Home-cured Bacon

Given how little we trust the chemicals that go into processed food, why not DIY as much as possible? Throughout 2011, a group of bloggers participated in “Charcutepalooza,” using Michael Ruhlman’s book on charcuterie as a guide. I have to admit that I was tempted to jump in but never thought I could reliably pull it off. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention. So now in 2012, I’m dipping in gradually, starting with home-cured bacon since I came across some lovely pork belly around the holidays that I believe was locally and reasonably produced. 

This was actually very simple, not in the least bit intimidating, and produced a very tasty result that I’ve been using as a base for chowder. When I figure out how to smoke meat, I’ll try this again. This version was simply cured, so has a shelf life of about a month in the refrigerator, longer in the freezer. Ruhlman calls for a 5-pound piece of pork belly, which would have produced a lifetime supply around here, so I opted for the leanest one-pound piece that was available. I was a little concerned about the use of so-called pink salt, which contains regular salt and a little sodium nitrite, colored pink so you don’t confuse it with regular salt and ingest too much. It did seem that the amount was pretty small and the effect – to impart the bacon taste and color that we’re used to – seemed okay. Need to do more research on that.

Home-cured Bacon adapted from Michael Ruhlman, Charcuterie

2½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp pink salt (curing)

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 ½ tsp maple syrup

1 clove garlic, slivered

1 tsp juniper berries, crushed

1-2 sprigs thyme

1 lb pork belly

Combine all ingredients except the pork belly and rub it into the meat, covering all surfaces. Place in a sealed glass pan with a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator for 7 days. Partway through the week, massage the herbs and spices into the meat. On the 7th day, place the glass pan in a 200-degree oven and cook the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 150 degrees, about 90 minutes. Let cool and store, tightly wrapped. Use within a month or freeze it.

Categories: Pork, PreservingTags:

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