|Can you say "YUM"??|
I finally located a piece of pork belly to make my own bacon. I wanted a larger slab, but this piece at just over 2 pounds, was all I could find. I found it in an Asian grocery store about 50 miles away, and it is also local (to them) pastured pork.
Two of my local meat suppliers generally have pork belly when they butcher, but they were sold out. Besides, they want far too much money, $9 pound vs $2.99 at the Asian market.
I mixed up a standard cure per Ruhlman's book, Charcuterie, which is based on the weight of the meat. (The cure is a mix of Kosher salt, raw sugar and Cure #1.)
I coated the belly thoroughly with the cure and sealed it in a vacuum bag (but not under a vacuum) before refrigerating. Every day for 8 days I turned the bag, massaging the cure into the belly. It seems pretty firm now at 8 days, so I'm calling it 'cured'.
Here's the bacon after the cure. I rinsed it well, and allowed it to air dry until a shiny, slightly tacky skin (pellicle) formed on the surface. The pellicle serves several functions: it provides an ideal surface for the smoke flavor to adhere, it helps seal in the remaining moisture through the smoking process, and it prevents the fats from rising to the surface and spoiling.
I had planned to cold smoke it today, but this current winter storm is bringing us some fierce winds which would interfere with smoking. I'll refrigerate it for another day or two.
I fired up the cold smoke generator this morning, using some apple sawdust in it.
Fired it up, and put it under the grill with the meats. If you look closely, the dark spot near the bottom center is the sawdust beginning to smolder/smoke.
This is the first batch, my bacon and some salt pork I cured. You can see the smoke rising up around the meat already.
Closed the box with foil to contain as much smoke as possible, without containing much heat.
A temp probe inserted shows smoke temp is 91ºF.
After several hours and 2 full loads of apple sawdust in the CSG, I decided it was smoked enough. Then it went in the oven at the lowest setting, which is 180ºF on our oven, until the internal temp reached 150ºF.
After it cooled, I vacuum-packed it and put it in the refrigerator for a week or two so the smoke flavor can equalize throughout the slab. At that point I will slice it, vacuum-seal and freeze it in small meal-size portions. It looks and smells so yummy that it was all I could do not to cut off a chunk to taste!
Shown above: after letting the smoke flavor equalize. Close-up of the bacon is the photo at the top of this post. Can you say "YUM" ??
I'll never go back to store-bought bacon again! Besides, I just found another more local pastured pork farmer who will sell me a whole pork belly (~15-20 pounds) for $2.50/pound.