Making Bacon

Making Bacon

There is a descent into a darker realm when you begin cooking with a product labelled “CAUTION: Do not swallow”. The possibility of inadvertently killing your loved ones rises and your ability to rely on the way that a preparation tastes before cooking declines. The normal sensory cues that stop most sane people eating food that is deadly can no longer be relied upon. Things must be measured rather than guessed.

Sodium nitrite, the key to this particular charcuterie abyss, alone is not for human consumption. At least it says as much on the bag. But with it and a little pork belly, salt and sugar, you can free yourself from the hegemony of industrial bacon.

The Basic Bacon Cure
(from Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie):

450gms of salt
225gms of sugar
50gms of pink salt (6.25% sodium nitrite; marketed as TCM, Instacure #1)

Method: Mix together thoroughly.

Buy one to two kilos of good pork belly. Lay about 50 grams of the cure onto a surface large enough for your piece of belly. Press all sides of the belly into the cure until it is covered with cure. Bag it into a zip-lock baggie, tag it with the date then refrigerate it for a week turning over every day.

Making Bacon

The wait is over. The belly firms up a little.

Making Bacon

Wash the cure and pork juice from the belly, pat dry, then roast for two hours at 100 degrees Celcius, by which time your house will smell like what I imagine the Sirens would have smelled like to the Argonauts, if Jason had have been in search of the Golden Ham. If it wasn’t nigh on impossible to buy a real American smoker in Australia, this stage would have been supplanted by a few hours over hickory smoke in the backyard. Damn Australian barbecue parochialism.

Making Bacon

Slice off the rind and eat it.

Apart from the possibility that my arteries would clog shut in mid-bite, I couldn’t think of any reason not to crunch away on it. Plus I have a congenital inability to discard anything that is remotely edible. The fact that it is crunchy and bubbling in the first place suggests that my oven is running much hotter than 100 degrees, so I may as well reap the only rewards of a faulty thermostat.

Making Bacon

Slice and fry to your heart’s continued malcontent. Your own bacon will be richer, juicier and thicker. More fat renders from it when cooked. It is texturally more dense and chewier than your store-bought fare. You’ll wonder how you were ever hoodwinked into buying the facsimile of bacon available in most stores and what other sad cuts of pork have been foisted upon you in the past.

20 Comments Making Bacon

  1. Phil Lees

    In Australia, there’s around 300 places to get it. Hit up pretty much any butcher’s supplies store – just ask your local butcher where they procure it from. And there is always ebay.

    The “pink salt” that I’m using is made by Heimann in Australia and is named “Hi-cure”. They don’t do online sales.

    Reply
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  3. stickyfingers

    I smoke meats in my Weber. A handful of water logged hickory chips on the coals works a treat.

    I have eaten some great artisanal bacon in the last year. Boks in Tassie, Butts in Albury and our usual supply is from Gypsy Pig, purchased from our local Farmers Market. Brine engorged supermarket bacon’s not fit fer….

    Just bought some of Rob’s Real McCoy Scottish Black Pudding – now there’s something you can’t make at home.

    Reply
  4. ishuku

    “your house will smell like what I imagine the Sirens would have smelled like to the Argonauts, if Jason had have been in search of the Golden Ham.”

    i did a spittake with my hot chocolate at that part. bravo!

    Reply
  5. michelle @ TNS

    i live in america. i have a smoke. i have wood. i love bacon. what i do NOT have is pork belly, because no one carries it regularly and i always forget to special order it. MUST. REMEMBER.

    Reply
  6. Paul

    Hi. you can indeed get an american style smoker here in Oz. I’ve been smoking on one for several months now. They’re called ‘Texas Smoker’ and can be found at BBQs Galore. I got mine on sale for $399, and it’s worth every cent!

    Reply
  7. Phil Lees

    Michelle – I forgot how hard it is to get good pork belly in the US, if you don’t have a decent butcher (or a Chinatown) handy. Oddly, I think it’s a cut that has become more popular in Australia since I’ve been away over the last three years.

    Paul – I’ve seen the BBQ Galore smoker – you are talking about the offset smokers like these?


    I’m after something that gives me much more control at low temperatures – like a Bradley Smoker. I think that they also sell the Kamado/Big Green Egg which I’d buy if I had more cash to burn because then I could also cook pizza at 600oC

    Sticky, I also smoke using my (faux-)Weber but it’s a huge amount of work to maintain lowish temperatures over more than 4-5 hours. One of my friends has been tempting me with the offer of turning his backyard shed into a proper smokehouse; and I’ve also been looking at building my own, only with a similar PID control to commercial immersion circulators used for sous-vide (amongst other industrial applications). I know that there is a Texan barbecue purist turning in their grave over the thought of a pitmaster using electronic controls, but there are just too many great opportunities if you could get a smoker that will be controllable to +/-0.5 degrees. And all of them involve pork ribs.

    Reply
  8. Phil Lees

    While I’m on the topic, are there any food scientists out there that have tried smoking something inside a gas-permeable plastic? Is it possible to smoke under vacuum? Are there any plastics out there that let smoke in, don’t disintegrate at 60oC, but don’t let water out (e.g. gas-permeable/liquid-impermeable?

    Reply
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  11. SOUTHERNMAN

    I buy whole pork belly from a local grocer He orders them for me.Avg around 6- 8 lb ea. Morton Maple curing salt is what I use for curing bacon ,hams They also make a product called Tender Quick These product can be found @ Morton`s Salt When It Rains it pours! Products Descriptions prices , order direct from the site 7Lb bag 8.99 plus shipping bulk orders are cheaper. I have made there Salami , Sausage. Recipes on the site Check it out

    Reply
    1. Helen A

      To prevent nasties like botulism, to give a a nice pink colour (otherwise bacon is grey coloured when cooked) and the earliest records of cured meats showed that the region they came from the salt naturally had nitrates in it. nitrates/nitrites are not a new thing and nor are they bad for you in the amounts they are supposed to be used in.

      Reply

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