I sit here with anticipation, readying myself at the peak of this blog entry.  After this sentence, it’s all downhill…here we go!!!

Enough with the nonsense.  I have been wanting to make my own bacon for quite some time now; probably since the few days in Garde Manger that we did Charcuterie in the CIA.  My wife and I have been making a lot of our own stuff from scratch recently to offset the immense cost of living in a New York suburb.  So I say to her, “I want to make homemade bacon, but we have to get some pink salt.” (pink salt or tcm [tinted curing mix] contains sodium nitrate and nitrites). She replies in a shrill, dragon-like tone,”NO!!! The whole point of making homemade bacon is so we don’t put that junk in it!”  I reply with a simple answer, “Oh.”

So we research and there are not many recipes out there for the home cook because most people can just go out to the store and buy it. BUT with nitrate free bacon going anywhere from $8.50 to $16 a pound, I will go with homemade.  The process was simple and the recipe we concocted mimics a french style bacon, no smokey flavor, more herbaceous at its roots, but we kept it American by using good ol’ fatty pork belly!

“Paul, why nitrate free?  What’s the big friggin’ deal?”

Well I’ll tell you.  Nitrates and Nitrites are found in salts that are used for curing bacon.  They preserve color and they also prevent the harboring of bacteria.  The problem however is that these nitrates if cooked (crispy bacon especially) interact with your body’s amines in protein cells and form nitrosamines that have been linked closely to cancer in some lab animals.  From what I know, none of these animals smoked cigarettes or painted cars for a living.  Also, nitrates have been linked to a condition (which I will not even attempt to spell) in infants if consumed in larger amounts; but if you feed your infant bacon in large amounts, you should go straight to hell.  I hope I answered your question.

On with the recipe.

With this bacon you can make true LARDONS with which you can stud meat, render in a pan and add to a sandwich, salad or naked skin…(my colleague and friend David Bryer, Executive Chef of Sutton Place would be humping my leg right now!)

4 lbs. pork belly

For the rub:

4 cloves of chopped garlic           5T sea salt crystals (you can also use kosher salt)

2T dark brown sugar                   2T cracked black pepper corns

2t fennel seed                                2t caraway seed

2t dried rosemary                         2t dried thyme

4 bay leaves   *crack all of these in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder

2t spanish paprika.

You will also need 4 T REAL Maple syrup, preferably Vermont grade B (here’s a friend of the families site, order it! http://www.braggfarm.com/maple-syrup.html)

AND 2- 1 gallon zipper style freezer bags.


I start by trimming off the thin bones on the underside of the pork belly.  I run my knife in short scraping strokes against the bone so as not to remove any wanted meat.

The ingredients for my rub are measured out and are ready to be mixed in a bowl.

I thoroughly rub the mixture on both sides of the belly and score the skin side lightly with a sharp knife.

I cut the pork belly in half length wise and place the two pieces in separate freezer bags along with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar each.

The pork belly is now ready to cure for 7 days in the refrigerator.  Every other day I flip the bags to make sure the brine that will form from the natural juices of the belly will cover and cure evenly.

After those 7 excruciating days you will find the bacon now is darker, and the skin is firm.  I rinse all the spices from the bacon and wrap tightly in plastic wrap for 24 hours.

After the 24 hours are up, I place the bacon on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and put them in a low oven at 200F until they reach an internal temperature of 150F.  Don’t check them for the first hour and a half, you’ll just poke a unneccassary hole in the bacon.

Look at that!  Brings a tear to my eyes, it really does.  The bacon is now ready for its final stage in a preparation.

The male model I hired now trims the skin off the top of the bacon, leaving a nice, 1/4″ layer of fat…delicious fat.  It is now ready to be sliced.

And there you have it.  I sliced this piece by hand.  You can make nice nice with your local deli guy and ask him to slice it for you with the promise of you giving him a pound. P.S. the ends of the bacon are UBER salty…eat at your own risk…if you have high blood pressure, blood might spurt out of your ears! 

“Paul, why is it so pale?”

BECAUSE it has no nitrates to preserve the color!  Have you listened to nothing I said?  It is now considered fresh or green bacon. 

