Congratulations, it’s a bacon.

I have been waiting my whole life for this moment. The moment after all the waiting, all the planning. All the apprehensive thoughts of whether I had made the right choice. Was I ready for this? Am I ready for this? Am I ready for…my first bacon?

Measuring the cure

Now that I can finally hold it, I know that I am more than ready. Honey, it’s a bacon. A maple bacon, and I made it myself.

Sophie's baconI was chatting with a colleague about a store in Guelph that has very reasonably priced pork belly. He buys 2 or 3 at a time and makes Char Siu, chinese barbecued pork.

Tome of meat curingI’ve been wanting to put my recently acquired copy of Michael Ruhlman‘s Charcuterie to use for a while. So far all I’ve gotten around to is brining a chicken and smoking a chicken. (Two separate chickens, two separate occasions. Both were exquisite.)

Pork belly

So, off to Guelph I went and picked up two big pork bellies for about $15. What a deal! And it’s Ontario pork.

I ran into a hurdle when I opened the book, pork belly standing by, and realized I would need to get some pink salt (aka sodium nitrite – different than sodium nitrate) for the curing process. The pink salt is required to maintain the pinkish colour of the meat as well as to prevent botulism and death. No one wants to die from bacon. I looked and looked all over but could not find a store that sells it, other than Williams-Sonoma (for an outrageous price!), and they were out of stock.

Not to worry, my next stop was the internet, where I found Stuffers, a Canadian company that sells meat curing and preserving accoutrements to the Canadian sausage connoisseur. Fabulous!

Pink salt

It took about a week to get the pink salt, also mysteriously known as “Prague Powder” in the mail.

Basic dry cure with maple syrup

I added maple syrup to my basic dry cure, as suggested by Ruhlman, for a sweeter bacon.

After 8 days of curing

And voila! After a week of turning and poking at the sealed bag, my pork belly was cured (I’m not exactly sure what had ailed it, if anything). My first bacon was born!

This bacon is cured

I fully planned on smoking the bacon next, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. I have an outdoor hot smoker and it was too windy. But the bacon could not wait, it needed to be finished. It could only rest for 3 days after being rinsed of its cure, and this was the third day.

Ready to roast

So I roasted it in the oven at 200 F for 1.5 hours, then 250 F for another 30 minutes, until it had reached an internal temperature of 150 F. I did put a small packet of wood chips in the roasting pan, hoping to get at least an essence of wood smoke flavour, but I think the oven temperature was far too low for the aroma to even register, let alone smoke.

Roasted bacon

While it was still hot, and as per Ruhlman’s instructions, I removed the skin and squirreled it away to make cracklins, another thing I’ve always wanted to make but never had the pig skin to do it. (Coming soon: cracklins!).

Removing the skin

And then my much smaller-looking pork belly went back into the fridge to chill completely before slicing.

Bacon close-up

And so, my bacon was born again. It is meaty, and robust, and not too salty. And unlike store-bought bacon, it is not all…wet. It is somewhat dry, which makes for an excellent crispness when it is fried.

Sophie's bacon

It is delicious, and it is mine. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to store-bought! I may just have a pork belly curing in the fridge at all times.

Sophie's bacon

If you would like to learn more about meat curing, I highly recommend Charcuterie. It is full of very useful information, but geared towards the home cook rather than a chef with lots of industrial equipment at their disposal, so it is easy to understand.

Crispy fried bacon

Coming soon: I put my bacon to use in a fabulous Carbonara recipe. Stay tuned!

Edit: oops! I suppose I should let you in on the recipe so you can galavant off on your own bacon adventures.

Here we go: For this sized pork belly, I used 1/4 cup basic dry cure, and 1/4 cup maple syrup.

Ruhlman’s dry cure is as follows, this will keep indefinitely in the pantry:

  • 450 grams kosher salt
  • 225 grams sugar
  • 50 grams pink salt (aka Prague Powder No. 1)

It really helps to have a small kitchen scale for measuring. Enjoy!

Crispy fried bacon

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6 Comments on “Congratulations, it’s a bacon.”

  1. June 7, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    thats really cool

  2. June 7, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    “No one wants to die from bacon.” I’d say except for if I could die the moment I was eating it… instead of afterword in horrible pain.

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