Home curing bacon has been one of those things I’ve heard about for years but thought it was more the stuff of upscale restaurant kitchens or rural cottages in the European countryside – I never thought it was something that I was actually set up to easily do in my own modest home kitchen. Last year my wife, knowing my interest in the subject, picked me up a copy of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing and, as I read through it one evening, I realized that it was a lot more doable for me than I had originally thought. As long as you have some patience and a little extra space in your refrigerator, it’s really not much different than preparing any other type of meat – it just takes a little longer. But, my oh my, is it worth the wait! It is an easy and versatile recipe – I’ve experimented with adding different flavors from persimmons to vanilla beans and it’s never failed me. Whether you love bacon or you don’t love bacon, you’ll love THIS bacon! Enjoy!
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of thick, center cut pork belly (skinless)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon curing salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
If Oven Smoking
- 3 tablespoons of real liquid hickory smoke
- Rinse the belly and thoroughly pat it dry until the surface is tacky. Trim off any thin edges so that the piece is one long rectangle.
- In a large, rectangular baking dish or pan, mix the sugar with the maple and bourbon until thoroughly incorporated. Then mix in the 2 tablespoons of salt, curing salt, and pepper and rub it evenly into the meat (like a relaxing, porcine spa treatment), spreading it evenly around the sides as well as the top and bottom. Tuck the meat, encased in all of the rub, carefully inside a sealable plastic bag (gallon sized will work, but oversized are better if you can find them) and lay it flat in the refrigerator for 7 days, massaging the liquids that will amass inside the bag into the meat and flipping it daily.
- After 7 days, inspect your bacon. It should be firm to the touch all over, like touching a cooked steak — a sign that it has been cured. If the flesh still feels spongy and soft in spots, leave the meat in the bag and sprinkle it evenly with an additional 2 tablespoons salt and check it again after 1 or 2 days.
- Once the bacon is fully cured, discard the solids, rinse the meat well, and pat it completely dry. The next step to giving bacon that familiar flavor is the addition of smoke.
- Smoke in your grill or smoker using your favorite wood until the meat reaches 150°F (you must check with a meat thermometer).
Roasting and Liquid Smoke
- Heat the oven to 200°F. Place the belly, fat side up, on a rack over a roasting pan and roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the interior temperature of the meat reaches 150°F (you must check with a meat thermometer). Gently brush the liquid smoke over the entirety of the bacon, covering both sides evenly.