Charcuterie” website and found it very interesting. More to the point I saw a link to Amanda Hesser there. She wrote a cookbook/memoirish book called, “Cooking for Mr. Latte.” It is filled with lots of good recipes and is a good read as well. In particular, there is a recipe for ‘Rigatoni with white Bolognese Sauce’ that is a standard here at my house. Outstanding dish.

    • February 26, 2011

      Hi Mark! Thanks for the tip — we will check out Amanda Hesser and her book! Hopefully you will find a little time to make bacon soon — it’s well worth it! Let us know if you do and how it turns out.

  7. March 8, 2011

    Bass Pro store has a 4 oz. bag of Lem Cure for $2.99. Hal

  8. March 18, 2011

    I smoked my first belly using tender quick, kosher salt, brown sugar, crushed bay leaves, ground black pepper and crushed thyme. I smoke for two hours. It is real good, but a little salty. I believe I went wrong when I ran my kosher salt through a spice grinder.

    • March 21, 2011

      Glad to hear that you made bacon! The salt can be a little tricky — we found that the smaller belly we did ended up a little more salty than the bigger one. All part of the learning process…

  9. April 16, 2011

    Instead of using pork tenderlion for the canadien bacon, I deboned a shoulder a friend of mine gave me. After the it sat with the dry rub, including pink salt, I rolled it and trussed it. I smoked it on my smoker for couple of hours. It turned out perfect. I still have a ham he gave me, we will probably use for sausage, unless I find a better recipe.

  10. Arlene Baril permalink
    November 10, 2012

    Another resource for the pink salt is Hirsch’s meat market in Plano. They also sell sausage casings if you are into making sausage. Academy also sells pink salt (I am told) but they didnt have any when I visited. The 4 oz bag at Hirsch’s was 1.99-picked one up today when I ordered my fresh turkey.

  11. Sunny Roller permalink
    August 27, 2014

    The English Muffin BLT’s have been a family favorite since I was a child. Our last name is Roller so we coined the tetm Roller Derbys to refer to the toasted English muffin, cream cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich. They are perfect for breakfast or dinner!

    • August 28, 2014

      “Roller Derbys” – love that! And I hadn’t ever thought of having them for dinner, but you are so right – perfect!

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