Thursday, February 10, 2011

Curing Salt Pork

Pork Back Fat, covered with Cure, Day 1

I've been so disgusted at the rancid salt pork in the grocery stores in the last 2-3 years that I decided to make my own. It's actually easy!

I bought some pastured pork back fat from my meat supplier at the Farmer's market, and cut it into manageable chunks. Rather than make just a plain cured salt pork product for a pot of beans or greens, I decided to jazz it up a bit with some spices in the cure. Then when I smoke my bacon that's also curing, I'll smoke half the salt pork as well. I can imagine some recipes where the smoke flavor might be interesting, and I will smoke with apple chips since that's the flavor I want for my bacon.

If the salt pork turns out lousy, I will have lost only about $2 and some of my time! If it's good, it will be vacuum-sealed in small packages and go into the freezer. Since my investment is so small, I plan to put a couple of vacuum-packs of it out in the cool root cellar just to see how long it will keep fresh in there.

Here's my recipe, adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
Total back fat weight, 1040g
Note: Salt, sugar and Cure #1 are based on the weight of the back fat!
Kosher salt, 35.8g
Dark Muscovada sugar, 17.9g
Cure #1, 3.89g
Cracked black pepper, 1 heaping tsp.
Bay leaves, 2 medium, torn
Quatre épices, 3/8 tsp.
Juniper berries, 1 tsp., crushed

I covered the back fat pieces with all the cure, being sure everything was thoroughly covered, and refrigerated it in a leak-proof container, as shown in the photo at the top. Every day I turned the pieces, making sure the cure was well distributed. 

After 7 days, it looks like this, and the basic recipe suggested 7-10 days to be fully cured. It probably has cured enough, as there is some resistance to finger-pressure, but I won't be ready to fire up the smoker until tomorrow or the next day due to high winds outside... so it goes back in the refrigerator for another day or two.

I fired up the cold smoker this morning with some apple wood, and smoked half the salt pork I had cured. Now it will get vacuum-packed and refrigerated for 2-3 weeks for the flavor to equalize throughout the pieces. Looks Yummy to me!

I relented, and "oven-roasted" part my salt pork until it reached an internal temp of 150ºF. Then it was vacuum-packed and frozen. I did this just as my homemade bacon was done, to assure it is not fully raw when freezing... esp. because I will be giving some of it away. It is STILL not fully cooked and needs to be cooked before eaten.

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