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.