The best part is, this whole process was extremely easy, required minimal equipment and…instead of spending $40 on 4 pounds of nitrate free bacon, I spent $14.

Keep cooking…I strongly recommend you try this at home.

ALSO, feel free to omit, add different things to the rub, just keep the salt at the same amount to ensure proper curing.

14 responses »

  1. Ruth Knox says:

    Chef (Pauly) you must be reading our minds. I have so enjoyed these latest blogs and you’ve inspired us to rush out (after some researching) to get going on stuff. We just purchased an electric meat grinder and we will be making our own LEAN hamburg and sausages. We look forward to finding our own sausage recipe and to just how lean I can get away with it. We’ll be going bulk and patties. NOW, my hubbie, Lougee (Lou Gee) has been talking about making bacon (stop chuckling) and here ya go, giving us starting ground. Personally, I found your model a wee bit distracting but I quickly forced myself to continue on reading. : ) I will now send this to Lou and he’ll be spending alot of his time researching THIS project even more. You’re wonderful! Thank you Thank you Thank you. Auntie p.s. I hope you tipped that model well. hahaha

    • I’m so glad you like it! Remember you do not HAVE to use pork belly. You can use pork loin (more lean) or pork shoulder. The only thing you would change is curing time, for larger meats you will need to go longer,, maybe 10-15 days, or until the meat is firm. Let me know how your endeavors turn out!

    • Elsie says:

      I understand where you are with nitrate free…..but I will try celery juice as soon as I can find out the proportion with maybe, maple syrup….. I grew up on homemade bacon but my father would add salt petre….I just wanted to try my luck with synthetic nitrate free…. As well as cold smoking. …good luck

  2. Samantha says:

    Nitrate free bacon! Very nice! A friend of mine said she was going to eat a pound of bacon as a gift to herself for Valentines Day. I wish we had planned in advance and made it ourselves. Nice modeling. Are you going to freeze it?

  3. #1 – natural light makes all the difference, the pics look great :c) Wouldn’t our sites be so amazing if we didnt have pesky real jobs during the day that interfere with our photography?
    #2 – I think this is awesome but just like home canning it scares me to death. You are not scared and therefore I’m sure this is delicious.
    #3 – You’re funny. You made me laugh out loud twice in the quiet faculty room just now.

  4. Heidi says:

    I just found your blog while looking for recipes/instructions for making nitrate/nitrite free bacon. I’m most definitely adding this to my short list of ones to try. I may try putting some in my smoker after I let it marinate and then dry out.

    Thanks for posting this!

  5. Matt Steele says:

    Why not cold smoke this? If you had one would you use it for this bacon? I am torn on the nitrite addition in bacon if it is cold smoked. Would it make sense to use some pink salt on a cold smoked version of your bacon?

    • Matt, Cold smoking is absolutely cool for this recipe AS IS pink salt, the key to making it without smoking it was reduce the amount of steps…I try to keep things on an introductory to intermediate difficulty here. The addition of pink salt to substitute for sea salt is also fine, however I would use a tad less and take extra measures in rinsing once curing is complete. Please, if you try this, let me know how it turns out!

  6. Diana says:

    This recipe looks wonderful, but I am afraid my family will say, “It doesn’t taste like bacon!” I will try it with some of my meat, but is there another that uses a hickory or applewood flavor/process. I have access to 14 pounds of pastured, organic pork bellies and want to do them proud! Thanks!

    • Diana, Omit the herbs, keep the paprika, black pepper, and garlic and of course the salt. I would add a bit more maple syrup and 2-4 tablespoons of liquid smoke which is natural distilled water from smoldering wood, it will be closer to normal bacon. I have tried this and it had worked wonderfully, even ran it as a special at the country club. Please let me know how it goes!

  7. Louise says:

    Hi Paul, Just found your blog while searching for a way to preserve in a nitrate -free way some of the wild pork recently caught on our property. Thank you for this recipe, today I have started the curing process and now I will be cruising your site.

    • Thanks Louise!, I don’t update much because I am an actual chef, unlike a lot of other trendy food blogs, but I have plans on doing some more in the near future. Any suggestions?

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